For some people, the issue of losing weight is one that is never far from their minds, including yours truly, especially after festive seasons.

Once my favourite shirt and pants feel tighter and wrap around my body too snugly, my desire to shed some pounds is awakened.

Sometimes, this strong urge to slim down will arise when Seet Wai and Azlan, who wouldn’t have seen me for ages, remark during our school reunions, “Oh wow, you’re looking ‘healthier’ now.”

I’d feel like I have to lose some tummy rolls immediately or I would die of embarrassment.

Most of us, including my BFF (best friend forever) Herman, usually think we should lose a couple of inches around our waist, or have room to shed some excess fat.

A healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise is usually the best way to go about it, but this isn’t something easily doable for everyone due to lack of time, work and family commitments, and sometimes, sheer lack of motivation or laziness.

Before I continue, let me make it clear that there are benefits to taking weight-loss drugs.

As with all good things, if they are taken under supervision and guidance from experienced professionals, the results can be fantastic and beneficial to you.

The problem is the potential side effects the drugs may have on you, or the risks associated with them when not used according to proper instructions.


Potential risks

There are prescription pills out there for almost any type of weight loss.

However, some of them may have unwanted side effects, which can include abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, mood swings and headaches.

This is because the drugs alter your body in such a way that the side effects are just the result of what happens during these changes.

Drugs containing phentermine may suppress your appetite, which results in you eating less than you should to stay healthy.

Too little calorie intake can lead to fatigue, poor concentration, feeling dizzy, and even low blood sugar levels leading to fainting episodes.

However, I have to admit I shed over eight kilograms from taking this medicine.

My ex-housemate Terence lost a whopping 20kg with the assistance of this drug, alongside lifestyle changes, over 10 years ago.

The weight loss boosted his confidence and developed his interest and motivation to make fitness a priority. He’s now a successful Zumba instructor.

Some medicines such as orlistat, which I tried many years back, work by reducing the absorption of fats from the small intestines.

Over the long run however, this may prevent the body from absorbing vital nutrients and minerals.

These nutrients are crucial to our body, and if not absorbed, means our body is more vulnerable to illnesses generally.

Vitamin and mineral supplements may then be necessary.


Another thing to consider is that many supplements such as those sold online or by direct-selling companies, may not have been tested by certified drug authorities before being sold to the general public.

This gives those companies room to promise outlandish and unrealistic results. But the worst part is the possibility of unwanted and dangerous side effects that may come with the drugs, of which there could be many, both known and unknown!

Good or bad?

In conclusion, you should definitely research the good and bad of any weight-loss drugs or supplements you plan to take, and consult your doctor before making a decision.

An experienced doctor armed with knowledge of your medical history would be able to advise you definitively on whether a weight-loss drug is suitable for you or not.

Be sure to consider all aspects carefully, and note that while it may help you in the short term, you should ensure that the negatives do not outweigh the positives.

Look for drugs or supplements that have been approved by the Health Ministry. These would have a hologram with a MAL serial number.

But most importantly, you should be fully aware that at the end of the day, weight-loss drugs are a shortcut. It may be beneficial in the short term, but true weight control over the long term requires a change of lifestyle and plenty of discipline in terms of eating and exercise.

The good news is that it is never too late to start. Time to pick up those dusty sports sneakers.

Dr Chen Tai Ho is an experienced aesthetic doctor who chills by the pool sipping espresso latte when he’s not attending to his patients. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.