There’s a lot of news about using drugs, like Ozempic, for weight loss. Apparently, many celebrities or rich folks have lost weight using this shot that takes away hunger and you can lose a lot of weight, especially if you add it to a dietary program cutting out sugary, starchy foods. That’s not the only way to go about it and it wouldn’t be my first thing to try. I prefer to start with lifestyle and then perhaps medication. There is a role in some cases for weight loss surgery, but I wouldn’t start there. The same with medicines like Ozempic.
Obesity medications must be combined with a lifestyle plan
I am a past president of the Obesity Medicine Association, the largest group of medical weight loss doctors. These are doctors who treat people largely in the U.S. and most of them use medications from the beginning. I like to start with lifestyle because if the lifestyle clicks, you don’t need the medicines. There’s no question that medicines can be helpful. One of the downsides of using medicines, though, is that if you don’t learn how to keep the weight off, the weight will just come back. If you just rely on medication and don’t transition to some other sort of eating and you go back to the way of eating that made you gain weight, you’re just going to gain the weight back. You want to be sure that if you use a medicine, you learn how to have a weight loss maintenance plan, a lifestyle plan. Even if you use weight loss surgery, you have to develop a way to keep the weight off, which is the lifestyle plan eventually. More and more, I think what I try to do is help protect people from our current sugar and ultra-processed food disaster that’s going on now and teach people how to just not eat that, which is very effective.
Obesity medications are becoming increasingly developed, but also stronger
Giving people medicine so they don’t eat much ultra-processed food is another way to go about it. The first weight loss medicine that was very popular and still is, uses an amphetamine approach which gives you a little bit of energy, suppresses hunger, and makes you feel fuller sooner. Some people don’t like the side effects they get from that. Enter now a new array of medications, and I have to say, I’m happy that drug companies are putting their research and development into new medications for weight loss. For the longest time, there really hasn’t been any research in this area. These newer medicines, though, can be very, very strong.
The new understanding of these internal hormones that make you feel full has led to these injectable medications. I wouldn’t really call it a “shot,” even the needles are very small, but it’s giving you the internal hormone that suppresses hunger. You’re basically injecting an internal hormone that gives you the feeling of fullness. With that, there are some possible side effects. Usually, they’re GI (gastrointestinal) related like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loose stools. Ozempic is one of these hormone medications that are very effective in controlling hunger. There are other ones that are even combination hormones and one that you do every day or one that you do once a week. Some have come from the diabetes world where they were used to lower blood sugar and they were found to also lead to weight loss. There’s no question that they can work, but what we’ve noticed is that for some people it’s just extremely strong. This means that you’re bordering on not wanting to eat anything, which is a “good result,” but you need to eat something for the safest and healthiest way to lose weight.
That’s really what an obesity medicine specialist does. We learn that there’s an area inside certain guardrails of safe, effective, and tolerable weight loss. You don’t want to lose weight too fast and you don’t want to lose weight too slowly either. Ozempic and other injectable medications are very effective in conjunction with good nutrition, meaning protein comes first. Ideally, you’re under the care of an obesity medicine-trained physician who understands the relationship between medications and food, but sometimes the general doctor prescribes these medicines and does not know the safe parameters to stay in. That’s a little bit of a concern to me – if you’re so appetite-suppressed that you don’t want to eat anything. I still want you to eat even when you’re in a weight loss program. The body functions best with some food and protein every day, we think. I’m not against using medications, but I don’t think they should be the first thing you try, because if the lifestyle change is effective and simple for you, which it is for many people, then you don’t have to spend the time, the expense, and experience the side-effects of using a medication or other kind of program.
Try a keto diet before turning to medications
These are medicines that are mimicking internal hormone effects. They can be quite strong, which raises the issue that we don’t really know the long-term effects of these things. The long-term effects of certain drugs aren’t really known until years of use out in clinical practice, so you’re taking on the possibility that there’s some kind of unknown risk to using these things. It may be something that you want to try and it may be within your budget and maybe you’ve tried different diets and they haven’t worked for you, but if you haven’t tried a simply presented low-carb keto diet like the one that we teach then you really haven’t tried all the diets that are out there. Be sure to check out our method of teaching it. With it being more simple, it makes it more sustainable. How you learn it makes a big difference in terms of sustainability. I try to keep things as simple as possible so that when things get busy, you’re not having to really change much in terms of the diet; you have that solid foundation to work from.
Medications might be something you want to try, but just realize there are side-effects and expenses. It’s important to learn a system to help you keep the weight off at the end of using a medication like that because otherwise, the weight’s going to come right back on. Watch the full video here.