Weight Loss: Is There a Magic Bullet?

Susan Szulc, MD

With New Year’s approaching, weight loss is a hot topic. Often patients seek medical advice and are looking for a “magic bullet” – something they can take that will make the pounds melt off.  But, there is no magic solution.

Weight loss boils down to balancing what you put in your body with what you expend. You can picture it as a scale, with exercise/activity on one side and diet on the other.  When the scales are in balance, your weight stays neutral. In order to lose weight, you have to decrease your intake and/or increase your expenditure.

In today’s “on-the-go” society, people often find it hard to carve out time dedicated to exercise. I am one of those people. The idea of getting up before the sun is up to exercise before getting my family ready for the day seems unrealistic. It never fails – every time I set my alarm for 5am, with the lofty goal of exercising before starting my day, the snooze button gets pressed until it’s REALLY time to get up. But, dividing 30 minutes of daily exercise into two 15 minute sessions is just as effective as doing it all at once. Perhaps sneaking in a 15 minute walk at lunch and another before dinner may be more manageable. Exercise is not an all-or-nothing scenario.

But, adjusting your diet will give you a bigger caloric deficit than just exercise alone. Going on a 30 minute walk will give you about the same amount of caloric deficit as skipping one can of soda. Diet is truly about portion control and smart choices. There are a million diets out there. The only diets I endorse are the ones that teach the client a healthy approach to food.

Programs that sell a liquid-based diet or pre-packaged meals are not going to be effective in the long run. Sure, while you are using the product, your weight will go down because of simple caloric restriction. However, you once you start eating “normal” food again, the weight will come back on because you haven’t learned any new habits or changed your approach to real-world food. There are programs out there that can teach these skills, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig being the two most popular. There’s a new kid on the block that I read about in a medical journal, called TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly).  This is a non-profit organization with monthly meetings in your area and online resources, costing only about $30/year.

Lastly, there are medications on the market for weight loss. However, most are only minimally effective or have serious potential side effects. Your physician needs to discuss the risks as well as how much weight you can truly expect to lose while taking these medications. Furthermore, these medications should be used in combination with an ongoing diet and exercise plan.

I’m sorry to say there is no magic bullet for weight loss. But, your primary care physician can give you the right tools to get started.

+ Are you overweight? Take a quick, two minute assessment to find out!

+ Read more of Dr. Susan Szulc’s blogs on health and wellness!

About Dr. Susan Szulc
Susan V. Szulc, MD, is a board-certified internist with Bon Secours Medical Associates at Virginia Beach. She received her bachelor of science in microbiology from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. Dr. Szulc earned her medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in Norfolk, Va., where she also completed a residency in internal medicine. Dr. Szulc is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is a member of the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians and American Medical Women’s Association. Dr. Szulc’s special interests include palliative care and hypertension.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Szulc please call (757) 305-1797!