Obesity occurs over time when you eat more calories than your body can burn. Factors that might impact your weight include genetics, overeating, eating high-fat foods, and not being physically active. Being obese increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and some cancers. Obesity can be treated by means of diet, exercise, and medication. See the NC Health Info page on Obesity for more information.
There are several different kinds of medical providers that can treat or help you manage obesity. These providers often work together as a team to help you develop a personalized care plan.
You can use your health insurance plan’s directory to find an obesity care provider in your network. Or you can use the Physician Compare directory from Medicare.gov to find a provider that accepts Medicare. Directories for specific types of providers are listed below.
Primary Care Providers
A primary care provider (PCP) may be a family physician, nurse practitioner, internist, or a physician’s assistant. Generally you see a PCP for checkups, common health problems, and when you get sick. The PCP is usually the first health care professional you will see. Since obesity is complicated, your PCP will put together a team of providers to help you with whatever obesity-related issues you may have. Your PCP will coordinate your care among these other specialists and team members. Your health insurance plan may require you to get the doctor’s referral for visits to the other health professionals on the team.
A family physician is a general practitioner with additional specialty training and expertise in dealing with patients of all ages. Family physicians may provide both preventive care (routine checkups) and diagnosis and treatment of illnesses like obesity. Family physicians will coordinate your care with other subspecialists when needed. Some family physicians have special training in obesity. Use the American Board of Family Medicine directory to find a family physician.
A physician’s assistant (PA) is a licensed and certified professional who provides a range of services under the direction and supervision of a doctor. PAs use effective screening and diagnostic procedures for obesity. They can establish treatment goals for you, teach you about healthy lifestyles, and motivate you to take care of yourself. To find a PA who treats obesity, use the North Carolina Medical Board Licensee Search. Choose Physician Assistant as the License Type and nutrition as the Area of Practice. Leave the other fields blank.
An endocrinologist is a doctor with special training (and usually certification) in diagnosing diseases related to the glands, including obesity. Many people suffering from obesity never need to see an endocrinologist but in some cases, your primary care provider may refer you to an endocrinologist for additional care and treatment. To locate an endocrinologist, use this directory provided by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist.
A gastroenterologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, biliary tree and pancreas. He or she studies the digestion and absorption of nutrients into the body, removal of waste from the system, and the function of the liver as a digestive organ. To find a gastroenterologist, use this directory provided by American College of Gastroenterology.
What, when, and how much you eat makes a big difference in how well you can control your weight. Your doctor will likely refer you to a registered dietitian (RD) to develop a food plan based on your eating preferences, schedule, and nutrition needs. If you have been diagnosed with obesity and have health insurance, it will probably cover visits to a dietitian/nutritionist. Use this directory from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to find a dietitian.
Mental Health Care Providers
Living with a medical condition such as obesity can sometimes affect your mental health. To locate a counselor to help cope with the stress of living with obesity, use this directory from the Licensed Professional Counselors of North Carolina.
Clinical trials are research studies that examine whether a medical treatment or device is safe and effective for human beings. Many of the drugs and therapies available today are the result of clinical trials. To learn more, and to decide whether participating in a clinical trial is right for you, visit ClinicalTrials.gov, a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Help and Support
There are a lot of support groups, advocacy organizations, blogs, social media, and news sources to help you cope with obesity. The obesity community is made up of patients, caregivers, health care providers, and associations who offer support and share their knowledge to anyone touched by obesity. This page by Overeaters Anonymous lets you to search for online meetings, telephone meetings and local face-to-face meetings.
Obesity Supplies: Information about financial assistance with obesity supplies and related health care items and services can be found at the Medicine Assistance Tool.
Free and Discounted Services: There are a number of free and discounted services in North Carolina that you may qualify for, including free urgent care clinics and help with paying for your medications or health insurance. Check out our Free and Discounted Services page to learn more.
Need More Information?
Do you have a health related question? You are welcome to use the Health Sciences Library’s Ask a Librarian service.
Our librarians are happy to help you with questions such as “How is diabetes diagnosed?” or “What is heart disease?”. We can not answer questions about an individual’s medical case or care. Please contact your doctor for specific medical advice.
Page authored by UNC Health Sciences Library Staff.