Weight Loss Drugs Fail Emotional Eaters | Weight Loss Medication

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Trendy Weight Loss Drugs Are Failing Emotional Eaters

You may be dropping pounds. But are you ignoring where true healing can be found? 

By Sarah Sapora 

I once sat in a darkened parked car pulled over on the side of a road eating two packages of king-size Twix bars and a Starbucks lemon loaf. It wasn’t because I was hungry, it was because I was sad. Specifically, because I’d poured a bunch of heart and hope into a guy who had rejected me and I was feeling a bit wretched. This is, of course, the perfect time for pound cake. Ahh, the life of an emotional eater — using food to numb out the stuff that really hurts. 

Talk to any person who has been a serial dieter their whole life and, if they’re being honest, they’ll tell you that losing weight didn’t actually make them happier. Weight loss may have improved their quality of life, given them more access to the activities and experiences that facilitate joy, and provided big hits of adrenaline when feeling proud for every “You look SO GREAT!” comment, but it didn’t quiet the voices that talk to them in the middle of the night. The ones that say… “You aren’t enough….” or “You are hard to love.” These same voices replay painful exchanges with parents or partners that have convinced us, for whatever reason, we are shameful and broken and undeserving. For many people, these are also the same voices that propel us toward emotional eating. 

I’m not against weight loss. In fact, I have struggled with my weight my entire life — at my heaviest having been over 369 lbs — and know that my health and overall well-being would improve with weight loss. However, I’m a realist who understands the impact of having an emotional relationship with her body, food, and weight. So, I can’t help but think about what would happen if all the people who have been seduced by weight loss drugs learn that their rapid weight loss did not, in fact, heal what hurts them inside. Or, even more so, what happens when they stop taking the drugs, regain lost weight, and find themselves back on the dieting hamster wheel carrying an extra layer of shame for having “failed” at their goal? How will that impact their overall mental and emotional well-being?

A Ballooning Trend: Weight Loss Drugs
In a recent month, almost enough prescriptions were written for Ozempic in the United States to medicate every person in Iceland. Really. A recent report showed that in the last week of February 2023, Ozempic prescriptions in the US reached an all-time high of over 373,000 filled; the population of Iceland is around 375,000. If you are anything like me, you’ve probably heard the words Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro, and you’ve seen the “new and improved” photos of celebrities, read the gossip, and caught the buzz on social media… people are dropping weight — fast.

How many of those 373,000 people taking weight loss drugs are doing it to lower their A1C, reduce their risk of heart disease, or improve their overall health? And how many of them are doing it, instead, to hit a magical goal weight… to weigh as much in their 40s as they did in high school or to look “hotter” and wear a bikini again. 

What percentage of those using weight loss drugs are doing so in a balanced, sustainable way while addressing any underlying emotional causes for disordered eating and unhappiness? How many are taking these drugs to drop as much weight as they can as fast as possible? Feel young again? Get back at an ex? Avoid the weight stigma and shame that comes with living in a fat body?

How many people utilizing weight loss drugs are hoping to become the “After” in a “Before and After” photo?  Seeing our “Before” as someone unworthy and our “After” as being a version of us that has finally earned the right to be happy and feel loved? Many of us, myself included, have taken such comparison images and used them to score some social equity. But, you don’t have to hate yourself first in order to love yourself next. Shame that we are unworthy and unlovable for the size of our body or our perceived mistakes is not a foundation on which to grow and create sustainable change. 

So many of us are chasing what we believe weight loss will do for us, without focusing on what is actually necessary to experience those feelings. It’s this chase that brings so many people to weight loss drugs that offer a fast fix. Except this “fix” — the one that appears to bypass all the hard stuff that is actually needed to create sustainable change — may also be the one thing with the power to hurt us the most.

A Healthy Approach to Weight Loss
The truth is, we can never be the perfect “After” because there is no such thing. Our life does not progress in a sterile and straight line; it twists and turns, moving us forward and backward, again and again. When one part of our life feels shining and glorious, another part may be smothered without oxygen. We are a sequence of choices that moves us through life and takes us in different directions. Each layer of us is the ending of one thing blended into the start of something new. Seamlessly transitioning and overlapping, messy and beautiful at the same time — becoming a stack of squiggles.  

Think about your journey as Soul Archaeology.

Whether or not you use weight loss medications as a tool, focus more on unearthing the pieces that weigh you down emotionally, as you do the surface level changes that weigh you down physically. View your body as something you are in constant conversation with. Ask, “What do you really need right now to feel whole?”

Take it layer by layer. Dig slowly. Offer yourself compassion and hold yourself accountable to the difficult realizations you discover about yourself. Cultivate a culture within your own body that allows for the ebb and flow of life — be accepting of the seasons when you “crush it” at the gym, and accepting of the seasons when you are soft and at rest. Create a balanced life that has as much room for lean protein as it does for a decadent, homemade cookie.

And understand, fully and deeply, that a tool like weight loss drugs is only one of many at your disposal to grow into your Ultimate You — the most empowered, authentic version of you. Be aware of what weight loss medications can — and cannot — do so that you are not looking for true healing in places it can’t be found. Don’t lose yourself in the false promise that a surface-level “Before/After” transformation will unlock dream-level happiness. It’s not about your weight. It’s not about the scale. It’s about you.

Sarah Sapora is the author of Soul Archaeology – A (Totally Doable) Approach to Creating a Self-Loving and Liberated Life (August 8). She is an inspirational speaker, social media community leader, and the creator of size-inclusive live events and retreats. She has helped hundreds of thousands of women learn to navigate the sticky place between self-acceptance and self-improvement. You can find Sarah on Instagram @sarahsapora or Facebook

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