Talk of Ozempic is everywhere these days, but weight loss medication is nothing new. It’s been safely used since 2017 to help treat type 2 diabetes and promote weight loss. In 2021, the FDA approved a drug with a higher dose of Ozempic’s key ingredient under the brand name Wegovy. Since then, the internet can’t stop talking about effective these drugs for weight loss, and demand is at a record high.
For many who struggle with obesity, semaglutide drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy have changed their lives. The drugs work by mimicking the effects of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that we naturally produce in our intestines and limits appetite by signaling that we feel full. The impact is freedom from “food noise,” offering the opportunity to follow a healthier diet and need less food to feel full.
But the cost of the drugs and supply chain shortages have made it difficult for everyone who can benefit from these drugs to receive them. And for those who have lost a significant amount of weight on them, stopping can have consequences.
While over half of the people who come to SoWell for weight loss medications are interested in GLP-1s, some people don’t have an awareness that this might have to be a medication that will be lifelong in order to keep the weight off.
According to a study published in 2022, people who stopped taking semaglutide gained back, on average, two-thirds of the weight they lost in a year.
So if you start Ozempic, will you need to be on it forever?
Why People Gain Weight After Stopping Ozempic
Since semaglutide lowers blood sugar and helps people stay fuller longer, you can lose weight more quickly and easily than without the medication. But when someone comes off the drug, their previous appetite will likely return with a vengeance. Because of the calorie deprivation that comes with losing weight, the body tries to “catch up” to its previous state—which means weight gain. It’s not a matter of willpower; the same biology that makes it hard to lose weight in the first place will make it challenging to keep the weight off after discontinuing the drug.
Since weight cycling can exacerbate health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems, it’s important that people know the potential for weight gain after losing weight with a semaglutide—and to consider staying on the med long-term.
Even though obesity is a chronic disease, many people still think it’s all about willpower and see being on medication as a weakness. But doctors wouldn’t tell someone with high blood pressure to stop taking their medication once they reach normal levels, so why would you stop taking the medication that keeps your weight in check like nothing else can?
How to Avoid Weight Gain After Semaglutide
Even with the risk of weight gain, some people aren’t able to stay on the Ozempic or Wegovy long-term. So how can you keep the weight off?
First, stay aware of your weight and be realistic that it can creep back. Even in the maintenance phase, it’s important to work with your doctor to find a weight-tracking method that works for you to prevent you from gaining weight without realizing it. If you start seeing it trend upwards again, you can prevent it from getting worse!
Second, never discontinue a drug without your doctor’s supervision! Many doctors—including our very own Dr. Sowa—will help patients taper off semaglutide instead of going cold turkey to help avoid severe cravings or rapid weight gain.
You might also need to incorporate other ways to check your blood sugar and cravings. Supporting with other weight loss medications like Qsymia and supplements that help stabilize blood sugar, like GetSoBalanced, can help mitigate weight gain. Dr. Sowa also sees a lot of success with low-carb diets since they prevent insulin spikes in the body.
As part of SoWell’s medical practice, Dr. Sowa has helped countless patients lose weight and keep it off, with and without using drugs like Ozempic. SoWell’s holistic and science-based approach combines the most proven lifestyle changes with the best weight loss drugs (when needed) to achieve a healthy weight and metabolic function.
90% of our patients keep their weight off within 5% because we don’t leave you without the support you need to maintain your weight loss. Learn more about SoWell’s virtual medical practice here.