The journal Obesity recently published an expert panel report reviewing what could be the most effective obesity treatment guidelines. The panel’s report intends to settle some of the arguments among health care providers in terms of what exactly is the best evidence-based approach to weight management.

While many enjoy arguing over the “best diet”, the panel concluded that there are many approaches to obesity and weight management (including referral for bariatric surgery in specific cases), insisting that it is time to stop arguing about various approaches. The panel addressed these key questions:

  • Who needs to lose weight?
  • What is the optimum level of weight loss?
  • Which diet is the most effective for weight loss?
  • Is diet and exercise the best way to lose weight?
  • How can weight loss be maintained?
  • Who should receive bariatric surgery?

When individuals consider weight loss, they are often lured in by the quick fix diet, or elimination diet (think: gluten-free) that appear simple to follow. We know however, that without long-term behavior change, these types of plans are only short-term fixes. We also seem to be a society obsessed with perfection, or at least the idea of it – toned bodies, smooth skin, and super-white teeth. This, while aesthetically appealing, does not always equate to “healthy”, and just as there is no one measure for beauty, there is also no one measure for “healthy”.

A person’s weight, while a huge factor in health and disease risk, is not a simple assessment. For this reason, physicians are wise to bring in the registered dietitian to evaluate an appropriate weight goal for individual patients. While BMI (body mass index) and weight charts can be useful, positive metabolic changes can occur with small amounts of weight loss.

As far as effective “diet”, the ability and motivation of an individual to maintain an eating style should be considered in addition to the basic dietary framework that is supported by evidence to reduce or prevent disease (the DASH Diet, vegetarian diets, and the Mediterranean diet all fit this bill).

The expert panel realized that while face to face counseling is very beneficial, other individuals can also benefit from telehealth options and online approaches. Hopefully this expert review will help improve the reimbursement for a variety of nutrition service approaches from qualified professionals.

If there is one thing we should agree on, it is that no one diet fits all, and neither does one lifestyle approach. Individuals need encouragement from professionals they can relate to, and need programs that are individualized to fit their lifestyle for long-term success.