We’ve all seen the dramatic weight loss of people taking Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy. These new weight loss drugs have gone viral. Just scroll through TikTok and you will find a plethora of women talking about their weight loss journey. You may be thinking about jumping on the band wagon to reach a goal for your wedding day. Before you do, we want you to be informed.
According to the National Institute of Health, obesity rates are highest in African-Americans (49.6%) compared with other racial groups (e.g., non‐Hispanic White, 42.2%). Rates are higher in Black women (56.9%) than in Black men (41.1%).
Are these drugs the magic pill for curing obesity? The answer is not easy, and these medications do come with risks. Though Wegovy has been approved by the FDA for weight loss, Ozempic and Mounjaro are designed to treat Type 2 diabetes. These drugs work by lowering blood sugar levels and increasing satiety (a feeling of fullness); they can also prevent overeating, resulting in weight loss. They also help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and death for those with Type 2 diabetes.
Doctors say that rapid weight loss can cause a decline in muscle mass. These drugs also have serious potential side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation.
It’s important to note that these medications are not a substitute for healthy lifestyle changes. Nor should they be considered as the only weight loss option to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, adequate sleep and reducing stress can help in weight loss.
“Using medications simply for weight loss without making healthy lifestyle changes can result in some unintended, unwanted and dangerous consequences, like decreased muscle density and malnutrition,” says Kent L. Bradley, M.D., MBA, MPH and chief health and nutrition officer at Herbalife. “Lasting behavioral change is needed for overall health and quality of life—and is achievable. Taking a balanced, realistic approach and embracing health and fitness as a lifestyle can help you ensure long-term success.”
Here’s how you can achieve a healthy lifestyle without medication.
Get active for a healthy lifestyle
Aim for at least 25-45 minutes a day of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Examples include brisk walking, cycling or fast dancing.
Flex those muscles for strength and fat loss
Beyond getting your body moving and your heart pumping, you need to do add strength training at least two days per week. Not sure where or how to begin? Consider joining a gym, hiring a personal trainer or joining a professional-led workout group.
Make every bite count
Another healthy lifestyle change you can make is to eat a more balanced diet. Be sure to fill your plate with plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables—ideally half the plate—healthy proteins and whole grains. Limit added sugar, salt and replace saturated fats with healthier fats like olive oil, avocado oil and nuts.
Focus on plant proteins
There’s a reason there has been so much focus recently on plant-forward eating. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), adding more plant-based foods and reducing red meat can lower your risk for serious health conditions, including obesity. And giving up meat does not mean giving up protein. The AHA points out that every plant contains some protein, with the highest amounts found in grains like quinoa, soybean-based foods like tofu, and beans and legumes. Swapping out meat with lentils and beans is an easy way to increase plant intake while still giving your body the protein it needs.
Create healthy sleep habits
Sleep is often underrated as a vital component of overall health. Sleep helps regulate your heart rate, hormones and metabolism. A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that getting more rest at night reduced the amount of food people ate during the day—about 270 calories fewer than people who were sleep deprived. To get the recommended seven or more hours of sleep per night, keep your sleeping and waking schedule consistent, ensure that your room is cool and dark, and shut off electronics an hour before bedtime.
If you are already on a journey with weight loss drugs, eating nutrient-dense foods and staying fit are extremely important. When you have very little appetite, every bite counts in getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Choose your food wisely and consider easy-to-digest options like healthy protein shakes and supplements to meet specific micronutrient and phytonutrient needs.
Of course, if you need diabetes support or want to explore clinical options for losing weight, you should talk to your doctor. Before asking for a pill or a shot, make sure you’re well informed about the potential risks and benefits of any medication.
Lastly, it is important to know that these medications are expensive, with some insurance companies not covering them, and growing demand making access difficult. It’s been reported that many people gain weight back when they stop taking the medication.