Losing weight is a common goal for many people, but it can be a challenging and frustrating journey. For some, it may seem like no matter what they do, the scale just won't budge.
You can see why many people struggle with weight loss and may turn to medications as a potential solution. And with a new wave of medications containing semaglutide, the trend is only growing. One such medication, Ozempic, is a semaglutide medication that has become a buzzword in many communities for its ability to help with weight loss.
Ozempic is a brand name for the generic medication containing semaglutide, which is the active ingredient in these drugs, also sold under the brand names Wegovy and Rybelsus.
Ozempic was FDA approved in 2017, only for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The manufacturer of Ozempic, Novo Nordsick, also received approval for Wegovy in 2021, which contains semaglutide, at a high maximum dose and is approved as an anti-obesity drug. These drugs have dramatically altered the treatment of diabetes and obesity.
Ozempic and Wegovy belong to a class of medications called GLP-1 receptor agonists, which means they help to regulate blood sugar levels and can also reduce appetite.
The drugs work by mimicking the effects of glucagon-like-peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone that is naturally released in response to food intake. This hormone stimulates insulin production and suppresses the production of glucagon, which controls blood sugar levels 1.
It slows down the emptying of food from the stomach, leading to feelings of fullness and increased satiety from food. It helps to suppress appetite, eventually leading to weight loss.
It’s reported that patients generally feel less hunger and food cravings, better control of eating and a lower preference for high-fat foods 2.
Why have GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic become so popular for weight loss?
On a year-end earnings call in 2022, Novo Nordisk discussed their worldwide market growth of fifty per cent, and nearly forty thousand new Wegovy prescriptions being written every week. Ozempic and Wegovy have gained this popularity due to their effectiveness in promoting weight loss with promising results across several clinical trials 3.
The GLP 1 class of drugs have been popular amongst the rich and famous in areas like Hollywood and Silicon Valley and has been described as the ‘worst kept secret’ of these wealthy areas. The hype surrounding Ozempic has spread and people across the US are catching wind of this diabetic turned weight loss drug.
These drugs provide a new hope for people that have struggled with their weight for years, many who have been given little more advice that ‘eat less, move more’.
Why are people turning to weight loss medications?
We now have evidence that the mantra ‘eat less, move more’ doesn’t cut it.
When we gain weight, losing it again is very difficult because it’s likely we’re fighting biological processes such as leptin resistance. When we consume too many calories too quickly, it can cause neuroinflammation and damage the nerves in our brain that respond to hormones controlling body weight, like leptin 4. Leptin is produced in body fat and tells our brain when it's time to stop eating.
But here's the catch: when we gain weight, an oversupply of leptin can desensitize our body to it. This makes our brain think we're starving when we're not. So, our body tries to balance things out by slowing down our metabolism and making us hungrier. This tricky cycle of metabolic confusion makes it really hard to lose weight and keep it off, even with diet and exercise.
How does our brain keep track of all this? Our hypothalamus measures the amount of leptin in our blood and uses it to determine our ideal body fat level. It's kind of like how a thermostat works in our homes. The problem is that when we gain weight, our ideal body fat level—or "set point"—goes up. Our body then works tirelessly to defend against any weight loss as if we were starving. We become more sensitive to food cues, our cravings increase, and our energy expenditure goes down. Essentially, our body does everything it can to get that fat back, making weight loss a real uphill battle.
This is why weight loss feels so difficult. It’s not just about willpower; it's also about the complex processes happening inside our bodies. It’s also why people look to weight loss drugs, they can help combat the underlying metabolic processes you have to fight to lose weight.
However, whilst Ozempic has proven effective for many people, it comes with its own set of problems, such as side effects, high costs, and shortages. Below we explore 10 natural and pharmaceutical alternatives to Ozempic and why, for many, they are better options for sustainable weight loss and a happier, healthier life beyond the number on the scale.
The side effects and problems with Ozempic
Like many medications, Ozempic comes with a range of potential side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis. In one review, around 75% of participants in semaglutide trials experienced gastrointestinal symptoms 5.
Patients can also experience hair loss and a look that has been termed ‘Ozempic face’, where a face can look “gaunt, deflated and saggy” due to the rapid weight loss.
Additionally, it can be costly to obtain Ozempic, with or without insurance. The monthly cost can be upwards of $890, which can make it difficult for some people to afford.
Furthermore, while Ozempic, Wegovy, and other semaglutide medications may be effective in the short term, studies have shown that weight loss tends to plateau after about a year of treatment. In a 68-week trial with semaglutide, weight loss was regained when people stopped taking the drug 5. So whilst these medications may be helpful for jumpstarting weight loss efforts, for many they do not provide the sustainable long-term solution that most are searching for.
There are also major shortages of the drug and the manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, has struggled to keep up with demand, not helped by production issues. Insurance companies are reluctant to cover the weight loss drugs, especially for those who are not living with type 2 diabetes.
A recent article in the New Yorker also outlined the author’s personal experience with US telehealth companies and compounding pharmacies, who are selling semaglutide sodium—the salt form of the drug molecule, which is easily obtainable for bulk purchase online as a research chemical, but not FDA approved for use and therefore not known to be safe.
Combined, this makes them less than desirable as a long term solution for weight loss.
