Weight Loss Surgery or Weight Loss Medications


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Before considering weight loss surgery many patients consider and try out weight loss medications, usually with varying degrees of success.  Many have mixed reviews to their ability to maintain a healthy weight.  Weight loss medications are increasing in number and there are more and more available both over the counter and on prescription from your GP. It is important to bear in mind that these medications are not for those who would like to shed a few pounds, they are for those who are morbidly obese or obese.  Most are effective, powerful drugs which will change how your body works so they are not to be taken without thinking seriously about them first. 

On first glance to many they sound like a dieter’s magic cure to weight loss, the thought of just taking a pill and seeing the weight fall off.  Sadly the reality is a bit different as there is no easy way to maintaining a healthy weight.  Weight loss medications can be effective but they are not a good choice for everybody.  If you do chose to take medications you will need to think carefully about the possible side effects of such medications and full investigate these.  Doctors do prescribe weight loss medication, often to individuals who are not classic candidates for weight loss surgery, perhaps because they have a BMI that is considered too low.

As with weight loss surgery weight loss medications are to be taken seriously.  Taking weight loss medications is not as life changing as having weight loss surgery however they have side effects that you will need to consider.  Before approaching your doctor regarding such medications make sure you have tried other ways of losing weight such as a healthy diet and exercise.  Most GP’s will want to know that you have tried all avenues before embarking on a course of weight loss medication. 

Prescription weight loss drugs aren’t intended for people who just want to lose a few pounds and are meant for those who are having difficulties losing excessive weight through diet and exercise.  Your GP will only prescribe such medications to you if you are obese or morbidly obese not if you are slightly overweight. 

Those that are morbidly obese and suffer from serious associated health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure with an IBM over 35 would generally be recommended for weight loss surgery rather than medications.  Your doctor will want to assess your individual case before prescribing weight loss medications. Here are a few of the criteria your doctor will look for when assessing your for weight loss medications:

  • You have tried other methods of weight loss e.g. exercise and diet and failed to loss excess weight.
  • Your BMI is greater than 30
  • Your BMI is greater than 27 and you have some medical conditions related to excessive weight such as diabetes, high blood pressure or sleep apnoea.

Those who have been unsuccessful gaining insurance for weight loss surgery or don’t qualify for surgery with the NHS or PCT, may be prescribed weight loss surgery medications.  It is common for the doctor to prescribe such medications, however in some cases patients visit their doctor requesting that they be put on such medications.  It is important to consult with your doctor before taking any weight loss medications as they may seem like harmless pills, however even the over the counter medications have serious side effects if not taken properly.

The two most common prescribed drugs for long-term weight loss are known as:

  • Subutramin (Meridia)
  •  Orlistat (Xenical)

Both these medications work in different ways and can cause different side effects which your doctor will explore fully with your during your consultation.  These side effects will vary in intensity from person to person.  If a medication does not suit you, your GP may try again, after a period of time, with a different medication.  The weight loss medications available can be designed to be short term or long term.  If you are obese or morbidly obese then your GP is likely to prescribe a longer-term treatment unless there is some health reason to prescribe a short-term course of medication. 

Weight loss medications generally work in one of two ways, by suppressing the appetite and by fat absorption inhibitors.  Appetite suppressants work by tricking the body into feeling full and fat absorption inhibitors work by preventing the body from breaking down fats.  The fats that your do eat are not absorbed like they would be normally, instead they are carried away from the body and are released through bowel movements.

Short Term Weight Loss Medications

There are many short term weight loss medications which are designed to be used for losing weight on a short term basis (up to 12 weeks).  Many obese and overweight people use them, however they tend to have mixed results.  All too often as soon as you stop taking these short-term medications, weight is gained which is very deflating and depressing after losing several pounds.  If you are seriously overweight or obese you really need to be thinking of a longer-term strategy to weight loss.  There are many side effects to using these short-term medications, although they tend to be less severe than longer-term medications.  These include dry mouth, dizziness and lightheadedness.  Many of the short-term medications are available over the counter.   Ali is one well-known short-term weight loss medication, which is very popular with obese and very overweight people.  Ali is available over the counter, but you will need to have a brief consultation with a pharmacist first.  Results can be variable but all these weight loss medications are more effective if you can combine them with other methods of losing weight such as a healthy diet and exercise.  It is important to remember that weight loss medications are not a magic pill to lose lots of weight.  They have side effects and needs to be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise.  They are a useful aid, but nothing more and much will depend on your own motivation and willingness to establish a healthy lifestyle. Most importantly, you should seek professional advice before taking weight loss medications.

There have been many cases of weight loss medications being misused.  Those medications that can be purchased over the counter are seen as ‘less serious’ than medications prescribed by GP’s and therefore not viewed as harmful.  There have been causes of dieters sharing diet pills or in some concerning causes giving them to their children.  This is a highly dangerous, as children need vital vitamins and minerals for their development and these drugs work by preventing absorption of food.  Approximately 25% of the fat in food is carried away from the body and passed out through the bowels.  Short-term weight loss drugs such as Ali are recommended for adults of a BMI of over 28 or over.  It is recommended that you have a discussion with your doctor before taking any type of weight loss medication.  You will need to have a realistic expectation of the medication and what the results of taking them will be.  In many cases dieters expect miracle results and after taking the medications expect significant weight loss, only to find they only loss a few pounds.  This can lead to depression and feeling defeated, so it is important that you are realistic about the outcome from the start.  Don’t stop trying to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise while you are taking weight loss medications.  Many dieters feel that they no longer need to eat healthy foods or exercise because they are on weight loss medications.  The important thing to remember with any weight loss medication is that they are only likely to be successful if used in conjunction with other methods of weight loss such as a healthy diet and exercise. 


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