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How to Ask Your Doctor for Weight Loss Pills? (11 Vital Questions to Ask)

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 3 December 2021

If you have tried losing weight through diet and exercise with no avail, you might find yourself wondering how to ask your doctor for weight loss pills or what questions are important to ask your doctor? Prescription weight loss drugs may not be the solution for everyone having difficulty with their weight but for the right candidate, they could be the fix you’ve been searching for and aid your weight loss journey. 

Before brainstorming the most vital questions or getting too far ahead of yourself, the first step is to address your health with your doctor to find out if you qualify for a prescription solution or if they’re a good option for you

Qualifying for Prescription Weight Loss Pills

Weight loss pills are not typically a first measure of treatment for difficulty with stubborn weight. A discussion with any physician is likely going to begin with a history of your efforts to lose weight through other means such as diet and exercise. If you’ve been struggling with all of the confusion that diets can entail, try starting with our nutrition overview for a clearer idea. Your health care provider will want to know that you’ve exhausted other measures before moving forward with weight loss drugs. 

Weight management medications also must involve some extent of obesity. Keep in mind that the goal is to avoid weight loss surgery. An extra couple of pounds that are having little to no effect on your health are unlikely to yield a prescription following a trip to the doctor’s office.

Typical BMI to Qualify for Weight Loss Drugs

Diet pills are intended to reduce your BMI or body mass index (a number derived from weight and height to indicate fatness) to a good and healthy range in a safe manner. According to the NIDDK, typical pre-qualifiers which might be considered are having a BMI over 30 or having a BMI over 27, while suffering from a serious obesity-related illness such as high blood pressure or diabetes [1].

Talking to Your Doctor About Weight Loss Prescriptions

Discussing our weight is a sensitive subject, particularly when it has become a point of issue in our daily lives. When walking into the doctor’s office, it’s important to remember that your doctor is there to help you — they’re on your side. Find the best way how to bring up weight loss pills with your doctor and what to ask shouldn’t be embarrassing. If for some reason you do feel put down or embarrassed, it’s time to find a new doctor! Obesity is a very common issue that 42.2% of Americans currently struggle with according to the CDC [2]. Trust your judgment. If you’ve found the right doctor for you, speak confidently and honestly about your needs. They will guide you with your best options to get healthy, which may be weight-loss medication, or other alternatives. 

Establishing Weight Loss Goals With The Dr.

Before beginning any kind of new weight-loss pill, you and your doctor should define a healthy, realistic and attainable, goal-oriented timeline. Prescription weight loss medication has been met with mixed reviews when studied over time — it is nothing like a magic bullet, nor does it work overnight. Most prescription drug therapies will ideally have you losing 1-2 pounds per week [3]. 

It is important to come into the prospect of treating your weight loss with healthy and realistic expectations. Furthermore, it’s crucial to work on tiny lifestyle changes even if prescribed weight loss medication so you don’t gain it back after the prescription runs out.

Weight Loss Medications & How They Work

Weight loss drugs typically work by suppressing appetite or increasing feelings of fullness or, in some cases, a combination of the two. Some drugs are more unique, however. 

For example; Orlistat will interfere with the absorption of fat rather than affecting your appetite. 

There are many different weight loss drugs on the market with new ones being approved regularly. Before setting foot in the doctor’s office, it would be to your benefit to familiarize yourself with your options and understand the potential benefits and side effects of each. More often than not, beginning a medication regimen will be a 12+ week commitment, so you’ll want to be confident in your knowledge and ability to understand which medication might work best for you.

Please note, this is not an exhaustive list, does not serve as a recommendation for any weight loss drugs and is for informational purposes only. However, we suggest educating yourself on the efficacy of these various medications before discussing options with your physician.

Semaglutide (Wegovy)

Semaglutide is the most recent weight-loss drug to receive FDA-approval as of 2021. It will help by stimulating insulin production and imitating hormones in your intestine which effectively lowers your appetite and makes you feel more full simultaneously. Semaglutide was originally marketed as a type 2 diabetes treatment under the names Rybelsus and Ozempic. 

Wegovy, which is the same active ingredient, is marketed specifically for treating obesity though. Semaglutide differs from other prescription weight-loss medicines in its duration. Typically, taking Wegovy is going to be a life-long prescription to maintain a healthy weight. It has been observed that when attempting to come off the drug, there is a likelihood of regaining the weight that was lost during treatment. 

