Ozempic, Weight Loss, & The Obesity Epidemic

May 23, 2024

My Weight Gain Journey

When Ozempic first came to notice, I had flashbacks to the “HCG” time in our lives. Remember when people were injecting themselves with HCG and barely eating to lose weight? We’ve had other weight loss drugs in the past. The infamous “fen-phen” was a popular one for years. You know, until people started dying or having to be on oxygen for the rest of their lives. I’ve been battling the weight loss industry since 2009 when it sucked me in, and I became a slave to food, exercise, and my body. I gained weight rapidly from 2006-2008 and happily forked my paycheck over to 100-calorie packs, diet cokes, and lean cuisines to get the weight off. I worked out 3-4 hours a day, every single day. I carb-cycled my way to temporary weight loss, and binge ate my weight to rapid weight gain. I hated my body and was convinced it was broken. I had no intention of slowing down either until I got hit by five cars and had no choice. But that’s a story for another day. 


What Does Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro Do?

What happened after my car accident is what’s important here, and it plays into our new weight loss miracle drug, Ozempic. Or Wegovy and Mounjaro which all target the hormone GLP-1 to aid with diabetes and weight loss. I think it’s imperative to mention that they don’t know why this works the way it does. Concerning, don’t you think? Johann Hari agrees, which he mentions in his book, “The Magic Pill,” where I got my information on these new drugs.

While GLP-1 is a gut hormone that stimulates insulin creation, Hari found from his interviews that it’s made in our brains. It interacts with the appetite center, reward center, and homeostatic centers. It causes food chatter to die, so you don’t feel as inclined to eat. Food just doesn’t feel as exciting anymore. So much so that scientists wondered if it reduced the reward system so much that it would interfere with everything that would typically give you that dopamine hit. They found that it only reduced the reward system for items not supposed to be rewarding or addictive behaviors. Another phenomenon they don’t understand. It’s somehow resetting the reward system. They also think it lowers the body's set point so that it doesn’t fight against you when you ask it to reduce weight. Typically, a diet will cause the body to resist weight loss by increasing cravings, decreasing motivation, or doing whatever it needs to do to get you to stop trying to alter your set weight point. But with these drugs, that didn’t seem to happen. Once again, they aren’t sure why. They also questioned whether it was less about the reward system and more about the aversion system. What they do know is that it interacts with the brain, which is a slippery slope.


The Risks

So, what are the risks of these drugs? The first two are aesthetic. Ozempic face and butt. It’s how one might look due to the rapid weight loss and the fact that you will lose muscle and fat mass. Especially if you don’t exercise. It can also cause malnutrition because you don’t have much interest in eating, which contributes to the change in your face and butt. Many people can feel nauseous as well, which also makes them not want to eat. It can be described as the feeling of eating too much and feeling a little sick because of it. So you don’t feel inclined to put more food in your body. The next few risks are serious. It increases the risk of thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, stomach paralysis, and bowel obstruction. Another very important risk is how taking this drug could impact your body's natural ability to create and process the GLP-1 hormone. When I was in my 20s, I went to the doctor for joint pain and was told it was due to hormone imbalances. They wanted to put me on hormones. I asked if it helped my body create more hormones to sustain the right amounts and was appalled when he said it would do the opposite. It would create less and less, and he had every intention of having me on hormones for the rest of my life. Ozempic could create a similar situation, and we already believe a tolerance could be built for it, which would decrease the weight loss results over time. Lastly, and to me, most importantly, the unknown. We don’t know what these drugs do. And we’ve seen how that’s gone in the past with every other weight loss drug.

The next obvious question is whether these risks outweigh the risks of being obese. This is a nuanced topic, but I’ll start by saying if you are not seriously obese, I cannot see how the risks outweigh the benefits. I do understand that many overweight people desperately want the weight off and are worried it could keep getting worse. They can then reach for this drug, and it makes complete sense. However, there is a better way. With no side effects. For obese individuals, I could see the need for the drug to start the process. However, I still would suggest trying other ways first. And no, I am not referring to dieting, which will never work in the long term.


