Weight loss - Definitive Guide

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How to lose weight

Obesity is a serious health issue and in England around 7 out of 10 men and 6 out of 10 women are overweight or obese. 

Being overweight or obese can have serious implications for your health and increases your risk of many diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, oestoarthritis and some cancers. Being overweight can also affect your psychological health as it can lead to feelings of depression and low self-esteem and may contribute to social isolation. 

Weight loss treatment involves lifestyle changes such as following a healthy eating plan and exercise programme. In some cases, if diet and exercise alone are not working, medication or surgery may be recommended. 

Tips for losing weight

  • Don’t skip breakfast —skipping breakfast can make you hungry later and more likely to grab an unhealthy snack
  • Eat regular meals —eating regular, balanced meals will help to stabilise your blood sugar and prevent cravings 
  • Fill up on veg —vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients and fibre. Eating plenty of vegetables will help you feel full without piling on the pounds
  • Move more —exercise has a multitude of health benefits and is vital if you want to lose weight. The key to getting regular exercise is finding one you enjoy and making it part of your routine. 
  • Drink water —sometimes when we feel hungry, what our bodies actually need is water. Water also helps you feel full and is essential  for your overall health
  • Eat more fibre —fibre is a vital part of a healthy diet as it helps keep your bowels regular. Fibre also helps you feel full for longer which can reduce snacking
  • Know what you’re eating —many foods have hidden ingredients such as fat and sugar that can sabotage weight loss. Become savvy at reading food labels and choose home-cooked meals over processed food as much as possible. 
  • Don’t have forbidden foods  —banning a certain food from your diet can make you crave it more. Allowing yourself an occasional treat won’t affect your overall weight loss as long as you stay within your calorie allowance 
  • Use a smaller plate —this is a clever trick that can help you to eat smaller portions. On average it takes the brain around 20 minutes to realise you’re full after eating and a smaller amount may often be enough to satisfy your hunger
  • Don’t buy junk food —if it’s not in the house, you can’t eat it! Keep healthy snacks like fruit, rice cakes and unsweetened popcorn to hand instead. 
  • Reduce your alcohol intake —alcohol can contain a lot of calories and can derail your weight loss if you’re not careful. Be aware of how much alcohol you are consuming and factor it into your calorie allowance. The recommended maximum alcohol intake per week is 14 units for both men and women.  
  • Get planning —we are more likely to deviate from our diet plan when there’s no healthy food in the house or we haven’t planned what we are going to eat. Making a weekly meal plan, shopping for the week and pre-preparing meals can help you stick to your diet as well as saving time and reducing food waste. 

Why should I lose weight?

If you are overweight or obese, losing weight is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall health and quality of life. Losing weight can reduce your risk of many diseases and health conditions including: 

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease 
  • Strokes
  • Some cancers
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Angina
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Back pain 
  • Fertility problems
  • Depression

What can a GP do for weight loss?

Losing weight can be hard and you are more likely to succeed if you have the right support around you. This can include family and friends, support groups and healthcare professionals like your GP, practice nurse and dietician. 

Your GP can help with weight loss by:

  • Performing a full health assessment to check for underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to your weight 
  • Talking about your diet and lifestyle to try and identify the cause of your weight gain
  • Work with you to provide an individualised weight loss plan that suits your lifestyle 

Weight loss treatment normally starts with a review of your eating habits  and advice about activity.  In some cases, if these haven’t worked, or if your health is in immediate danger, your GP may recommend medication or surgery. Medication and surgery are not a substitute for healthy eating and are only effective if used in combination with a planned diet. 


Medication for weight loss is only considered if you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, or 28 and above if you have other risk factors like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. 

GPs can prescribe orlistat to treat obesity. 

Orlistat is a prescription medication that works by preventing around a third of the fat you eat from being absorbed. It comes as a capsule that you take 3 times a day with each meal that contains fat. To be effective you need to follow a calorie-controlled diet and exercise programme while taking orlistat.  Orlistat is also available from pharmacies without a prescription at a lower dose under the name Alli

Other medications are available for the treatment of obesity, but these require a prescription from a specialist. If orlistat is not effective, you may benefit from a referral to a weight reduction clinic.


Weight loss surgery is normally only recommended if you have a BMI of 40 or above, or 35 and above if you have other health conditions like high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. 

Surgery for weight loss includes: 

  • gastric band  —in this type of surgery a band is placed around your stomach, reducing the size of your stomach, and making you feel full after eating less food
  • gastric bypass —part of your stomach is joined to your small intestine which makes you feel fuller faster and reduces the amount of calories you absorb
  • sleeve gastrectomy  —part of your stomach is removed, reducing the amount of food you can eat and making you feel fuller faster

Get help from an online doctor

An online doctor can help with weight loss by asking you about your general health, diet and lifestyle and recommending some lifestyle changes you can make to help you lose weight. 

An online GP can also provide support and guidance and recommend or prescribe medication if necessary. 

It’s easy to book an appointment with an NHS-trained GP at Medicspot. Simply click the link and select an appointment at a time and day that suits you. Appointments are often available the same day.

Get help from a pharmacist

In a new initiative, specially trained pharmacists can now refer people with obesity to NHS-run weight loss programmes. 

A pharmacist can also offer advice and support on weight loss and in some cases may recommend an over-the-counter medication such as Alli to help you lose weight while following a healthy diet and exercise regime. 

Find a pharmacy near you


Losing weight is a struggle for many, but the health benefits of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight cannot be underestimated. Education, support, and guidance during your weight loss journey are often the keys to success and can make all the difference in managing weight issues long term. 

If you need help with weight loss and would like to talk to a doctor, make an appointment today. 


NHS: 12 tips to help you lose weight November 29th 2019 (Accessed December 3rd 2022) 

British Nutrition Foundation: Healthy weight loss October 2016 (Accessed December 3rd 2022) 

NHS: How your GP can help you lose weight  February 28th 2019 (Accessed December 3rd 2022) 

Medline Plus: Orlistat  January 15th 2016 (Accessed December 3rd 2022) 

NHS England: New weight loss support on the high street  January 22nd 2022  (Accessed December 3rd 2022) 

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