What to Think of the New Weight Loss Pills

Have our prayers been answered?

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the FDs approval of two prescription medications that have been developed to help treat obesity. There is no question that the medical community has a desire to help overweight and obese individuals in their weight loss goals. However, there is still a huge question that looms over these approvals: Which begs the question are Belviq and Qsymia worth taking?

According to study results reported in the FDs announcement, participants of both studies took the medications in combination with a reduced calorie diet and exercise (hmm, wondering why they didnt just do that without the medication).

After a year of diet, exercise, and medication (yes, that isnt a typo “ 1 year, 12 months), Belviq users saw an average of 3.0 – 3.7% weight loss and forty-seven of participants lost 5% of their body weight in one year. Whereas; Qysmia which can be prescribed in two doses, utilized two separate groups for their study to compare the dosage effect. Like the Belviq participants, Qysmia participants also were on a diet and exercise plan, and after a year, there was an average weight loss of 6.7% for the lower dose of the drug, and 8.9% for the higher dose.

While these results may seem significant at first, lets see what these announced percentage results actually translate to using a 300 pound individual. For example:

  • If our participant is 300 pounds and took Belviq, they would lose between 11.1 pounds and 15 pounds in one year. Thats a monthly average of .9-1.25 pounds a month (The fat is just melting away!)
  • Where with Qysmia, our 300-pound participant would lose 20.1 pounds in a year on the lower dose; on the (more expensive) higher dose this participant would see a 26.7 pound weight loss. This translates to a monthly average of 1.7-2.2 pound weight loss. (Holy Cow Batman! We may have a winner with this one!).

I think I will have to pinch myself to get myself out of this dream/nightmare. Based off of this information, I can take a pill AND still have to adjust my lifestyle by incorporating both diet and exercise (which I was hoping the pill would help me not have to do) and only see those results. Oops, I forgot to mention, this drug more likely will be an out-of-the pocket expense (not covered by insurance).

Most people who are overweight or obese and weigh in at 300 pounds and start a diet and exercise plan can typically lose 1-2 pounds a week on a slow week! So why are they getting excited about .9 to 2.2 lbs in a month by adding a costly and potentially risky pill?

Regardless of the cost associated – either out of the pocket or via insurance – the scariest part of these drugs are the potential side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, dry mouth, constipation, an increase in heart rate, tingling of the hands and feet, insomnia, and altered taste sensation. Additionally it was noted: women of child-bearing age who would be prescribed Qysmia also need to take a pregnancy test before starting the medication and every month while they are on it, and should use contraception to avoid pregnancy complications.

What about the long-term potential side effects? How many times has a drug been approved then later had to be pulled? The FDA doesnt know the long term effects of this drug. Both manufacturers are still compiling data on their respective medications. We do know that people who engage in regular exercise see a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate. Levels of the bad kind of cholesterol “ LDL “ decrease while the good kind “ HDL “ often increase. Medication cannot replace what exercise does for the human body. We are built to move, so it is important that we make movement a priority.

The good news, there is another way! It doesnt have to be complicated because weight loss is rather simple. One pound of fat is 3500 calories. If you can reduce your intake of calories to create a deficit of 3500 calories you will lose one pound “ without even changing your activity level. As an Exercise Physiologist, I wish it was more complicated so that maybe I would be viewed as a œRocket Scientist; however it is simple math! For example, replacing one 20 ounce bottle of regular Pepsi (250 calories each) every day for 28 days would add up to create a calorie deficit of 7,000 calories, which is equivalent to losing 2 pounds in 28 days. In a year, that would be 26 pounds. Now if you dont drink soda, you should get the picture here of need to be accountable to the caloric cost of what goes in your month to make the appropriate adjustments.

Add a quick 30 minute walk (least effective mode of exercise when comes to weight loss) over those 28 days, and youll see a 6,300 calorie deficit, which would be another 1.8 pounds. Add it together for a month, and our 300 pound exerciser has just lost 3.8 pounds in 28 days. In a year, this person could lose an estimated 45 pounds or 15% of their starting weight as compared the 3 to 9% range of weight loss by paying for a drug that may have side effects.

Here at My Fitness Kitchen, we put a huge emphasis on nutrition and exercise. We have a specific hierarchy for Fat Loss. Our members are given the support they need to improve their eating habits, and they are welcomed into a movement based community with emphasis stressed toward helping increase their bodys ability to shed fat when not exercising. Healthy eating habits and exercise should be the prescription for individuals struggling with their weight. It is œeasier to take a pill, but wouldnt you rather know what youre putting into your body and understand how to move it to create the body you want?

If you are not convinced the hierarchy I referenced isnt simpler and more effective than the pharmaceutical pill route, we have numerous success stories of individuals who lost the weight without medication. These individuals have even used this hierarchy of fat loss to escape the burden of other medications associated being overweight / obese. We also have those who were able to avoid invasive bariatric surgery and the long recovery from such a surgery.

So why would you take a potentially harmful medication in the place of an all-natural solution to a health condition? Instead, ask your medical practitioner to write a prescription that follows the hierarchy for fat loss which would include starting with your own metabolic (caloric) formula based on your age, gender, height, body composition and how often you move (exercise). The good news about following this hierarchy in its order of effectiveness? It works even if you do not exercise.

If you have would have any questions regarding our position of these weight loss pills or our alternative œhierarchy of fat loss plan of action; please feel free to contact any of our fitness professionals here at the œKitchen.

For those looking for the nutritional help (no exercise required but always encouraged) ask about our Kitchen Watchers„¢ Program where we take all the guesswork out of weight loss and make it simple. No special foods, No Magic Pills or Diets JUST SUPPORT AND ACCOUNTABILITY. Additionally this program has no boundaries; therefore we can help you where ever you live!


About the authors:

Mark J. Rullo, MS, CSCS, MES Mark Rullo is an Exercise Physiologist, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Medical Exercise Specialist, certified Golf Fitness Instructor and the owner and creator of My Fitness Kitchen

Julie MarstonJulie Marston is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and group fitness instructor with a passion for overall wellness and health with a degree in exercise science and health. Her specialty is weight loss, and she has worked with clients of all ages.