Published in Authority Magazine
The pursuit of healthy weight management is a journey many of us embark on. In a world where quick fixes are often sought after, weight loss drugs have found a notable presence. However, like any medical intervention, there’s a need for understanding, caution, and professional guidance before considering such options. In this interview series, we are talking to doctors and medical and wellness professionals about the science, safety, efficacy, and ethical considerations surrounding weight loss drugs. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Thais Aliabadi.
Dr. Thaïs Aliabadi has been a practicing OB-GYN in Los Angeles since 2002. She serves as an official gynecologist for a number of royal families and many celebrities. Dr. Aliabadi is often asked to be a subject matter expert on TV shows such as “The Doctors,” “Dr. Phil Show,” “Paula Zahn” and “Chasing the Cure,” and is affectionately known as Dr. A on “The Kardashians.”
In 2014, Dr. Aliabadi intensified her focus on overweight and obese patients and patients with PCOS. Her work led her to create Trimly, a personalized weight-loss treatment that brings effective, lasting change to people who have been struggling with a spectrum of weight and PCOS issues. Dr. Aliabadi has made it her mission to help patients achieve a healthier lifestyle, gain confidence, and avert future health issues.
Dr. Aliabadi’s weight-loss patients have experienced life-changing success with her treatment. After years of struggling, these patients are finally experiencing the life they have always wanted, and report that they feel healthy and ready to take on new challenges. For them, Dr. Aliabadi’s treatment is more than just about losing weight. It’s about becoming their best selves.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
I grew up in an extremely educated and loving family in Tehran, Iran. However, when I was seven years old, the Iranian Revolution thrust us into the midst of war and we immigrated to the United States. We settled into Los Altos when I was 17 years old and it was a grim reality of going from being popular in school to not speaking a word of English. I immersed myself in learning the language and my studies. Because I didn’t have friends and didn’t speak English, I just locked myself in and studied for 12 hours a day before being admitted to UC Berkeley for undergrad.
I graduated at the top of my class with a degree in Biology before applying to medical school, but I hit another obstacle when I scored poorly on the MCAT’s verbal reasoning and essay portions of the test. My counselor advised that my English wasn’t strong enough to go to medical school, so he recommended I get my masters in physiology and apply for a program at Georgetown that would allow me to sit with medical students. I took his advice and subsequently attended medical school at Georgetown before being accepted to The University of Southern California (USC) for residency.
I was ambitious, hardworking and I had my sights set on landing a job at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center — one of the country’s leading hospitals. But, much to my surprise I faced prejudice for the first time in my life. A doctor at a high-end practice that I interviewed with told me she was instead looking for a blond-haired blue-eyed doctor and said, “Just because you are a good student, doesn’t mean you’re going to get a job.” That’s all it took for me to prove to myself that I was going to make it to the top. I had two months left before I completed my residency and no money — I hustled. I found a clinic that hired per diem and took two 24/hour shifts at the hospital, while also working another job covering 5 clinics. Meanwhile, I had also signed a lease on a small office space near Cedars-Sinai; So, Monday’s and Friday’s I worked 24/7 while Tuesday — Thursday I began seeing a handful of patients in my office in addition to some part-time work I picked up in the San Fernando Valley. I was so determined to succeed that I began performing 80 deliveries a month at two clinics in downtown LA, while other doctors were averaging 10. I kept a pillow and blanket in my car and was working like crazy until I was 8.5 months pregnant with my first daughter and it was no longer sustainable. I started to have a name for myself just because of the level of care I was giving. In my world, at least in my head. I sold my two clinics in downtown LA, I began to give deliveries to doctors just starting out and I focused on continuing to give 5-star care to every one of my patients, while I continued to grow my family.
Since that time, life has happened. I have three beautiful daughters and adopted a fourth. I was invited to appear on “The Dr. Phil Show” to explain to a guest the consequences of using heroin and crystal meth during her pregnancy. After meeting the young woman, I agreed to treat her for the duration of her pregnancy and deliver the baby. Upon delivery, her baby girl Coco went through withdrawal and while in the NICU, I fell in love with Coco and I couldn’t bear to see her enter the flawed foster care system, so I fostered her. Coco has been such a gift to all of us — in particular she inspired my eldest daughters, Delara and Layla, to see the systemic issues and social injustices that young, innocent children in foster care face, leading them to launch a non-profit, Coco’s Angels. I am so proud of how much they have raised, inspired peers to participate and how they’ve championed and helped students in Los Angeles’ foster care system.
