“I’ve tried so many things to lose weight, but none of them have worked. My cousin started taking semaglutide a couple of months ago, and she’s finally losing weight. Do you think I should try that?”

Donna’s question was a familiar one since these drugs – originally formulated to control diabetes – first started to be used off label for weight loss. Currently, Wegovy is the only semaglutide approved by the FDA for treating obesity. However, many providers will also prescribe Ozempic for off-label use to control weight.

I can understand the appeal; who wouldn’t want to try a shot that seems to help when nothing else does? But I am NOT a fan of semaglutide for weight loss. There are some big problems with the approach, including the possibility of some pretty serious side effects.

Let’s take a look at what semaglutide is, and how it came to be the next “miracle” in weight loss. Then I’ll tell you a few reasons I think there’s a much better way to lose weight.

What is semaglutide and how is it used for weight loss?

Semaglutide is the active ingredient in Ozempic, a drug developed as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. It’s part of a class of medications called GLP-1 RAs, and it works by mimicking the naturally occurring GLP-1 hormone in your body.

Injected under the skin weekly as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, Ozempic lowers blood sugar through a few mechanisms. It increases the insulin your body produces after eating, decreases glucagon released into your blood, and makes food move more slowly to your stomach, helping avoid sharp blood sugar increases after eating. These effects also help lower some heart risks that can occur with diabetes.

When moderate weight loss effects occurred for some research participants being treated for diabetes (in research sponsored by the company that manufactures Ozempic), word began to spread – especially on social media. In 2021 Wegovy, another drug with semaglutide as its active ingredient (at a higher dose than is present in Ozempic), was approved for treatment of obesity.

A shortage of Wegovy, and high demand for semaglutide for weight loss, has seen more and more providers prescribing Ozempic for off-label use for weight loss. Semaglutide suppresses the appetite and reduces cravings, along with slowing the rate at which the stomach empties, which can leave you feeling full longer. When coupled with lifestyle changes, research has shown some significant weight loss results with semaglutide treatment. While many tout that as great news, I have some serious concerns about semaglutide as a go-to weight loss solution.

3 Reasons to Proceed with Caution When It Comes to Semaglutide and Weight Loss

When something seems too good to be true, it generally is. That’s why use of semaglutide for weight loss shouldn’t be an easy decision. While it may be the answer for some, it’s certainly not the “miracle” some have made it out to be. Here are three things to consider as you research semaglutide treatment for weight loss.

1. Risk of serious side effects

Some common side effects of taking semaglutide for weight loss include dizziness, gastrointestinal problems like constipation ( 50% of the time ) excess gas, and diarrhea; headaches; fatigue and abdominal trouble such as nausea, bloating and pain. While those side effects might seem worth it to lose stubborn weight, there are some serious issues being reported that should make you think twice.

The FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) has received over 8,500 reports of problems with semaglutide drugs, and many lawsuits against the company that manufactures Ozempic have been filed because of gastroparesis, a chronic condition that weakens the nerves and muscles in the stomach. Gastroparesis can lead to intestinal blockages and obstruction which cause serious health issues.

Other serious side effects include suicidal ideation, pancreatitis, kidney damage, and risk of gallbladder disease. Ozempic also has a box warning for risk of thyroid c-cell tumors.

Those are some serious side effects to consider. While the risk might be worth it for those with obesity and hundreds of pounds to lose, I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for anyone wanting to lose 20 or 30 pounds.

2. Who is behind the push to prescribe semaglutide for weight loss?

I’ll give you a hint – it’s not those with your best interest in mind. Ozempic can be very expensive, and when prescribed off-label, your insurance company might not approve it. Even worse, once you start it to control your weight, you’ll likely need to continue it for life. Because GLP-1 medications are designed to treat chronic conditions, they are intended for long-term use. And research shows that ⅔ of the participants taking semaglutide for weight loss gained the lost weight back, plus 10 lbs, when they discontinued use.

Now think about it: who has a vested interest in keeping you on a costly drug forever? That’s right – the manufacturers of those drugs! Why wouldn’t they be marketing heavily to health care providers?

And that’s not the only way the pharmaceutical industry is impacting the popularity of semaglutide for weight loss. Even Oprah and Weight Watchers have jumped on board, using experts to talk about how Ozempic can stop cravings, suppress appetite, and keep people on their diets. And guess who paid those experts?

3. Without lifestyle changes, desired effects may not occur

Semaglutide has been proven effective for weight loss only in conjunction with lifestyle interventions. So even if you have obesity and may otherwise be a good candidate for the drug, if you aren’t committed to making other changes to your lifestyle, you may be fighting a losing battle (and opening yourself up to the risks I mentioned above).

Making that commitment is about more than willpower, though. The food industry, and the rise of processed foods, have destroyed Americans’ health. Obesity rates have skyrocketed since processed foods became the convenient norm, and there’s no easy way out of it. Billions of dollars are spent marketing processed foods, and their labels make all kinds of confusing claims designed to make you think their product is a better choice. The simple truth is, anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce is not a healthy choice.

Not only that, but the “noise of food” is hard to overcome. Our brains trick us into thinking we need to eat when we aren’t hungry at all. This has roots in our emotions, and the trauma we have experienced in our lifetimes and neurotransmitter imbalances. Semaglutide can “turn off” the noise – but unless you are processing that trauma, testing and treating the neurotransmitters, when you stop taking it, that noise will return.

Changing your lifestyle habits is hard work, and if well known companies are shifting to a drug treatment protocol it’s easy to get fooled into thinking those habits don’t matter. But they do!

So what are my alternatives?

Difficulty losing weight isn’t a simple problem, and there isn’t a simple solution – no matter how much we wish there was. If you’ve been hearing the hype about semaglutide and weight loss and hoped I’d back that up, I’m sorry to say that I can’t. But just like I told Donna, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. I’ve been helping women lose weight for decades, and I have a number of recommendations that come at a lower cost, don’t require lifelong treatment, and don’t have the same risk for serious side effects.

My Drop20 Now™ Program can help you lose weight safely and quickly, with the support and coaching you deserve. And they even stop cravings, stop the noise of food, and decrease hunger.

Even if you aren’t ready to sign up for a program, I have numerous articles about weight loss in my health library. In those articles, I explore factors that contribute to weight gain and difficulty losing weight, and offer practical suggestions for jump starting your weight loss journey. You don’t have to go it alone – and you don’t have to resort to a lifelong prescription!