The Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) received over 2,000 patients last year seeking weight loss support. The department offers a variety of services, including a medically-supervised weight loss programme for patients seeking to achieve ‘better’ weight and healthier lifestyle.

Dr Yousuf Al Maslamani, Medical Director at Hamad General Hospital, said that many people view weight loss surgery as the solution to obesity but he cautions that it isn’t always the best option.

Obesity is one of the major public health problems facing our population. It can leave a person susceptible to cardiovascular illnesses and diseases such as diabetes. More than this, it can severely damage a person’s quality of life, physically and emotionally, so it is not difficult to understand why many patients seek out weight loss surgery. However, surgery is not always the best solution and many patients have had success with non-surgical options.’

Bariatric surgery is the term used to refer to a series of weight loss procedures that reduce an individual’s food intake by decreasing the size of their stomach, causing them to lose weight. The procedures have become increasingly popular in recent years but Dr Al Maslamani said that lifestyle changes that incorporate healthy eating and physical activity can allow many patients to lose weight without having to resort to surgery. He cited the now concluded Smart Weight programme as an example.

Smart Weight

In 2015, HMC and Qatar University launched a weight management programme, Smart Weight, aimed at reducing the incidence of obesity in Qatar. Noora Al Jaffali, Head Dietitian at the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, said the programme, which was funded by Qatar’s Academic Health System, targeted patients who could benefit from professional weight loss support and advice. She said that the main objective was for participants to lose 10% of their body weight over the course of a six-month programme.

The programme included 500 participants, aged between 18 and 65. Group participants all had a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30. The group was led by a team of healthcare professionals from the HMC Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, and faculty and student volunteers from Qatar University’s human nutrition programme. Through simple lifestyle modifications, most programme participants were able to lose more than 10% of their body weight. The overall success rate was 90%.’

She added that although the programme has now ended, the department still offers patients an individualised approach to weight loss, which includes medical, nutritional, behavioural, and fitness counseling and support. Al Jaffali said that patients are referred to the service from across HMC as well as primary health care clinics.

We hold two clinics per day. Part of our function at the department  is to help patients make dietary and lifestyle changes. Our programmes are calorie-based and follow the Qatar Dietary Guidelines developed by the Ministry of Public Health. In keeping with the guidelines, we focus on nutritional planning and physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle. Individual face-to-face counseling is a major part of what we do. To be successful, it’s important that each plan is tailored to the needs of each patient and includes reasonable goals, planning for obstacles, and managing stress.’

She added that all patients who seek support from the department undergo a comprehensive evaluation. In addition to examining the patient’s physical health, the role of nutrition and lifestyle modifications as a strategy for weight loss are also discussed.

Dr Al Maslamani says he has seen the power of lifestyle modifications as a strategy for weight loss in his own life.  Looking to lose unwanted weight and avoid what seemed to be an inevitable path to diabetes, he made major changes to his diet and exercise routine seven years ago .

I follow a healthy diet and track my calories. I lost weight by aiming to burn more calories than I ate. I incorporated physical activity into my daily life. I’ve maintained this habit and today it’s a lifestyle for me. I find opportunities to exercise as part of my everyday life, even if it means parking my car a little further from an entrance. I’m also careful when making food choices and selecting portion sizes. For example, I eat a lot of vegetables which are rich in fibre.  I also try to replace animal fats with vegetable fats and I look for ways to cut my cholesterol intake. Small changes, like eating whole wheat bread instead of white bread, can make a big difference to one’s overall health.’

Zohair Ali Al Arabi, a Senior Clinical Dietitian at HMC, said obesity is a complex problem that the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition is also attempting to address proactively by hosting community-based lectures and awareness events. Representatives from his department visit local schools, universities, businesses, and other organisations throughout the year and participate in events to raise awareness about the role of nutrition and physical activity in a healthy lifestyle.

For more information about the weight loss programme at HMC, visit their website at