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The Dark Side of Ozempic: How Weight Loss Success Can Fuel Disordered Eating

***This article is for informational purposes only. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions related to medication use or weight management.

This "miracle" medication, while primarily prescribed for managing diabetes, has received significant attention for its ability to drive substantial weight loss, especially when followed long-term.

However, amidst the success stories and transformative journeys, there lies a less discussed, darker facet: the potential for Ozempic weight loss side effects to intertwine with, and possibly exacerbate, disordered eating behaviours. This can be a huge problem. It underscores the need for a balanced approach to dieting and weight management that prioritises mental and physical health.

What is Ozempic?

Initially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017 for type 2 diabetes management, Ozempic has been a critical tool in blood sugar regulation.

However, its side effects have sparked a buzz in the weight loss arena.

In 2021, Wegovy, a higher dose of semaglutide, received FDA approval for chronic weight management. Although both medications contain semaglutide, Wegovy is specifically dosed for weight loss, whereas Ozempic targets diabetes care.

🧬 Mechanism of Action

Semaglutide belongs to the GLP-1 receptor agonist class, working its magic by mimicking a naturally occurring hormone. When injected weekly, it sends signals to the brain, making you feel full, and slows down digestion, similar to the effects of bariatric surgery. This unique combo helps to shed those extra pounds.

So far, clinical trials have shown promising results, with individuals experiencing an average weight reduction of 14.8% over two years compared to a 2.4% reduction with a placebo.

Off-Label Use and Media Hype

Despite its primary approval for diabetes, Ozempic is frequently prescribed off-label for weight loss. This practice has gained traction, partly due to endorsements from high-profile individuals and significant media coverage. The rising off-label use has led to concerns about potential health risks without proper oversight. The popularity of Ozempic has surged, prompting discussions about its safe use and the ethical implications of its widespread promotion for weight loss.

Eating Disorders Triggered by Weight Loss Drugs

  1. Biological Response: Weight loss drugs, especially GLP-1 agonists like semaglutide, can suppress appetite and alter the body's natural hunger and fullness cues. This can lead to disordered eating patterns and a disconnect from innate biological signals.

  2. Psychological Impact: Rapid weight loss induced by these medications can trigger obsessive thoughts and behaviours around food, leading to the development of restrictive eating patterns and unhealthy relationships with food.

  3. Neurotransmitter Influence: The modulation of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline by weight loss drugs can impact mood and behaviour, potentially contributing to the development of eating disorders.

  4. Societal Pressures: The societal emphasis on weight loss and body image can exacerbate the psychological impact of weight loss drugs, leading individuals to pursue extreme dietary restrictions and disordered eating habits to achieve unrealistic beauty standards.

  5. History of Eating Disorders: Individuals with a history of eating disorders may be particularly vulnerable to the psychological and physiological effects of weight loss drugs, potentially reigniting past disordered eating patterns and behaviours, as individuals may fixate on achieving a thinner appearance at all costs.

Post-discontinuation of the medication, increased appetite and cravings can lead individuals to revert to harmful behaviours such as excessive dieting or purging to manage weight gain.

Expert Opinions on Media Influence

Media and Stigma: Experts argue that media portrayal of weight loss drugs like Ozempic perpetuates weight stigma and unrealistic body standards, influencing public perception and behaviour towards these medications.

Vulnerability in Recovery: Those recovering from eating disorders are particularly susceptible to the glorified narratives of rapid weight loss, which may hinder their recovery process.

Holistic Care Advocacy: Professionals stress the importance of comprehensive care that includes dietary guidance and mental health support to mitigate the risks associated with these medications.

Psychological and Physical Risks

Johann Hari, the author of the book "Magic Pill", who has been taking the drug and has conducted extensive research on this subject, highlights 12 potential risks associated with Ozempic:

  1. Mental health side effects, including low mood or depression

  2. Loss of pleasure from eating, leading to potential emotional challenges

  3. Interruption of eating patterns, possibly uncovering deeper reasons for overeating

  4. Gastric side effects such as nausea and tiredness

  5. Increased risk of developing thyroid cancer

  6. Potential for pancreatitis, kidney problems, and gastrointestinal issues

  7. Physical changes such as "Ozempic face" and "Ozempic butt" due to substantial weight loss

  8. Loss of muscle mass and risk of malnutrition

  9. Rebound weight gain after discontinuing the drug

  10. Potential long-term effects that are not yet fully understood

  11. Concerns about similarities with past weight loss drugs that had dangerous side effects

  12. The need for continued long-term use for sustained benefits, as obesity is viewed as a chronic condition requiring permanent medical management

Coping Strategies for Those at Risk

🤔 Critical Consumption of Media

  • Understand that social media often portrays an idealised version of reality. Remember, it’s a highlight reel, not a reflection of daily life.

  • Acknowledge that many online images are edited to enhance appearances. These do not reflect true human imperfections which are normal and widespread.

🕒 Limiting Social Media Exposure

  • Gradually decrease the time spent on social media. Try specific times like avoiding use right after waking up or before bedtime.

  • Implement time limits such as 30 minutes a day to lessen the impact of social media on your mental health.

  • Consider periodic breaks from social media to assess its impact on your mood and self-esteem.

👥 Using Support Systems and Healthy Outlets

  • Follow accounts that promote diversity, positivity and motivate you to have more joy in life.

  • Post content that emphasizes non-physical attributes of people, supporting the body neutrality movement which focuses on what bodies can do rather than how they appear.

  • Redirect the time spent on social media to activities that bring joy and fulfilment, further boosting self-esteem and reducing the urge to compare oneself to others.


It's important to recognise the complex relationship between weight loss success and disordered eating, especially when using medications like Ozempic. While the journey to a healthier weight can be empowering, it's crucial to prioritize a balanced and sustainable approach to both physical and mental well-being.

Understanding the emotional and psychological factors, seeking support from healthcare professionals, and fostering a healthy relationship with food are essential components of long-term success.

By addressing the dark side of Ozempic and its potential impact on eating behaviours, we can navigate this journey with awareness, compassion, and a commitment to holistic health.

Remember, true wellness encompasses more than just a number on the scale – it's about nurturing a positive and nourishing connection with our bodies, emotions, and thoughts.

Curious to learn more? Book a a free 30-min non-obligatory discovery call to help you start your journey to better health!



Han, S. H., Safeek, R., Ockerman, K., Trieu, N., Mars, P., Klenke, A., Furnas, H., & Sorice-Virk, S. (2023). Public Interest in the Off-Label Use of Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 Agonists (Ozempic) for Cosmetic Weight Loss: A Google Trends Analysis. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, 44(1).

Hari, J. (2024). Magic Pill. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Powell, J., & Taylor, J. (2024). Use of Dulaglutide, Semaglutide, and Tirzepatide in Diabetes and Weight Management. Clinical Therapeutics.

Suran, M. (2023). As Ozempic’s Popularity Soars, Here’s What to Know About Semaglutide and Weight Loss. JAMA, 329(19).


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