For most people, weight loss is pretty straightforward – calories in, calories out. The more energy you expend versus the calories you consume, the more weight you lose. However, this is not the case for some individuals who are overweight or obese. The sad reality is that 42% of American adults have reported feeling stigmatized by their weight and the negative associations people make with a weight they perceive to be “unhealthy.” But sometimes, constant weight gain – or the inability to lose weight – isn’t caused by a poor lifestyle but rather a unique combination of medical, environmental, and socioeconomic factors. This is where medical solutions are recommended.
You may be prescribed weight-loss medication if your physician deems it medically necessary. This is usually considered after you have received a thorough medical consultation and undergone the tests needed, where your doctor determines that certain underlying diseases or medical disorders make it difficult for you to lose weight. One example is hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland; in one study, overweight or obesity was observed in 76.5% of hypothyroid patients.
When biology makes dropping the pounds a bit harder, certain medications can help even out the playing field, with newer drugs producing an average of 15% weight loss. Medical weight loss, however, can’t teach healthy habits with a prescription. Likewise, healthy habits may not change your biology. Both must be combined for powerful, long-term weight loss treatment. This is why medical experts overwhelmingly recommend that patients follow a balanced, sustainable lifestyle program where consistent exercise, a healthy diet, and effective medication can gradually lower the number on your scale.
Medical weight loss can be surgical or nonsurgical, involving procedures like bariatric surgery for patients whose weight-related conditions may be life-threatening. On the other hand, several medications have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for chronic weight management. The most popular drug is semaglutide, widely known by its brand name Wegovy, which got the FDA seal of approval in 2014. Another semaglutide brand name is gaining traction in Hollywood: Ozempic, though it is only approved for use in adults with type 2 diabetes. Wegovy is injected once weekly for weight management. Other FDA-approved medications include liraglutide (Saxenda), which is injected once daily; naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave), in the form of extended-release tablets consumed twice daily; and Orlistat (Alli and Xenical), which is taken three times a day. The medication prescribed to you will largely depend on your doctor’s recommendation.
Another aspect that will be addressed to improve your weight loss odds is your lifestyle. And this doesn’t just include diet modifications and increased physical activity levels. A factor that often gets overlooked when it comes to weight loss is sleep hygiene. A study found that better sleep quantity and quality increased the likelihood of successful weight loss by 33% – while those subjected to experimental sleep deprivation gained anywhere from 13 to nearly 50 pounds. A holistic weight loss program will also look into your general mindset towards your weight and your relationship with food, which can reveal patterns or habits that make weight loss even more complicated. In this case, counseling may be an excellent resource for those who are feeling overwhelmed.
Given that this is a comprehensive solution that requires time, patience, financial resources, and energy, it’s essential to determine whether a medically-assisted weight loss program would be suitable for you. Physicians will typically recommend lifestyle changes first. If they have decided this is ineffective, weight loss medication will be considered a solution. Even then, they will have to check that you don’t have any contraindications, such as underlying medical conditions or other drugs, that can interfere with weight loss medication.
While every patient and program may have different criteria, an ideal candidate would have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and above. Candidates with a BMI of 27 and above dealing with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure would also qualify for treatment. Weight loss medications may not be ideal for those younger than 18 or older than 65. Should you be cleared to embark on your medical weight loss journey, you’ll have the support of your doctor and other health professionals like a nutritionist, psychiatrist, and fitness trainer to ensure all aspects of weight management are looked after. However, you’ll also want to lean on trusted family and friends to encourage you as you strive for healthier weight. Through an effective support system – people and program – you can reach your goals with flying colors.