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Should I take Ozempic? A Discussion of a Polarizing Medical Treatment

Seriously now, this is a question you should ask your own physician, not the internet! As a dietitian, I have worked with dozens of patients taking Ozempic, and dozens more who tell me they would never take Ozempic. Why is this medication so polarizing? Is there information about it that can help guide your decision about it?

pharmacist working in a pharmacy

Why is Ozempic so Polarizing: Influence of Social Movements

It is important to take a step back and understand some of the social history behind weight-changing medical treatments. There is, and rightfully so, movement towards ending bias against fat people. Unfortunately, as a society, we value thinness, and see overweight and obesity in a bad light. People who are overweight or obese are often viewed as lazy, less intelligent, less capable, or lacking self-control. These beliefs are very harmful to the person who is overweight. They can be hurt mentally, socially, and financially when others have these negative beliefs.

This has led towards a movement of fat acceptance. At its simplest, the goal of fat acceptance is to promote the value of people who are fat and end the stigma of being fat. For some, this has become a movement to downplay or deny the medical issues associated with obesity. This is not the place to discuss the research some site to support the view that obesity is not a health risk, but suffice it to say, few healthcare providers and researchers who specialize in obesity buy these claims.

Where it becomes complicated is when we merge fat acceptance, that is, valuing and accepting people who are fat, with understanding the health risks of obesity. As a movement, the voice is to vilify weight loss treatments. The reason being: if fat people are inherently valuable, they should not lose weight. Unfortunately, this ignores the individual--the very person with obesity.

Natural Weight Loss: No Medication, No Surgery

Patients often come to me saying they want to try to lose weight naturally and not try medication or surgery. I am all for good nutrition--I am a dietitian after all! But here is the concern. By the time the patient comes to me, they likely have tried many diets over many years with no lasting success. They might be holding onto the hope that I will be able to give them the answer to weight loss that was eluding them. Unfortunately, I don't have the magic answer. People often have already tried "naturally" numerous times already.

It is true that as a dietitian I can guide a patient to optimal nutrition with weight loss attempts, but my likelihood of assisting the patient in losing and maintaining weight loss long term with diet alone is poor. In fact, research shows that in as short as one year out, you might see numbers as high as 20% who have maintained a weight loss, but those numbers decrease as time goes on, to less than 5%.

How to Decide: Should I take Ozempic?

Here is my opinion: Social movements should have no bearing on your decision to take Ozempic or not take Ozempic. Rather, that decision should be a careful and thoughtful discussion with your primary healthcare provider. It should include considering your health history, your current medical concerns, family medical history, limits your weight places on your quality of life, and most importantly, if you want to try medication.

If there is any one group who values people with obesity, it is healthcare providers who dedicate their careers to treating those with obesity. If you do not feel that your provider is considerate enough to your needs and values you as an obese person, consider finding a new provider.

Can a Dietitian Help Me if I Want to Take Ozempic?

Many people want to work with a dietitian before trying weight loss medication or along with medication. In fact, in the STEP trials that tested Ozempic for obesity, all patients received nutrition counselling along with the medication. In my experience working with people who are taking Ozempic, nutrition counselling helps optimize health and maximize potential weight loss. Because Ozempic causes a decrease in appetite, without focusing on good nutrition, a person's eating pattern may be lacking in some nutrients.

Whether or not you choose to try Ozempic, reach out to me to me for individualized nutrition counseling.

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