Getting the Most Out of Your Weight Loss Treatment
Not seeing the weight loss results you want? Here’s how to use Orlistat the right way
Updated: Wednesday 16 February 2022
When taken alongside a low calorie diet, treatments containing Orlistat have shown to be an effective weight loss tool in two-thirds of patients, helping them lose at least 5% of their body weight in just 12 weeks. However, for those taking Orlistat, results can vary due to a range of different factors affecting the rate of weight loss. To ensure you’re successful on your weight loss journey, considerations around your diet and physical activity level must be made to form a combined strategy that works.
In this health centre article we outline how to get the most out of Orlistat and how to form a routine for obtaining a healthy body weight that’s here to stay.
How Does Orlistat Work?
Different weight loss medications operate in varying ways, such as through appetite suppression or by increasing the feeling of fullness. However, the active ingredient in Orlistat is what’s known as a dietary fat binder, which works by reducing the amount of fat that’s being absorbed during digestion. As well as being available generically as Orlistat, the same active ingredient is used in the branded treatments Alli, Xenical and Orlos, operating in the same way. Orlistat binds to the lipase enzymes in your stomach that break down fats, resulting in some fat molecules not being broken down. The outcome is approximately a third of the fat in your diet passing through the digestive system without being absorbed.  Less fat being processed in the body, coupled with a reduction in total calories absorbed, can lead to weight loss when coupled with a healthy and active lifestyle.
Why am I not seeing results with Orlistat?
Whilst Orlistat helps to eliminate a percentage of the fat in your diet from being absorbed by the body, there are several other factors we must be mindful of in order to achieve weight loss. Studies show that Orlistat can help you to lose 5% of your starting body weight after a three month course of the treatment, but only if you ensure that your diet is nutritionally-balanced and calorie-controlled, as well as participating in regular exercise for at least 150 minutes per week as recommended by the NHS. 
Nutrition and exercise are two of the most important factors to control when using Orlistat for weight loss, but other factors such as hydration, sleep, and goal-setting are vital to consider for making losing weight a reality.
Ensure that you are taking Orlistat exactly as outlined in the patient information leaflet, as recommended by the manufacturer. This means taking 1 Orlistat tablet with each of the 3 main meals of the day, either just before, during or within 1 hour after eating. Because Orlistat affects the absorption of fats, if you skip a meal or if fat is absent from your meal, there is no need to take an accompanying Orlistat tablet. Lastly, try to limit fats consumed throughout the day to your main three meals only, ditching fatty snacks in between meals.
How much should I eat when taking Orlistat?
In the most fundamental terms, weight loss is only achievable when calorie expenditure exceeds calorie intake. You won’t be able to lose weight if you’re operating on a large calorie surplus, even with the benefit of Orlistat medication limiting the absorption of dietary fat. A gram of fat contains more than double the number of calories than a gram of protein or carbohydrates, which is why it’s so easy to overload on calories when fatty foods are consumed. When taking Orlistat, it’s recommended to get no more than 30% of your total calories from fats, and to distribute your intake of fats, proteins and carbohydrates evenly throughout the day, ideally across three meals 
To learn how much of your calorie intake is from fats, as well as a breakdown of other food groups, we recommend using a nutrition tracker to help make sense of what you’re eating. For a whole day, eat as you normally would, inputting the types and amounts of each food for all your meals and snacks. This will take a little bit of time, and it’s best to do this over several days to get an average, but it’s helpful to understand what’s currently not working for you so you know how much fat you need to cut out of your diet as well as areas of nutrition you might be lacking in. Such trackers will total how many calories you’ve consumed that day, which you can compare to how many calories you ought to be consuming to lose weight. Using an online health calculator that involves variables like weight, height and age, incorporating the Mifflin-St. Jeor basal equation for calculating metabolic rate equation, you can get an estimate for your target calorie intake for weight loss.  Bear in mind that this is an approximation that does not control for every single variable, but should instead act as a starting point that you can adjust depending on the rate of weight loss you’re experiencing.
Dietary Tips for Effective Weight Loss
Diet is arguably the most important factor to consider when losing weight. An appropriately-portioned set of nutritious meals can not only limit your fat and total calorie intake but also provide you with lasting energy throughout the day, improve your quality of sleep, and bolster many facets of your bodily health.
For a meal-by-meal breakdown of the best foods for weight loss, we recommend reading our Alli/Orlistat Diet Plan.
There are a number of nutritional and lifestyle tips and tricks surrounding food that can be beneficial to helping you achieve your weight loss goals.
Reducing Fat Intake
- Drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk instead of whole milk.
- Swap out butter for reduced-fat spreads like vegetable oil spreads.
- Grill, steam or poach foods rather than roasting or frying them.
- Buy leaner cuts of meat, like chicken breasts instead of wings. You can also trim off fat and skin from meat.
- Cook with liquid oils like sunflower oil instead of hydrogenated fats (shortening, lard) and animal fats (butter, cream).
- Avoid processed foods, and try to snack on fruits for your sugar fix instead of snack bars containing refined sugars.
Other Dietary Tips
- Although tempting, don’t skip meals. This will only make you crave unhealthy foods later on.
- Use a smaller plate or bowl to eat smaller portions but still feel full.
- Make sure your micronutrients are topped up with a multivitamin like the OneVit Complete daily multivitamin, formulated specifically to account for some nutrient absorption that’s lost through taking Orlistat.
- Eat slower to feel full on less food. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you're full, so chewing more slowly and putting your fork down between bites can help reduce overeating.
- Share your goals with your family and friends so they help you to stay on track with your diet by offering support and being aware of not encouraging unhealthy eating habits or food binges. 
Exercise Tips for Effective Weight Loss
Not only is exercise great for weight loss by increasing calorie expenditure and forcing your body to use up fat reserves for energy, it’s essential for everyone’s general physical and mental health.
Best Exercises for Weight Loss
- Walking - it’s convenient, has low-impact on your joints, and is great for beginners.
- Jogging or Running - great for burning harmful visceral fat ie. belly fat.
- Cycling - great for overall fitness, increased insulin sensitivity, and reduced risk of heart disease.
- Weight training - building muscle increases your resting metabolic rate, increasing calories burned when resting.
- Interval training - burn 30% more calories per minute versus other exercises. 
You can also read our article on the physical and mental benefits of outdoor exercise.
Other Exercises Tips
- Find an activity you enjoy. Having fun whilst you work out will make it easier to get into a routine, and eventually exercising will just become a habit.
- Work out with a friend or exercise partner to help motivate each other. It’s a lot easier to say no to yourself than to a friend!
- Weigh yourself each week to track your progress. Don’t worry about weighing yourself constantly, as water and food weight can cause your overall weight to fluctuate throughout the day and may skew the measurement.
- Don’t ‘run before you can walk’! Start off lightly for your first few workouts, increasing the intensity and duration of your workouts as you progress.
Authored by Toby Watson
Pharmica Medical Writer
Toby (BSc) is an experienced medical writer, producing educational articles on many areas of health including sexual health, fitness, nutrition and mental health.
He particularly enjoys debunking misconceptions around heath conditions and their treatments, researching each topic in detail and writing easily-accessible content.