Obesity is a lifestyle choice

The combination of surgery and Ozempic have been instrumental for Brown to reach some of her fitness goals, recording personal-best weightlifting records and running times. She knows that losing weight and keeping it off could prolong her life and it’s relieving stress on her joints. Taking the drug is not without sacrifice, however, and she warns it’s not appropriate for people to use if they’re just looking to slim down.

Brown, a 40-year-old massage therapist, tried everything to lose weight the way people are “supposed” to. She ate healthy and worked out regularly, but without medical intervention, those lifestyle changes didn’t lead to meaningful weight loss.

“I had done every single diet on the face of the planet and failed at every single one of them,” she said. “They’d all work for a certain period of time and then they wouldn’t.”

Doctors now understand obesity as a lifelong, complex disease, with several potential causes that lead to excessive body fat and sometimes, poor health.

“We make these assumptions and apply this kind of bias and bigotry towards people that have excessive weight. If they had high blood pressure, you wouldn’t feel so obliged to moralize the problem, and would probably realize that there’s a lot of complexity there and maybe medications are sometimes appropriate or essential,” Lyon says.

For years we have tried to treat obesity by putting people through diets and exercise regimes, but evidence shows that doesn’t always work, and often, weight shed via diets tends to be put back on over time. That’s why Lyon and Wharton agree that Ozempic and other medical interventions can be a powerful tool to kick-start weight loss in conjunction with lifestyle changes.

In 2013, Brown underwent bariatric surgery, the removal of a large part of the stomach to reduce hunger signals and induce weight loss. She lost 100 pounds and ran a half marathon to mark the occasion. She calls it one of the best decisions of her life.

But in the years that followed, her weight eventually started creeping back, no matter what she did to try and stop it. In 2019, her obesity specialist suggested Ozempic.

The combination of surgery and Ozempic have been instrumental for Brown to reach some of her fitness goals, recording personal-best weightlifting records and running times. She knows that losing weight and keeping it off could prolong her life and it’s relieving stress on her joints. Taking the drug is not without sacrifice, however, and she warns it’s not appropriate for people to use if they’re just looking to slim down.

 

 

Losing weight on Ozempic is a quick, painless process

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Brown says taking Ozempic is akin to “doctor-approved anorexia.” For her, the feeling of losing weight on the drug was “addicting.”

When she first started on Ozempic, it led to dangerous eating habits, where she would “eat two pieces of cauliflower and be full.” If a patient so desires, they could stop eating entirely by taking more and more of the drug, Brown warns.

Brown recalls that she had to take caffeine supplements to stay awake during the day and to have enough energy to work out because she wasn’t getting enough nutrition on Ozempic. Eventually, she became anemic and her hair started to fall out.

Even with these distressing downsides, Brown said she would never discourage someone with obesity from taking Ozempic, in part because of how much better society treats her now that she’s physically smaller.

“The way that the world treats you as well is very, very different,” she said.

Men who knew her when she was heavier all of a sudden wanted to date her. She runs long-distance races now; when previously, at a heavier weight, strangers would stop her on the street and tell her to stop running because of her size.

Brown’s experiences bring into focus the weight bias that many people experience when they live in larger bodies, and how Ozempic can feel like a godsend. But in the wrong context, Ozempic can do more harm than good.

She worked with a therapist and personal trainer to improve her body image and relationship with food. She went from being scared to eat to “eating more food than I’ve ever eaten in 10 years” by tracking her macronutrients like protein and carbohydrates. She was still losing weight, but she was also gaining muscle.

Brown believes that the psychological impacts of taking Ozempic and losing weight should be studied more to understand how addictive the process can be. She wants people to understand that losing weight while facing obesity can be important to protecting one’s long-term health, but not if it means sacrificing the food and nutrition needed to function.

Lyon agrees that in isolation, Ozempic won’t do much to address the root of obesity, and the drug needs to be taken as part of a broader program that targets a patient’s mental health.

Lyon is an advocate for “health at any size,” a growing movement in public health that acknowledges that skinnier doesn’t always mean healthier, and that weight bias and the pressure to lose weight can often cause serious health problems — both physical and mental.

For that reason, he believes Ozempic for weight loss should only be reserved for people with obesity and facing adverse health problems that make the risk of taking the drug worth it.

As Wharton puts it: “If you’re a larger body size and perfectly healthy, then you should be called beautiful. You should not have the suggestion that you should be on a medication.

Weight loss with Ozempic: Hailey's story

By Kirsty Mason | Medically reviewed by Dr Luke Pratsides

During months of lockdown, Hailey’s weight surged. And her journey with weight loss proved challenging. Struggling to drop the weight, she decided it was time to seek professional help. That’s when a doctor introduced her to Ozempic, a drug that controls your appetite and helps you to reset your relationship with food.

