The basics

Weight loss. Easier said than done, isn’t it?

It’s hard to sift through the myths and misinformation and find useful advice. Until you came across this website, of course.

Basically, if you can consistently burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. How much weight exactly? Well, that depends on the net calorie loss per day and how long you can maintain it for.

We all know it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. We’ve all heard of the BMI scales and the health risks associated with obesity.

So here they are again.

Heart disease. Stroke. Diabetes. Some cancers. The list goes on – this is certainly not a full list.

Of course, one of the main reasons we decide to lose weight is so we can feel better about ourselves. Which makes sense. Weight and mental health are closely linked, with higher rates of general unhappiness and mental health problems in those who are overweight and obese.

I know I’ve said weight loss is easier said than done and I’ll say it again. This is because it isn’t easy. Or we would all be able to do it.

The key to successful and lasting weight loss is to pick a plan and stick with it.

Diet and Exercise

The first plan you should try when it comes to weight loss. Before pills and surgery.

There are so many diet plans out there, some of them being downright dangerous, that it can be difficult to know which ones to trust.

As a general rule of thumb, ask yourself these questions about the diet you’re looking at:

  • Do you actually like the suggested foods enough to stick with them for good?
  • Are any major food groups being left out? You want fruits and veg, lean protein sources, nuts, grains, and low-fat dairy.
  • Can you easily find these foods or do you have to travel to a galaxy far far away to find them?
  • Does it suit your budget?
  • Does it suit your lifestyle?
  • Is it actually safe? Make sure you’re getting in enough calories and nutrients. Reject those crash diets and fad diets for good.  
  • Is regular exercise part of the regime?

Exercise is another essential part of any weight loss plan.

It’s not enough to control the calories you eat, you also have to be burning calories.

Contrary to what many celebrities and magazines will tell you, you don’t have to do any fancy exercises in particular.

So, I won’t be recommending doing a headstand whilst juggling apples with your feet, or whatever the latest fad is.

Doing chores is a form of exercise. If you ever need motivation to clean the house, do the shopping, fix up the garden, there you have it. Or choose a sport that you actually enjoy. Joining a sports team is a great way to stay engaged in regular exercise if you can’t pick one. That's my personal tactic, as a (very) amateur basketball player!

Whatever you pick, aim for a minimum of 75 minutes a week of physical activity that breaks a sweat or 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity.

Again, ask yourself: is this part of my diet plan?

If you find yourself answering ‘no’ to any of the questions above, keep looking for a healthy regime that works for you.

Diet pills and supplements

I'm going to be honest, this topic is a total mess.

You probably already know this, if you’re one of the millions who have searched the web for the best pills and supplements for weight loss.

I want to start this by making a few points:

  • There is no such thing as a magic pill that will make you lose weight.
  • The medications that work should be used in combination with diet and exercise.
  • Some tablets are dangerous and not approved to treat weight loss.
  • Always see a doctor before taking any pills: they will ensure that they are actually safe.

Some of those points sound scary, right? But they’re true.

The diet pill market isn’t regulated, and over-the-counter supplements in particular don’t even need to undergo thorough clinical trials before being put on the market.

To make this topic easier to digest (no pun intended), we can split tablets into two categories:

  1. Over-the-counter supplements
  2. Prescribed medications

Over-the-counter supplements

Over-the-counter supplements are products you can find yourself on the internet or in stores, and buy without a prescription or a doctor’s appointment.

They often contain all sorts of ingredients promised to be a miracle worker for weight loss, like caffeine, green tea, eye of newt. The list goes on.

They are often expensive and there are countless options out there.

Essentially, there is no high-quality clinical evidence that any of these over-the-counter supplements work.

Translating the medical jargon to English: most of them are crap.

They’re also not guaranteed to be safe as they will have side effects that haven’t been thoroughly tested for.

Avoid.

Prescribed medications for weight loss

Prescribed medications are another matter. There are a few options, that when prescribed by a doctor following an appointment, can actually aid your weight loss journey.

These include:

Orlistat (Xenical). A drug that stops the fat from being absorbed in the gut. Side effects include flatulence and loose diarrhoea when eating fatty foods. This is why you are advised to avoid fatty foods when on Orlistat.

Liraglutide (Saxenda). A drug most commonly used to treat diabetes, which also helps weight loss. It comes in a pen and is given as a daily injection. Pens usually last around 2-4 weeks each and side-effects are not common but may include nausea, constipation or diarrhoea.

Phentermine (Duromine). A drug closely related to amphetamines. They work by suppressing appetite. They are usually used only as a short-term measure. Side effects include: high blood pressure, anxiety and insomnia.

Bupropion/Naltrexone (Contrave). A combination of two drugs which act as an appetite suppressor. Bupropion is usually used to aid smoking cessation. Naltrexone is usually used to treat cravings in alcohol and opioid addictions. Side effects include: nausea/vomiting, dizziness, dry mouth, constipation, headache, and mood disturbances including suicidal thoughts.

Remember that depending on where in the world you live, medical guidelines for treating weight loss may differ.

Always see a doctor before starting any medication. Guidelines are always changing, so don’t rely on “Dr Google” for your medical advice.

Bariatric Surgery

The final step in the weight loss journey for people who haven’t lost weight with diet and exercise or medication.

Bariatric surgery is the most effective intervention for weight loss. But it’s also the most invasive.

You may be eligible for bariatric surgery if you meet the following criteria:

  • BMI >40
  • BMI >35 with an associated medical condition (eg. Diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnoea)

Surgical procedures include:

Gastric sleeve. The most common bariatric surgery. The stretchy part of the stomach is removed, leaving a smaller compartment which doesn’t stretch. This reduces the production of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which reduces your appetite.

Gastric bypass. Also known as “Roux-en-Y” bypass. A small pouch is fashioned out of the top of the stomach and connected directly to the small intestine. This makes you feel fuller and quickly.

Gastric band. A band is wrapped around the top of the stomach, which in turn restricts the amount of food we feel like eating. This is a reversible procedure.

If you think bariatric surgery might be the way forward for you, speak to a surgeon and get the ball rolling.