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Can Using a Weight Loss Aid Really Work?

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June has finally arrived and with it, my annual body image neurosis.  Every year I am more determined than the last to wear a teeny bikini without exercise – having my cake and eating it too. Of course, I have yet to succeed.  This year’s magic pill of choice was Alli, otherwise known as Xenical, otherwise known as Orlistat.  I set out for my neighborhood Target and shelled out about $60 for an Alli starter kit, and what follows is a review of the product from someone who has actually tried it.

What is Alli?

Alli is an FDA-approved non-prescription weight loss aid.  The generic name for Alli is Orlistat, marketed as a prescription drug called Xenical.  The difference between non-prescription Alli and prescription Xenical is the dosing.  Alli is sold as 60mg tablets and Xenical is prescribed as 120mg tablets. 

Alli works by blocking the enzyme the body uses to absorb dietary fat.  Fats not absorbed are passed through the intestines and are eliminated via stool (bowel movements).  Alli will block only the absorption of fats eaten during a meal.  Alli does not break down fat already stored.

The major con to using Alli is its method of evacuating dietary fats from the body.  Alli carries the side effect of gastrointestinal distress otherwise known as gas, leaking oil, and diarrhea.

Starter Kit

The starter kit that I purchased included the following:

A Read Me First brochure

Convenient Carrying Case

Up to 30 day supply (90 (60mg) capsules)

MyalliPlan Quick Start CD (recipes and activity trackers, etc.)

The Alli Experience

Already on a low-fat diet and obsessive about counting calories, I decided to add Alli to my regimen in lieu of increasing physical activity.  I use the terms physical activity rather than exercise, as it seems less daunting.  Increasing physical activity means nothing more than adding a nice long stroll or a bike ride to my daily routine.

For the first few weeks of taking Alli, no side effects were observed, and then it was time to push the boundaries.  If this medication blocked the absorption of dietary fats, why not add a cheeseburger, fries, barbeque spare ribs, potato salad, and almost any other fat-laden food that had long since been banished from my diet?  For a few days, life was good, as I smacked my lips every night on my delight of choice; then on the morning of day four I felt the distinct pain of gas shortly after I awakened.  As the gas passed, it felt moist, causing me to jump from the bed and dash to the bathroom to find that the gas passed was a large orange oily stain.  Oh no.

I ran back to the bedroom and discovered the bedsheets soiled with a large orange stain.  This accident did not stop me from continuing my feasting behaviors.  All of the feasting left me bloated and tired and consequently my physical activity dwindled to nothing more than the steps required to walk to the kitchen, the car, the bedroom, and the bathroom.

Shortly after the great orange accident, I noticed that within minutes of each meal abdominal cramping occurred, causing me to run post-haste to the bathroom where my delightful meals evacuated my body in the form of explosive orange diarrhea with oil floating atop the water resembling an orange Exxon Valdez oil spill.  This occurred following every meal no matter how large or small.  I attempted to increase my intake of yogurt, fruits, and veggies to ease the gastrointestinal distress, to no avail.

Aside from the gastrointestinal distress, I felt that I was gaining weight and my clothes were becoming tighter.  This led me to ask the question, how much dietary fat does Alli block from absorption? After a bit of research, I discovered that it blocks the absorption of only 20 to 30 percent of dietary fat.  Much to my dismay, I had actually gained weight!  This horrific revelation along with the gastrointestinal distress meant the end of the Alli diet and yet another dismal failure at wearing a teeny bikini.

The Moral of the Story

Alli is an FDA-approved weight loss aid.  Taken correctly it blocks the absorption of 20 to 30 percent of dietary fat.  The higher percentage of blocked dietary fat is generally gained through taking prescription strength Xenical.

It is imperative to maintain a healthy diet, low in fats and high in fruits and vegetables, to avoid distressing gastrointestinal side effects.  In addition to monitoring dietary intake, adding or increasing physical activity is necessary.  Before starting Alli, it is important to consult a physician to determine if it is appropriate.

Lastly, neither Alli nor Xenical are magic pills.  After many years of searching for a magic pill that would allow me to eat, drink, and be merry, the sad conclusion is that the mantra pushed by every physician, nutritionist, and weight loss guru is true.  Healthy diets combined with regular physical activity are the keys to achieving and maintaining a healthier you.

In conclusion, the gastrointestinal distress (orange oil leaking from the rectum and diarrhea) outweigh the benefits of blocking the absorption of only 20 to 30 percent of the fat in each meal.  Any weight actually lost is modest if not minimal.  Literally, more weight loss can be acheived from trimming the excess fat from your diet and adding an additional 45 to 60 minutes of physical activity to your daily routine without using Alli.  Besides, who needs the added additional stress of embarrassing and uncontrollable oil leaks and diarrhea?

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About Mary Shelley

  • Tish

    This is funny and informative!

  • Megan

    Hilarious