nutrition update

5 Tips To Up Your Nutrition Game While Taking Anti-Obesity Medications

As science has evolved, we have developed a better understanding of obesity as a chronic disease which requires a multifaceted approach for treatment. In addition to creating healthy eating patterns, focusing on joyful movement, and setting simple and measurable goals for behavior change, many people may need and benefit from medical intervention with anti-obesity medications.

Medications can work on different physiologic pathways and can affect each individual differently. This is why it is so important to seek out qualified obesity medicine physicians and providers that have the knowledge and experience to provide individualized care. Medications can work to improve many issues from reducing hunger or episodes of binge eating, to decreasing appetite and increasing satiety. These tools can help patients step back and make mindful decisions about the foods and beverages they choose, and this may be the first time in a very long time that these individuals have felt confident about making healthy choices.

Medication intervention can amplify the benefits of healthy behaviors and improve weight loss outcomes. But with these interventions can also come some concerns that may make meeting nutritional needs a bit difficult. A decrease in appetite or early satiety (feeling full after a few bites) can lead to an overall decrease in nutrient intake which can negatively impact nutritional status. As a registered dietitian, my first concern is always that of optimizing health and patient outcomes through food and nutrition.

Here are 5 tips to up your nutrition game while on anti-obesity medications:

Pick your portions: You are going to need to eat smaller portions, especially if you are on medications that may slow gastric emptying and increase satiety (such as GLP-1 receptor agonists like Saxenda, Wegovy, and Ozempic, among others). Choose to use a smaller plate and try to reduce your portions by half to see if this is comfortable for you. If you are still hungry you can always have a little more, but don’t be tempted to clean your plate of your usual portion at meals. You may need to eat small meals and have a healthy snack in between.

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Pick your protein: Choose protein first. Protein is essential for many physiologic functions in your body, including tissue maintenance and repair. When you lose weight, you will lose fat mass, but can lose lean (muscle) mass too. Eating adequate protein THROUGHOUT THE DAY can help minimize loss of lean mass. Protein contributes to many other complex functions including metabolism and the creation of hormones and antibodies, so meeting your needs is very important. Aim to eat protein with each meal and snack and include a variety of plant and/or animal sources.

Pick your produce: Vegetables and fruits offer an unbelievable host of nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function at their best. They offer us vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fluid and help fight stress and inflammation. Start with making ½ your plate a variety of non-starchy vegetables, then fill in some space with colorful fruits and starchy veggies. Most produce is ultra-high in nutrition and low in calories.

Remember your fiber, fluids, and fats:

Whole grains, beans, and produce are all great sources of fiber which is needed for digestive and cardiovascular health. If you are having issues with constipation, adequate fiber and fluid intake can help.

Drink mostly water and try to separate your fluids from foods. Fluids between meals will be less likely to interfere with your food intake. Some medications can alter your sensation of thirst, so be sure to stay well hydrated.

Very fatty/greasy foods may not be tolerated well. Focus on modest amounts of heart healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon.

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Eat regularly. Remember that food is fuel and that your body is a very complex machine. Try to schedule a small balanced meal 3 times a day and keep healthy snacks available if you need them. If liquids work better, try making high protein smoothies or tapping into commercially made protein shakes. Your brain needs nutrition, so don’t neglect it! If you have to, set a timer to remind you to take a break to fuel up.

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Remember that a weight loss journey involves developing healthy habits that last a lifetime. Creating a strategy to optimize nutritional intake on this journey has to be an individual goal for every patient. Remember to tap into your registered dietitian during that process. We are here to help!

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