The Latest in Non-Surgical Treatments for Obesity

A new non-surgical approach to obesity treatment is here to help you drop the pounds—for good

Written by Erin Weeks

In 1975, roughly 15 percent of American adults were obese, which the CDC classifies as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or above. Today, obesity affects close to 40 percent of American adults and 20 percent of children (statistics that continue to rise), making it one of the leading drivers of preventable deaths in the nation. The facts are sobering, yet long-term weight loss is notoriously difficult to achieve and maintain. Studies show that bariatric surgeries like gastric bypass are the most effective long-term treatment for obesity; however, surgery isn’t an option for everyone. Recently, Roper St. Francis Healthcare began offering non-surgical bariatric treatment for people looking to shed serious pounds.

Dr. John Cleek

“The help of medical specialists can significantly increase a person’s success rate for sustained weight loss,” explains Dr. John Cleek, a Roper St. Francis affiliated bariatrician who uses diet, exercise and behavior modification to treat obesity—a specialty he came to more than three decades ago after undergoing a personal struggle with weight loss.

HC: Why is seeking treatment for obesity important?
JC: Carrying excess weight increases your odds for many adverse health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, irregular heartbeat, osteoarthritis, gastroesophageal reflux, heart disease and
even many cancers.

HC: Who is non-surgical obesity medicine a good fit for?
JC: It’s important to note that this treatment is not limited to people who are obese; anyone who has struggled with weight loss is a candidate. Non-surgical treatment is also intended for those who do not qualify for a bariatric procedure, either because they do not meet the criteria (to be a candidate for bariatric surgery, you need to have a BMI greater than 40) or because of their medical history. It may also be a fit for people whose insurance will not cover a bariatric procedure and those who do not want to undergo surgery.

HC: What does the treatment entail?
JC: Our program uses diet, exercise and behavior modification to promote significant sustainable weight loss. Patients work with a doctor and dietitian, plus supplementary medical care providers, as needed, like a physical therapist or mental health provider. You start with an initial medical evaluation with the doctor, during which we measure body composition and resting metabolic rate. Based on that information, the doctor and dietitian work together to prescribe a customized caloric intake and meal plan, which can be written to meet the needs of vegetarians, vegans or those with other dietary restrictions. We provide personalized activity recommendations and behavioral tools (such as keeping a food journal). In addition to this three-pronged approach, medications may be incorporated, including those that help curb cravings or manage appetite.

HC: How long does the program last?
JC: Follow-up visits begin two to four weeks after the initial appointment. The first is with your doctor and subsequent appointments alternate between doctor and dietitian. Obesity is a chronic condition, so treatment is ongoing; we see patients at least once or twice a year.

To learn more about this and other bariatric treatment options available at Roper St. Francis, including gastric bypass surgery, visit or call (843) 402-CARE.


Photographs (Dr. Cleek) by Mic Smith & (woman) Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

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