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The Truth About Medical Weight Loss Clinics: Do Diet Pills Actually Work?

Human Interest

When I was in the 5th grade, I was very good friends with a girl (we can call her "Brittney") who struggled with severe obesity. One day in class, for a reason I can't remember but am pretty sure isn't okay, we were asked to get on a scale and weigh ourselves for an assignment. Being the only Black girl in my class, I was filling out in ways that my classmates weren't and I was already insecure about my weight, but I figured that if Brittney didn't complain, I shouldn't either.


When Brittney stepped on the scale, her weight read: 180. I was shook. At the time, I weighed more than the other girls in my class, but I couldn't believe that she was almost 200 pounds. At 10 years old, I made a vow to myself to never weigh more than 180 pounds and right there, in that moment, I started a dysfunctional pattern of negative self-talk as well as my quest to be skinny, not necessarily healthy.

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After having my gallbladder removed and struggling with weight fluctuation for years, I met a doctor at a small clinic in Augusta, Georgia who introduced me to the concept of medical weight loss. His walls were adorned with success stories of people who had lost 20, 50, 100 pounds FAST, and I wanted in. I was in my senior year of college and creeping up on the big "170", and in honor of the solemn promise I had made to myself, was willing to lose weight in whatever way possible, so I gave it a try.

Don't be fooled and please do not think that medical weight loss is a fast-track cure all that can change your negative body image issues and childhood insecurities because it's not that. There are actually some extremely dangerous aspects of medical weight loss that you need to be aware before you start your weight loss journey.

The very first thing you need to know is that the title, "Weight Loss Clinic," can be misleading. What some of these locations should call themselves is, "Palace of Pill Pushers." In the digital age, we want results fast, so we think it's imperative to drop pounds now. Even if the ultimate cost is our lives. If you're interested in starting a weight loss journey and curious about the medial weight loss option, here's the tea on what to expect and how to start your process safely:

The Good

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Done with the right professional, in the right clinic, this process can change your attitude toward food and your eating behaviors for the better. When I tried the program for the first time four years ago, I received a meal plan complete with the calorie counts of each recipe, nutritional values, and what I could order from certain restaurants. The clinic checked in on me constantly, and I only stopping going because I moved.

When you're choosing a clinic, make sure to pick one that offers those amenities and isn't overcrowded with patients. If you find a location that's willing to give you some pills and a shot with little-to-no supervision afterward, run away in the other direction… fast. They don't have the time or resources to keep your best interest at heart.

My favorite part about the process is, it introduced me to B-12 shots, which are normally performed by medical weight loss clinics. I'm not currently on a weight loss journey, but I still stop by a local clinic to get the shots, which help with fatigue and mood, especially for people with digestive or gut issues.

The Bad

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Along with B-12 shots and meal planning, many weight loss clinics offer phentermine as an appetite suppressant and diet supplement. What weight loss clinics may not tell you is, phentermine is dangerous and addictive AF. There was a time when I was really into taking Adderall to keep up with my schoolwork in college, so I know an upper when I see it. Although these pills can be okay if taken in moderation and for short periods of time, many people get addicted and the effects can be fatal.

Fenfluramine-phentermine, nicknamed fen-phen, hit the market in the 90s and accounted for 18 million of the prescriptions written in 1996, making it a worldwide epidemic weight loss drug. It wasn't long before the public discovered that the drug had caused many users to have heart valve problems and pulmonary hypertension. Although the drug combo was taken off the pharmaceutical streets in 1997, phentermine lives on and probably does so in the purses and pockets of many of the women that we know and love.

Although phentermine alone doesn't have the dramatic weight loss effects of its predecessor, the drug still has the potential to be deadly if not taken under a doctor's consistent care.

The Ugly

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My bottom line here is, medical weight loss is not the devil. Nor is it your savior. As I think back to Brittney and the day I made that foolish and unfounded promise to myself, I understand that my goal was never based on my own reality, it was based on what I wanted people to think when I stepped on the scale.

To truly be your own #BodyGoals, first, you have to unlearn your negative self-image beliefs, and that won't always be a pretty process.

In fact, tearing down your insecurities can get pretty ugly, and there's no amount of meal planning, vitamins, and pills that you can use to avoid that inevitable truth. You have to do the work!

If you're considering starting a weight loss journey, girl go for it! But check your motives. Find a doctor that cares about you, rather than one that thinks that pills are your only option. And lastly, if you do decide to go the phentermine route, have some tests run by your primary care provider first and don't take them for longer than a 12-week period.

15 years later, I'm proud to say I'm 178 pounds and I'm not mad about it.

Do I wanna lose a few pounds? Sure. But will I do it in a way that's unhealthy and challenges my physical health? Hell nah. Medical weight loss can be a great tool when paired with a healthy mindset, good food choices, and exercise. True transformation comes from the inside-out, so it's best to start there.

Featured image by Getty Images.

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