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Treating obesity

Treatment options to manage weight

There are lots of ways to treat obesity and manage weight. Each obesity treatment works in a different way and can be done on its own or combined with other treatments. With the help of obesity care providers, you can find an obesity treatment and create an obesity care plan specifically for you.

There are 3 treatments to support the management of obesity: behavioural therapy, pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery. All of these options are supported by healthy eating and physical activity.

All individuals, regardless of their weight, will have health benefits from a healthy, well-balanced eating pattern and engaging in physical activity on a constant basis. People living with obesity may require treatment according to the Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines.

4 min. read

Move toward a healthier way of eating

Healthy eating is important for everyone, regardless of someone’s size, weight or health status. Try focusing on whole foods/unprocessed foods more often and limit the amount of ultra-processed foods. 

Consider the following questions when starting your health eating plan:

These questions may provide clues to why you are overeating throughout the day or choosing unhealthy foods. Your healthcare professional can then help you transition to healthier ways of eating and developing a more sustainable relationship with food.

Increase daily movement

Physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your health. Regular daily movement, even small amounts, can result in health benefits for people of all sizes, such as improving cardiometabolic risk factors. 

Start by adding a little extra movement into your everyday life. If you sit a lot during the day, standing up and moving around for a few minutes every hour can make a difference. So can walking to the shops or taking the stairs, if possible. Even doing small things can mean a lot. The goal is to have 150 minutes of physical activity a week. You can build up toward this goal by gradually adding new activities and routines into your obesity care plan.

How does losing weight improve your health?

See the benefits of losing even 5% of your body weight. 

Behavioural therapy

Our body and mind are deeply connected, and behavioural therapy is an obesity treatment option that takes this connection into account.

Behavioural change support can be an important part of everyone’s obesity treatment. The main goal of behavioural therapy is to help people living with obesity make changes that are sustainable, promote positive self-esteem and confidence, and improve health, function and quality of life.  

Behavioural interventions are the actions that are taken to support changes. Education focused on the following topics can support you in your obesity management journey: 

Aligning behaviour changes with your values 

  • Check in with your values to help reflect on what’s important enough in your life to sustain lifelong effort  

  • Choose behaviours consistent with those values  



Managing expectations 

  • Learn and apply the concept of “best weight” (the weight that you can achieve and maintain while living your healthiest and happiest life) 

Learning from setbacks  

  • Develop skills on how to manage setbacks, and learn to accept setbacks as part of the weight management journey  

Being aware of high-risk times  

  • Become aware of the times where you have a strong drive for food (when “wanting” is present)


Addressing modulators  

  • Can include addressing sleep hygiene, stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety  

Obesity medications

Obesity medications, when combined with diet and exercise, can allow patients to achieve a healthier weight. Treating obesity with medication is no different than treating other chronic diseases, like diabetes, high blood pressure or asthma, with medication.

There are different obesity medications available and they work in different ways. However, all of the obesity medications should be used in combination with diet and exercise. Some obesity medications work by blocking absorption of some of the fat in the food eaten. Other obesity medications work on two separate areas of the brain to help control eating (appetite and cravings). Another class of obesity medications works by causing individuals to feel fuller and less hungry.

Bariatric surgery

Gastric bypass and other weight-loss surgeries—known collectively as bariatric surgery—involve making changes to your digestive system to help you lose weight. Bariatric surgery is an obesity treatment that can lower your appetite and the amount of food you can comfortably eat in one sitting. They've been shown to change the body's metabolism and hormones, both of which play a major role in how your weight is regulated. For example, the hormonal changes from bariatric surgery work to prevent weight regain.

Finding obesity treatment options that are right for you

These are some of the obesity treatment options that healthcare professionals have in their toolbox. All treatment options carry a risk and can cause side effects. They may not be suitable for everyone. Your healthcare professional will help you consider all your options to create a personalized obesity care plan. But they can't predict how you'll respond to the different treatments that they recommend. We're all different and that means our response to the treatments will be highly individual too.

Your healthcare professional may adjust your obesity care plan depending on your body’s response and your health needs. Different types of treatments may become more or less relevant as you make progress or experience roadblocks. That is why your obesity treatment plan should be tailored to your needs and may evolve over time.



  1. Boulé NG, Prud’homme D. Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines: Physical Activity in Obesity Management. Accessed July 6, 2023. https://obesitycanada.ca/guidelines/physicalactivity
  2. Vallis TM, Macklin D, Russell-Mayhew S. Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines: Effective Psychological and Behavioural Interventions in Obesity Management. Accessed May 19, 2023. https://obesitycanada.ca/guidelines/behavioural 
  3. Wharton S, Law DW, Vallis M, et al. Obesity in adults: a clinical practice guideline. CMAJ. 2020;192:E875-E991.
  4. Pedersen SD, Manjoo P, Wharton S. Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines: Pharmacotherapy in Obesity Management. Accessed July 6, 2023. https://obesitycanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Pharmacotherapy-CPG-2022_finalA.pdf 
  5. Glazer S, Biertho L. Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines: Bariatric Surgery: Selection & Pre-Operative Workup. Accessed July 6, 2023.  https://obesitycanada.ca/guidelines/preop
  6. Biertho L, Hong D, Gagner M. Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines: Bariatric Surgery: Surgical Options and Outcomes. Accessed July 6, 2023. https://obesitycanada.ca/guidelines/surgeryoptions  


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