What types of weight loss medication are there?
From tablets to capsules to injections, there are a variety of weight loss medicines available. There are capsules you can take at meal times that help to limit fat absorption, tablets you take at regular times of the day, and injections that work on appetite receptors in the brain that you can take every day or every week. Which type of treatment is the right option for you can depend on factors like how prone you are to certain side effects, if you’re taking other medicines which may interact with weight loss treatment, or if you have certain health conditions.
Which is the best weight loss medication for me?
It depends on your health background. Weight loss treatments can have side effects, so if you’re prone to these, this may determine which treatments are right for you and which aren’t. For example, Xenical is a capsule that can cause loose stools, so if you have a condition like IBS you may be better off with a different product (although it should be noted that all weight loss products can cause this side effect). If you have other health conditions, or if you’re currently taking certain medication, these can also influence what the right treatment option is for you. Contrave for instance isn’t suitable if you have high blood pressure or if you’re taking antidepressants. The type of treatment that you can use (or would prefer to use) is another factor. For example, Saxenda is effective but not everyone wants to use an injection. Xenical and Alli are capsules, so if you’re able to take capsules and would rather take capsules, they may be the better options for you. Contrave is a tablet you take at set times each day, so if you can take tablets and you find them easier to swallow than capsules, for example, these products may be the best ones for you.
Xenical and Alli
Xenical and Alli all contain the same active ingredient, orlistat, and work in the same way in the body. There are a few differences though. Xenical is a prescription medication, but Alli doesn’t need a prescription. You’ll still need to answer a few questions from a pharmacist before you can get Alli. It’s the cheapest medication of the two, but it contains half the dosage of Xenical (60mg rather than 120mg). Because Alli contains only half the dosage of Xenical, it stops the body from digesting less fat in comparison. Xenical normally prevents one third of dietary fat from being digested, whereas Alli usually stops about one quarter of dietary fat from being absorbed. If tablets and capsules aren’t suitable for you, Saxenda may be the right weight loss treatment. It’s an injection that you can take yourself, and you gradually increase the dose week by week until you reach the recommended dose. So, in summary: the right weight loss treatment for you may be dependent on a number of things. Our clinician can talk you through the various options though, factoring in your medical background and any health conditions or side effects that you’re prone to.
Weight loss and diet
If you’re overweight, it may be that changes to your diet, along with exercising on a regular basis, are the two measures that help you to reduce your weight to a healthy level (without the need for any medication). After creating a food diary and assessing what sort of dietary habits you can adjust on a day-to-day basis, you can start setting yourself realistic (and safe) targets. The CDC recommends aiming for losing between 1-2 Ibs a week,
and this is achievable by managing your daily calorie intake. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to do it at a gradual, sustainable rate. Trying to lose too much, too quickly by skipping meals altogether can lead to what’s called ‘yo-yo-ing’ (your weight fluctuating up and down), because the natural reaction to drastic ‘under-eating’ is ‘over-eating’. If you dramatically ‘under-eat’ as well, you might put yourself at risk of other health problems because your body won’t be getting the nutrients it needs. So in short, eating healthier foods and controlling portion sizes will help you to lose weight and stay at a healthy weight (rather than skipping meals).
Weight loss and exercise
Exercise can help you to burn off excess calories that you don’t lose through making dietary changes alone, so combining the two is more effective than choosing one or the other. But exercise is also great for keeping your motivation levels up if you’re aiming to lose weight, and boosting your general wellbeing. Even just moving your body around burns more calories than sitting down, so small things can make a difference. Increasing the amount of activity you do gradually is usually an effective way to approach exercise if you’re looking to lose weight, because it’s easier to make it part of your daily routine. For otherwise healthy adults, 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week is recommended
. Aerobic activities are exercises that increase your heart rate, and get your blood pumping. Walking, running, cycling, dancing and swimming are all examples, or using a treadmill or stair stepper. Strength training can help too. Lifting weights or using weight machines are examples of activities that help to increase your strength. It’s recommended to do strength-based exercises on two or more days each week in addition to aerobic exercise. It’s important though to speak to a doctor if you’re overweight before you start a new exercise routine. You should aim to push yourself to begin with, but not too hard. Not only can this lead to injury, but it may impact your motivation.
Weight loss surgery: is it an option for me?
It may be. And it can be very effective. But it’s not a small operation, and it’s normally only an option for people who haven’t managed to lose weight after changing their diet and exercising on a regular basis. If you’ve not had success with these strategies, and you also have a BMI of 40 or above (or a BMI between 35 and 40 and an obesity-related condition that could benefit from surgery) you should discuss it with your physician. Surgery usually involves long-term follow-up with a doctor too, to monitor your progress over an extended period of time.
This page was medically reviewed by Ms Laurenmarie Cormier, Nurse Practitioner
on August 02, 2022. Next review due on August 01, 2024.