Photo Credit: Courtesy: Sheba Endocrine Institute
Dr. Gabriella Lieberman

You don’t need to read the statistics to know that the number one New Year’s resolution each year is related to weight. Whether triggered by the over-indulgent holiday season or the newness of a new year, January kicks off each year with well-meaning ambitions to stick to that miracle diet, exercise regularly, and/or swear off empty calories and carbs for life. Yet, come February 90% of those with wide-eyed dreams return to their default settings.

While lack of resolve is often blamed for this downfall, new research from gastronomy experts points to more complex reasons for the all too common “weight loss struggle”. And, with obesity reaching international highs, the time to get to the core of this epidemic is more crucial than ever.

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Dr. Gabriella Lieberman, Senior Specialist at Sheba’s Endocrine Institute and the Head of the Israeli Center for Obesity Management, explains why the prognoses and treatment of obesity needs to be approached on an individual level, “The one- size-fits-all approach to weight loss often fails. There are many different types of (or causes for) obesity, such as genetic disorders, different syndromes, drugs causing weight gain (i.e. steroid therapy, some anti-psychotic medications, etc.), mental states, hormonal states and so on. By diagnosing the individual we can now offer personalized options for weight reduction, such as: medical treatment with different weight lowering drugs, endoscopic procedures such as intra-gastric balloons and duodenal devices, as well as alternative treatments such as acupuncture, meditation, bio-feedback, mindfulness, etc.”

As head of the leading center for the treatment of obesity in Israel, Dr. Lieberman has seen the devastation of obesity’s related illnesses first-hand, as well as the value of personalized prevention and treatment. “The key to successfully treating a patient is for us to understand the underlying factors contributing to the obesity of the patient.”

For example, patients with an excessive sense of hunger and binge eaters will require different weight lowering drugs, while emotional eaters may benefit from psychological or group sessions. Diabetic patients may be advised to change their anti-diabetes medication in a way that will support weight loss.

At the Israeli Center for Weight Management at Sheba Medical Center Dr. Lieberman and her team are setting these principals into motion with growing success. “We perform a thorough intake performed by a multi-disciplinary team which includes an Endocrinologist, dietician, psychologist and a sports-medicine expert. The intake includes measurements of the patient’s metabolic rate as well as their body composition. After all the information is gathered it can be properly evaluated for us to provide a tailor- made plan built to suit the individual’s needs.”

She goes on to explain how one of these causes, the element of gut microbiota (bacteria occupying the gastrointestinal system) plays a role in energy balance/obesity. “There is evidence to show that these micro-organisms can determine what and how much a person will absorb, and differences in the microbiome can determine differences in weight. This is one of the many factors currently under investigation that have the potential to translate into successfully treating obesity.”

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