In September 2019, during a routine mammogram, the doctor saw something in my left breast and biopsied it — it was negative for cancer, but I insisted on a lumpectomy and the result was still pre-cancerous cells. I went to my office and calculated my lifetime risk for breast cancer and it came back as a 37–50% chance of getting breast cancer. I knew what I had to do — I asked my surgeon for a double mastectomy but he refused. Another doctor told me I was crazy — no cancerous cells, no sign of the BRCA gene, no family history of breast cancer…I persisted until I found a surgeon who agreed to perform a double mastectomy and much to everyone’s surprise, they found Stage 1 breast cancer. When so many people called me crazy, not knowing I had cancer, I hired a videographer to document my journey, and I know my story will change the world of breast cancer forever.
I always empower my patients to be their own advocates. This can be difficult when you have medical professionals brushing you off, and downplaying your concern, but it is why I am so passionate about championing my patients. In addition to breast cancer, I am also passionate about educating women on endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which I consider a silent epidemic, as well as helping men and women lose weight to live their fullest lives. This work has encouraged me to launch my latest project, Trimly — a personalized weight-loss program that brings effective, lasting change to people who have been struggling with weight-loss, often as a result of a diagnosed or undiagnosed underlying health issue such as PCOS or insulin resistance.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I have many interesting cases and stories because of the nature of my practice. However, if I were going to share one lesson with your readers, it would be to be your own best advocate when it comes to your health. I see patients every day that have been dismissed or undiagnosed by other doctors. Women with PCOS especially are unrecognized. These patients, if unhelped, will be dealing with infertility down the road which could be possibly avoided.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I have a theory that has been the foundation for my success in life. I believe that there are simply three factors that will allow this success to come into fruition. And you MUST possess all three. These are the same three traits that I have even instilled in my own children.
Being good looking, smart, or having lots of money are not part of this equation– they don’t even matter.
What matters is the combination of these three factors that make people successful. They are:
The key is to possess all three at all times.
If you have two of the three — it doesn’t work. If you’re confident and resilient but lack effort, it won’t work. If you’re confident and make tons of effort but you are not able to get up when you fall down, it won’t work either. If you’re resilient and make the effort but lack confidence, it simply won’t work. You must work on all three factors to be successful.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about health and longevity. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, obesity, or weight loss? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I’ve been a practicing physician since 2002 and have had the privilege of working with thousands of patients throughout my career. In 2014 I started using weight loss medications for my patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and saw how life changing they were to those patients. My overweight and obese patients were next, I didn’t want these women to wait and develop weight related diseases when I knew I could help stave them off. My patients started bringing their husbands, sons and nephews and that’s when I knew I had to shift and create a telemedicine platform to be able to take care of patients throughout the nation who are suffering.
I am one of the most experienced doctors out there using these medications. I know exactly what medication or combination of medications to choose for each patient at the right time. I’ve worked with teenagers all the way through to patients in their 80’s to lose weight.
Do you have any financial affiliations or conflicts of interest related to weight loss drugs that readers should be aware of?
When should a person consider using weight loss drugs to lose weight?
To qualify for a semaglutide, a patient needs to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher or a BMI of 27 or higher plus a comorbidity and unable to achieve adequate weight loss from diet and exercise. A comorbidity is when a person has more than one medical condition at the same time that puts them at an increased risk for serious health complications. Examples of comorbidities include: Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis, to name a few.
What are common examples of effective weight loss medications?
Semaglutides such as Wegovy and Saxenda have been absolute game changers. In simple terms, semaglutide is a medication that helps control our body’s blood sugar levels. Sugar, or glucose, is our body’s main source of energy. Normally, when we eat sugar our body releases insulin to push sugar from the bloodstream into our cells to be used for energy. In patients who are overweight or obese, insulin does not function properly, which causes blood sugar levels to be high and leads to easy weight gain. This is called ‘insulin resistance’ and it is very difficult to reverse. Semaglutide works for weight loss in a few different ways, most notably: it increases the amount of insulin released in response to food intake, it works in areas of the brain to regulate appetite, and it slows digestion which makes us feel full for longer.
Oral medications such as Tenuate and Phentermine are also available for patients who want to lose weight by controlling their appetite. These medications are very effective but can only be used for a 3–4 month period. Semaglutides can be safely used for longer periods of time making them a very effective option for overweight and obese patients.
