Experience is generally a good thing, but not when it comes to dieting. Knowing the ins-and-outs of every diet plan probably means you’ve tried them all … and maybe ended up right back where you started. An “E-for-effort” doesn’t count, unfortunately, when you’re trying to lose weight to improve your health.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Endocrinologist and obesity specialist Marcio Griebeler, MD, explains how prescription weight loss medications may help you be done with dieting for good.
Q: Who can use weight-loss medications?
A: Prescription weight-loss medicines can help people kick-start weight loss as a means of improving overall health. They are currently available for people who meet specific criteria:
- A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more: We consider someone with a BMI of 30 or more to have obesity.
- A BMI of 27, plus one or more associated conditions: These weight-related problems include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or joint pain.
Q: How do prescription diet pills work?
A: In most people, weight loss medicines work on the brain to curb your appetite. Initially, this can jump-start weight loss. Over time, however, your body adjusts, and the medication may be less effective.
At that point, you may need to increase the dosage to get the same effect. In some states, like Ohio, laws limit how long you can use the medications. In general, weight-loss pills aren’t intended for long-term use.
Q: So can I pop a pill and watch my waistline shrink?
A: Sorry, but no. A weight-management physician may recommend prescription weight-loss medicines as part of a package that includes:
- Nutrition: Eating the right amount of high-quality foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
- Exercise: Increasing movement, even a little bit, helps to spur weight loss. As you begin to lose weight, you’ll be able to exercise more often and for longer.
- Stress management: Stress can impact how your body functions and may cause you to eat more.
- Quality sleep: Poor sleep can cause you to feel fatigued, which can impact your desire to exercise and eat well. It can also slow down your metabolism.
Q: What are the risks of weight-loss pills?
A: As with any medication, there are risks, most often in the form of side effects. Plus, some of the medicines are controlled substances — while it’s unlikely you’ll become addicted, we monitor you closely so you don’t develop a dependency.
Side effects associated with prescription weight loss pills include:
- Dry mouth.
- Fatigue .
- Increased heart rate.
- Kidney stones.
- Increased blood pressure .
Q: What results will I get from prescription weight-loss pills?
A: The average weight loss is between 6 and 15% of your body weight within six to twelve months. Losing just 5% of body weight can make a big difference when it comes to conditions like diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure. Right now, there are around six medicines on the market, so if one option doesn’t work for someone, we can often try something else.
Q: How often will I need to see a doctor?
A: Once you’ve learned the risks and benefits and have decided to pursue medication, we usually recommend a six-month commitment to start. Patients should be seen at least monthly. In Ohio, because of prescription laws, you must have a monthly appointment. You might also see a dietitian and behavior health specialist for added support.
Our goal is to help you adopt habits that will serve you lifelong. When you go off medicines, you may regain the weight. But with healthy lifestyle changes, you’ll have a higher chance of keeping the weight off for good.