Medical Approaches to Weight Loss
Sometimes a healthy diet and exercise aren't enough to help you lose weight. If your weight is a severe risk to your health, your doctor may advise a medically supervised approach. The following is a list of some alternative treatments:
Very Low Calorie Diets.
When a diet contains less than 800 calories a day, it is called a very low calorie diet. (In contrast, many healthy weight loss programs stay above 1200 calories a day). As a rule, this type of diet is liquid and high in protein (to prevent loss of muscle). Weight loss is more rapid. For this reason, it needs to be supervised by a doctor. It may be a helpful approach to get a very obese person started on a weight loss program. The weight loss can help decrease blood sugars and other health risks of being heavy.
Very low calorie diets are not a long-term solution. For safety, most of these programs only last a few months. After this, the person needs to wean off the liquid diet and onto real food. This shift is the tricky part. A big pitfall of the very low calorie diets is that the weight comes back easily. Much effort needs to take place to keep this weight off.
Other problems with very low calorie diets:
- They can be costly, because they are medically supervised.
- They increase the risk of gallstones.
- Some people get very tired or even lose their hair when on this diet.
Drugs for Weight Loss.
Your doctor may want you to try a drug to assist with weight loss. The prescription drugs available for weight loss work in different ways. They may reduce appetite, decrease how much fat you absorb, or make you feel full. This causes you to eat or absorb fewer calories. These pills don't work without your help. A low calorie diet and exercise are needed for success.
If your doctor thinks this approach is for you, she or he will explain the drug choices and risks. These drugs may have unknown long-term risks. Because of this, only people at high risk of weight related health problems should take weight loss drugs.
For people with severe obesity, surgery is an option. This approach has been shown to help some people lose weight and keep it off. There are a two basic types of surgery. Both make the stomach smaller so it holds less food. In fact, the stomach after surgery holds less than 2 ounces (that's less than 1 cup). This forces the person to eat less. Weight loss usually follows.
The surgery is an extreme measure. Your eating habits will change in a big way. At first, you follow a liquid diet. After this you move on to solid foods. But for the surgery to be a success, you will always need to eat many very tiny meals a day.
For some people, this surgery can extend their life. They lose weight and many weight related health problems improve. As with any surgery, there are risks. For example, some people vomit more or get nutritional deficiencies. The stomach may stretch from overeating. Some people have a hard time dealing with the emotions of such a drastic life change. If you are thinking about this surgery, your health care team can give you more information on the risks and benefits of this approach.
There are many approaches to weight loss. Whatever method is used, the same key message applies: eat less and exercise more. Avoid fad diets or other extreme ways to lose weight. These are short-term fixes. For long-term success, balance, moderation and common sense work best. Ask your health care team if you want help in your weight loss efforts.