Red Flags in Obesity Medicine Practices

Obesity is a growing epidemic that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a chronic disease that has been linked to a range of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. However, the good news! Over the past few years, many practices have been formed to specifically help patients with managing obesity. These are known as obesity medicine practices

April 21, 2023
Updated on
April 21, 2023

What Is An Obesity Medicine Practice?

An obesity medicine practice is a medical specialty that focuses on the treatment and management of obesity and related health conditions. This type of practice provides comprehensive and individualized care to patients who are struggling with obesity or are overweight. The goal of obesity medicine is to help patients achieve and maintain a healthy weight through a combination of lifestyle changes, medical interventions, and support.

Obesity medicine practitioners may include physicians, nurses, dietitians, exercise specialists, and mental health professionals who work together to provide a multidisciplinary approach to weight loss and management. They develop personalized treatment plans based on a patient's individual needs, medical history, and lifestyle factors. These plans may include dietary changes, exercise recommendations, medication management, and behavioral therapy.

Obesity medicine practices also provide ongoing support and monitoring to ensure that patients are able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight over the long term. This may involve regular check-ins, ongoing education, and other resources to help patients manage their weight and improve their overall health.

However, not all obesity medicine practices are created equally. There are some practices that may push certain diets or programs on patients for financial benefit, offer treatments that are not backed by research, or may downright make patients feel uncomfortable and unseen

Red Flags to Look Out For

So how do we find the wolves among the sheep? On your journey to find the best obesity medicine practice that fits your specific needs, here are a few things to look out for:

  1. No Permission Asked

If a practice does not ask for permission to discuss your obesity or if they immediately conduct a physical exam on you without asking you first and explaining what they are doing, then this is a big red flag. 

For some patients, their obesity diagnosis is a very sensitive subject and should be approached with consideration and empathy. It may have taken the patient a lot of effort and courage to start their journey in the first place. That is why it is important for a provider to move at the pace of the patient and go off of the patient's permission. This type of practice requires training, usually from a certified medical program or nursing program. The concept of patient-centered care is common in the curriculum of many medical training programs nowadays. So if a practice at all seems inconsiderate, then this may not be the practice for you

  1. Pushing Non-Evidence Based Medicine

There are multiple medications and practices for obesity out there and available for patients struggling with obesity. However, some are well-researched, and others are not. 

These are usually in the form of vitamin supplements. Though there are definite benefits of vitamin supplements for those with documented deficiencies in those specific vitamins, overall, the evidence of the use of vitamin supplements for weight loss is mixed and unclear. A systematic review of literature conducted in 2022 looked at over 1500 articles about dietary supplements and weight loss to summarize the results (1). Ultimately they found that there was limited high-quality evidence that an effect exists and that providers should remain aware before recommending the use of dietary supplements.

Also, patients may find that they are spending an excessive amount of money on supplements that are slightly or not at all assisting with their weight loss, and an obesity medicine practice with an agenda may push these exact supplements. Usually, most of the supplement will be lost in the urine after taking it.

Ultimately, the decision to add vitamin supplements to your weight loss regimen is up to you. Just be aware if a practice is pushing specific supplements or branded supplements on you. 

  1. Sketchy Peptide Therapies

One of the newer weight loss therapies in the media that is gaining popularity are peptide therapies. Although there are some promises for peptide therapies on the horizon, like the GLP-1 agonists, some therapies are understudied and down right sketchy. These are usually either individual peptides or a mix of peptides that come in oral or injectable forms. Most of the studies that are referenced are preliminary studies or phase 1 clinical trials that do not provide usable data to be applied to a patient population.

So if a practice offers to inject yourself with a miracle combination of peptides from a jar, find your way to the door as soon as possible. 

  1. Pushing a Specific Diet Plan

As mentioned earlier, it is an unfortunate reality that some obesity medicine practices are receiving funding from big name dieting companies. This can lead to a bias in treatment as the providers of that practice may push one specific diet plan for you that is sponsored by that company. It may turn out that that “guaranteed to work” diet plan does not work for you.

We must remember that a diet plan should mold to the patient, not the other way around. A diet that is patient centered should consist of small, manageable but effective changes that you can follow in the long term. Therefore, the provider of a well established obesity medicine practice will work with you to create a diet plan that is best suited for you.

  1. Unwilling to Discuss Prescription Options 

The FDA has approved multiple different types of medications to be used for managing weight loss. The medications that are getting the most attention are the GLP-1 agonists. Multiple high level, phase 3 clinical trials and meta analyses have show the benefits of using GLP-1 agonists, along with diet and exercise, on weight loss for both diabetic and non-diabetic patients. Outside of diabetic medications, there are medications from different classes that can be indicated to assist with weight loss.

If an obesity medicine practice cannot or is unwilling to discuss the variety of prescription options available, then it could be that they have an ulterior motive. Either it is because the may suffer a profit loss or they are not qualified to prescribe them in the first place, and that is a huge red flag


As you set out on your journey to gain control of your obesity diagnosis, there are a few things you should be on the lookout for. Your diagnosis is a personal topic and should be disclosed or discussed with your permission. Be wary of practices that push specific supplements, peptide therapies or diet plans as they may receive compensation for doing so. Lastly, there are medications available that are approved for weight loss and a true obesity medicine practice will be willing to discuss them.

You are the shepherd of your treatment plan when it comes to managing your obesity diagnosis. Please use these tips to weed out the wolves from the herd. 

If you would like to learn more about GLP-1 medications or want to see if you might be eligible for medication-assisted weight loss, check out Mochi Health, where board-certified obesity medicine physicians can offer expertise in this realm!


  1. Batsis JA, Apolzan JW, Bagley PJ, Blunt HB, Divan V, Gill S, Golden A, Gundumraj S, Heymsfield SB, Kahan S, Kopatsis K, Port A, Parks EP, Reilly CA, Rubino D, Saunders KH, Shean R, Tabaza L, Stanley A, Tchang BG, Gundumraj S, Kidambi S. A Systematic Review of Dietary Supplements and Alternative Therapies for Weight Loss. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2021 Jul;29(7):1102-1113. doi: 10.1002/oby.23110. PMID: 34159755; PMCID: PMC8231729.

Dr. Constantine Joseph Pella, MD

Boston University Medical Center

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