Beginning the process of weight loss can feel overwhelming and frustrating. Every day on the internet, you get bombarded with weight loss solutions–diets, exercise plans, vitamins, and drinks. Many of these products are ineffective, especially if you are struggling with obesity. If you are ready to start your journey to better health and confidence, a specific class of medication may be an effective solution for weight loss. Scientific studies indicate that GLP-1 medication such as Semaglutide (Wegovy or Ozempic), Liraglutide (Saxenda), and Tirzepatide (Mounjaro) may be ideal for those struggling with obesity, diabetes, and other co-morbid conditions.
The Epidemic of Obesity
In 2013, the American Medical Association declared obesity a chronic disease requiring medical attention. Obesity is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States, affecting 41.7 percent of adults in the United States, according to a survey that took place between 2017 and 2020. While proposed weight loss drugs and remedies have been on the market for much longer, few have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for long-term obesity management due to adverse side effects.
Obesity can attribute to a myriad of health risks, including:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Imbalanced cholesterol levels
- Heart Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Gallbladder Disease
- Sleep Apnea
- Breathing Problems
- Mental Illness
- Body Pain
GLP-1 drugs may help you lose weight, thus improving your overall health and happiness.
Benefits of Weight Loss
Even small amounts of weight loss can lead to substantial benefits. Losing weight can help you balance your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Successful weight loss can improve your self-image, thus enhancing your mental health and happiness. An effective weight loss strategy can also help motivate you to keep going. GLP-1 agonists for weight management are a great stepping stone to help you develop a healthy lifestyle.
GLP-1 Agonists for Weight Loss
Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists are a class of type-2 diabetes and anti-obesity drugs that improve blood sugar control and can contribute to weight loss. Results can vary depending on which agonist you use and your dose. When combined with healthy lifestyle changes, studies indicated that individuals who used semaglutide lost approximately 33.7 pounds, compared to 5.7 pounds lost by those who did not take the drug.
Below is a list of three GLP-1 drugs that may be used for long-term obesity management.
Wegovy and Ozempic (Semaglutide)
Wegovy is a weekly semaglutide injection approved by the FDA to treat individuals with obesity and at least one related condition, such as type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Ozempic is the same medication as Wegovy, and it has FDA approved indication to treat for diabetes; however, there are patients who use it as off-label for weight loss. Wegovy is most effective when combined with a reduced-calorie diet and regular physical exercise. This drug is specifically indicated for patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or more or individuals with a BMI of 27 kg/m2 with one or more related conditions. Wegovy mimics a GLP-1 hormone, targeting the area of the brain responsible for appetite regulation and food intake.
Serious side effects of Wegovy can include:
- Gallbladder issues
- Kidney problems
- Increased heart rate
Your healthcare provider will determine if Semaglutide is the proper medication for you and monitor your symptoms closely to mitigate any severe risks. If Semaglutide is a good fit for you, it can be incredibly effective at helping you lose weight and keep it off. Sometime, it’s difficult to get Wegovy and Ozempic approved by insurance or get it filled at your local pharmacy because of the supply shortage or the high asking self-pay price of the medication which can be as high as $1,800 for a one month supply. If that is the case, patients should make an appointment with Alpha Hormones medical provider to see if a less costly alternative and compounded version such as Semaglutide with added Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B-12) injection is right for them. Cyanocobalamin can add the extra energy boost and increase fat metabolism so patients can reach their weight loss goals faster.
Liraglutide is commonly prescribed under two separate brand names–Victoza and Saxenda. The FDA has approved Saxenda for weight loss in patients who are overweight or obese. Daily Liraglutide injections control blood sugar levels in adults and children with Type 2 diabetes. In combination with a healthy diet and consistent exercise plan, this is one of many GLP-1 drugs that work well for weight loss. Like other GLP-1 agonists, Liraglutide can cause side effects, including headaches, constipation, heartburn, runny nose, fatigue, and redness or pain at the injection site. However, the most common side effects are easy to manage, making Saxenda a great way to lose and keep off weight.
You should not take Saxenda if you:
- Are taking a GLP-1 receptor agonist medication
- Have or had issues with your pancreas, liver, or kidneys
- Have severe stomach issues, such as gastroparesis (slowed emptying of the stomach)
- Are prone to depression, suicidal thoughts, or other mental health issues
- Are currently breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed
Unlike Saxenda and Wegovy, Mounjaro (Tirzepatide) has yet to be approved by the FDA for weight loss. However, it is fast-tracked to being approved within the next 6-12 months. Mounjaro is a type 2 diabetes medication injected once a week to help improve blood sugar. Along with consistent physical activity and a proper diet, Mounjaro may be effective in helping patients lose weight while assisting with symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
Serious side effects can include:
- Allergic reactions
- Kidney problems or kidney failure
- Gallbladder problems
- Changes in vision
- Stomach problems
While Mounjaro is not yet FDA-approved to help with weight loss, that may change very soon, meaning that it could be a great option to help manage obesity and other help problems that come with it.
You may be nervous the first time you inject your GLP-1 for weight loss, but with some practice, you’ll be an expert in no time. Similar to insulin injections, you should inject your GLP-1 agonist pen into the subcutaneous layer of the skin for optimal absorption. The best areas on the body for this include the abdomen, thighs, arms, and buttocks. It is crucial to rotate injection sites to avoid significant tissue damage. Your doctor will discuss this further and give you specific instructions regarding your prescribed GLP-1 drug.
