Ozempic for Weight Loss: What You Need to Know
By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC
As a society, we are exposed to new trends in weight loss, skincare, and fashion, among other things. It seems as if we are constantly bombarded with advertisements on how to lose weight fast without exercise or how to eliminate 10 years off your aging skin. The most recent trend you may have heard of is the weight loss drug Ozempic. We take an in-depth look at what Ozempic is, what it is used to treat, and possible side effects.
Weight Loss: What the Science Says
There is a high possibility that at some point in your life, you have considered (or even worked toward) losing weight. For some people, losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t take much effort, which could be a result of genetics, lifestyle, and metabolism. Others, however, may find themselves struggling to shed the pounds and to keep them off. You may have heard personal trainers, fitness experts, and nutritionists talk about the key to losing weight and keeping it off. While the information can be helpful, sometimes it can be not only confusing but conflicting. Let’s take a look at the formula for effective weight loss and weight management.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the key to successful weight loss and subsequent weight management is not the involvement of trendy diets. Rather, it involves a healthy lifestyle that focuses on stress management, regular physical activity, and healthy eating habits. The CDC recommends the following steps to help you lose excess weight and keep it off:
- Explore and identify your “why” for losing weight. Having a strong understanding of why you want to lose weight can help you endure the moments when it’s challenging to stay on track or to get back on track if you have moved off course.
- Take inventory of your current lifestyle for several days: Write down what you eat and drink in a day, your sleep patterns, and stressors. This list can help you identify areas where you can start to make some changes.
- Set realistic goals for yourself: Identify short-term goals that help you achieve your long-term goals and make sure to reward yourself along the way. For example, if your long-term goal is to lose 30 pounds a short-term goal may be to substitute candy with fruit or go for a 10-minute walk each day during your lunch break.
- Identify people in your life who will support you along your weight loss journey: This can include co-workers, friends, family, and even medical professionals.
- Monitor and track your progress and make necessary adjustments along the way.
Factors That Make It Difficult to Lose Weight
For some people, the ability to lose weight doesn’t come easy and additional interventions are required. Factors that can make it difficult to lose weight include:
- Lifestyle habits include the amount of physical activity you get each day, the foods you eat, and the drinks you consume.
- Where you live, work, and play: If you live near a grocery store that offers fresh fruit and vegetables, if you spend much of your time sitting down during work, if your hobbies involve a lot of movement or if you are primarily sedentary.
- The amount of sleep you get each night: Failure to receive enough sleep at night can lead to weight gain. Did you know that people between the ages of 18-64 years old require 7 to 9 hours of sleep and people 65 and older should receive 7 to 8 hours of sleep?
- Medications you may be taking: Certain medications can make it difficult to lose weight such as medications used to treat mental health disorders (depression) and medications used to treat epilepsy.
- Certain health problems: Health conditions like endocrine disorders, hypothyroidism, and long-term stress and depression can make it hard to lose weight and keep it off.
- Genetics and family history: If one or both of your parents struggle with weight loss or are obese, there is a higher chance of you having a difficult time losing weight.
How Many People Struggle with Obesity in the United States?
Being overweight is when a person’s BMI (amount of fat in the body) is 25- 29.9 in adults 20 years of age and older. Being obese is when a person’s BMI is 30 to 40, and severe obesity is when a person’s BMI is 40 and up. Many people in the United States struggle with obesity.
Research from 2017-2018 shows that:
- Approximately 30.7% of adults (1 in 3) in the United States are overweight.
- Roughly 42.4% of adults in America (2 in 5 adults) have obesity.
- Nearly 9.2% (1 in 11) of adults in the United States have severe obesity.
In children and teenagers, studies show that:
- About 6.1 % of children between 2-19 years old have severe obesity in America, which equates to approximately 1 in 16.
- Roughly 19.3% of children and teens have obesity, about 1 in 5.
- Approximately 16.1% of children and adolescents, about 1 in 6.
