The pros and cons of semaglutide for weight loss

The pros and cons of semaglutide for weight loss

Nika Steward lost 104 lbs on semaglutide.
Nick Steward

  • Semaglutide is a drug originally developed for diabetes that was approved for weight loss in 2021.
  • Hailed as a “game changer,” it works by curbing appetite and can make people’s cravings disappear.
  • Six women who took semaglutide shared their pros and cons of the drug with Insider.

Since it was approved for weight loss nearly two years ago, semaglutide has been hailed as a ‘game changer’

Ozempic (semaglutide) is an injection once a week.
OEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images

Semaglutide started out as a diabetes drug but was approved by the FDA for the treatment of obesity in 2021.

Drugmaker Novo Nordisk produces semaglutide under the brand names Ozempic for diabetes and Wegovy for weight loss. Confusingly, Ozempic has become the buzzword for the once-a-week shot regardless of what version of the drug a person is on or why.

There have been drug shortages as people clamor to get their hands on them, and rumors swirl that celebrities are secretly taking the drugs.

The drugs are expensive, with Wegovy costing $1,349 a month and Ozempic $892 if they’re not covered by insurance, Insider’s Gabby Landsverk reported.

For this reason, some people have turned to the potentially risky compound semaglutide, which may be available in different doses, forms, or with alternative ingredients to the original products, but is also cheaper, Landsverk said.

Semaglutide works by suppressing the appetite, but side effects such as muscle wasting, nausea and diarrhea have been reported, and it is common to regain weight after stopping treatment.

Six women who are taking some form of semaglutide shared their experiences with Insider, from the highs of regaining their confidence and the “food noise” disappearing, to the lows of nausea and constipation.

Lana Rodriguez said semaglutide is the best thing that ever happened to her.

Lana Rodriguez before and after she lost 20 lbs
Lana Rodriguez

Lana Rodriguez, 37, began taking semaglutide as a weekly injection in September 2022 after years of bingeing and weight cycling.

As of January 2023, she’d lost 30 pounds and was happy in her body, so she’s since switched to a shot every two weeks with hopes of maintaining her weight.

Rodriguez, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, told Insider that the drug’s biggest benefits were:

  • He no longer needs to control the size of his portions
  • Killing the “food noise” in his head

“It’s the best thing that’s happened to me,” she said.

Rodriguez had constipation, nausea and headaches, but they are manageable, she said.

Lana Rodriguez before and after losing weight on semaglutide.
Lana Rodriguez

Rodriguez has experienced side effects such as dry mouth, a bitter taste, nausea, headaches and constipation.

The symptoms were mostly manageable, but the two biggest drawbacks for her were:

Rodriguez pays $200 per shot. He said this is expensive, but he feels safe knowing he gets his medication from an in-person doctor who is there to answer any questions, unlike his friends who ordered medication online for less. , he said.

Ashley Dunham’s blood tests improved after she lost 70 pounds in 5.5 months.

Ashley Dunham before taking semaglutide (left) and after 5.5 months (right).
Ashley Dunham

Ashley Dunham, of St John’s, Florida, lost 70 pounds in 5.5 months on compound semaglutide and said she would recommend it to everyone.

Dunham, 32, started taking semaglutide in August 2022 and gradually began to notice changes over the first couple of months.

The biggest benefits of the drug for Dunham are:

  • Weight loss
  • Improved blood test

“My blood tests are great across the board,” said Dunham, who is pleased that her blood glucose and cholesterol levels have improved.

Dunham struggled with nausea.

Ashley Dunham before semaglutide and during the weight loss process.
Ashley Dunham

Dunham has experienced a range of side effects including nausea, migraines and constipation, she said.

The biggest disadvantages of semaglutide for you are:

  • Nausea
  • Hyper-fixative on foods
  • Getting some backlash for taking the drug

The nausea was “awful,” Dunham said: “Not unmanageable, but not fun.”

By “hyper-fixation” on foods, Dunham means that if she feels like she wants, say, McDonald’s fries, she’s not satisfied and won’t eat anything else until she has them, she said.

Dunham wishes there was less focus on already-thin celebrities who allegedly take semaglutide out of vanity and more on how the drug can improve the health of people who really need it.

“There needs to be an understanding that this is an effective treatment for obesity and obesity is not just about size,” he said.

Nika Steward has lost 104 pounds and is no longer obsessed with food.

Nika Steward lost 104 lbs on semaglutide.
Nick Steward

20 years ago, Danika (AKA Nika) Steward, 39, had gastric bypass surgery and lost 100 pounds, but in the years since, she’s gained it all back and, after her third child, about 70 pounds more.

