Weight loss is a difficult topic for a lot of people who struggle with their weight daily. Some people seem to lose weight effortlessly, while others feel hungry all day and still gain weight. There is no one-size-fits-all weight loss plan despite an overwhelming number of commercials for products that say differently.
It can take some trial and error to find what works for you, and some people may benefit from extra help, which can include weight loss medications and even surgery.
Health Risks of Being Overweight
Carrying excess weight increases a person’s risk for health problems, including:
- Heart disease
- Prostate enlargement
- Some cancers
Overweight women are also more likely to have problems during pregnancy, including:
- Gestational diabetes
- Gestational hypertension
- Preeclampsia: extreme high blood pressure, fluid retention and protein in the urine
Maintaining a healthy weight lowers your risk of developing these conditions.
Diet and Exercise
Modifying your diet and exercise habits gives you the best chance for long-term weight loss success, so it’s important to choose exercises you enjoy and healthy foods you like and that fill you up. Foods high in fiber are good for keeping you full.
There’s a lot of controversy over which type of diet plan works best, low-fat, low carbohydrate or something else entirely. Most studies show that they’re all good at helping you lose weight, but many people have trouble keeping the weight off once they’re off the diet.
In general, low fat, low calorie and high fiber diets help you lose weight while lowering the risk of chronic conditions, like heart disease and cancer. Some evidence suggests that people with insulin resistance (the body cannot use insulin properly) see better results on low carb, high-fat diets. So it may not be that any one diet is best, but rather that the right diet for you depends on your particular health conditions.
When planning a diet, keep these things in mind:
- Eat fewer calories
- Eat a wide variety of foods to avoid feeling deprived
- Limit calorie-dense foods, but not to the point of craving them
- Don’t cut calories too much too fast or your body will think it’s starving and your metabolism will slow down
- Meal replacement bars and shakes can help you get the proper nutrition with fewer calories, as long as you don’t cheat by eating extra meals
Physical Activity and Exercise
Any increase in your physical activity will help you burn more calories, so try doing more walking, gardening and even cleaning the house. A good exercise regimen will also help build a strong body. Shoot for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days. If you need support to help you stick to your plans, get a friend to be your “diet buddy,” or join a weight-loss group.
Weight Loss Pills / Medications
In addition to diet and exercise, some people may benefit from other weight loss options such as medications for weight loss.
These should be used with a healthy diet and exercise plan, not in place of them.
Most prescription weight-loss drugs are recommended for those with a BMI of 30 or higher. Some of the most common weight loss drugs include Belviq, Qsymia, Contrave, Saxenda and Xenical (orlistat). Many of these drugs work by blocking your body’s absorption of the fat you eat.
Two appetite suppressants available for short-term use are phentermine and diethylpropion.
Alli (orlistat) is a lower dose version of Xenical that blocks about 25% of the fat calories you eat.
Surgery for Weight Loss
Surgery is usually an option for people who are very obese and haven’t been able to lose weight any other way. Moderately obese people with weight-related medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or sleep apnea may also qualify for surgery.
You have several surgery options, some of which include:
Gastric Bypass: A gastric bypass procedure creates a small pouch from the upper part of your stomach, so you can’t eat more than the pouch holds. Also, the pouch attaches to the intestine lower than your original stomach, so food spends less time in your intestines and you absorb fewer calories. Patients lose about 65% of their excess weight in the first year after the surgery and up to 75% in two years.
Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding (LAGB): Also called lap banding, this procedure places an adjustable band around your stomach opening, restricting the amount of food you can eat at one time. Patients lose as much as 75% of their excess weight over two years. Learn more about two gastric banding procedures, the LAP Band and Realize Band.
Gastric Sleeve: With gastric sleeve surgery, the doctor makes a narrow tube out of your stomach so that it holds less food and makes less ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry. Patients can lose around 33 percent of their excess body weight the first year. Weight loss surgery is not a miracle cure. Before you do it, you need to commit to living a healthy life, including a healthy diet and exercise. Otherwise, you could have serious complications.
Learn more about weight loss surgery and other surgical options including the costs.