Byline: Lorraine Fisher
FOR YEARS I've been searching for the next quick fix the miracle diet, the revolutionary gym class or the ultimate fat-busting pill. In fact, I'll do anything to lose weight. Anything, that is, except eat less and exercise more.
That's why I was so excited when I first heard about the fat-busting pill Alli, which has just been licensed to be sold over-thecounter in Britain.
A year ago the Daily Mail told how this medically proven obesity drug was already on sale in the U.S. I couldn't wait to try it. It seemed like the answer to my prayers finally a little pill to take with every meal that would help me lose weight without any effort.
But there was one problem it was then available only in America.
So when a friend suggested a long weekend in New York, the tickets were booked before you could say 'obesity epidemic'.
Arriving in Manhattan, Alli tablets weren't hard to find. The first pharmacy I went into had them. I chose the 90-capsule pack enough for a month which, with the exchange rate being so good at the time, cost around [pounds sterling]25.
The pack was full of little booklets offering advice on diet, exercise, how to take the pills and their side-effects. They explained that Alli is produced from the drug orlistat, which prevents your body absorbing some of the fat in the food you eat. The undigested fat is then flushed out of your body in your bowel movements.
It's a half-strength version of the weightloss drug Xenical, which is available both in the U.S. and Britain and works in the same way but is only available with a doctor's prescription.
Alli, medical tests had proved, helped increase weight loss by about 50 per cent. So if I went on a diet and lost 2lb in a week, it could be increased to 3lb with the drug.
Fantastic! Or so I thought until I read about the side-effects both in the leaflets and in all the testimonies online. Flatulence, diarrhoea and stomach pain were quite common.
But I was desperate. I've been 2st overweight for as long as I can remember. I've done every diet known to man, from the Cabbage Soup Diet (great for a week but impossible to sustain any longer) to the Atkins (incredibly difficult for a strict vegetarian like myself).
And I'm an emotional eater if I'm feeling a bit low, I use crisps and biscuits to cheer myself up. So nothing short of risk of death was going to stop me taking Alli tablets. I'm (unsurprisingly) no stranger to diet pills. I've tried lots of natural ones like Hoodia, a plant which claims to suppress your appetite, and LIPObind which, like Alli, reduces the amount of fat your body absorbs, but with no success.
Around four years ago I was even so desperate that I bought appetite suppressant Reductil, a prescription-only drug, online. I filled in a form and a doctor who didn't know my medical history happily prescribed it for me.
I lost 4lb in the first week and certainly didn't feel as hungry as normal but the side-effects put me off. At first I felt a raging thirst and had a dry mouth. After a few days, I felt tense, ratty and was unable to sleep. I lost a stone but, even so, I didn't want to repeat the experience.
But Alli seemed different. Most of the side-effects seemed tolerable and there was a chance I might not even suffer them. Most importantly, it had been passed by America's Food And Drug Administration as safe to sell over the counter.
Plus I'd read countless testimonies on line of women allegedly 'achieving the impossible' with this drug. I dared to hope that I too may be one of them and swallowed my first little blue pill one to be taken with each meal that contained fat.
The 90-capsule tub lasted about five weeks and the pills seemed to work well. Side-effects were minimal a few stomach cramps, a little flatulence but nothing I couldn't cope with and I lost 6lb, …