Dear Readers: In a recent column, I criticized the sudden popularity of using diabetes medications for weight loss. I was responding to news reports that an increasing number of people are using it for casual weight loss to drop a few pounds. But many readers felt that I wasn’t aware of the latest scientific studies in this area of clinically obese people. I am grateful for the many messages I have received on this topic and want to share some with you:
Dear Annie: I feel compelled to respond to your recent conversation with someone writing about their friend successfully losing weight with the help of GLP-1 receptor drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy.
Yes, healthy eating and exercise are an important part of any lifestyle, but there are those of us who, through a combination of genetics and other factors, find ourselves weighing 50 or even 100 pounds. We are not like you. Our weight challenges are not simply a failure to exercise proper willpower.
I lost 50 lbs on my own through healthy choices before I switched to these new miracle drugs after 2 years of not being able to lose any more on my own. Once on the drug for two months, I felt the most puzzling emotion: anger. This is what you feel when you are in a normal body. A body in which blood sugar swings causes an insatiable hunger that spoils our lives and destroys our bodies. Those of us who have struggled with obesity our entire lives are just beginning to feel what it’s like to be in a body like yours, and we’re more than a little angry that it’s taken this long. We are angry because we are told our issues are based on willpower or simply fail to balance energy as energy goes out.
These drugs were initially discovered in the treatment of type 2 diabetes — and there’s a stigma for obese non-diabetics who get the drugs — but type 2 diabetes is where most of us are headed for untreated obesity. I don’t feel guilty about getting involved with obesity now rather than waiting for my type 2 diabetes to take hold of me.
We already face huge hurdles in getting these drugs. For example, most insurance plans still get away with the bariatric coverage exclusion, so we have to pay $350 to $1,350 a month out of pocket, depending on the medication. But of course, if we get so sick that we become type 2 diabetics, the medications are taken paradoxically without problems.
I ask you to encourage your readers not to pass judgment on the use of these miracle drugs – at least until they have moved about 100 extra pounds each day of their lives. – Tanweer Al-Nahif
Dear Enlightenment: You have stated the case clearly so that you can be a spokesperson for clinically obese people who benefit from these medications. I greatly appreciate your important comments.
Dear Annie: I am a registered nurse who administers this class of medication to patients with obesity-related conditions who have difficulty losing weight through diet and exercise alone. There are a whole host of factors for some individuals that make weight loss with conventional methods next to impossible. Factors like thyroid disease, PCOS, autoimmunity, certain medications, insulin resistance, genetics, etc., make losing weight very difficult. Ignorance is not bliss
Dear Annie: I urge everyone to watch NOVA’s special The Truth About Fat, which delves into the new science and knowledge behind the worldwide prevalence of obesity. Science now knows that the obesity gene occurs in more than 30% of the population. Science is important
Send your questions to Annie Lane at [email protected].
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