If you’re thinking of talking to your doctor about prescription weight loss medications, or your doctor has already prescribed one and you’re wondering if you should give it a go, we’ve put some information together on what to know, and expect, from these medications.
Are you the right candidate? Most prescription weight loss medications are intended for people with health complications from being overweight or obese, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and who have already tried diet and exercise alone. If you’re looking to lose an extra 5 pounds or so for cosmetic reasons, or you haven’t really given diet and exercise a solid effort, a weight loss medication is probably not the right choice for you. In fact, many experts would argue that weight loss medications aren’t the right choice for most people, even those with significant amounts of weight to lose. There’s more on the reasoning behind this below.
What do they do? Most of these medications function either by helping to suppress your appetite, block fat absorption, and/or increase your satisfaction level with your meals. In all cases your body ends up getting fewer calories. The feeling of being more in control of your appetite can be motivating, and this is a good thing if it also helps motivate you to adopt healthier habits that will also lead to weight loss (and keep you there long-term). Given this, it’s really important that you’re working with your doctor and a registered dietitian to make sure you’re also changing your diet and exercise habits for the better. But, along with the good may also come some not-so-good side effects. Some of these side effects, like high blood pressure, are part of the reason you could be taking the drug to begin with. Scary. Other side effects of the most popular types of medications include headache, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, and constipation.
Do they work? Weight loss medications, in conjunction with a lower calorie diet and exercise have been shown in studies to be successful to help people lose on average 5-10% of their body weight. For many people losing 10% can improve health significantly. The downside is that unless you plan to take the medication (side effects and all) long-term, you run the risk of gaining the weight back unless you’ve adopted healthy habits that will keep you maintaining your new healthy weight along the way.
Are they taking away your hard-earned credit? Something we really don’t like about weight loss medications is the idea that being on them could diminish the success you feel personally if you lose weight while also putting in the effort to eat more healthfully and exercise. In other words, will you feel the same sense of accomplishment, and more importantly the ability to continue losing, once you’re off the medication as you would have losing weight with diet and exercise alone?
The bottom line: While prescription weight loss medications may help people with a significant amount of weight to lose, a solid effort to change habits by way of diet and exercise should always come first.
Have you tried, or know someone who has been on prescription weight loss medications? What was the experience like?