What’s in weight control pills and how do they work?

There’s simply no ‘quick fix’ for losing weight. Research has shown that the most effective way to lose weight is through regular exercise and a healthy diet. Small adjustments to your diet and activity levels can have surprising effects on your waistline and overall health: 

  • Joining a local weight loss group 
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator 
  • Walk to the corner shop or do the school run on foot 
  • Drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes when you feel hungry
  • Use a smaller plate to limit portion size
  • Have fruit instead of a pudding or sweet snack 
  • Read food labels and follow the recommended portion guidance 

But this ‘do more, eat less’ approach alone doesn’t work for everyone in every scenario. When diet and exercise aren’t proving as successful as you would like, many people look to weight control or weight loss pills for assistance in reaching their goals. 

However, there are things to consider before heading down this road. 

Who can use weight control or weight loss pills? 

Weight loss pills are only suitable for people who are severely overweight – they should never be used by anyone who is not. They’re not useful for everyone who wants to lose weight – you shouldn’t use these if your goal is only to lose a few pounds – that’s where diet and exercise should be used. If in doubt, your doctor can help you decide if using them is right for you. 

Typically, weight loss pills are appropriate for people who: 

  • have tried to change their diet and increase their physical activity levels first. (Find out more about healthy eating.) 
  • have a medical condition that would benefit from weight loss, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. 

Finally, you must lose at least 5% of your weight within three months from when you begin taking the pills. If you do not, treatment will likely be stopped. 

What is in weight control pills, and how do they work? 

The weight control pill recommended by Lloyds Online Doctor is Xenical. This is the brand name for orlistat, a weight-loss medication which is prescribed to those who are severely overweight. 

Orlistat is part of a group of medicines known as lipase inhibitors. Used together with a low-calorie diet, they work by interfering with the way fat is digested and absorbed into the body. These lipase inhibitors work in the intestines by preventing the absorption of some of the fat consumed in your diet. This fat is then eliminated by passing it through and out of the body when you go to the toilet. 

As with any medicine, there are potential side effects. These can include headaches, discomfort or pain in your stomach, wind, oily or fatty stools, and liquid stools. 

Weight control pills are not a magic potion. Just like stopping smoking, the medicine supports you while you make a lifestyle change, but you need to make changes to your lifestyle in order to see the benefits. So, unless you reduce your calorie intake, taking these pills will not ‘make you lose weight’. 

How to get weight loss pills 

You need to know that weight loss pills are right for you – they don’t work for everyone and aren’t appropriate for everyone either. 

You can find out if weight loss pills are right for you by following three simple steps: 

  • Complete a short questionnaire with Lloyds Online Doctor. 
  • One of our qualified doctors will review your answers and decide if you’re eligible for the treatment. 
  • If you are suitable for treatment you’ll be issued a prescription – you can either collect in pharmacy or have the prescription posted. 

If you’re not suitable for weight loss pills, you can still lose weight. It might just take a little more time and willpower. 

One more piece of lifestyle advice: avoid fad diets. You might be tempted to cut out a whole food group, only eat babyfood, fast for days without consulting a doctor, or restrict your diet to ingredients beginning with the letter L, but these are not sustainable or effective weight loss strategies in the long term. 

Ask yourself why you want to lose weight, visualise a goal and hold it in your mind. Maybe you want to move around more easily and take up ballroom dancing, or you want to be fitter to play football with the kids without getting out of breath. Whenever you’re tempted to stay on the sofa rather than go for a walk, or have an extra roast potato, remember what you’re trying to achieve. If you have a particular time of the day when temptation strikes, set a reminder on your phone to stay committed. Every good decision you make is a small step closer to the goal.  

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