There’s been a lot of information buzzing around about medication for weight loss recently — and if you’re interested in trying weight loss medication, it’s important to understand how it works, figure out whether or not it’s right for you, and make sure you’re adequately supported.
Dr. Karrie Hohn, Dr. Sita Kedia, physician assistant Katie Chambers, and dietitian Christaney Townsend — leaders of our Medical Weight Loss Program at PALM Health — answer some of the most common (and important!) questions people have about weight loss medications.
What medications are used for weight loss?
You’ve probably heard of the most common medications, Ozempic and Mounjaro. These are brand-name versions of peptide medications called Semaglutide and Tirzepatide, and they are actually medications for diabetes and blood sugar disorders. However, many of them are increasingly used off-label for weight loss.
Using medication off-label means using it for a purpose that is not officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
At PALM, we prescribe the peptide medications Semaglutide and Tirzepatide as a part of our Medical Weight Loss Program, which help control glucose, improve insulin sensitivity, decrease appetite and control caloric intake — all factors that contribute to weight gain. The medications work by decreasing gastric emptying (the movement of food from your stomach to your small intestine) and acting on areas of the brain that regulate appetite.
How do peptide medications help you lose weight?
Peptide medications are used to help people lose weight by affecting various hormonal pathways in the body.
Specifically, these medications work by mimicking the action of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is produced naturally in the body. GLP-1 is known to regulate blood sugar levels, promote feelings of fullness, and slow down the rate at which food is emptied from the stomach.
When you take medications like Ozempic and Mounjaro (Semaglutide and Tirzepatide), they bind to receptors in the body that are sensitive to GLP-1, activating these pathways and triggering a variety of effects that can help you lose weight.
One of the main effects is a reduction of your appetite. By promoting feelings of fullness and slowing down the rate at which food leaves your stomach, these medications can help you feel more satisfied after eating and reduce your overall food intake.
In addition to reducing your appetite, the medications can also help your body burn more calories. They do this by increasing your metabolism, or the rate at which your body burns energy. By increasing your metabolism, these medications can help you burn more calories throughout the day, even when you’re not actively exercising.
Finally, these medications can also have other health benefits that can indirectly help you lose weight. For example, they can improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels, which can reduce your risk of developing diabetes and other metabolic disorders that can contribute to weight gain.
How long does it take to see results on weight loss medications?
It can take a few weeks for the medications to begin acting upon your blood sugar levels, and many people begin to see results after that. The full effect of the medication can take between 6-12 months to see.
What are the side effects of these medications and can I prevent them?
Like most medications, Semaglutide and Tirzepatide may come with some adverse side effects. The most common ones include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and constipation.
While you can’t necessarily prevent them, it’s very important to monitor for serious side effects with the help of a medical professional. Additionally, since there may be risks in specific populations for these serious side effects, our team will screen you and help you decide if this is the right medication for you.
That’s why our Medical Weight Loss Program offers you the support of a medical team throughout your entire time on weight loss medications. They’ll monitor you closely for side effects and ensure that your health and safety are not in danger.
Why should I use a program like the Medical Weight Loss Program if I can just get the medications from online providers?
Though many people opt to get these medications online, this pathway does not always offer the level of support and supervision that’s best for a safe and effective weight loss experience. The most comprehensive and supportive pathway when it comes to using weight loss medications is to join a program.
With a Medical Weight Loss Program like ours, a team of experts will help you from start to finish. First, they’ll choose the right medication for you based on your health history, predispositions, and biochemistry. They’ll also help you establish a clear and actionable plan during the course of your medication and monitor your progress, side effects, and health throughout the process.
It can be very helpful to have a medical team hold you accountable, as well. You’ll be able to do weekly weigh-ins and regular check-ups throughout the program to stay on track.
With weight loss medications, there can be a tendency to lose weight rapidly, and if not properly monitored, this can result in loss of muscle mass, which can be detrimental to your health. Additionally, when people take weight loss medications without extensive support, they often tend to gain the weight right back as soon as they reach their goal and stop taking the medication. This can be incredibly frustrating and unsafe for your body.
In the Medical Weight Loss Program at PALM, your team will help you incorporate lifestyle changes and habits that are effective for long-term weight management, such as improving your nutrition, exercise, and stress management techniques. Learning and establishing these while you’re working towards a goal weight on medication will allow you to come off the medications safely and keep the weight off long-term.
Have more questions about weight loss medications or our Medical Weight Loss Program? Learn more about our program or chat with one of our advisers to see if you’re a good fit.
PALM Health is an innovative, whole-person medical and wellness company that helps people reach and maintain well-being. Our experts in medicine and wellness empower people to transform their health, become more resilient, and feel their personal best in mind and body.