Potential side effects: Constipation, Diarrhea, Intense Abdominal Pain, Nausea, Vomiting, Indigestion, Gas, Bloating, and Low Energy. Rare and more serious side effects include: Severe Inflammation of the Pancreas, Acute Kidney Failure, Anaphylaxis, and Gastritis.

Orlistat (Xenical)

Orlistat is the only FDA-approved weight loss pill that will help by preventing your body from absorbing a portion of the fat you consume. It is important, as your doctor will tell you, that you adhere to a low-fat diet in which less than 30% of your daily calories are sourced from fat before beginning Orlistat. The drug also makes it temporarily more difficult for your body to absorb Vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is recommended that you take a multivitamin within two hours of taking Orlistat to combat this.

Potential side effects: Leaking or Oily Stool, More Frequent Bowel Movements, Lack of Control Over Bowel Movements, Abdominal Cramping, and Passing Gas. Rare and more serious side effects include: Symptoms of Liver Disease and Kidney Stones

Naltrexone HCl and Bupropion (Contrave)

Bupropion, otherwise known as Wellbutrin, is actually an anti-depressant and when taken in conjunction with Naltrexon HCl as presented in Contrave, it will help to suppress our appetites via the hypothalamus. Just as any other anti-depressant, Contrave carries a small risk of suicidal thoughts and if this does arise, it should be reported to your doctor immediately. This prescription should not be considered for those who experience seizures either as it will exacerbate them. Contrave may not work for everyone and will likely be reconsidered by your doctor if you do not lose at least 5% of your weight within 12 weeks.

Potential side effects: Constipation, Nausea, Vomiting, Headache, Trouble Sleeping, Dizziness, Increased Sweating, Flushing, Dry Mouth, Strange Taste in Mouth, Flushing.  Rare and more serious side effects include: Seizures, Suicidal Thoughts, Chest Pain, Fainting, Eye Pain or Swelling, Vision Changes, and Liver Disease.

Phentermine (Suprenza / Apidex)

Phentermine will help us by inhibiting your appetite by activating the sympathetic nervous system. It’s important to bear in mind that Phentermine is an amphetamine and as such, can only be used for short durations, typically a few weeks. The short-term prescriptions are a precaution due to its potential for dependence and/or abuse. Phentermine should be avoided if you have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, or drug abuse. It should also be avoided if you are pregnant or nursing. 

Potential side effects: Dizziness, Insomnia, Dry Mouth, Nausea, Vomiting, and Irritability. Rare and more serious side effects include: Heart Palpitations, Chest Pain, Shortness of Breath, Seizures, Hallucinations, Severe Headache, and Weakness on One Side of the Body.

Phentermine & Topiramate (Qsymia)

Phentermine, when used in tandem with Topiramate, is marketed under the name Qsymia. Qsymia can be used for more long-term treatment as Phentermine represents a much lower dosage than when administered alone. Topiramate alone was developed to relieve seizures and migraines. It also aids in weight loss by helping you to feel more full while simultaneously burning calories. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant during the course of the drug should avoid Qsymia as it may cause certain birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate. Like Phentermine alone, it should also be avoided if you have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, or drug abuse.

Potential side effects: Dizziness, Insomnia, Dry Mouth, Nausea, Vomiting, and Irritability. Rare and more serious side effects include: Heart Palpitations, Chest Pain, Shortness of Breath, Seizures, Hallucinations, Severe Headache, and Weakness on One Side of the Body.

Liraglutide (Saxenda)

Liraglutide is the same drug as Victoza which was developed for type 2 diabetes, but administered at a higher dose. It will help by mimicking a hormone in the intestines and which increases feelings of fullness. Liraglutide doesn’t work for everyone. Often times if the medication has not helped you to lose at least 4% of your weight after 16 weeks, it likely is the wrong medication for you. 

Potential side effects: Constipation, Dizziness, Indigestion, Headache, Weight Loss (more rapidly than intended), Fever, Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Decreased Appetite (more than intended), Throat Irritation, Low Energy, Inflammation of the Lining of the Stomach and Intestines. Rare and more serious side effects include: Suicidal Thoughts, Liver Disease, Heart Rhythm Disorders, and Thyroid Disease.

 

Ask Your Doctor These Questions (FAQ)

Wondering how to ask your doctor for weight loss pills is one thing, but knowing what questions to ask your doctor is another. Below we’ve listed out common questions patients ask their doctor when it comes to weight loss drugs, so write down any that are applicable to get the most out of your doctor appointment.

