Life after Fen-Phen: Weight-loss battle continues as before
December 21, 1996
Web posted at: 3:20 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Carolyn O'Neil
This is the fifth in a series of reports on the diet drug
(CNN) -- While the pounds may melt away with the new diet
wonderdrug Fen-Phen, experts agree it's up to the individual
to keep the weight off.
When Bill Pickle decided it was time to get serious about
weight loss, he turned to Fen-Phen, a diet drug combination
that affects the brain's ability to control appetite.
Suzy Goldman didn't have much weight to lose, but she was
desperate to shed the 40-plus pounds she gained during
pregnancy. She tried diet and exercise, but the weight
wouldn't budge, so she too turned to Fen-Phen.
"I think while there are risks, it's a great opportunity for
people to lose weight, Goldman says.
So far, Pickle has lost 80 pounds. Goldman has just another
seven pounds to go to meet her goal. Both have stopped taking
Their challenge now is to go it alone, learning new ways to
eat and exercise to keep the weight off.
"Once you come off of them (Fen-Phen), you have to deal with
your appetite," says Kathleen Zelman, a registered dietitian.
The latest research shows that those who are most successful
in keeping weight off are those who were prepared for life
after diet drugs.
"While you're on the drugs, you have to think of life after
the drugs, because it is during this drug therapy when you
can make those small gradual changes that will ultimately
lead to lifestyle changes," Zelman says.
While he was taking Fen-Phen, Pickle learned the importance
of proper nutrition and regular exercise at the Behavioral
Medicine Research Center in Houston. But not all patients
understand the need for lifestyle changes.
"We had some patients gain weight while taking the
medication, because it is possible to eat three cheesecakes
on the medication," says Dr. Ken Goodrick of Baylor College
Pickle says he's been off Fen-Phen for a month now and so far
has maintained his weight loss by continuing to control his
food intake, using a treadmill five nights a week and
attending support meetings at Baylor University.
Not all diet pill programs offer professional nutrition
support, a step Zelman says is a vital missing link.
"They are going to have to go back to basic principles of
healthful lifestyles -- eating properly and getting exercise.
There's no getting around it, absolutely no getting around
it," she says.
In fact, short-term use of diet pills without learning how to
eat and exercise is asking for failure.
"Almost virtually 100 percent will regain their weight, and
unfortunately, they may gain more weight then they had to
start with," says Dr. George Blackburn of Harvard Medical
As a result, researchers conclude that diet pills such as
Fen-Phen are useful weapons in the war on fat, but are most
effective when used as a step in a lifelong journey of weight
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