Curious about weight loss drugs? Try these 5 practical tips first

Curious about weight loss drugs? Try these 5 practical tips first

(BPT) – Drugs for treating diabetes that also help people lose weight have been in the news a lot lately. The buzz around these medications leads many to hope they’re a silver bullet for curing excess weight or obesity – but it’s complicated. These medications are expensive, with some insurance companies not covering them, and growing demand makes access difficult. They also have serious potential side effects. The truth is, the most enduring ways to achieve a healthy weight – and keep it off – still include tried-and-true methods like being active, eating healthy and getting enough sleep.

Medications in the GLP-1 agonists family, like Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy, are designed to treat Type 2 diabetes, but because they work by lowering blood sugar levels and increasing satiety (a feeling of fullness), they can also prevent overeating – resulting in weight loss for many patients. Some think these drugs are a quick fix for anyone who is overweight, without realizing the drugs can have serious side effects – and patients may gain the weight back when they stop taking it.

But the biggest problem is, these medications don’t help people reach their overarching goal of improving their health.

“Using medications simply for weight loss without making changes to your lifestyle can result in some unintended, unwanted and dangerous consequences, like decreased muscle density, and malnutrition,” said Kent L. Bradley, M.D., MBA, MPH and chief health and nutrition officer at Herbalife. “Lasting behavioral change is needed for overall health and quality of life – and is achievable. Taking a balanced, realistic approach and embracing health and fitness as a lifestyle can help you ensure long-term success.”

There are people with genetic dispositions to obesity and Type 2 diabetes who may benefit from these drugs, so it’s best to consult your doctor to find the best recommendations for your situation. However, even those who require these drugs to medically treat obesity should consider changes in their lifestyle, including a healthy diet and a fitness regimen, for long-lasting results.

In the meantime, Dr. Bradley advises following these time-honored, common-sense tips for managing your weight.

1. Get active: Adults should aim for at least 25-45 minutes a day of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Examples include brisk walking, cycling or fast dancing.

2. Add strength training: Beyond getting your body moving and your heart pumping, adults also need to do some muscle strengthening, at least two days per week. This could include lifting weights and pushups. Strength training is especially important as you age. If you’re unsure how to begin, consider joining a gym, hiring a personal trainer or joining a professional-led workout group.

3. Balance your plate: To help you eat a more balanced diet every day, fill half your plate with healthy proteins and vegetables, with only one-fourth of your plate being whole grains and another one-fourth fruit. A balanced plate is an effective way to start shifting to a livable long-term approach.

4. Focus on plant proteins: There’s a reason there has been so much focus recently on plant-forward eating. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), adding more plant-based foods and reducing red meat can lower your risk for serious health conditions, including obesity. And giving up meat does not mean giving up protein. The AHA points out that every plant contains some protein, with the highest amounts found in grains like quinoa, soybean-based foods like tofu – plus beans and legumes. Swapping out meat with lentils and beans is an easy way to increase plant intake while still giving your body the protein it needs.

5. Don’t forget sleep: Sleep is often underrated as a vital component of overall health. When you’re tired, it’s tempting to try boosting your energy with a sugary snack. But it’s more than that – sleep also helps regulate your heart rate, hormones and metabolism. A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that getting more rest at night reduced the amount of food people ate during the day – about 270 calories fewer than people who were sleep deprived. To get your recommended seven or more hours of sleep per night, keep your sleeping and waking schedule consistent, ensure that your room is cool and dark, and shut off electronics an hour before bedtime.

Of course, if you need diabetes support or want to explore clinical options for losing weight, you should talk to your doctor. Before asking for a pill or a shot, make sure you’re well informed about the potential risks and benefits of any medication.

If you are already on a journey with weight loss drugs, eating nutrient-dense foods and staying fit are extremely important. When you have very little appetite, every bite counts in getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Choose your food wisely and consider easy-to-digest options like healthy protein shakes and supplements to meet specific micronutrient and phytonutrient needs.

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