Weight Loss Made Easy: Nutrition, Lifestyle Tips, and FDA-Approved Medications


The latest statistics reveal that 73 percent of adults in the U.S. are experiencing overweight or obesity, with almost half actively trying to lose weight. Shedding pounds and maintaining that loss is challenging, requiring sustained healthy lifestyle changes for life.

Healthy Lifestyle Changes: The Foundation of Weight Loss

Adopting more nutritious eating habits and increasing physical activity benefits both physical and mental health. Losing just 5-10 percent of body weight can significantly lower triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Despite these benefits, additional weight loss might be necessary for you to feel your best and achieve optimal health.

FDA-Approved Weight Loss Medications: A Supplement to Lifestyle Changes

For those who need or desire extra help, several FDA-approved weight loss medications, known as anti-obesity medications (AOMs), are available for long-term use. These medications are designed to complement healthy eating and regular physical activity, as they are not effective on their own over long periods of time.

Who Can Benefit from Weight Loss Medications?

Most weight loss medications require a prescription and are intended for individuals who have tried to lose weight through diet and exercise without success. They are suitable for those with a BMI of at least 30 or a BMI of at least 27 with a health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure.

How Do Weight Loss Medications Work?

Weight loss medications assist in managing weight by reducing hunger, increasing feelings of fullness, and reducing cravings. They work by interacting with hormones, neurotransmitters, and peptides found in the brain, gut, and adipose tissue. One exception is Orlistat (Xenical, Alli), which affects fat absorption in the digestive system.

Common FDA-Approved Weight Loss Medications

  • Semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy), Tirzepatide (Mounjaro), and Liraglutide (Saxenda, Victoza)
  • Class: GLP-1 receptor agonists
  • How They Work: These are injections targeting appetite regulation in the brain. They gradually increase dosage over weeks to minimize side effects like digestive issues, headaches, and fatigue.

  • Bupropion-Naltrexone (Contrave)
  • Class: Combination medication (Bupropion: antidepressant; Naltrexone: opioid receptor antagonist)
  • How It Works: This tablet combines an antidepressant and an opioid receptor antagonist to impact the pleasure-reward area of the brain, helping to reduce appetite and cravings.

  • Phentermine (Adipex-P, Lomaira) and Phentermine-Topiramate (Qsymia)
  • Class: Sympathomimetic amine (Phentermine); Combination medication (Phentermine: sympathomimetic amine; Topiramate: anticonvulsant)
  • How They Work: Phentermine reduces appetite, and when combined with Topiramate, it further helps in reducing cravings.

  • Setmelanotide (Imcivree)
  • Class: Melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) agonist
  • How It Works: A daily injection for individuals with specific rare inherited diseases. It helps in weight loss by reducing appetite and increasing calorie burn at rest.

  • Orlistat (Xenical, Alli)
  • Class: Lipase inhibitor
  • How It Works: Available in both prescription and non-prescription forms, it reduces fat absorption by inhibiting digestive enzymes.

    Potential Side Effects of Weight Loss Medications

    Common side effects include nausea, constipation, diarrhea, dry mouth, abdominal pain, headaches, dizziness, nervousness, insomnia, and tiredness. Serious side effects are rare. For Orlistat users, gastrointestinal side effects like abdominal pain and increased gas are common due to undigested fats.

    Maintaining Weight Loss with or without Medication

    Weight loss, regardless of medication use, often leads to a decrease in resting metabolic rate and changes in hunger and fullness hormones. Regular follow-ups with your physician are crucial to monitor progress, side effects, and the effectiveness of the medication.

    Essential Nutrition Advice When Taking Weight Loss Medications

    Maintaining a nutritious eating plan is vital while on weight loss medications. A safe and successful weight loss program should include:

    • A personalized nutrition and lifestyle plan
    • A practical and enjoyable exercise regimen
    • On-going support for adopting healthy lifestyle habits
    • A personalized strategy for maintaining weight loss
    • Supplement recommendations, when needed, by a registered dietitian

    Specific Nutrition Recommendations When Taking Orlistat

    To counteract reduced fat absorption and ensure adequate nutrient intake, consider these tips:

    • Consult your healthcare provider or registered dietitian about taking a multivitamin or other supplements.
    • Pair Orlistat with a lower-fat diet to minimize gastrointestinal side effects.

    Final Thoughts

    Weight-loss medications can play a supportive role in your journey towards better health and weight management. While they’re not a magic solution and do have potential risks, they can assist in making the necessary lifestyle changes for sustainable weight loss and improved well-being.

    As registered dietitians and nutritionists, we understand that every individual’s path to weight loss is unique. We’re here to offer personalized nutrition advice, tailored meal plans, and ongoing support to help you reach your weight loss goals and maintain your progress. Whether you decide to incorporate weight-loss medications or prefer a natural approach, our goal is to empower you with the tools and guidance you need for long-term success.

    Schedule an appointment with one of our weight loss dietitians today to start achieving your health and weight loss goals.