Do Weight Loss Medications Work?

As we’ve mentioned in a previous article on ‘Self-Care Tips, ‘ exercise and a balanced diet are well-known parts of self-care and weight loss. However, when it doesn’t result in fewer pounds, does this mean that the dieter lacks resolve and discipline? Not always!

In recent years, weight loss medications have been helping to dispel the myth that weight loss is about willpower. Many patients, like Stacey McGrath, spent years trying nearly every diet out there. It was only upon using Wegovy or prescription medication semaglutide that results appeared. In McGrath’s case, her cravings dissipated almost immediately, and she dropped 40 pounds in succeeding months.

It’s no surprise that medication is currently touted as a “game changer” in the weight-loss world. However, this doesn’t mean the same thing as a miracle cure! Weight loss medications can work, but only when used properly and responsibly. Let’s take a closer look below.


Weight loss medications in the public eye

Medical weight loss is not a new category. In fact, the first FDA-approved medication for chronic weight management came out in 1959. However, the field was recently sensationalized after diabetes medication Ozempic went TikTok-viral under the hashtag #MyOzempicJourney. Here, people were using the drug, initially developed to regulate blood sugar levels in diabetes patients, to induce rapid weight loss. Soon, even celebrities like Elon Musk and Chelsea Handler were openly discussing their experiences with Ozempic on national television, turning it into the “worst-kept secret in Hollywood.”


How do they work?

Ozempic is the same drug as Wegovy but available in a lower dose. Wegovy, or semaglutide, was FDA-approved for treating obesity in 2021. However, Ozempic itself is FDA-approved for the treatment of diabetes only.

The intrigue around Ozempic comes from the fact that Wegovy has already been shown to cause up to 20% more weight loss than Saxenda, the first glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist (GLP-1 agonist) approved by the FDA for obesity treatment in 2014. Weight loss enthusiasts often compare Saxenda vs Wegovy as they both work by targeting GLP-1 receptors in the brain’s satiety center. This stimulation reduces feelings of hunger, making it easier for individuals to control their calorie intake. Moreover, these medications alter the secretion of pancreatic and gut hormones, which can reduce insulin resistance.

Choosing between the two tends to boil down to the out-of-pocket cost, availability, and any additional medical conditions of a patient — all of which must be discussed with a healthcare professional. However, public discourse tends to only emphasize a medication’s effect on weight loss on public platforms, with Handler discussing her doctor’s casual prescription of Ozempic on her podcast and ShantaQuilette Develle Carter-Williams sharing her journey of using the medication to manage her weight following a stroke. This could translate into a dangerous trend where people follow advice without scientific evidence or proper health considerations.


The proper use of weight loss medications

Many have already noted harmful side effects, such as nausea and vomiting when using Ozempic without a prescription. Rebound weight gain is a common occurrence as well. Obesity medicine physician-scientist Ania Jastreboff, M.D., Ph.D. from Yale University, explains that Ozempic or Wegovy must be taken consistently to maintain weight loss because diabetes and obesity are chronic conditions.

This means that, at this point in time, using Ozempic for simple weight loss is not a sustainable solution. Current research is exploring its potential — even for addressing cardiovascular problems by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. While these discussions are being developed, the weight loss community must make do with the currently FDA-approved medication.

Remember that proper guidance from a healthcare provider is crucial for achieving the desired weight loss results and minimizing potential side effects. Saxenda starts at a low dose and increases to a maximum of 3.0mg daily. In contrast, Wegovy is administered weekly, with the dose gradually increasing to 2.4mg. While Saxenda and Wegovy have shown significant potential in aiding weight loss, they should not be considered a standalone solution.

A balanced diet, regular physical activity, sufficient sleep, and stress management are essential components of a holistic approach to weight management. So, while public openness about their medication experiences has shed light on their potential, it’s crucial to prioritize health and well-being above all else.