Quick fix weight loss denies the Cross

By  Cathy Majtenyi
  • April 13, 2023

It’s the latest craze that promises to melt off unwanted pounds — with the push of a button.

Ozempic is a brand name for semaglutide, an injectable drug that treats Type 2 diabetes. It lowers blood sugar levels by helping the pancreas produce more insulin when blood sugar levels are high, prevents the liver from producing and releasing too much sugar and keeps food in the stomach longer.

An added benefit? Most users shed weight while on the drug. For example, participants in one research study lost up to 15 per cent of their body weight following almost a year-and-a-half of weekly semaglutide injections.

Very good news for people suffering from Type 2 diabetes — and for those without Type 2 diabetes looking for the “quick fix.”

Testimonials from “influencers” describing how Ozempic has helped them achieve their svelte looks are exploding on social media platforms. As a result, demand has skyrocketed in the United States and other countries. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration records shortages in Ozempic and another semaglutide drug called Wegovy, which treats obesity. 

That is a worrying trend, as Ozempic is often the diabetics’ drug of choice. People with Type 2 diabetes must control their blood sugar levels to prevent kidney damage, blindness, loss of limbs, nerve problems and risk of death from heart attacks and strokes.

Not having access to this important drug is problematic as seen in the example of Chloe, a Type 2 diabetes patient in northern England who had been taking Ozempic for a year. 

All the pharmacies in her area were out of stock for the long term, which meant Chloe had to switch to an inferior drug that initially gave her fatigue and headaches. Meanwhile, a local hairdresser encouraged one of Chloe’s friends to purchase Ozempic to lose weight.

It’s unconscionable that people who are not diabetic or medically obese are diverting life-saving medications away from those who need it, a trend occurring in Canada, too.

It’s unacceptable people would put their own health at risk of developing thyroid cancer, an inflamed pancreas, vision problems, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, among other Ozempic side effects.

Losing weight is hard work. It takes tremendous discipline and commitment to plan, shop for and cook nutritious meals, avoid eating fast foods, limit portion sizes and exercise to achieve a healthy weight. Yet, many weight loss supports are being eroded through cost-cutting measures or the pursuit of more profitable ventures.

A shocking example occurred March 6, the day WeightWatchers announced the purchase of a digital health company called Sequence. The next day, shares of WW International Inc. were up 79 per cent.

WeightWatchers has long offered innovative, science-based programs to bring about weight loss through nutritional eating and behaviour change. Weekly meetings, one-on-one coaching and an array of tools have helped millions lose and keep off pounds. 

With its purchase of Sequence, WeightWatchers members in the U.S. can now make telehealth appointments with doctors who can prescribe drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy. 

“As science advances rapidly, we know there is a significant opportunity to improve outcomes for those using medications,” said Sima Sistani, CEO of WeightWatchers. “It is our responsibility, as the trusted leader in weight management, to support those interested in exploring if medications are right for them.” 

Then, on March 26, the company closed many of its centres — where the in-person weekly support meetings take place — in the U.S. and about one-third of its 118 locations across Canada, with lay-offs across the globe.

These latest developments fly in the face of WeightWatchers’ long-standing philosophy of following the program, doing the hard work, believing in yourself and cheering on others to achieve long-term success. Turning to drugs sets a destructive precedent.

Admittedly, it’s tempting to take Ozempic when the needle on the scale doesn’t budge despite our most heroic efforts. Indeed, there may be rare cases where people without diabetes or obesity could benefit from drugs as a last resort.

But Ozempic has become the strategy of first resort, the quick fix that circumvents denial of the flesh, carrying of the Cross, short-term discipline that yields long-term blessings and our need to rely on God to resist temptation: all elements of a Christian walk down the narrow path. 

Parishes should consider offering weight-loss support groups. Ideas for programs include: New Life Promise (Catholic), the Light Weight Diet (Catholic), The Daniel Plan (Christian) and TOPS (secular).

(Majtenyi is a public relations officer specializing in research at an Ontario university.)

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