Ozempic and similar medications have been the celebrity weight loss open secret for months now. Celebs don’t really admit to being on a diabetes drug for vanity reasons, but some apparently go on it by accident and others say they don’t use it at all. And more stories are coming out about the side effects. There’s “Ozempic face,” which is the sunken, gaunt look from rapid and unnecessary weight loss. And now doctors are warning of its capacity for rebound weight gain after stopping injections.
While Ozempic and Wegovy are creating a lot of buzz as weight loss aids, doctors and patients are also discussing the “rebound weight gain” that can occur if the medication is stopped.
Ozempic — prescription medication for type 2 diabetes — and Wegovy — prescription medication for clinical obesity — are brand names for semaglutide, which works in the brain to impact satiety. Taken once a week by injection in the thigh, stomach or arm, the medications have recently been trending on social media and in Hollywood circles as some people have used it for weight loss, even though they don’t have diabetes or clinical obesity.
A study in the Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that a majority of people who take semaglutide gain most of the weight back within a year of stopping the medication, which can be difficult to control.
“We’re seeing a lot of patients have this rebound weight gain, and it can really be devastating,” Dr. Karla Robinson, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based family physician, told NPR.
Ania Jastreboff, M.D., PhD., an obesity medicine physician scientist at Yale University, tells PEOPLE that for those who use drugs like Wegovy or Ozempic, they have to continue taking the medications if they want to maintain the weight loss because diabetes and obesity are chronic conditions.
“[Expecting a patient with chronic obesity to lose weight through willpower] is akin to having a patient with diabetes and thinking that they can concentrate really hard to bring their blood sugars down,” Jastreboff continued. “You can’t do that, and with obesity, our patients can’t use their prefrontal cortex for the rest of their lives to impact every morsel of food that they eat. So, it’s not in our control. Once that set point is elevated, you need treatment.”
Content creator and model Remi Bader recently shared her own experience with Ozempic and how her weight rebounded after stopping the drug. She said her doctor prescribed her the medication in 2020 because she was pre-diabetic, insulin resistant and gaining weight.
However, Bader said on an episode of the Not Skinny But Not Fat podcast that it wasn’t the best treatment for her as it eventually worsened her binge eating, which she’s struggled with for years. She explained that although she was able to lose weight from the medication, when she stopped taking it her binge eating immediately returned.
“I saw a doctor and they were like, it’s 100% because I went on Ozempic,” Bader continued. “It was making me think I wasn’t hungry for so long, I lost some weight. I didn’t wanna be obsessed with being on it long term. I was like, I bet the second I got off I’m gonna get starving again. I did, and my binging got so much worse. So then I kind of blamed Ozempic.”
I’d seen the comments from Remi Bader about her rebound weight gain after taking Ozempic before I learned what Ozempic was. And I saw something from another content creator (whose name/handle escapes me) who openly discussed taking Ozempic and shared that she still ate while on it, but tiny, toddler-sized portions because she simply wasn’t hungry. So it makes sense that anyone who takes it and then stops will return to their normal, pre-medication appetite levels. It sounds like how when I’m not feeling well I’m not that hungry, but when I feel better I’m so hungry as if I’m making up for the past few days of diminished appetite. It makes sense that people would need to keep taking these different injections for maintenance if they have chronic conditions, but in my opinion the side effects don’t seem worth it if you’re just looking to lose 15 pounds or so. It’s like crash dieting to fit into a certain outfit, it works, but you gain the weight back once you start to eat normally again. Not to advocate for crash dieting, but it sounds like a better option than celebs getting medically unnecessary injections to lose a few pounds.
Photo note by CB: As mentioned above Remi Bader is an influencer who has been open about her post-Ozempic weight gain. Chelsea Handler has claimed not to know that her doctor was giving her Ozempic injections.
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