What are the potential side effects of weight loss with medication?
Potential side effects of these weight loss drugs are mostly GI related. They include nausea, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting. However, not every patient has this experience and if they do have them, they usually subside within a couple of days.
How do weight loss drugs compare to other methods of weight loss in terms of effectiveness and safety?
I have been using semaglutide weight loss medications for my patients since 2014 and can tell you that there hasn’t been a more effective way to lose weight. Patients can lose weight without doing anything! The medication allows patients to quiet their mind around food which for many patients is a brand new, and very freeing experience. With proper coaching, they tend to make lifestyle shifts in what they eat and they start incorporating exercise into their daily routines because they are finally seeing results.
Are there certain populations or groups of individuals for whom weight loss drugs are particularly beneficial or harmful?
Weight loss medication is good for anyone with a BMI of 30 or a BMI of 27 with a comorbidity. I started Trimly after using these medications for my PCOS patients (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and I saw how life changing these medications were for those patients. If you have an underlying condition that has caused weight gain, or if you have suffered from obesity your entire life, then you should consider these medications under the guidance of an experienced doctor. Make sure that your doctor uses FDA approved medications — I will not use compounded versions of these medications for my patients.
Patients who will not qualify for these medications:
If you have a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2, or have problems with your pancreas. Pregnant women, breastfeeding moms, or children under the age of 12 are not a candidate to use semaglutides for weight loss.
In your professional opinion, is it ok or not ok to take medications created for alternative health conditions (like diabetes) for weight loss?
It is absolutely okay. Being obese is a health condition that has a list of comorbidities that go along with it. As providers, we should be trying to prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol instead of waiting for these things to happen and have to fix it.
What are the potential side effects or dangers of taking medications aimed at alternative health conditions for weight loss? What are the benefits?
Taking these medications to lose weight when you are obese is not dangerous. Patients who take these medications will be less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, or other weight related medical problems in the future because we are preventing those diseases now.
Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 considerations one should take into account before commencing weight loss through medicine?”?
1 . Patients should consider their personal or family medical history when they are thinking about weight loss through medication. For example, if your parents or grandparents suffer from diabetes, chances are greater that you may get diabetes if it runs in the family.
2 . There are so many health benefits when starting weight loss medication. Losing weight not only makes you look good, but it significantly reduces your risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. And, losing weight can increase your sex drive.
3 . Many insurance companies have incorporated weight loss medications into their prescription drug plan. However, there are insurance companies that do not offer coverage. Depending on the medication, weight loss medications can cost anywhere from $900-$1500 per month. I encourage my patients to talk to their HR departments and advocate for weight loss medications being added to their plan offering.
4 . Losing weight will significantly help with a patient’s mental health. Many of my overweight and obese patients suffer from depression and anxiety and their weight is affected by it. By losing weight, patients feel happier, lighter, and less stressed around food.
5 . Lastly, patients should consider starting or enhancing their exercise routine. Daily exercise, even walking significantly helps patients lose more weight and develop a lifestyle habit that will enable them to keep the weight off. Exercise is also great for mental health. Our bodies are made to move, so exercising really helps in more than one aspect.
Are there any common myths or misconceptions about weight loss drugs that you’d like to address?
One of the most common misconceptions I hear is that patients will gain all their weight back when they stop taking the medication. This is not always true. When you are taking these types of medications, your body and brain become accustomed to eating less and you will learn what hunger is and when to stop eating without the medication. It’s not automatic, but while patients are on these medications, they must make lifestyle changes that will help them for the rest of their lives.
Can you help articulate why it is important to upgrade one’s lifestyle in conjunction with medicated weight loss?
These medications are not magic. While you are taking the medication, it is important to focus on your relationship with food and your eating habits. You have to make behavioral changes around food and exercise so you can feel confident when you come off of the medications.
Beyond medication, what supplementary treatments or therapies do you recommend in conjunction with weight loss drugs for the best results?
For the best results, I recommend a balanced diet full of whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and exercise.
How do you see the future of medicated weight loss evolving with advances in science and medicine?
We are seeing many advancements in the realm of weight loss. More medications are coming out and many insurance companies have started to incorporate weight loss medications into their plans. We are an obese country with many diseases stemming from weight. We have the power to prevent or reverse these diseases now.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
The best way is to visit our website trimly.com or to follow us on social media @trytrimly
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher, and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness, and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at email@example.com.