The Right Choice for You
With several options of GLP-1 for weight loss, it can be confusing to figure out which drug will best fit your needs. Your healthcare provider will help you decide which medication is best for you based on your health history and specific needs.
GLP-1 Drugs Are Not for Everyone
The GLP-1 class of drugs is not suited for everyone, which is why it’s crucial to keep your doctor up to date with a detailed health history. If you have a family history of Multiple Endocrine Neoplasias Syndrome II (MENS II) or medullary thyroid cancer, healthcare professionals do not recommend GLP-1 agonists. Studies have shown that these drugs can cause thyroid tumors in rats. Additionally, it isn’t recommended for patients who have had pancreatitis.
Tips for Dealing With Common Side Effects
While GLP-1 agonists can be beneficial in long-term weight loss and management, adverse side effects can be challenging to manage. Your healthcare provider will help you find the proper dosage and drug for your body, but you may still have to deal with minor effects. The most frequent side effect associated with this class of drugs is nausea, vomiting, constipation, and indigestion. Here are a few tips on coping with this:
- Eat slowly
- Eat bland, low-fat foods such as crackers, toast, and rice
- Eat foods that contain water, such as gelatin and soup
- Avoid lying down after eating
- Drink clear, cold liquids
- Get fresh air
- Avoid eating greasy, fried, or sweet foods
Adjusting Your Lifestyle
To achieve optimal results from your GLP-1 agonist, it is essential to make adjustments to your lifestyle. This includes a healthy diet and a consistent exercise plan. While it can seem overwhelming to make these changes in your life, it will increase the effectiveness of your GLP-1 medicine and lead to a healthier, happier you!
Choose Low Carb Diet
When choosing a diet, it is essential to be mindful of your blood sugar levels to avoid complications or further damage to your health. Luckily, there are many options for low carb diet. Consult your healthcare provider to find the best diet for your needs. Typically the ideal diet for an individual with diabetes should have the following:
- Low calories
- High fiber
- Rich nutrients
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Lean proteins
- Healthy, vegetable-based fats such as nuts, canola oil, avocado, or olive oil
- Low-fat dairy products
- Regular meals and snacks instead of long periods without food
- Managed carbohydrate intake
Avoid processed grains, fruits with added sweeteners, fried foods, sweetened beverages, and foods made with added sugars and refined flour.
Diets to Consider
Here are a few diets that may work well if you have diabetes. As always, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before making any significant lifestyle changes.
The Plate Method
The Plate Method makes it easy to plan nutritious and delicious meals without measuring or counting calories or macronutrients. This meal plan uses a standard 9-inch plate for reference, dividing it into three sections. Fill half the plate with non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, or spinach. The other half of your plate will be split between lean proteins (fish, chicken, eggs, cheese) and healthy carbohydrates (fruits, potatoes, yogurt, whole grain bread, or pasta).
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the delicious cuisine of Greece, Italy, and Morocco. It may help to reduce overall body weight, glucose levels, and the risk of a metabolic disorder. This diet focuses on lean proteins (salmon, chicken, eggs), fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats found in olive oil and nuts.
The DASH Plan
DASH stands for “the dietary approach to stop hypertension.” The DASH plan encourages reduced portion sizes and consumption of foods with high amounts of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Individuals who try this diet should consume lean proteins, plant-based foods, healthy fats, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
Starting an Exercise Plan
If you have been living a sedentary lifestyle but are ready to transform your health, starting an exercise plan can increase the effectiveness of your GLP-1 for weight loss. While you will want to consult your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise habit, here are some simple exercises you can do to begin improving your physical health.
- Fun team sports
- Aerobic dance (Zumba, high fitness)
- Weight training
For many people, beginning an exercise routine is one of the most daunting aspects of weight loss. Here are a few tips as you begin this journey to a healthier, happier you.
Starting slow is crucial to begin an effective physical fitness program. Overexerting yourself can be painful, frustrating, and even dangerous. Be patient with your limitations, and remember that strength comes with time. Warm up, cool down, and listen to your body. Take breaks when needed and drink plenty of water.
It can be boring to do the same thing every day–so shake up your routine! If you enjoy walks, take different routes and explore new places. Make a fun playlist of your favorite music, or dive into an interesting podcast. Try new things and find something you enjoy. You can turn many types of exercise into enjoyable hobbies.
Monitor Your Progress
Consider taking progress photos every few weeks or tracking your weight as you begin your new fitness regimen with your medication and diet. It can be very motivating to see how much your body has changed. However, remember to avoid getting hung up on numbers or slow progress. Weight fluctuates, and it takes time for changes to occur.
Using GLP-1 Agonists for Weight Loss
If you have abnormal weight gain and are struggling with obesity, using a GLP-1 may help you better control your health. You can transform your health by committing to consistent lifestyle changes and taking a proper dosage of your healthcare provider’s recommended drug. Alpha Hormones medical provider can help you find the right GLP-1 agonist for your needs with both in-clinic and telehealth services. After all, you deserve to feel confident, happy, and healthy.