Treatment for Overweight & Obesity

Most often, health care professionals treat overweight and obesity by helping you adopt lifestyle changes that may help you lose excess weight safely and keep it off over the long term. In some cases, other treatments such as weight-loss medicines or weight-loss surgery can be helpful.

How much weight should I lose?

If you need to lose weight, work with a health care professional to set a weight-loss goal and time frame that will work best for you. For example, losing 5% of your body weight over a period of 6 months may be a good initial goal.34 If you weigh 200 pounds, this would mean losing 10 pounds.

Losing excess weight may help lower your chances of developing health problems related to overweight and obesity. If you already have weight-related health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, losing weight may help improve your health.

How do health care professionals treat overweight and obesity?

Lifestyle changes

Health care professionals often treat overweight and obesity by recommending lifestyle changes, such as adopting a healthy eating plan and increasing your physical activity, to help you lose weight safely. These lifestyle changes can help you reduce the calories you take in from food and beverages and increase the calories you use up by being active.

Tailored weight-loss program

In some cases, your health care professional may refer you to a health care specialist or a health care team trained in weight management. These specialists will design a plan just for you and help you carry out your plan.

Safe and successful weight-loss programs typically include32

  • 14 or more weight-loss counseling sessions conducted over 6 months
  • an eating plan based on the calories and nutrients your body needs
  • at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as brisk walking or cycling
  • daily monitoring of food intake and physical activity, and weekly monitoring of weight
  • regular feedback and support from specialists

You may work with the specialists in individual or group sessions. The sessions might be held in person or online using smartphones, computers, or other devices. The specialists may contact you regularly by telephone or email to help support your plan. Smartphone apps and other tools may help you track how well you are sticking with your plan.

Women walking together on a beach.When combined with healthy eating, regular physical activity may help you lose weight and stay at a healthy weight.

Weight-loss medicines

Weight loss can be difficult to achieve and maintain. When lifestyle changes are not enough, your health care professional may prescribe medicines to treat overweight and obesity. Some medicines can also be used to help you maintain weight loss. You should try to stick with your healthy eating plan and stay physically active while taking weight-loss medicines.

Weight-loss surgery

Weight-loss surgery, also called metabolic and bariatric surgery, includes several types of operations that help you lose weight by making changes to your digestive system. Your doctor may recommend weight-loss surgery if you have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher. Some doctors and professional groups recommend weight-loss surgery for people with a lower BMI if they have a serious health problem related to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes or sleep apnea.35,36

Weight-loss devices

Your health care professional may consider weight-loss devices if you haven’t been able to lose weight or keep off the weight you lost using other treatments. Because weight-loss devices have only recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, researchers don’t know the long-term risks and benefits.


Last Reviewed May 2023
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.