If there was one thing that most of my clients would have wished for when they first came to see me, it would have been a pill that could do the job for them. Wouldn't it be wonderful if a magical tablet could make you lose weight whilst allowing you to eat, essentially, whatever you like? So, is this pill available? Definitely not. Is it possible? Sadly not.
There have been a few drugs out there that GPs have prescribed, over the years, to help people lose weight. All but one have been removed from the market amidst safety fears, leaving only a single option for individuals and their GPs - a drug called Orlistat. It works by preventing some of the fat that is ingested from being absorbed, so that it is passed out with a normal bowel movement.
Sounds great, but does it work?
The problem with Orlistat is that it is often prescribed with little or no advice, and this is where people run into problems. It is crucial that you stick to a low fat diet whilst taking this medication, otherwise the consequences are fairly unpleasant (I won't go into too much detail here, but I am sure you can imagine!).
If you use Orlistat with a low fat diet, it will help your body get rid of that last bit of fat, thus preventing those calories being absorbed and helping you to lose a little weight.
It isn’t as simple as that, however. Orlistat can be manipulated and people can choose to simply omit taking their tablet if they plan on eating something containing a lot of fat.
The other problem is that it isn’t simply eating fat that makes us gain fat. Rather, it is eating anything in excess of our energy requirements - even fat free foods! A packet of jelly babies is 100% fat free, but that doesn’t make it a health food and it certainly won't help anyone who is trying to lose weight.
So, whilst Orlistat can form a worthwhile part of a weight loss plan, it is just that - one small piece of a much larger jigsaw and, ultimately, a piece that you can take or leave. It is not essential.
Orlistat works for some people, but it needs to be taken regularly and alongside a healthy, balanced diet. The other issue with Orlistat is that it can’t distinguish between healthy fats and unhealthy fats. Many who take the drug therefore end up avoiding some of the wonderful foods like mackerel, seeds, avocado and nuts. These foods are all high in fat, but are so good for us and provide much needed, essential fats for our bodies and brains.
The bottom line? Nothing can replace a healthy, balanced diet.