FALLS CHURCH, Virginia –
Do you or a family member need help with weight management? You are not alone. The National Institutes of Health found that about two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. Even if there’s no obesity in your family and if you’re satisfied with your current weight, striving to maintain a healthy weight lowers your risk of serious health conditions.
“Not only can carrying extra body weight impact your mobility and joint health,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Heidi Clark, chief of the Nutritional Medicine Clinical Support Service at the Defense Health Agency. “Being overweight or obese puts you at risk for serious health conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, lower back pain, depression, and fatigue.”
Keeping a healthy weight can be challenging, but it’s worth the effort. And with the right support, it’s possible. Whether you’re a service member, retiree, or a family member, you can work with a health care provider. They can help you understand your weight and its impact on your health. And get you started toward diet and exercise goals to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Here are some of the services TRICARE covers and tips to help you with weight management.
Treatment for Obesity
If you meet specific conditions, TRICARE covers intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions for obesity. These services promote sustained weight loss (12 to 26 sessions in a year). A TRICARE-authorized provider, like a physician or a registered dietitian who’s working under the supervision of a physician, must provide these weight loss services for TRICARE to cover them.
To qualify for these services, you must be:
- An adult with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or higher
- A child or adolescent with a BMI value greater than the 95th percentile
Services include, but aren’t limited to:
- Behavioral management activities like setting weight-loss goals
- Guidance regarding physical activity and dietary changes
- Strategies to maintain lifestyle changes
- Addressing your personal barriers to change
- Teaching you self-monitoring behaviors to track your weight loss progress
TRICARE also covers surgical obesity treatment for non-active duty service members. This includes gastric bypass surgery and other surgeries for weight loss, but you must meet certain conditions for TRICARE to cover. Visit the Bariatric Surgery page to see the list of covered services and find the medical conditions which may make weight loss surgery medically appropriate.
Seeing a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist
TRICARE covers medically necessary services and supplies from registered dietitians and nutritionists. They must have a license from the state where you get the care. They must also be working under the supervision of a physician. Here are some examples of conditions that may benefit from medical nutrition therapy (also medical nutrition counseling) sessions provided by a registered dietitian or nutritionist:
- Elevated blood lipids/high cholesterol
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Eating disorders
You can find more information by going to the Nutritionist or Dietitian Services page.
Tips for a Healthy Diet
Taking steps to prevent health issues is often easier than fixing them once they emerge. A balanced, nutrient-rich diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to achieve and maintain a healthy weight for life. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. It’s important to reduce:
- Foods high in sugar
- Refined foods
- Foods with added fats, like fried foods
- Alcoholic drinks
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends healthy adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity. CDC also estimates that getting enough physical activity could prevent 1 in 10 premature deaths. Try to keep moving throughout the day to help you maintain good levels of activity.
“If you need to fit in more physical activity in your life, try to find activities you enjoy so it becomes an easier habit to sustain,” said Clark. “You could try picking up a physically active hobby, make exercise a family event, or find time to work out with friends.”
For service members, achieving a healthy weight enhances your mission performance and readiness. Each military service also has requirements for fitness and body composition. Check out resources to help you build and sustain healthy behaviors.
Remember, your healthy weight isn’t the same as everyone else. Talk with your health care provider to understand your weight, an ideal goal weight, and appropriate weight loss goals. To learn more ways you can support your health, explore additional weight management resources and TRICARE-covered services.