We spoke to Hailey about the challenges that she faced during her journey with weight loss and what inspired her to take action and regain control of her health.

Can you start by telling us a little bit about your journey with weight?

It was a combination of things that led to my weight gain: having my son, taking medication, lockdowns, and unemployment. My weight just ballooned. I started trying to eat less and exercise more but I kept finding that four or five days later, I would sabotage myself with a binge. 

What was the greatest challenge you faced when it came to losing weight?

The greatest challenge I had before losing weight was physical movement. I wanted to exercise but my joints hurt so much. It’s not as easy as going to the gym and running on a treadmill. After three minutes, as much as you want to keep going, your knees and ankles really hurt. It’s frustrating when you try to do the right thing but you can’t. And then you just start to feel really crap and embarrassed. 

Another challenge is hitting a weight loss plateau. When this happens, I try to remind myself that I’m not just doing it to lose weight. It’s also about implementing healthy habits so I try to focus on that instead.

Would you say that your weight impacted your confidence and relationships?

Definitely. It got to the point where I didn’t want to go out and see friends because I was so embarrassed at how much weight I’d put on, so it really affected my social life. My confidence just tanked. I felt like a crap wife, a crap mum, and a crap person. Weight does make you feel like a lesser person.

What motivated you to take action this time with your weight?

It was getting to the point where I was really worried about becoming diabetic. Also, having a four-year-old that I couldn’t keep up with anymore. I found it easy to lose weight in my teens and early twenties but not anymore. I realised that I needed to do something so I could get fitter and enjoy time with my son – and also for myself as well. Having seen some elderly relatives with pretty significant health problems related to weight, I decided that I needed to address it now, and not when it was too late. So I went to a doctor and they recommended Ozempic. That was the turning point in my weight loss journey. It was brilliant.

Did you have any hesitations about taking medication for weight loss?

I didn’t like the idea of injecting myself with a needle. But once I sat down with a doctor and they explained that this is how you administer it, these are the side effects that you can get, and this is what we’ve seen with other patients, I felt reassured and decided to give it a go.

Do you have access to professional support to go alongside your medication?

I’ve got an app that I use to log my weight, get meal plans, and workout videos. It’s good because I don’t want to just be focussing on the injection as at some point, I’m going to stop taking it. I’ve got to use it to help me change my habits and lifestyle. It’s not a quick fix. Ozempic helps me to curb my cravings and drop the weight so it’s easier to exercise. But I’ve got to use those changes to rewire my eating and exercise habits if I want to keep the weight off long-term.

How long did it take for you to start seeing results?

In terms of actual appetite, it was the next day. In terms of physical health, and losing weight, it was around a month later. I went to put something on and realised it was feeling loose. My husband pointed out that I wasn’t snoring at night anymore and I was feeling lighter just walking around. It was little bits like that over 4 to 8 weeks that I noticed the weight loss.

When I first weighed myself, I was 105 kilos but I know I was higher than that at some point, I just refused to step on a scale. Over the last nine months, I’ve dropped around 26 kilos which is a good three dress sizes.

What habits have you kicked, and what new habits have you formed as a result of using Ozempic?

I’ve always used food as a coping mechanism and I think the best thing to come out of using Ozempic has been the way it’s changed my relationship with food. I still enjoy it but I don’t get fixated on it anymore. If I’ve had a stressful day at work, I don’t come home and straight away binge on junk food. Instead, I might get a small snack, feel full, and then I’m not thinking about eating more. This is the first time I’ve ever felt like that. Now, if I’m stressed out but not hungry, I’ll go to the gym, for a walk, or find something to do that’s not food-related to decompress. It’s been helpful to learn how to manage my emotions without binge eating. It’s rewired my relationship with food where now I eat to stay alive rather than to fill a massive void.

Have you experienced any side effects? 

I felt a bit nauseous at first but nothing that wasn’t manageable. Actually taking the shot took a bit of getting used to but it’s such a fine needle that once you’ve done it a couple of times, you barely notice it.

Other than the physical aspect, how would you say losing weight has affected your life?

It’s been really good to go out and do things that I couldn’t bring myself to do when I was overweight – like going to the park or pool with my son. He gets really excited because he sees that his mum wants to go out and do stuff with him. My social life is better too. I actually want to go out and see my friends. Weirdly enough, feeling more confident has helped with work too, even though my actual weight has nothing to do with it (I just sit at a desk and type numbers), I just feel more confident overall. It’s also helped my sleep because I’m not snoring as much and waking myself up. My throat doesn’t hurt and my joints aren’t as painful throughout the night. I’m waking up feeling more refreshed which has a positive impact on the rest of my day.

Were there ever any moments when you thought about giving up? 

