It is no secret that we live in a ‘microwave society’. We are growing ever more impatient. We want things now. We do not want to wait. We buy things online and expect next day delivery as standard. We fly halfway across the world in a matter of hours but barely remember those who spent months at sea on a similar voyage.
Orlistat – Microwave Society
We also want it all. We want to eat whatever we want but remain slim, sexy and healthy. There is no shortage of unscrupulous companies who know this all too well and are happy to peddle their next ‘revolutionary’ weight loss product. We know that these products probably won’t work, but we buy them anyway. Our desire for a quick fix is intense.
We hop from ‘breakthrough’ to ‘breakthrough’, hoping to find the elusive quick fix.
We are also bombarded with images of young, lean, fit people. The desire for this ‘ideal’ can be overwhelming. At the same time, we are also surrounded by delicious, highly processed foods – everywhere. It is a constant daily battle of willpower. We want to do the right thing, but our environment is discordant with our desires.
Not a Silver Bullet
Orlistat, sold under the brand name Xenical or Alli, is a popular weight loss drug. Xenical is the only prescription drug licensed for the treatment of obesity in the UK. It is a lipase inhibitor, which means that it works by reducing the absorption of dietary fat. Alli contains the same ingredient, Orlistat, but at a lower strength. It is available over the counter.
Orlistat is ‘recommended’ as an adjunct to a low-calorie diet and exercise programme. Users should have a BMI of at least 28 (>30 is considered Obese). Orlistat prevents around 30% of the fat you eat from being absorbed. The unabsorbed fat is passed through your system and excreted in stools.
Orlistat – The Painful Truth
- It is not that effective for weight loss. Worse still, the weight comes back on once it’s discontinued. According to this NHS website ‘’In one-year clinical trials, about one-third to one-half of people achieved a 5% or greater decrease in body mass, although not all of this mass was necessarily fat. After orlistat was stopped, a significant number of subjects gained weight, with some regaining up to 35% of the weight they had lost.’’
- Quick fix. There’s a pill for virtually any ailment known to man. There is a time and place for medicines, no doubt. The problem with weight loss pills is that they do not square with the idea of teaching and encouraging a healthy diet and lifestyle. Many people, as described above, will take the path of least resistance – in this case taking the Orlistat, with little/no change towards a healthier lifestyle. This is not how we should be promoting health. Dietary diseases should have dietary solutions.
- Vitamin deficiencies. Vitamins A, D, E and K are incredibly important fat-soluble vitamins. This means that they can only be absorbed in sufficient quantities from our food, in the presence of fat. Many people are already deficient in these vitamins due to a poor diet and lack of adequate sun exposure. These pills will only make things worse. In fact, users are encouraged to take a multivitamin supplement when on Orlistat. Ergo, you end up paying twice, once for removal and once for replacement of the vitamins!
- Fat does not make you fat. The calorie theorists – people who believe weight gain or loss is all about energy balance, are wrong. Weight gain is a problem of hormonal balance. Hormones determine where and how much weight we gain or lose. It is true that gram for gram, fat contains more calories than carbohydrates. But what is less well understood is that highly processed carbohydrates and sugar are uniquely fattening, due to their impact on weight-regulating hormones. In other words, you can eat 2000 calories of the right food and lose weight and 2000 calories of the wrong food and gain weight.
- Steatorrhoea. Foul smelling, liquid, floating, oily stools. That’s right. This is very common and has led to some rather embarrassing ‘accidents’. Many people taking Orlistat experience cramping abdominal pain, oily leakage, faecal incontinence, faecal urgency, and flatulence. This is a consequence of having too much fat in the stool. The remedy – as documented, is to eat a diet containing little to no fat. Do this and you suddenly don’t qualify to be on Orlistat! ‘’if a meal is missed or contains no fat, the dose of orlistat should be omitted’’. British National Formulary. These are only a few of the many unacceptable side effects.
No Quick Fix
You are very unlikely to lose any weight at all just by taking Orlistat and not addressing your diet. Orlistat has no effect on the extra fat already there – the one you are trying to lose. You must also be on a low-calorie diet to lose weight – and this is information that all patients on Orlistat will receive. Remember, all ‘diets’ result in weight loss for the first 6 months. After this period, nearly everyone starts to put the weight back on, often with interest. I discuss the futility of low-calorie diets in this article.
Diets make you fat.
Avoid all weight loss pills/supplements/’miracle’ products. Many are not regulated and could potentially be dangerous. The ones that are regulated are not particularly effective. Don’t be tempted. Focus on addressing your lifestyle and the real causes of your weight gain. There is NO pill out there that will get you thin overnight. It took much more than a few days to put the weight on, you must accept that it will take some time to get the weight off again. Obesity is a hormonal problem, affected by what we eat and how often we eat.
The very best thing you can do to lose weight is to address your lifestyle – you can start by examining what you are eating.