People love an easy answer to their weight problems – a magic bullet – a quick fix – even though they almost always turn out not to solve anything other than in the short term. So there’s been a flurry of excitement about a new injection that’s popular with celebrities.
So what it is they’re offering?
Semaglutide is a drug you have to inject in your stomach every week. It was intended and has been used so far for Type 2 diabetes to control blood sugar. In America they approved its use for weight loss a couple of years ago. Its effectiveness was shown by a robust trial with impressive results. In particular, it reduces appetite.
What’s the catch?
As always with drugs, there’s a sting in the tail. Side effects were suffered by the majority of those who had it and might explain why people lost their appetite.
Of the people in the trial who got the drug rather than a placebo:
- nearly half (44%) reported nausea
- one in three (32%) suffered diarrhoea
- one in four (25%) reported vomiting
- three quarters (74%) reported gastrointestinal disorders.
Others suffered problems with their pancreas, eye damage (1 in 10!), plus a host of lesser things like bloating, pain, wind and weakness. More worryingly, in animal studies it caused thyroid cancer. It’s too early to tell whether that will happen to people.
The NHS will prescribe it for a maximum of 2 years. (BBC news.) But note that you also have to do a calorie controlled diet at the same time plus an hour and a half of exercise a week. And you only get the benefits if you keep having it. When you stop, you’ll regain weight – just like dieting.
Weight or Health?
The balance of priorities between weight and health seems to be ever skewed towards losing the pounds at any cost. It’s been like that for decades and I’m sure things like Instagram and TikTok have only made it worse with image comparisons. For me, health comes first. I lost my health for years due to eating wrong and I wouldn’t wish that misery on anyone.
If you’re tempted by this jab, it’s probably because your past habits have not given you the body you want. What you really need is better habits which lead automatically to your body returning to an appropriate weight as everything comes back into balance. Artificial ways that force your body to lose weight eg pills, injections, meal replacement shakes, bars and diets, don’t help you learn how you eat well.
To be slim and healthy, there is no quick fix. You’ll have to invest a bit of time and effort although perhaps not as much as you feared or the ads for convenience food-like products have brain-washed you into believing. You can make easy changes eg eat a bit of salad with your lunch instead of bread or crisps, reduce how often you indulge in sugary things (biscuits, chocolate, snack bars), cut out vegetable oil and go back to butter, drink some water.
You shouldn’t expect a new body next week but you can enjoy a more vibrantly healthy life year after year with real food. I love it when I see or hear from past clients who find that as time goes by, their body shape improves and their health and energy levels too. So I don’t promise a quick fix. Healthy eating isn’t a magic bullet, it’s a better lifestyle.
Top tip – for a more vibrantly healthy life, say no to any quick fix and learn to eat well.
I got the numbers from Zoe Harcombe’s piece ‘A story about weight loss.’