There have been times when I’ve been frustrated, mostly about the cost and doing the shots, but I just remind myself why I’m doing it. I have a piece of clothing from when I was at my starting weight and I ask myself do I want to get back to that – absolutely not! When it comes to the cost, it sucks but it’s cheaper than ending up with the whole array of health issues that come with being overweight. I sometimes have to remind myself that I’m not just doing this to look nicer in clothes, it’s to prolong my life and be able to go out and do things and be healthier as a whole. And I’ve got to remind myself of that too – that it’s not just weight.

Weight loss with Saxenda: Ivy's story

Weight loss with Saxenda: Ivy's story

Sometimes you do everything right but the weight won’t come off. It’s hard to work on yourself, by yourself. 

For the last 6 months, Ivy (37) has taken control of her health by combining support from the experts with Saxenda, a groundbreaking weight-loss treatment.

We spoke to Ivy about the steps she’s taken to lose weight and how it’s transformed her life. 

Tell us about your weight loss journey 

 

I’m a recent college grad. Before that, I was a graphic designer. Then I got really sick with thyroid cancer. I had to step away to focus on my health. I took a lot of medications and had surgery to remove my thyroid. 

 

I blew up to about 135 kg. There was no stopping it. I ate healthily and worked out. I did everything I could but it was out of my control. Every day I kept gaining and gaining. That happened for about five years. It got to a point where I was really sad. 

 

My doctor offered me Saxenda in June this year. It’s been a miracle. I’ve lost 43kg in 6 months. 

weight loss saxenda before and after

Did you try any other treatments before?

I was put on a lot of diet plans by doctors and earlier this year I tried a treatment but it didn’t really work, it made me feel like I was going to have mini heart attacks all the time. My chest felt really weird. 

 

I finally found a doctor who cared and listened to everything I had to say. Most doctors would roll their eyes as if it was my decision to be this way. But this doctor really listened and helped me come up with a solution that worked for me.

 

What were your main motivations for taking it?

I wanted to feel better about myself. I wanted to be healthier. I wasn’t happy with where I was and wanted to do something to get me to a better place. Not just mentally but also physically. 

 

I wasn’t sure what the results were gonna be. There’s not a lot out there showing results from real people. I guess they might be embarrassed to speak about taking medication to lose weight. But I’m screaming about it from the top of my lungs. It’s a game changer that people should really know more about. 

 

Did you have any hesitations about using it?

 

Not at all. I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions. I felt comfortable taking it. There was never any hesitation. My doctor and I discussed possible issues. But I never worried about that. I believe it’s worth the risk because you could suffer more from serious health complications from obesity like diabetes.

 

Did you have access to any professional support?

My doctor specialises in weight loss. She constantly monitors my weight, results, and everything like that. If I ever needed help, she was there. Had I not had the medication or the support, I wouldn’t have the results I have now. 

 

How long did it take you to start seeing results?

Within a week and a half. I lost 4.5 kg like it was nothing. I was losing weight astronomically fast. As much as 5 kg a week. My body responded very well to it. 

weight-loss-ivy-3

Are there any bad habits that Saxenda has helped you kick? Are there any new habits that you’ve formed as a result?

I love my wine. I drank a lot. I wasn’t an alcoholic or anything but I drank socially or on the weekend. I always had an excuse. About a month into taking Saxenda I noticed that I didn’t have a craving for wine anymore. It’s also reduced my cravings for unhealthy treats like sweets and chocolate.

 

When I went off Saxenda for about three weeks due to a shortage, it stayed like that. I definitely feel in a more positive mental state in general. I feel more active. I feel more energetic. I don’t feel sluggish. 

 

Were there any side effects?

I haven’t had any severe issues. But sometimes the needles struggle to get through my skin. I inject daily and I’m not sure if it’s scar tissue or a needle issue from injecting too much. But if I avoid that area and try different spots, it’s fine. 

Do you ever get cravings now?

I don’t get cravings at all. It’s changed how I eat. I’m full all day long.

weight loss ivy 4

Would you say your weight impacted your confidence, mental health, and relationships?

I’ve always been a very confident person and secure with who I am. But when I started to gain weight I lost my spark. I was losing myself. It was very hard to go from a positive, confident person to somebody who was scared to wear a shirt that didn’t have sleeves in public. I wore baggy clothes all the time. 

 

My relationships definitely suffered. I lost a fiance, and then a boyfriend because of my weight. I was constantly told: “You’d be so pretty if you would just lose weight”. I’ve been single since 2019. It wasn’t until I took time for myself that I decided to make a change. I wanted to do this for me, not anyone else. 

 

There’s been a huge change this year. In six months, I’ve lost almost 50 kg. I feel like a different person. In fact, I’m getting to a place where I probably look better than I did before. I see myself smiling more and I don’t need somebody to tell me I’m pretty. I know I am. 

Sh