1. Is my weight putting my health in danger?

This is an important question to put forward if you have concerns about your health and weight. Diabetes and heart disease diagnoses increase in likelihood when we reach potentially dangerous weights. It’s important to remember that even if you fall into a dangerous weight category, you are taking the right steps to become healthy and your doctor is there to guide you.

2. What is my goal weight?

Your doctor will help you identify a goal weight which can act as a motivator for you as you close the gap between your current weight and your goal. You may look up a BMI calculator and chart to find out what’s a healthy weight for your height, but it’s always best to discuss this with your doctor since there’s many factors that these charts don’t take into consideration. 

3. When will I begin to see the benefits?

There are a lot of factors to consider when talking about benefits of weight loss, but your doctor can likely articulate when you may begin to experience improvements based on where you are now. Of course, if your doctor permits a change in diet and exercise then you may see improvements quicker. 

4. Can I stop the diet pills if I want to?

This is a very important question for your doctor. It’s generally not recommended to suddenly stop taking your prescription once you’ve begun. In most cases you’ll want to use a tapering strategy under the supervision of your doctor to ensure you do not experience negative side effects when coming off the medication.

5. What if the weight loss pills don’t work for me?

Like any other medication, what works for some, may not work for others. You and your doctor will decide whether it is in your best interest to try a different medication or move forward to alternative weight loss measures. Luckily, there’s many weight loss drugs available on the market and high chances one of them will work. 

6. Can I use supplements while on weight loss drugs?

Supplement assistance can help us along the course of your journey to lose weight and it is important to be cognizant of potential interactions that could take place while on any medication. If you want to incorporate supplements or nootropics into your daily regimen, make sure to research the ingredients of each and confirm with your doctor that there will be no interactions before beginning.

7. Is there a particular diet I should choose?

Your doctor can help you to decide on where to begin with a diet plan, but do your best to choose a diet that is sustainable for your lifestyle or preferences. Avoid fad diets like the special K diet, any diets that seem extreme or are based around one food item because they simply aren’t sustainable. 

There is no one-size-fits-all diet, so you may have to experiment, but your doctor will be able to help you choose one that works best for your biology and lifestyle. Remember, the best diet is one that you can stick to long term. 

8. Are there foods I should stay away from?

Apart from the obvious offenders, like processed foods, fried food and excessive sweets, your condition may predispose you to sensitivities with other foods that your doctor will make you aware of.

9. Do I Still Have to Work Out on Weight Loss Medication?

Just as when a person goes to the doctor for an antidepressant, the pill alone is not usually a magic bullet. It’s meant to ease the difficulty of the work that you’re preparing to put in toward your health and make it feasible. 

While someone with depression or anxiety might have to work through those challenges in therapy, those of us with only weight-related challenges will find better results by exercising in the gym and eating a healthy diet. 

If exercise is foreign to you, that’s perfectly fine! Skip down a question to find more information on where to begin.

10. Are there limitations to what I can do for exercise?

Identifying your limits with your doctor, if any at all, is an important first step in your exercise program. Most of us without prohibiting heart issues will not be limited in how vigorously we can exercise but, if you are limited, remember that you are working toward a place of health and longevity! 

11. Where can I begin to exercise?

Exercising can be as simple as taking a few 10 minute walks throughout the day, or as complex as following a strength training routine 60 minutes a day 5x per week. The most important thing is sticking to an exercise you can do long-term and that you can envision yourself enjoying (it might take a few weeks or months to begin enjoying a form of exercise). Ask your doctor for their recommendations and remember — slow and steady wins the race. 

If your doctor suggests weight training, be sure to view our workout guides online to expand your exercise program as you progress.

Conclusion

When it comes to weight loss drugs or pills, knowing how or what to ask your doctor can be nerve wracking so we hope this article gives you insight on the best way to approach the conversation. Your doctor is there to help you and will guide you along the process if you qualify for such medication.

Remember, while weight loss pills are a great tool to have, it’s recommended to diet and exercise for best results. Even if that just means walking more and eating less sugar at first. That’s a great start and in combination with weight loss pills, it can jumpstart a long-lasting fitness journey!

References

[1] ​​U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, June). Prescription medications to treat overweight & obesity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved November 20, 2021, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/prescription-medications-treat-overweight-obesity

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 30). Adult obesity facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 20, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

[3] Stern, J. S. (n.d.). Do diet pills really work? UC Davis Health. Retrieved November 20, 2021, from https://health.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/healthtips/2010-2011/07/20100729_diet-pills.html

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.