He started taking semaglutide in June 2022 and lost 104 pounds in the first nine months of treatment, Steward, who lives in suburban Raleigh, North Carolina, told Insider.

“It ended up being hugely successful and making me feel better than I ever did even after having gastric bypass surgery,” Steward said.

The biggest change for Steward and the one that didn’t occur with gastric bypass was the “food noise” in his brain shutting down.

The main benefits of semaglutide for Steward are:

  • Weight loss
  • Feeling healthier in general
  • No more obsessing over food

Nika Steward suffered from mild constipation and nausea.

Nika Steward before and after weight loss.
Nike steward

Steward’s worst side effect was constipation, which occurred whenever he increased the dose, as well as mild bouts of nausea.

The biggest disadvantages of the drug for her are:

  • Mild constipation
  • The cost and its dependence on health insurance

Semaglutide is currently covered by insurance Steward’s husband has through his work, and she knows her access is in the hands of the insurers.

Elizabeth Wood has lost 82 pounds so far and has gained a lot of confidence.

Elizabeth Wood before and after semaglutide
Elizabeth Wood

Elizabeth Wood, 26, was recommended semaglutide by her doctor to lower her BMI, and it was “life-changing,” Wood said.

He started taking it in October 2022 and lost 82 pounds in the first five months.

“It’s amazing. Everyone should try it if they’re trying to lose weight,” Wood said.

The biggest benefits for her were:

  • His old clothes fall back into place
  • Regain confidence

“Being able to enjoy looking in the mirror” was really motivating, Wood said.

Elizabeth Wood had no adverse side effects.

Elizabeth Wood before and in the middle of her weight loss journey.
Elizabeth Wood

Unlike many people on semaglutide, Wood had no negative side effects, she said.

The only con is the price, he said. But while semaglutide isn’t cheap, it’s worth it for Wood. And compared to surgery, which can cost up to $30,000, that’s not all that bad, he said.

“But if you’re talking about being there forever, then yeah, it could add up to that,” she added.

Mary Frances McCullar said semaglutide made weight loss easy after years of struggle.

Mary Frances McCullar in November 2022 (left) and April 2023.
Mary Frances McCullar

Mary Frances McCullar, 49, started taking a compound version of semaglutide on Jan. 4, 2023 and lost 21 pounds in the first 10 weeks.

Unlike many people drawn to semaglutide, McCullar didn’t have “food talk” or binge eating tendencies, but even after monitoring her macros and working with a trainer, she was still struggling.

Semaglutide showed her she could lose weight. McCullar’s biggest advantages are:

  • It gives you the confidence that you can lose weight
  • Makes weight loss easy

Mary Frances McCullar spends less money on food, which helps her pay for the cost of semaglutide.

Mary Frances McCullar before taking semaglutide (left) and midway through her trip.
Mary Frances McCullar

Like many people on semaglutide, McCullar has suffered from mild nausea and constipation, but has found the herbal tea helps.

The price of semaglutide is a big scam for McCullar, who spends $350 on five doses. However, she buys less food and drink which helps her save money, she said.

McCullar is annoyed by rhetoric that she and others are stealing drugs from diabetics, as well as rumors of already-thin celebrities taking the drug to get even thinner.

The biggest disadvantages for her are:

  • The cost
  • Negativity and backlash
  • Constipation

Staci Rice lost 62 pounds in eight months and is enjoying being healthier and more active.

Staci Rice before and after semaglutide.
Stacci rice

Staci Rice, 40, started taking semaglutide on May 4, 2022 after trying “every diet out there,” she said.

Rice, who lives in Gray, Georgia, lost 62 pounds and in January 2023 shifted her focus to maintenance and started injecting semaglutide every 10 days instead of weekly, she said.

The main benefits of the drug for you are:

  • Feel healthier
  • The knee inflammation is disappearing

These two things together mean he can run after his kids and get more exercise, which further improves his health.

“Semaglutide changed my life and I hope it’s around forever,” Rice said. “It was a miracle for me.”

Staci Rice would like people not to think that people taking semaglutide are lazy.

Staci Rice before and after her weight loss.
Stacci rice

Rice’s side effects included a dry mouth that didn’t go away when she drank water, a bloated stomach, some nausea and fatigue, she said.

However, semaglutide’s biggest scam for her was actually dealing with what people think, she said.

“A lot of people have this idea that you’re taking away from diabetics and that there’s a shortage out there,” Rice said. “Mine was compounded, so I haven’t actually used regular Wegovy or Ozempic to take anyone off. I feel like people think this is a lazy way to lose weight.”

Insider has previously reported on people using semaglutide who said they validated their experiences that the diet didn’t work.

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