Eating Disorder Therapy Vs. Ozempic and Other GLP-1s

Guest post by 2023-2024 doctoral extern, Vera Levi, MA

Many of our prospective clients are curious about GLP-1s for weight loss. They arrive seeking therapy for their eating disorder while simultaneously pursuing a prescription for Ozempic–not to treat a medical condition– but to lose weight. Here’s what you should know.Eating disorder therapy versus Ozempic [purple scrabble tiles spelling "eating disorder therapy vs. Ozempic"]

Eating Disorder Clients Seeking Weight Loss Medications

As an eating disorder therapist, I notice patients increasingly opting for Ozempic rather than treating their underlying eating disorders. As my externship year progressed,  more patients were bringing up the popular weight-loss drug. In a world where “before and after” pictures are touted as badges of honor, and weight stigma is alive and well, Ozempic can feel like the path of least resistance.

Reasons Weight Loss Medications May Not Be Helpful When You Have an Eating Disorder

Let’s talk about why it may not be the solution you’re hoping for.

Side effects of Weight Loss Medications (GLP-1s)

Weight Loss Drugs [Image description: purple scrabble tiles spelling "weight loss drugs"]Side effects can include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, stomach pain, headache, fatigue, upset stomach, dizziness, bloating, belching, gas, intestinal infection, and heartburn. For an individual with diabetes, doctors weigh these side effects against the health outcomes of that disease. However, simply using this drug for weight loss makes the side effects far less appealing.

Possible Cancer Risk from GLP-1s

Ozempic works by copying a naturally-occurring hormone, called GLP-1. This tricks your body into thinking that you are full. However, in a study by Bezin and colleagues (2023), the use of GLP-1 RA for 1-3 years was associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer and medullary thyroid cancer. We weigh the risk of cancer against the benefits of Ozempic for certain people. Ozempic reduces the number of adverse cardiovascular events and improves renal outcomes. In other words, for people who have genuine risk of heart attack or diabetes, Ozempic may be worth it. For someone who is merely in a larger body, but does not have cardiovascular events or diabetes, it may be worth reconsidering.

GLP-1s Require a Life-Long Commitment

To maintain weight loss, one is recommended to take Ozempic for the rest of their life. The official trial for Ozempic was scheduled for 59 months. It did not include data between 48 to 59 months. So many people dropped out of the study in 4 years that data toward the later part of the 4 years were simply left out. One has to wonder whether the Ozempic trial participants were so miserable with the side effect profile that it was too difficult to continue long-term. To take Ozempic for one’s entire life, one would have to be okay with living with the side effects mentioned above.

Suppressing Appetite Would Only Worsen a Person’s Existing Eating Disorder

As an eating disorder therapist, I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the main problems with using Ozempic. Artificially suppressing appetite is the opposite of eating disorder recovery. I’ve noticed a trend this year of individuals leaving eating disorder treatment after their doctors prescribed weight loss drugs. The drug companies sell the promise that in a smaller body, a person will finally love themselves. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen. The same negative beliefs that lead a person to take weight loss drugs are the beliefs that make it hard to love oneself even if the weight drops. This is how the eating disorder works. A longer-lasting solution is accepting and nourishing the body that you have.

Get Help for An Eating Disorder in California

If you want help for an eating disorder, help is only an email, call, or completed form away! EDTLA has caring eating disorder therapists who can help you find a lasting solution to accepting and nourishing the body you have. Contact EDTLA to get started.


Bezin, J., Gouverneur, A., Pénichon, M., Mathieu, C., Garrel, R., Hillaire-Buys, D., Pariente, A., & Faillie, J. L. (2023). GLP-1 Receptor Agonists and the Risk of Thyroid Cancer. Diabetes care46(2), 384–390.



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