What are my weight loss options? Exploring lifestyle, medication and surgery

March 20, 2024

Losing weight can feel like an uphill battle. With so many options available—lifestyle changes, weight loss medication, surgery—how do you know where to begin? It's easy to feel overwhelmed, but understanding the different weight loss options available allows you to work with your healthcare provider to create a plan tailored to your needs and goals.


Read on for an overview of lifestyle habits, medications and surgeries that can help support your weight loss journey.


Lifestyle changes for weight loss

Depending on your weight management needs, your healthcare provider may have recommendations for your lifestyle habits. In terms of nutrition, this can include focusing on a balanced diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats, and limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt. Your provider may also recommend physical activity changes based on your ability, such as walking, swimming or strength training.


If you’re having trouble implementing these changes into your day-to-day life, your provider may recommend checking for underlying health conditions that are commonly connected to weight (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease).


Weight management testing can also help you and your healthcare provider track your progress and empower you to adjust your plan as needed. Labcorp OnDemand’s Weight Management Baseline Test and Weight Management Tracking Test allow you to track health benefit changes occurring as you achieve your weight loss goals.


Medications for weight loss

Medications for weight loss aren’t new, but they have recently become more popular as new categories of medications emerge. Certain prescription medications can aid weight loss by impacting how your body absorbs nutrients or by acting on the brain to influence appetite and feelings of fullness after eating.


One category of weight loss medication is GLP-1 receptor agonists, such as semaglutide (Wegovy®), liraglutide (Saxenda®) and tirzepatide (Zepbound™). Often administered as injection shots, these medications work by mimicking GLP-1, a naturally occurring hormone in the body that plays a role in appetite and digestion. GLP-1 medication can support weight loss by slowing the passage of food through the stomach and activating parts of the brain that make you feel fuller faster and for longer. In other words, by increasing satiety and slowing digestion, GLP-1 drugs essentially trick your brain into thinking that you’re full, meaning you’ll naturally start to eat less.


GLP-1 medications are typically recommended for those with health conditions like Type 2 diabetes or obesity. While they can be effective, potential side effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea need to be considered with your healthcare provider’s guidance.


It's also important to remember that weight loss often requires more than one approach. That’s why understanding your body’s baseline with weight management testing can help you and your healthcare provider to know your current measures. This may help a provider determine whether weight loss medication is right for you.


Weight loss surgery options

Weight loss surgery, also known as metabolic or bariatric surgery, alters your digestive system to help you lose weight. Common types of weight loss surgery procedures include gastric bypass, gastric sleeve and adjustable gastric band.


During these procedures, the surgical changes to the stomach can promote weight loss by regulating how many calories your body can consume and absorb. Some types of weight loss surgery can also help reduce the hunger signals traveling between your brain and digestive system.


As with any major surgery, risks like infection, blood clots and other concerns need to be weighed against benefits. Lifestyle adjustments before and after weight loss surgery are also crucial for success.


No matter which option you pursue, weight loss is complex. Combining approaches tailored to your needs often works best, so partner with your healthcare provider to determine the right path.