With Better Appetite Control on Newer Anti-Obesity Medications, is a Healthy Lifestyle Still Needed?

If you’re less hungry and losing weight while taking a newer anti-obesity medication, you may wonder if you still need to modify your eating and exercise habits.

During Obesity Week 2023, the conference where thousands of obesity experts from around the world convene to share breakthroughs in the field of obesity, I had the opportunity to discuss this topic by co-presenting the NEW and JUST PUBLISHED SURMOUNT-3 trial study results.

This is the research study that gave 2 groups intensive lifestyle intervention prior to giving 1 group the newer medication, tirzepatide (currently approved for type 2 diabetes under the trade name Mounjaro). Both groups continued with lifestyle modification support for another 72 weeks.

Whereas the combined tirzepatide/ lifestyle group lost a total of 25% weight by the end of the trial, the lifestyle only group lost just under 5% weight.

Clearly, taking a medication with lifestyle modification for weight management was more effective than lifestyle modification alone.

If you’re taking one of the newer anti-obesity medications, how may this impact your daily health behaviors?

Here are some of my thoughts:

1-Emphasize Dietary Protein

Since these medications are so powerful at controlling one’s appetite, you may not be getting all the nutrients your body needs.

When you lose weight, you also lose fat and muscle.

But you need protein in your diet to hold onto your muscle.

Protein is an essential nutrient for good health.

You can add protein to your diet using a variety of sources – lean meats such as chicken, fish, seafood, turkey and lean beef, low fat dairy like milk, cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese and plant-based sources like beans, legumes and nuts.

You can also find convenient options, such as protein shakes that may have upward of 20 grams of protein.

To get more individualized recommendations regarding the easiest way to add the right amount and quality of protein to your diet, it is always helpful to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

You can find a nutrition expert in your area here.

2-Preserve Muscle Mass and Function

As you lose weight, you also need to use your muscles in order to preserve muscle mass and function.

Increased aerobic exercise and resistance training can help to prevent fatigue, muscle weakness and excessive muscle wasting.

It also has so many other health benefits, such as improved metabolic and heart health, less joint pain or stiffness, a clearer mind, better mood and improved quality of life.

3-Focus on Health Outcomes

As you lose weight, you also want to think about how this weight loss is benefiting you, beyond just having a smaller waist or clothes size.

Since the newer generation of medications are more effective for weight loss, it is important to focus on additional benefits that accrue, such as more vitality, improved self-esteem, taking less medications for high blood pressure or diabetes, and an increased sense of wellness.

Here’s the bottom line – you will achieve maximum health benefits when medications are combined with a healthy lifestyle.

If you want to improve your health behaviors for both weight loss and improved health, check out my latest book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!


Robert Kushner, MD


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1 Comment

  1. Kotha Zahan on December 10, 2023 at 4:57 am

    The author presents compelling findings from the SURMOUNT-3 trial at Obesity Week 2023, highlighting the synergy of newer anti-obesity medications and lifestyle intervention. The study underscores the significance of combining tirzepatide with lifestyle changes, resulting in a substantial 25% weight loss compared to the modest 5% in the lifestyle-only group. The blog then offers practical advice for those on anti-obesity medications, emphasizing dietary protein, preserving muscle mass through exercise, and focusing on holistic health outcomes beyond mere weight reduction. The bottom line stresses the optimal synergy of medications and a healthy lifestyle for maximum health benefits.

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