Thanks to a TikTok trend and a Jimmy Kimmel joke, Ozempic has been flying off the shelves, helping people shed unwanted pounds. But if you’re taking it and don’t have type 2 diabetes or obesity, Nurse Practitioner (NP) and functional medicine expert, Jenna Witt explains why you should think twice before using it.
“Everybody looks so great. When I look around this room, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Is Ozempic right for me?’”
Jimmy Kimmel’s opening joke at the 2023 Academy Awards confirmed a Hollywood stereotype that shatters the feel-good illusion that all body types are to be celebrated. While you and I may believe all bodies are beautiful, at least in Tinseltown, it pays to be thin. And that’s why several celebrities have admitted to using Ozempic to lose weight.
TikTok has also fueled the popularity of Ozempic. In fact, as of March 2023, the hashtag #Ozempic had over 600 million views. Most of the videos serve as testimonials that the drug quickly helped them drop several pounds.
So what’s the harm in that?
Before I answer, here are some basic facts about the Ozempic weight loss trend…
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is a weekly self-injectable drug approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017. But the FDA didn’t approve it as a weight loss drug. Many weight loss drugs have notoriously failed clinical trials. And several of the weight loss drugs that have been approved were recalled because of side effects (Belviq comes to mind).
Ozempic was explicitly approved for lowering blood sugar levels and managing insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes. But Ozempic works by mimicking a hormone that regulates appetite and makes users feel full for longer, even if they didn’t eat a big meal.
And as the data started pouring in, it was evident that people with type 2 diabetes taking Ozempic were losing an impressive amount of weight. In 2021, four years after Ozempic was approved, a spin-off drug called Wegovy received the green light from the FDA. Wegovy is a weight-management drug for people with obesity or other metabolic health conditions.
Most health insurance plans cover neither Ozempic nor Wegovy—for weight loss. And both drugs come with a shocking out-of-pocket sticker price: over $1,000 a month.
Despite the steep cost of Ozempic/Wegovy and the rising cost of pretty much everything, plenty of people will pay a small fortune for it; they will pay whatever price to be skinny.
A Critical Shortage of Ozempic For Those Who Need It Most
Doctors can prescribe certain drugs for off-label use. For example, the drug hydroxyzine is for allergic skin reactions. But it’s also used temporarily for anxiety. Even though Ozempic was approved for people with type 2 diabetes, it can also be prescribed off-label for weight loss.
And the surging demand for Ozempic/Wegovy has led to a potential shortage of the drug in pharmacies, which puts people who most need the medication at risk.
In other words, people using Ozempic/Wegovy who don’t have diabetes or obesity should not be taking these drugs! I’m not somebody who usually delivers stern lectures. But when you’re depriving somebody who needs diabetes medication, it’s just plain selfish.
That being said, however, I am not entirely against people using Ozempic as long as a doctor prescribes it and doesn’t deprive those who need the medication the most. After months of being in short supply, Ozempic was back in full stock back in March. So now that the shortage is over, what’s the harm in taking Ozempic/Wegovy to shed some unwanted weight? Well, here’s what you need to know before using it.
6 Side Effects Of Ozempic
The temptation to use Ozempic for easy weight loss is strong. But according to the University of Colorado, there are several reasons you should reconsider (besides denying access to people who need it).
Low Blood Sugar
For starters, because Ozempic lowers blood sugar, it could cause low blood sugar levels. According to a study conducted on mice, it can even lead to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). This is not to say that Ozempic is dangerous if you’re susceptible to hypoglycemia.
Ozempic doesn’t work forever. You need to take it forever otherwise, the weight will come back on. You won’t have the benefit of Ozempic’s active ingredient to block your appetite signaling in the brain once you stop taking it.
The most common side effects affect the digestive system: constipation, diarrhea, nausea, acid reflux and vomiting. If that’s not bad enough, Ozempic can cause gas (from both ends).
When you lose weight quickly, the one area that may show it the most is not only your waistline. It’s also your face. Fast weight loss leads to sagging, wrinkly skin and a hollowed-out, gaunt appearance under the eyes. Elon Musk, the richest person in the world, recently bragged about taking Ozempic even though he is neither diabetic nor obese. Pictures of his shrunken face and several other celebs have led to one hilarious hashtag: #OzempicFace
If you’re not eating two or three regular, well-balanced meals per day, you can get a little grumpy. Taking Ozempic makes you forget to eat. Sometimes there’s no urge to eat for hours, which can negatively impact your energy levels and mood.
Most people who take Ozempic think they’re burning bodyfat. But in reality, what is mostly burned is lean muscle tissue.
Using Ozempic for fast weight loss fools people into thinking they can eat whatever they want. After all, when your appetite is reduced, all that matters is calories in versus calories out. And if you’re eating fewer calories than usual, you’ll lose weight, even if you’re eating junk.
Obviously, that’s not a healthy, sustainable way to lose weight.
Ozempic reduces your appetite. But when you do eat, you tend to grab whatever is quick and easy. And the tendency for many Ozempic users is to grab high-carb food. So if you’re consuming very few calories AND junk on top of it, you’re going to be malnourished–even if you’re overweight. It’s the Ozempic paradox!
I’m not against people taking Ozempic for weight loss. But the reality is that people aren’t taught how to eat healthily when using it.
So make sure that you eat a few bites here and there of real food: Low-sugar fruit, low-starch veggies, and especially lean protein. You may not have much of an appetite for it, but if you want to get leaner without sacrificing your health, just eat it!
Not sure how to eat healthy on Ozempic? Contact me to get started!
Until next time,
Jenna Witt, NP