I get a few questions often:
-- Can and should I use weight loss medication?
-- Is it the easy way out to take weight loss medication?
-- Will I have to be on weight loss medication for life?
Let's answer these questions.
Can and should I use medication?
Typically, by the time a person is seeking my help, they have tried lifestyle changes and have also maybe tried various types of eating plans (AKA diets) or commercial weight loss programs. Often these programs have worked, but the person has regained the weight or often they were seeing results and then plateaued.
Keeping in mind, overweight and obesity are chronic diseases with complicated factors at play, we treat these conditions as the serious medical conditions that they are. A 5-10% weight loss can result in improvements in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and can help improve type 2 diabetes or prevent progression from pre-diabetes. People an can also avoid or improve on other complications that affect their daily life, like heart disease, stroke, obstructive sleep apnea, osteoarthritis of the joints, certain cancers, and even improve fertility in the case of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
If we can treat the root cause of a person's medical issues, then why shouldn't we treat their overweight/obesity with medication, right?
Who can get prescription weight loss medication (also called anti-obesity medications)?
>> If someone has a BMI over 30
>> If someone has a BMI over 27 with a weight related medical condition like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol
>> When seeing a patient, we take into account their medical issues so the appropriate medication can be used. We assess not only what will be most effective; but also side effects and contraindications.
Is it the easy way out?
No. Medication is a tool and cannot be used in isolation.
The foundation of any weight loss or preventive health program has to be lifestyle and nutrition. We cannot, however, ignore the processes that go on that make weight loss and keeping the weight off so challenging.
Will I have to be on weight loss medication for life?
Anyone who has struggled with weight or known others that do, knows that weight regain is real. There are processes out of your control (brain set point), factors released by adipose tissue (chemicals release by fat cells) and the expected decrease in metabolism with weight weight loss that work against your efforts to maintain weight loss. You have hunger hormones that increase your appetite and other factors that contribute to weight gain.
So, the answer is- MAYBE.
We work with our patients to have a weight maintenance plan in place, and sometimes that includes medication. Sometimes, one might come off medication, try other strategies, and then go back on medication if they start to regain.
It is important to make sure you are incorporating all the lifestyle strategies, good nutrition, mindfulness techniques to break habits & associations, treat other medical conditions affecting weight and use medication if needed.
Having a doctor to treat you and people in your corner to provide accountability & support can make all the difference!
Richa Mittal, MD
*All content here is for informational purposes only and not medical advice. For specific health concerns, please consult with your personal physician.