Appetite Suppressants: What Would You Rather?

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WARNING: This article will be discussing weight loss, obesity, appetite suppressants and eating disorders. These are all delicate topics and could cause distress to the reader. If any of these topics are triggering to you in any way please be aware and continue at your own discretion.

“Hot Girl Summer” is just around the corner so losing that lockdown weight has become the latest trend on Tiktok, Instagram, you name it. With “fitness” influencers feeling the need to promote toning up ready for a lockdown free summer, girls everywhere are searching for that quick fix to lose a few pounds whether that be a healthier lifestyle or something more sinister. We’ve all seen those 2-week shreds and experienced the latest buzz about the dreaded keto diet but have you heard about diet pills? Sounds pretty neat right, you just take a pill every day and after 12 months you could be losing up to 9% of your body weight without doing anything! You won’t crave or binge anymore. You won’t have an appetite so when everyone orders takeout you can finally say no, good for the bank right? It all sounds so wonderful and such little effort but is it natural to pop pills for weight loss?

I think we can all see how appetite suppressants could become addictive, body dysmorphia is a rising issue amongst men and women alike, but diet pills aren’t all doom and gloom; used in the right way they could save lives. Saxenda is one of the latest appetite suppressants recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for the NHS to tackle adult obesity in over a decade. This drug has been flagged as only prescriptible to adults in response to the government’s campaign to fight obesity so won’t be available to children. Despite this being a prescribed drug, there is still a great deal of controversy as to whether this is the right response in tackling obesity. However, there are a lot of misconceptions when discussing obesity with a fair percentage of us believing that it’s purely a lifestyle choice but for many people suffering from obesity it’s a medical condition that can’t be fixed with some fad diet or exercising every day.

Since 2009, obesity patients have had access to weight loss drugs particularly Orlistat, which can be obtained over the counter as well as bariatric surgery, both of which have helped thousands lose life-changing weight. However, these treatments have considerable side effects; Orlistat can cause nausea, diarrhoea and it goes without saying that bariatric surgery has some serious health risks attached. So, the release of a new and improved appetite suppressant is a massive step to improving the short-term treatment of obesity and helping those suffering turn the scales especially during the pandemic. Public Health England has released estimates suggesting a BMI (Body Mass Index) over 35 could increase a person’s risk of dying from Covid-19 by 40%, and that a BMI over 40 could increase the risk by 90%; these statistics have been a massive wakeup call of the real-life side effects of obesity.

So now you know the benefits of appetite suppressants and their life-saving effects, we need to discuss the negatives, especially for young people. Approximately 1.25 million people in the UK alone suffer from an eating disorder with over 100,000 people aged 11-34 years old suffering from anorexia or bulimia. Despite appetite suppressants having the benefits they do for fighting obesity, the risk of enabling eating disorders cannot be overlooked. With TikTok already under-fire for allowing the promotion of “thinspiration” and normalising eating disorders, what do you think will happen if over the counter appetite suppressants became normalised as well? With the Government also planning on implementing mandatory calorie labelling at restaurants from July onwards, the risks surrounding the unconscious encouragement for eating disorders appears to have been entirely overlooked. Yes, appetite suppressants and calorie counting would be beneficial for those suffering from obesity but that doesn’t stop those suffering from body dysmorphia from following the same path. With unrealistic body standards and the ridiculous promotion of 1200 calorie diets, our entire self-worth has been hashed into eating celery and forcing ourselves to work out for hours every day.

If appetite suppressants were introduced, millions would be left with an even more damaged relationship with food as they become more dependent on the easy route to that slimmer body. And I’m not just talking about those who already suffer from eating disorders but also obesity patients prescribed appetite suppressants. It’s all well and good when the patient loses the weight but how are they then supposed to stay at that weight without the suppressants? For many patients prescribed these drugs, their progress is contributed solely by their suppressed appetite, remove the suppressants and there is a high chance the weight will be regained. Suppressing your appetite is not the answer to solving obesity and is certainly not the answer to losing weight. Yes, you will lose weight but is it healthy or sustainable?

For those amongst us who have struggled with eating disorders or are struggling to find a healthy relationship with food and feel they need professional support, there are people to talk to. Beat, Mind and Anorexia & Bulimia Care are among a wide network of services running alongside the NHS to help provide people struggling with their relationship with food a safe space to talk and share. These services are open to anyone who is struggling, there is no criteria you have to meet to qualify for these services, just because you haven’t been diagnosed with an eating disorder doesn’t make you unentitled; these services are for anyone struggling.

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