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Obesity - What treatments work for obesity?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If you're obese, you weigh much more than is healthy for you. This is because the food you eat contains more calories than your body uses up. The extra calories are stored as fat.

To lose weight you need to take in fewer calories each day than you use. You can do this by following a weight loss programme that includes a diet and exercise. You may also have behaviour therapy to help you change the way you eat and exercise. Your weight loss programme may also include drugs.

Your weight has probably crept up over many years. It's best to lose weight the same way you gained it: slowly and steadily. You should aim to lose 0.5 kilograms to 1 kilogram (1 to 2 pounds) each week. Work with your GP or practice nurse to set short-term goals that you know you can achieve.

Key points about treating obesity

  • You have the best chance of losing weight if you combine diet and exercise with behaviour therapy to help change the way you eat and exercise.

  • A low-calorie diet and regular exercise can help you lose 5 percent to 10 percent of your weight in about six months. If you weigh 100 kilograms (220 pounds) this means you may lose 5 to 10 kilograms (11 to 22 pounds).

  • Losing 5 percent to 10 percent of your weight (and keeping it off) may not sound like a lot but it lowers your risk of health problems and will help you feel better.

  • Diet pills such as orlistat (brand names Xenical and Alli) may help you lose weight. But they have side effects. And you will still need to stay on a diet and exercise programme.

  • Once you've lost weight it can be difficult to keep it off. You still need to be in a weight loss programme, with regular support from a health professional.

  • If you're very overweight or your weight is an immediate threat to your health, you may need weight loss surgery to help you lose weight quickly. This type of surgery is called bariatric surgery. There are several different operations.

  • People who have surgery usually lose about 27 kilograms (about 60 pounds) in the two years after their operation, although the amount varies depending on the type of surgery. And most people keep their weight off. But there are serious risks with surgery. There are several different types of operation.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the body that decides which treatments should be available on the NHS, has published guidance for doctors and the general public on the diagnosis, care, and treatment of people with obesity.[62] This includes information about people who may need weight loss surgery. To find out more, read Who has weight loss surgery for obesity?

To find out more about helping children keep to a healthy weight, see Weight problems in children.

Last Updated: June 21, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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