11 natural and pharmaceutical alternatives to Ozempic
So, what is the alternative to these weight loss medications? Lifestyle medicine and behavior change offer a more natural and sustainable approach to weight loss. Rather than relying on medications, lifestyle medicine focuses on making lifestyle changes that support overall health and wellbeing. This includes things like improving diet (without heavy restrictions), increasing natural movement and activity, managing stress, and getting enough sleep. By making these changes, individuals can not only lose weight but also improve their overall health and reduce their risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
For some people that are struggling with weight loss even with personalized lifestyle changes, for example the changes are hard to make alone or drastically enough to fight the underlying biology, there are many pharmaceutical alternatives to Ozempic that are effective when used as a short term tool in a lifestyle treatment plan. There are cheaper and more readily available alternatives to Ozempic available that physicians like ours at Mora Medical can prescribe and closely monitor alongside a lifestyle intervention to ensure your safety.
Here are some the combined natural alternatives to ozempic and pharmaceutical alternatives to Ozempic that can be safe and effective for weight loss:
- High-fiber foods: Increasing your amount of foods that are high in fiber naturally promotes feelings of fullness and a reduction overall calorie intake, 2 features that make Ozempic so popular. Some examples of high-fiber foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes 6,7.
- Getting enough protein: Protein can also help promote feelings of fullness and reduce appetite. Some good sources of healthy plant-based protein include beans, tofu, tempeh, and legumes. Plus, when you get the hang of cooking them, they are delicious 8.
- Wet starches: Wet starches like oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice can be filling and satisfying. These starches absorb water and expand in the stomach, which can help reduce hunger.
- Mindful eating: Mindful eating involves paying attention to your food and eating slowly. This can help you become more aware of your body's hunger and fullness signals and may lead to reduced calorie intake. Receiving signals from the brain that you’re full is something people with obesity can struggle with, mindful eating can help bring this back.
- Exercise: At Mora we like to think of movement over exercise, and the many ways to naturally bring more movement into your life, that don’t feel like a chore. Most of us know this can help burn calories and promote weight loss, it’s finding a way to keep it up regularly which is the challenge for many 9.
- Stress reduction: Stress can lead to overeating and weight gain. Finding ways to reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga, or therapy, can help with weight loss more than many realize.
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for overall health and can also help with weight loss. Lack of sleep has been linked to increased appetite and decreased metabolism because it regulates the levels of our appetite hormones, namely ghrelin and leptin 10.
- Water: Drinking enough water can help reduce calorie intake and promote feelings of fullness. It can also help with digestion and overall health.
- Intermittent fasting: Intermittent fasting involves restricting food intake for specific periods of time. This approach can help reduce overall calorie intake and promote weight loss.
- Behavior modification: Changing behavior around food and eating can be a sustainable way to lose weight. This can involve things like planning meals, setting goals, and seeking support from trained physicians, like those at Mora 11. Our physicians utilize CBT to drive long term change.
- Other medications: There are many other weight loss medications that can be used as short term tools to aid weight loss when used as part of a long term, lifestyle-focused treatment plan. These include Metformin, Topiramate, Zonisamide, Naltrexone and Bupropion. Our physicians can discuss these options with their patients to see what may be a good fit for them.
The Mora Treatment Plan: A Comprehensive Approach to Weight Loss
For many, the struggle with weight control can lead to a reliance on weight loss medications, as the conventional advice of 'eat less and move more' often proves ineffective or counterproductive — and neither are an approach to long term, sustained weight loss. Achieving lasting weight loss also involves more than just following a few lifestyle tips. If it was that easy, you may not be reading this article, and much fewer people would be struggling with their weight.
While the natural alternatives mentioned earlier can be effective, it can be challenging to adhere to them or implement them effectively without guidance. Our Mora Treatment Plan offers a comprehensive approach, emphasizing personalized care and behavioral change over a 12-week period. Our physicians go beyond the "eat less and move more" mantra, focusing on helping you make safe and sustainable changes to your lifestyle, encompassing nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, behavior change, and short term medications used only as a tool if appropriate.
Behavior change is vital for long-term success. Many grapple with weight gain due to underlying habits such as overeating, emotional eating, negative self image, or negative self-talk. By collaborating with an expert medical team who understand obesity's complexities, individuals can adopt strategies for lasting behavioral change and healthier habits.
Our treatment plan not only helps you make sustainable lifestyle changes but can also be a cost-effective alternative to Ozempic. By focusing on lifestyle adjustments, you can cultivate healthy habits that support lifelong weight loss goals.
Take the first step towards sustainable weight loss and learn more about Ozempic alternatives by contacting our team today.
2. Blundell, J. et al. Effects of once‐weekly semaglutide on appetite, energy intake, control of eating, food preference and body weight in subjects with obesity. Diabetes Obes. Metab. 19, 1242–1251 (2017).
3. Ahrén, B. et al. Semaglutide induces weight loss in subjects with type 2 diabetes regardless of baseline BMI or gastrointestinal adverse events in the SUSTAIN 1 to 5 trials. Diabetes Obes. Metab. 20, 2210–2219 (2018).
6. Kahleova, H. et al. Effect of a Low-Fat Vegan Diet on Body Weight, Insulin Sensitivity, Postprandial Metabolism, and Intramyocellular and Hepatocellular Lipid Levels in Overweight Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw. Open 3, e2025454 (2020).
8. Bujnowski, D. et al. Longitudinal Association between Animal and Vegetable Protein Intake and Obesity among Men in the United States: The Chicago Western Electric Study. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 111, 1150-1155.e1 (2011).