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Weight Loss FAQs

What is obesity?

Obesity is a condition that tends to develop when a person regularly consumes more calories than they are able to burn off as energy. It is an increasingly common condition, because people aren't required to be as active as they used to be to meet the needs of their environment. A person with the condition is usually carrying around more weight than is healthy for their age and height and is placing significant strain on their body to the point where it could lead to serious health problems.

How is it diagnosed?

A doctor will use something which is known as the body mass index (BMI) to work out whether your body weight is healthy in relation to your height and age. Muscle tends to weigh more than body fat, so a doctor may take that into consideration when looking at your BMI, especially if you are particularly muscular. However, in most cases looking at a person's BMI provides an accurate indication of whether a person has a healthy weight or not. A BMI over 30 is considered obese, while a healthy BMI lies between 18.5 and 24.9.

Who is it most likely to affect?

Obesity can be the result of an existing illness but it is more likely to affect people who don't do enough exercise and who follow a poor diet. Some people may be more prone to put on weight because they inherited the ability to metabolise fat differently from their family. There is also research that suggests that some people may not feel full as soon as other people because of a chemical imbalance in the brain.

What are the causes?

Obesity can be the result of a number of factors. Some people may be obese because they are emotionally dependent on food due to past trauma, while others find that they eat more in situations when they are stressed. It may also be that, due to a busy lifestyle, many people just don't find the time to eat healthily and keep up with their daily exercise. Medical conditions can also make it easier for a person to put on weight, like Cushing's syndrome, hypothyroidism or polycystic ovary syndrome.

Why is it important to lose weight?

Obesity has been linked to many different health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks as a result of hardening arteries. However, obesity can also cause social anxiety, depression, breathing difficulties, issues walking or running, increased perspiration, knee and back pain, acne and gallstones. Many of these effects can be reversed or prevented by losing a small proportion of weight.

Can it be prevented?

One of the best and most sustainable ways to lose weight is by getting into the habit of eating a healthy, balanced diet and by doing a decent amount of exercise. Cutting down on your alcohol intake may also be helpful, especially since there is the possibility that it may be slowing down your metabolism.

Can it be treated?

Lifestyle changes and a healthy diet, supplemented with a decent dose of exercise, is one of the only ways to lose weight and keep it off, however it can be a struggle to get started and stay motivated, especially if you have quite a bit of weight to lose. In these cases, especially if your health is at risk, a doctor will recommend that you use a prescription weight loss treatment to help make your initial efforts more effective.

When should prescription medication be considered?

A prescription medication such as Xenical is only prescribed to those who are overweight with a BMI between 28 and 30 with health problems or those with a BMI of 30 and over.

How effective are prescription weight treatments?

Xenical (orlistat) is currently the only weight loss medication available on prescription for the treatment of obesity in the UK. Unlike the weight loss treatments of the past, Xenical doesn't affect how much you eat by controlling hunger impulses in the brain. It prevents a third of the fat you consume in each meal from being absorbed by influencing the digestive system, meaning that the fat passes straight through without being digested. In clinical trials Xenical helped people lose twice as much weight as they would have done with diet and exercise alone over the course of a year. Almost 70% those patients lost 3% of their body weight after only three months of use.

When should weight loss surgery be considered?

Weight loss surgery like gastric banding, gastric bypass or gastric balloon insertion is usually the last option. These surgeries tend to be quite expensive and it can sometimes take a long while to recover. It is also important to consider the dietary adjustments that will need to be made after surgery to ensure that the results remain.

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