Health At Every Size

I’ve followed Health At Every Size to be a full supporter for quite a while. I love the message that all bodies can be healthy. That we shouldn’t judge someone's health based on size. I love the message of loving your body as it is. I thought this group and I would be best friends. But I was wrong. They strongly suggest never trying to lose weight. And that’s fine if that’s not what you want. I fully support someone that doesn’t want to get smaller. I also support someone who feels their body is not the size it’s meant to be. As long as the process to alter the body is rooted in love, not fear, removing the weight brings you closer to an embodiment not punishment, and is guided by intrinsic motivation instead of external praise, I see nothing wrong with seeking weight loss. But those are typically not part of the weight loss process. 


The Cause of The Epidemic

Hari details where the obesity crisis stemmed from hanging on the hands of processed foods. I would have fought against this in the past because we don’t have to eat the food just because it's created. However, he brought up some good points that have changed my mind. I think that because we are a society that moves way too fast, doesn’t honor our needs, and is in massive nervous system dysregulation, processed foods are potentially the harmful cause of our epidemic. I still don’t think we have an obesity epidemic, though; I think we have a mindless epidemic or disconnection epidemic. More on that a little later. The truth is we are surrounded by food that barely resembles food, and it is difficult to eat in a way that best supports our bodies. You have to try harder and be more committed to your health. And that’s backward.

Now for the scary statistics… In 1966, 50% of high school girls believed they were fat. 1969, it increased to 80% due to the rise of “Twiggy.” A skinny model that paved the way for what girls thought they should look like. Only 15% of the girls were overweight out of the 80%. We saw this shift until the 1990s when Kate Moss rose to the top. In addition to impossible standards, we also see a ton of weight stigmatization. This is something I absolutely will not stand for. We live in a world that thinks we should make people loathe themselves to change themselves. And people who struggle with weight buy into this lie and will go to lengths to remove weight in the most crucial or punishing way. 


The Solution

The solution to me is clear and has been ever since I accidentally lost weight after my car accident. My injuries weren’t life-threatening, but they did leave me unable to move for about a month. My first instinct was to be panicked about how much weight I would gain. I was exercising for hours every day and gaining weight. What would happen if I couldn’t even move off the couch? I dropped 10 lbs and 5% body fat in that first month. I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t binge eat one time when it was a daily occurrence before. I hardly thought about food and had nothing to do to pass the time but watch TV, play Sodoku, and read. Yet, suddenly, no preoccupation with food. No obsessive thoughts about my next meal. How people describe feeling on Ozempic is how I felt after that car accident. This was 2008, and not a day has gone by that I have ever felt the way I did before that car accident. I haven’t had the desire to binge since. I couldn't care less about sweets or potato chips. Food is all neutral to me. Something I didn’t think would ever be possible in my dieting days. It’s easy to recognize hunger and fullness, and being around food is easy. I accidentally unlocked the process that Ozempic creates, and I’ve been teaching others how to do the same ever since.

This is only part of the solution, though. I can easily teach people how to feel relaxed and normal around food. The harder part is becoming embodied and ignoring the stigmatization. I can’t change the world overnight. I wish I could. I wish I could create better standards for our food. I wish I could eliminate the thoughts and feelings people have about overweight and obese individuals. I wish I could wave a magic wand and have everyone stop hating their bodies and no longer want to punish themselves. But this is a process. One you can start right now. Every minute you spend believing that your body is the problem and deserves to be punished, you play right into their hand. Every minute you spend escaping your body, trying to ignore it, you prolong everything you could ever want from your body.

Weight loss is a highly complex and nuanced topic. It is not as simple as “eat less, move more.” The truth is, I’ve helped tons of people reset their reward and aversion centers the same way Ozempic does, and it doesn’t always result in rapid weight loss. For many of us, weight has become a chronic symptom that needs to be understood deeper. It needs to be heard, understood, and processed, which is not always quick. However, it will be a long-term result when done this way. It will allow you to live not just in the body you want but also in the life you want. 

Who Is Michelle Thompson?

Michelle has been helping people live lighter since 2009 when she accidentally lost weight after years of dieting. She uses her education and experience in Food Psychology, Yoga, NLP, Masters in Human Behavior and soon to be completed PhD in Psychology to shape her work with the community. But there was still a missing piece in the connection puzzle and of all things she found it through the backyard game, cornhole. She now uses her platform to help people connect with their bodies and each other through the social game of cornhole. She also can be found on CBS Sports and ESPN2 as a sideline reporter for The American Cornhole League as well as a commentator and podcast host for Around The ACL. Follow Michelle on all social media platforms using @cornholemeesh