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What’s Up With the Hype Around Ozempic?

You’d think that by 2023 body shaming and an image of what a so-called “ideal” body should look like would be a thing of the past. But it almost seems as though different trends have taken on a life of their own and keep changing at lightning speed—it’s almost impossible to keep up with the latest hype. Not that anyone should! Absolutely not.

This phenomenon is thanks to celebrities and social influencers alike who use platforms like TikTok and Instagram to promote different trending body types. For ages fat was condemned and rejected. Then all of a sudden fat in all the right places (particularly the bum) was the way to go. And now everyone is “shrinking” again, and fat is no longer the rage once more. It can all feel a little exhausting.

On the surface, it might seem hypocritical as a plastic surgery clinic to be commenting on these trends. After all, our industry is all about making changes to the way our patients look. But our philosophy has never been about a one-size-fits-all aesthetic solution. We help our patients achieve the results they want on their own terms, and not according to trends that come and go at increasingly rapid speeds.

We’re not in the business of transforming patients into something else; we’re in the business of enhancing what they already naturally have. We want to make natural-looking changes that help patients feel like the best version of themselves for the rest of their lives, the way they deserve to.

With the rapid and sudden shrinking of the bodies of celebrities like the Kardashian sisters and Elon Musk, a new trend has become suddenly popular: Ozempic, now used as a diet drug option. But the thing with trends is that not only are they fleeting, but they can also have serious repercussions. And Ozempic has already proven to have some major risks when used in this way.

But before we dive in, we want to make it clear that we are not judging anyone who may take or have tried this particular drug, or any others, for the purposes of losing weight. There is so much pressure out there to look a certain way, and we definitely understand. It’s our job to understand and be empathetic about these very very real anxieties and pressures, and to provide accurate information and realistic expectations about possible outcomes.

We think it’s always important, no matter what wonder drug is offered out there, to research and explore its benefits and also its potential medical risks.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a medication that is used to treat type two diabetes. It’s also known as something called a semaglutide, which works to lower blood sugar and hemoglobin levels in type two diabetics in order to reduce their risks of serious diabetes complications such as high blood pressure, a stroke and even blindness.

What has made the drug so popular on the celebrity front, and now it seems globally, is that one of its side effects is considerably rapid weight loss.

After we eat, our bodies naturally release a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which basically tells our brains that we’ve eaten enough and gives us the feeling that we’re full and can’t eat anymore. This hormone is typically absent or desensitized in people with diabetes or for those who are obese due to a wide variety of factors that are most often genetic or hereditary.

Because Ozempic is ultimately a semaglutide, which is a GLP-1 analogue, it has been truly revolutionary when it comes to weight loss as it affects the part of the brain that signals us to stop eating.

It has also become a ground-breaking drug in the treatment of type two diabetes, and has been an immensely beneficial medication for diabetic patients. It is currently only approved for the treatment of type two diabetes in both Canada and the United States. That said, doctors have prescribed it off label to help with weight loss in people who are obese.

Ozempic’s success in managing weight for obese patients and in improving the health of those with type two diabetes led to the manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, to create a similar but slightly stronger drug called Wegovy that was approved in 2021 by both Health Canada and the FDA as a weight loss drug meant for obese and overweight adults with at least one associated risk factor, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Although approved by Health Canada, the launch of Wegovy in Canada has been postponed, as Novo Nordisk is having a hard time keeping up with the demand for the drug.

The Hype around Ozempic

The hype around Ozempic has been fueled by the celebrity world that has adopted the medication as a rapid weight loss tool and caused an unfortunate ripple effect in its wake.

Although Ozempic is not meant to be prescribed as a dieting drug even for those who are extremely overweight and obese, the drug along with its counterpart Wegovy is being sought after as a weight loss option by the rich and famous and in turn by the general public. Celebrities like Elon Musk have been very candid about their use of Wegovy, and have touted the efficacy of it for weight loss.

The thing is that no matter how successful as a weight loss tool, even Wegovy is not meant to be taken by individuals who just have the odd 20 lbs to lose. It’s really meant to manage weight for those who have high health risks associated with being extremely overweight.

So you might be asking yourself, well what’s the big deal if individuals who have less weight to lose take Wegovy or Ozempic, especially if it’s working? The primary issue is that the hype over Ozempic and Wegovy has caused a huge worldwide shortage of the medication.

This means that people who really need the drug for critical medical reasons are having a difficult time accessing the medication, with reports over the past several months revealing a constant shortage in the US and Canada. The other issue with taking a medication and using it off-label (in other words for something that it isn’t meant for) is that there are medical risks associated that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Ozempic Risks and Side Effects

What a lot of people don’t realize is that for type two diabetics and the extremely overweight, Ozempic and Wegovy are medications that you take for life. Especially in terms of weight loss, once you stop taking these drugs, you are guaranteed to gain back all the weight you’ve lost—if not more.

The other thing to note is that the long term medical side effects are still unclear, particularly with regards to the portion of the general public that is taking the medication to lose a moderate amount of weight quickly, or to maintain a certain low weight. The longest study on the effects of these medications span less than two years, meaning there is a lot we don’t know about future potential side effects or risks.

The current known adverse side effects of Ozempic include nausea, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea with more serious side effects including shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, swelling in the neck and the possibility of thyroid cancer and/or the development of thyroid tumors.

There is also the less severe side effect but still a consequence of what happens to your body when you lose too much weight, or you lose a lot of weight very quickly. The term “Ozempic face” has now become popular to describe the side effect of the drug that causes gauntness in the face, as well as sagging skin, and a prematurely aged look.

The hype over Ozempic and Wegovy has created the illusion that a weekly injection of these drugs will easily and flawlessly solve concerns that are more closely tied to body image, and this is just not the case.

There is never one magical solution, unfortunately. Sure, effective dieting medication can be very helpful and useful to a certain extent. However it’s but one tool to help you along your weight loss journey, which also includes a healthy lifestyle that balances a good diet and exercise routine.

We always tell our patients that they should envision a goal weight that they can ultimately realistically maintain with their lifestyle. There is nothing more frustrating than working super hard to get to your goal weight and then not being able to maintain it or being miserable trying.

We really believe in the permanency of your body goals, so we always like to err on the side of caution. We encourage everyone to study all the facts and research when we see trends like Ozempic soar. At the end of the day, it would seem to be a drug that is exceedingly beneficial for patients who medically require it.

Beyond that, the rampant speculation as to which celebrities have or have not used it is just not something we’re interested in, and only serves to maintain the hype and keep it out of the hands of those who need it most.

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