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Are weight loss drugs for you?

Are weight loss drugs for you?

The Next Big Thing in weight loss drugs — Ozempic — is all over the main stream media. Originally intended for Type 2 diabetics, it’s now prescribed for garden-variety weight loss. It works by changing hormones and stifling interest in eating. Basically it puts the user on a drug-induced low calorie diet, the result of which is weight loss.

Of course, you could put yourself on a low calorie diet without a drug, but that would take self discipline and a change in lifestyle. Plenty of people would rather let the drug do the work. By the way, Ozempic is an injected drug, not a pill. In order to get the effect, you have to have a weekly injection, essentially forever, since the effect disappears once you stop the injections.

Photo Choice

I could have chosen a photo of someone getting injected with Ozempic, but that’s a rather negative and disturbing (but accurate) image. So I picked a photo of lovely healthy foods. Those are the sort of foods that should make up the bulk of your diet. By the way, Ozempic does not cause you to pick healthier foods; you just eat less of whatever. If you’re used to eating pizza and french fries, you may continue to eat those, just less of them.

Drugs vs. Diet

I’m personally opposed to these sorts of weight loss drugs. They teach nothing about healthy diet. Plus in time, nasty side effects may surface. That happened in the 1990s with fenfluramine, which was hailed as The Next Big Thing, until it was found to cause serious heart problems. It’s an unfortunate fact life with new prescription drugs: side effects may take awhile to appear. At the moment, Ozempic comes with a long list of common side effects that may occur. Anyone starting this medication should absolutely have a discussion with the prescribing physician.

While I’m opposed to weight loss drugs, I know people will be taking them. Some may have good results. Some may be inspired to change their overall diet and lifestyle. It’s a personal choice, and should be guided by a physician.

Meanwhile, drug or not, you should be choosing healthful mostly-unprocessed foods, with lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and modest amounts of meat and dairy. Drugs can’t force anyone to make those choices.

Reality Check

It’s certainly tempting to get sucked in by slick promotional photos and social media posts that show weight loss drug users with six pack abs and impossibly skinny physiques. What’s more likely, especially for older adults, is that you lose some weight; you feel more comfortable; health indicators improve. These aren’t bad results.

You can also achieve those sort of results by focusing on a healthier sometimes-vegetarian diet, cutting out junk food, sugary foods and processed foods and exercising every day. If you go the drug route, you need to make those choices anyway.

Exercise is critically important. Not because it might burn off a few extra calories, but because it promotes muscle maintenance. Without exercise, you will lose significant muscle mass along with fat mass as you lose weight. You could end up weighing less, but in fact still have high body fat.

The choice to use a diet drug is yours, in consultation with your physician. If you choose that route, diet and exercise are still critically important for long term health.