So many women come to me for help losing weight – and more importantly, keeping it off! They’ve tried everything – programs that provide packaged food, programs that have them counting calories and weighing everything, every fad diet that comes along, and sometimes even prescription diet pills.
As with many health conditions, prescriptions are often recommended by conventional physicians to patients who are obese or overweight with related health problems. But is it the best option for these women who are genuinely trying, but can’t seem to shed those stubborn pounds?
I don’t think so. I know that research shows that weight loss pill use is an effective treatment for obesity in many patients. So why don’t I think it’s the best choice? Let me explain.
Weight loss is a complicated issue, and for results to last long term, you have to really get at the heart of the problem – which is different for every single person. Weight loss medication is like most prescription medications; it covers up the symptoms rather than uncovering and healing the actual problem.
Let’s take a look at what these prescriptions do – and don’t do – and then I’ll tell you what I think the most effective tools for weight loss are, and why.
What Are Weight Loss Pills?
Weight loss is a hot topic in our society, which is facing higher and higher obesity rates every year. People are desperate to lose weight, both to improve the way they look and, more importantly, the way they feel. The biggest goal for those who are seriously overweight is often to live a healthier life.
Plenty of products claiming to help dieters shed those pounds have flooded the market, from over the counter pills, shakes, and special foods, to a variety of supplements. While some of these may help, they aren’t what I’m talking about here. The weight loss pills I’m referring to are available by prescription only, and that alone can lull women into thinking that they must be the answer. But they often have no idea what’s really in them, or how they work.
There are five prescription weight loss pills approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for long term use: orlistat (Xenical, Alli), lorcaserin (Belviq), phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia), naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave), and liraglutide (Saxenda). All but orlistat work by suppressing the appetite one way or another: decreasing hunger, increasing feelings of fullness, or both. Orlistat, on the other hand, blocks the absorption of fat.
Why Doctors Prescribe Weight Loss Pills
There is a major obesity issue in our country. In fact, statistics say that ⅔ of adults in the United States are either overweight or obese. Health care professionals use body mass index (BMI) to determine who falls into these categories. Being overweight (BMI between 25 and 30) or obese (BMI over 30) can drastically increase the risk of many health issues, including Type 2 diabetes, joint problems, high blood pressure, heart disease and gallstones.
Related Article: Preventing Heart Disease: How to Reduce Heart Disease Risk Naturally
Prescription diet pills are intended to help people who are overweight or obese manage health issues, or to decrease risk of these issues developing.
Does Using Weight Loss Pills Work?
Prescription medication for weight loss wouldn’t be approved by the FDA if there wasn’t evidence that they are effective. Of course, because we all respond differently to different medications, every pill doesn’t work for every person who tries them. That’s why there are so many different weight loss drugs available.
For most effective weight loss, diet pills must be combined with a change in diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle changes. Research has demonstrated that the average person on prescription diet medications combined with lifestyle changes lose between 3 and 9 percent more of their starting weight than those who change lifestyle alone. And although that might not seem like a lot, losing just five to ten percent of starting weight can have a big impact on health, including lowering blood sugar, triglycerides, and blood pressure, as well as decreasing joint pain and sleep apnea.
On the surface, then, it seems like these prescriptions are a great idea, doesn’t it? But here’s the catch: many people regain the weight once they stop taking the medication, and there are some nasty side effects that can occur when taking these prescriptions.
What Kind of Side Effects Can Prescription Weight Loss Pills Cause?
It’s likely you’ve heard of FenPhen, a prescription diet pill that got great results. Fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine, key ingredients in this combination pill, were recalled by the FDA in 1997 due to concerns that it was causing heart valve problems. That’s an extreme side effect, and the currently approved weight loss medications haven’t been linked to the same issues.
However, as with most prescriptions, if you read the fine print you’ll see that some very serious problems are possible, such as seizure, severe allergic reactions, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, liver damage, and more. These side effects are rare, but still alarming.
More commonly, side effects from diet prescriptions include nausea and vomiting, headaches, constipation, sleep difficulties, dry mouth, dizziness and diarrhea. Since most people are taking these drugs to feel better, these side effects can be a big deterrent!
Why I Don’t Recommend Prescription Weight Loss Pills as a Long Term Solution
One problem I see with prescription weight loss pills is that to achieve long term results you may have to remain on the medication indefinitely. And there are no studies that demonstrate what happens with long term use of these prescriptions. Most of the women I know would prefer not to remain on medications for months or years without knowing what it might do to their health.
The other big issue is that, as I said in the beginning of this article, prescriptions often just cover up the symptoms of a bigger problem. In this case, the symptom is weight gain. These pills may help drop those extra pounds, but when the medication is discontinued, the weight comes right back.
Lifestyle changes are hard to sustain, and you may not have made the right modifications in the first place, if you don’t discover why your body holds onto weight in the first place. Genetics, emotional trauma, hormonal imbalances, and so many other factors can be at work. Recent research has shown that weight gain itself can actually change your brain, fooling it into thinking that you need those extra pounds to survive.
What I Recommend Instead of Diet Pills
My goal is to help women lose stubborn weight and keep it off. I don’t have a “magic solution.” My suggestions take time, commitment, and a lot of hard work. But I believe they are the best possibility for permanent change.
The first thing I recommend is to really get to know yourself and your body. Examine all aspects of your life. When did you begin to gain weight? What are the triggers that send you seeking out comfort foods? What do you know about your hormones and your genetic makeup? The answers to all of these (and other) questions will help you get started on devising the right plan for your own circumstances.
Genetic testing is an important piece of the puzzle. Knowing your unique genetic variations gives you invaluable information that can be used to determine exactly how you should be eating for effective weight loss management. This information can end yo-yo dieting for you because you’ll be able to see whether you need a low fat, low carb, mediterranean or some other regular eating pattern. You’ll know if you, like me, fail to have a “shut-off valve”. If so, you’ll need to pay close attention to what you’re eating because your body may tell you that you are hungry even if you just ate!
My Women’s Transformation Weight Loss Program
I have developed a weight loss program of my own, which is getting amazing results! This program is designed to restore and stimulate your metabolism, prompting you to lose weight – and keep it off! Using homeopathic drops and a restricted-calorie diet, I’m helping you change the way your body processes food and converts it into fuel. At the same time, I’m helping you break old habits and make lifestyle changes that stick. And I’m with you every step of the way – unlike a physician who writes a prescription and doesn’t follow up until weeks – or months – later.
You Don’t Need a Prescription to Lose Weight and Feel Great!
I know it can be tempting to try a pill that promises to take away an issue you’ve struggled with for a long time. But they’re a temporary fix, and with the potential side effects, can cause more damage than benefits. Knowing yourself and addressing the real issues, not just the symptoms, is a much more effective way to manage your weight long term – without a prescription!
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD