As we usher in the New Year, it’s a time for renewal and transformation. As a gastroenterologist and Obesity Medicine Specialist, I’m intimately familiar with the challenges many face in maintaining a healthy weight—especially as we age.
I’ve experienced these struggles personally, and I understand the complexity of factors contributing to weight gain.
These range from unmodifiable elements like genetics and age to lifestyle aspects such as stress, sleep, physical activity, and diet.
In this blog, we’ll help you understand how to make small changes to have a big effect.
Understanding the Dynamic Nature of Our Bodies
Our bodies are constantly evolving, necessitating adaptive changes in our lifestyle to maintain a healthy weight and optimize metabolic health.
A key challenge is the natural loss of muscle mass due to aging or hormonal changes, leading to a slower metabolic rate. “With age,” writes the Mayo Clinic, “bones tend to shrink in size and density, weakening them and making them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength, endurance, and flexibility — factors that can affect your coordination, stability, and balance.”
This means the diet and activities that worked for us in our 20s may no longer be effective.
The Hard Truth About Weight Loss
Statistics show that only about 5-10% of obese individuals can achieve and maintain a significant weight loss (5-15% of body weight) through diet and exercise alone. This reality underscores the importance of advancements in medications, endoscopic procedures, and surgical options in obesity management to help people not only lose weight but maintain their weight loss over time and improve their metabolic health.
A New Era in Obesity Medication
Until recently, FDA-approved medications for weight loss offered modest results (3-8% weight loss) and were often accompanied by side effects and medication interactions.
However, the approval of Semaglutide (Wegovy®) in 2021 marked a significant breakthrough, with patients experiencing close to 15% weight loss. The recent introduction of Tirzepatide (Zepbound®) has further revolutionized the field, showing even more substantial weight loss (closer to 20%).
How Do These Medications Work?
These medications, including GLP-1 agonists and combination GLP-1/GIP agonists, work by mimicking a natural hormone that is secreted after eating (glucagon-like peptide- 1 and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide), signaling the brain that we’re full.
They also slow down gastric emptying, helping people feel fuller sooner and for longer periods, and have effects on the reward centers in the brain that regulate cravings, hunger, and pleasure.
These new medications, along with a healthy diet and moderate exercise, are an effective way to lose weight. They also help improve important biomarkers and metrics that lead to chronic medical conditions including fatty liver, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease amongst others.
Balancing Benefits and Side Effects
While these medications are game changers, they’re not without potential side effects, primarily gastrointestinal. However, many of these can be managed with dietary strategies.
7 Weight Loss Tips for 2024
Here are my “Pearls of Wisdom” Tips that you can implement starting today:
- Prioritize Protein: Eat your protein first. Focus on eating enough protein to minimize muscle loss as you start a weight loss program. Protein is crucial for long-term weight maintenance and strength as we age.
- Mindful Eating: Chew your food properly and give your brain time (about 20 minutes) to register fullness, preventing overeating.
- Timing Matters: Avoid eating 3-4 hours before lying down to minimize nighttime reflux and nausea. Consider having a larger meal earlier in the day and a smaller one at night.
- Listen to Your Body: Eat when hungry, stop when full. Simple, yet profoundly effective.
- Explore the Gut Microbiome: While still an evolving field, understanding your gut microbiome can play a significant role in overall health and metabolism. Dietary fiber is critical to promote a healthy gut and maintain regular bowel movements.
- Embrace New Tools: Don’t shy away from using medications as part of a comprehensive weight management strategy, but make sure you are being supervised by a healthcare professional who guides you along your journey.
- Consistency Over Perfection: Focus on making the next right decision, not on being perfect.
Obesity is not a matter of lack of motivation or discipline.
It’s a complex interplay of internal and external factors. By understanding and adapting to these changes and utilizing innovative medications, we can make the weight loss journey less daunting and more successful. Here’s to a healthier, happier you in the New Year!
To learn more about weight loss and how menMD can help, check out our available weight loss treatments here.