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The FDA recently voted against releasing weight loss drug Qnexa, citing safety concerns. The drug is a combo of an amphetamine and an anticonvulsant (!); in trials, memory lapses, suicidal thoughts, heart palpitations and birth defects were reported as side effects. (Ed note: yowza, I would hate to have been one of those clinical trial participants!) In other news, Lorcaserin, another weight loss drug that delivers serotonin to the brain, will likely be approved due to a good safety record so far. Serotonin helps to regulate appetite, mood, sleep, and sex drive.

Look, people. There is no magic pill. Period. If you take a prescription weight loss pill, you are subjecting yourself to numerous side effects, some of which may have not shown up in clinical trials–yet. Remember Vioxx, the arthritis drug that was pulled off the market after people died from heart attacks & strokes? And Avandia, the diabetes drug that just got yanked due to risk of heart problems? Pharmaceutical drugs carry a high risk of side effects, and even if the FDA deems them “safe,” we are still the guinea pigs: clinical trials often do not last long enough to assess the scope of potential side effects.

Here is a revelatory idea: diet & lifestyle change. Before you stop reading, consider this: even if you are obese, thinking that no diet has worked for you, it’s time to uncover the underlying reasons for your obesity. Are you addicted to food? Can’t stop binging? Sugar addict? It’s no different from alcoholism or any other addiction–it is physiological & behavioral, and a pill won’t cure that. Uncover the reason behind your addiction: are you low in neurotransmitters (like serotonin) that regulate appetite? Do you have low thyroid? Do you have alcoholism in your family (same mechanism: sugar sensitivity issues that lead to binging on food or booze)? Have you been overweight all your life? It takes more than a drug to affect lasting change. One must learn behavioral changes, specifically, how to nourish vs nurture one’s self with food. Switching from comfort eating processed foods (think potato chips, cookies, fast food, ho-hos, ding-dongs) to nutrient dense whole foods (think organic meat, leafy greens, seasonal fruits–grains will be contraindicated if you have a sugar sensitivity, as grains break down more quickly into sugars), perpetuating the trigger food sugar craving cycle. The key is to remove your trigger foods (foods that cause you to binge, like sugar, bread, pasta, alcohol, or often all of these). Fix underlying imbalances that contribute to your addiction, like neurotransmitter or hormonal imbalance, and eat nutrient-rich foods instead of nutrient-void foods that leave you constantly hungry.

Work with a nutritionist to replace the refined foods in your diet with foods that are right for your physiology. Eating processed, refined foods with sugar or corn syrup will exacerbate your cravings and leave you constantly hungry and constantly eating, frustrated, moody, irritable, and fatigued. But education about being in tune with how to feed your body is not something that comes with a pill. There is no substitute for doing the work! So get out there, figure out what you should be eating & get moving with exercise.

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