Medical weight loss uses non-surgical approaches including lifestyle modification, medications, and meal replacements to assist patients in losing weight. Medical weight loss can be more effective than stand-alone diets or exercise programs because of the educational curriculum, comprehensive design, and ongoing support that they offer*.
Types of Medical Weight Loss Solutions
There are three broad categories of medical weight loss:
- Lifestyle Transformation Therapy (specific nutritional planning, exercise, and motivational therapy)
- Weight loss medication
- Meal replacement programs
Lifestyle Transformation Therapy
Lifestyle Transformation Therapy is a lifelong lifestyle change that produces weight loss. Lifestyle Transformation Therapy involves using a series of stepwise lifestyle changes to transform your weight and your health*.
Weight Loss Medication
Weight loss medications are prescription drugs designed to help you lose weight*. There are several different medications which can act in different and sometimes complementary ways. Some of them work by decreasing your appetite.
You can find a full list of weight loss medications, and their impact and side effects, here.
Weight loss medications are only effective when they are used in conjunction with dietary modification and increased exercise. In this setting, patients on average lose 5-10% of their total body weight*.
- Can help decrease appetite by acting on the appetite-regulating region of the brain
- Can sometimes also treat other medical conditions
- Can produce side-effects such as headaches, insomnia, fatigue, depression, anxiety, increased blood pressure, and heart problems
- Diminishing effectiveness with time
- Benefits often only last while taking the medications
- Can be expensive
Meal Replacement Programs
Meal replacement programs refer to products that include pre-prepared shakes, dinners, and bars with an exact caloric intake. Although there are many different brands, they generally work using similar methods. OptifastTM, for example, replaces all of your normal food intake with a precise calorie limitation while maintaining healthy protein levels, which may help blunt the appetite to some degree. Many of these products are vitamin fortified.
In addition to calorie reduction, meal replacements also work by stimulus reduction, or limiting your number of food options in order to decrease the reward-based cycle and expansive desire to eat. Because they cannot completely replace all nutrients in real food, meal replacement programs are generally limited to 12-16 weeks under a doctor’s supervision only. Following this time period, a very careful and methodical transition to permanently changed lifestyle will be required to maintain results*.
- Improve meal structure and stop snacking/grazing
- Very low calorie intake
- Decrease food options (stimulus control)
- Can translate into some successful weight loss when followed exactly
- Limited to 12-16 weeks maximum
- Are not a permanent solution
- Transition to a permanent lifestyle transformation required to maintain results
- Can only be done under careful medical supervision
If your goal is to lose a few pounds, and you have a BMI <35, then medical weight loss alone may be the right solution for you.
However, if your BMI is above 40 (or 35 with weight-related health risks) and you have tried to lose weight before and failed, then bariatric surgery (in conjunction with a life-long commitment to Lifestyle Transformation Therapy) may be the powerful tool you need to lose weight and keep it off.