Health Problems as a Result of Being Overweight or Obese
It is widely understood that obesity can significantly increase your risk of developing certain healthy conditions and can negatively impact your overall quality of life. Research shows that people who are overweight or obese have a significantly higher risk of developing the following conditions compared to those who are of healthy weight:
- Hypertension also known as high blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Many types of cancer
- Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety
- Low quality of life (limited physical movement, low self-esteem)
- Body pain with physical movement
- Breathing problems
- Osteoarthritis: the breakdown of bone and cartilage in a joint
- All causes of death
Ozempic: The Facts
Ozempic, along with Rybelsus tablets and Wegovy injections contain semaglutide, which belongs to a group of medications known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. GLP-1 facilitates the body’s production of more insulin, and insulin is what reduces the blood sugar level in the body. The amount of food consumed is reduced when there are larger amounts of GLP-1 in the body as it interacts with the brain and reduces appetite and increases feelings of fullness.
Ozempic and Rybelsus tablets are both approved to treat:
- Adults with type 2 diabetes to help lower blood sugar along with exercise and a healthy diet.
- Ozempic is approved to reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, and death in people with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Wegovy has been approved to treat:
- People 12 years of age and older who are classified as obese or overweight who have weight-related medical problems, to assist in losing weight and keeping it off.
All three medications listed above are only available through a prescription from a licensed medical provider. Ozempic is not intended for weight loss; however, it is commonly prescribed “off-label” by doctors for that purpose.
Ozempic: Side Effects
Like with most medications, there are possible side effects when taking Ozempic. They range in severity and are different from person to person. Potential side effects of Ozempic include:
- Changes in vision
- Pancreatitis or inflammation of your pancreas
- Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar
- Kidney problems
- Gallbladder problems
- Allergic reaction: This can include swelling of your tongue, face, lips, or throat, difficulty breathing or swallowing, itching or rash, feeling faint or dizzy, and/or excessive heartbeat.
Serious side effects of Ozempic can include:
- Cancer and possible thyroid tumors: Symptoms include shortness of breath, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and swollen neck.
It is important to discuss any medical problems you may have with your doctor. If you have certain medical problems such as medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), a form of thyroid cancer, you shouldn’t take Ozempic as it is unknown if it will cause MTC; however, Ozempic did cause thyroid tumors in rodents.
Ozempic for Weight Loss
Studies on Ozempic clearly show its efficacy for weight loss. A recent research study among 175 participants showed that at the 3-month mark, total overall weight loss was 5.9% and 10.9% at the 6-month mark. It is important to keep in mind the risk factors associated with the use of Ozempic and talk to your doctor about any of your questions or concerns.
If you are thinking about incorporating Ozempic, or another semaglutide medication, into your weight loss plan, talk with a medical professional. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not Ozempic is suitable for you based on your medical history, risk factors, and weight loss goals. Ozempic is not a replacement for the behavioral and lifestyle interventions discussed above. As with all medications, there are possible side effects when taking Ozempic.
If your healthcare provider has recommended Ozempic for weight loss or any other condition, consider using our America’s Pharmacy prescription discount coupons to help find the best medication prices in your area. Prices vary across zip codes. Even pharmacies across the street from each other can have huge price differences.
Jacquelyn Buffo is a mother of three boys and a Licensed Professional Counselor with the State of Michigan. She has extensive history working with individuals struggling with substance use disorders, children, and most recently with the perinatal population. She works for Henry Ford Health and runs a small private practice. She has been a freelance writer for over 10 years.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Losing weight.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2023). Factors Affecting Weight and Health.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2021). Overweight & Obesity Statistics.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Health effects of overweight and obesity.
- S. Food & Drug Administration. (2024). Medications containing semaglutide marketed for type 2 diabetes or weight loss.
- Novo Nordisc. (2023). Possible side effects of Ozempic (semaglutide) injection.
- Acosta, A. et al. (2022). Weight loss outcomes associated with semaglutide treatment for patients with overweight or obesity