If you’ve thought about taking weight loss medications in the last few years, you’ve likely heard of Ozempic and Wegovy. These brand names for semaglutide have garnered attention from patients, physicians, and even TikTokers for their ability to produce significant weight loss.
With that said, the use of semaglutide for weight loss is still relatively new, and we have more to learn about its long-term effects. One common concern among patients is what happens when you stop using semaglutide, especially after months of depending on it for weight management.
In this article, we’ll help you plan for long-term weight loss by exploring what can happen after you stop taking Ozempic and Wegovy.
How Does Semaglutide Work For Weight Loss?
To better understand the possible results of stopping Ozempic, let’s first clarify how exactly semaglutide works.
Ozempic and Wegovy are both classified as GLP-1 receptor agonist drugs. This means that they mimic natural GLP-1, a hormone that the body naturally creates in the gastrointestinal tract. It’s released when you eat to stall stomach emptying and reduce feelings of hunger.
Officially, Ozempic is a type 2 diabetes medication because it stimulates the release of insulin in response to elevated blood sugar levels. However, it’s also been found to help with weight loss by reducing appetite, increasing satiety, and curbing cravings. Wegovy, on the other hand, has been FDA-approved for weight loss in adults who are overweight or obese.
Why Do Patients Stop Taking Ozempic?
The FDA approved semaglutide for long-term weight management in 2021. So, if it’s considered a safe long-term weight loss treatment, why would patients choose to stop taking it? There are a few reasons:
Like most prescription medications, Ozempic and Wegovy can cause side effects. Some of the most common side effects of these weight loss drugs include:
- Stomach pain
- Gas and belching
In clinical trials, nausea occurred in 11.4% to 20% of patients taking subcutaneous semaglutide and just 3.3% to 8% of patients taking a placebo. Vomiting and diarrhea were less common, occurring in 4% to 11% of patients.
Patients who experience side effects from Ozempic or Wegovy may decide to stop taking the medication. Side effects can disrupt your daily routine, and the side effects may not be worth the benefits of taking semaglutide. In any case, if you’ve been prescribed Ozempic or Wegovy and experience side effects, talk to your doctor to learn more about your options.
With the remarkable publicity that semaglutide for weight loss has received over the past few years, more and more patients are starting to take it. While this may help more patients reach a healthy weight, it has a significant downside: shortages.
There’s currently a global shortage of semaglutide due to increased demand. This is making it difficult for both diabetes and weight loss patients to obtain Ozempic or Wegovy. Online pharmacies can help with this issue, but many patients have been forced to stop taking the medication because it’s simply too difficult to find.
Ozempic and Wegovy can be expensive, especially for uninsured patients. Ozempic averages both $1,000 for a one-month supply, which puts it out of reach for thousands of patients across the U.S. and world. For some patients, the price tag is the only reason why they have to stop taking semaglutide.
What Happens When You Stop Taking Ozempic
When you stop taking Ozempic or Wegovy, their effects quickly disappear. This typically leads to:
Your regular appetite will return after you stop taking semaglutide. Satisfaction with small portions will also go away, making it more challenging to stick to a low-calorie diet. This is because stomach-emptying and hunger signals will go back to normal.
An absence of cravings is one of the key benefits of taking semaglutide for weight loss. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the first things to go after you stop taking Ozemic or Wegovy.
Some patients start to feel indifferent to food while taking semaglutide, making it easy to avoid the high-calorie foods they used to crave. When the medication is no longer in your system, you’ll likely have these cravings again, and they may be more difficult to ignore.
Elevated Blood Sugar
As we’ve already mentioned, semaglutide lowers blood sugar levels, making it a popular medication among type 2 diabetes patients. But, when patients stop taking this medication, their blood sugar levels can rapidly rise.
For diabetes patients, this blood sugar surge can be dangerous, potentially requiring emergency medical care. Patients may have fatigue, extreme thirst, urination, blurry vision, and an increased risk of fungal infection, all of which are telltale diabetes symptoms. Physicians often recommend that patients take other diabetes medications, such as insulin or metformin, to ease their transition off of semaglutide.
Patients who are taking semaglutide for weight loss and aren’t diabetic should still be aware of the risk of elevated blood sugar and plan accordingly.
When patients’ normal appetite and cravings return, weight regain is likely to occur. Additionally, after being on a low-calorie diet for an extended period, your body may try to “catch up” with a larger-than-usual appetite and extreme cravings.
In a 2022 clinical trial published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, one year after stopping once-weekly injections of semaglutide (2.4-milligram dose) and lifestyle intervention, patients regained two-thirds of their previous weight loss. These results suggest that obesity is a chronic condition requiring ongoing treatment.
The best way to combat weight gain is to keep up with a low-calorie diet and regular exercise routine after stopping semaglutide treatment.
Reversed Facial Changes
Not all of the effects of stopping Ozempic are bad. For one, patients may notice that facial changes caused by semaglutide, sometimes referred to as “Ozempic face”, go away when they stop taking the medication.
“Ozempic face” occurs because semaglutide shifts fat volume in all areas of the body, including the face. This can give the face a gaunt or sunken appearance. Note that this is a common side effect of all types of rapid weight loss, not just taking Ozempic.
Some patients choose the combat “Ozempic face” with facial fillers and injectables, which help restore volume to thinning areas of the face. However, simply stopping semaglutide treatment can have the same effect.
Relief From Side Effects
Another positive effect of stopping medication is relief from side effects. While some patients stop taking Ozempic for this very reason, others may not realize that they’re experiencing side effects until they’re no longer taking the medication. This is particularly true for more subtle side effects, such as fatigue, mild headaches, and upset stomach.
Luckily, for many patients, side effects go away almost immediately after missing a dose of semaglutide.
How To Avoid Weight Gain After You Stop Taking Ozempic
Stopping semaglutide treatment doesn’t have to derail your weight management goals. Here are a few tips to minimize weight gain during this transition:
Implement a Plan to Maintain Your Lifestyle
Ozempic and Wegovy work in conjunction with lifestyle changes to trigger weight loss. In other words, a low-calorie diet and regular exercise are essential to losing weight with semaglutide. So, if you’re going to stop taking semaglutide, create a plan to maintain your healthy lifestyle. This plan may include:
- Finding forms of exercise that you enjoy
- Gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts to burn more calories
- Find healthy foods that fill you up with fiber, healthy fats, and protein
- Adhere to regular mealtimes
- Continue monitoring your weight after stopping Ozempic
For many patients, a physician’s support is invaluable to maintaining healthy lifestyle changes and keeping weight off. So, along with the tips listed above, talk to your doctor about strategies for retaining your results while transitioning off semaglutide.
Consider Other Weight Loss Treatments
For many patients with obesity, maintaining healthy habits with willpower alone isn’t a sustainable weight loss plan. Other forms of support are crucial to long-term success. So, before stopping semaglutide treatment, talk to your physician about other weight loss treatments that could help you keep off the weight that you’ve already lost.
Manage Your Expectations
Most patients are likely to gain back some weight after stopping Ozempic, including those who continue to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Although this can be discouraging, coming to terms with it can improve your transition. So, talk to your doctor about what to expect after stopping Ozempic and try to manage your expectations accordingly.
Looking Ahead: Ozempic for Weight Loss
No matter the reason, transitioning off of Ozempic or Wegovy for weight loss can be stressful. It may feel like you’re putting your hard-earned weight loss progress in jeopardy. But, with the support of a trusted physician, it’s possible to remain on the path to your weight loss goals, even after you stop taking semaglutide.