Anyone who has tried to lose weight and keep it off, whether adolescents or adults, knows that it isn’t easy. It takes commitment, perseverance, and plenty of patience.
In a society that values the quick fix, it’s not surprising that some obese teenagers are turning to diet pills as the magic bullet to deliver them from the hard work of eating right and exercising regularly. In search of an easy solution, adolescents are asking their parents (and pediatricians) for weight-loss prescription drugs with increasing frequency. Or they’re going to pharmacies on their own and buying over-the-counter diet pills that promise to melt away the pounds with no effort at all.
Your own overweight teenager might be tempted to turn to these drugs, but it’s unwise for her to do so. Let your adolescent know that there’s no over-the counter weight-loss drug that’s been proven safe and effective for teenagers. Orlistat, a prescription weight-loss drug that blocks fat absorption in the intestine and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for children older than 12 years, is only useful in a few teens who meet strict criteria. This drug needs to be used under physician supervision to monitor the teen’s nutrition and side effects of the drug. Weight control requires an effort over many months and even years, and none of the over-the-counter drugs were developed for long-term use.
Here’s where you need to assert your parental authority. Your teenager should not take diet pills. There are safer ways to lose weight.
Now, what about weight-loss surgery? A small number of centers in the United States are performing gastric-bypass and similar forms of surgery in extremely obese adolescents. Any surgical procedure carries risks, so these procedures should only be done in centers doing ongoing research into the long-term risks and benefits. Even though these operations can have dramatic weightless benefits, your teenager will still have to improve the way she eats and exercises in the aftermath of the surgery.
Talk to your pediatrician about the pros and cons of these operations, and if the doctor feels your adolescent is a candidate for the procedure, the pediatrician may refer you to a surgeon for an evaluation.