- One patient in a clinical trial lost 200 since 2020 when taking the drug tirzepatide.
- Medication is not a quick fix: Prescription medication is expensive, and she faces stigma for taking it.
- As drug supplies dwindle, she said lifestyle changes are key to losing weight.
A 47-year-old woman who lost 200 pounds after participating in a clinical trial for a popular new drug used to regulate appetite says she was unprepared for all the challenges that come with losing weight. considerable weight.
In 2020, Tara Rothenhoefer signed up to participate Tirzepatide clinical trial, known by the brand name Mounjaro. Originally designed to treat diabetes, tirzepatide may help with weight control by acting on two different hormones that regulate appetite.
Rothenhoefer went from 342 to 210 pounds during the 18-month trial. She was then able to lose even more weight after getting her prescription but then she had to conserve her supplies after the manufacturer’s coupon expired and she could no longer afford it. more medicine. 1,000 USD a month cost of the drug.
Rothenhoefer said she was also unprepared for the intense weight discrimination she would experience along the way.
“It’s so upsetting, so hurtful,” she told Insider. People are assuming I’m taking the easy route.” “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that.”
Some experts and patients believe that Medications used for weight loss, including Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro, are helping reduce stigma around the issue of obesity by demonstrating how biology, not willpower, is the main factor determining body size. But rumors about celebrities using drugs and social media trends have added to misconceptions and stereotypes about them.
Rothenhoefer said she wishes more people understood the true long-term impact of drugs on people like her, how difficult it is to access them, and their limitations.
Weight stigma can be a serious barrier to health
Participating in a clinical trial was not an easy choice, Rothenhoefer said.
“In general, I’m not a big fan of taking medications. I don’t even like taking Tylenol. Participating in a clinical trial is a big thing. It feels like a leap of faith and you’re like a guinea pig,” she said. . “People like me had to work hard to make it accessible to anyone else.”
Rothenhoefer said she finally signed up because people’s perceptions of her weight had held her back for years.
“I was teased and bullied terribly in middle school and high school. I still carry that with me. I can remember very clearly the things people said to me,” she said.
Rothenhoefer said she is proud of her participation in the trial and feels a responsibility to share her experiences if it can help others, especially in debunking the notion that Drug users are looking for a quick fix.
“I don’t think people who have never faced this problem understand what it’s like to want to do anything to lose weight or keep it off,” Rothenhoefer says. “But there’s an aspect that makes you feel bad about not being able to do it yourself, and that really takes a toll on you.”
Research shows that weight discrimination can be a major contributor to mental and physical health problems and can even shorten your life expectancy. One study found that weight discrimination was associated with a 60% higher risk of premature death than smoking.
That’s true even or especially in healthcare settings, where shame or even medical gas lamp can prevent patients from receiving life-saving care or make them reluctant to see a doctor in the first place.
Healthy habits do not guarantee weight loss
Conventional wisdom holds that weight loss is simply a matter of eating less and moving more, but that can be a dangerous misconception because of factors such as genetics, hormone levels, medical conditions, and other factors. Other health and environmental factors may play a role in body size, registered dietitians say. told Insider.
The misunderstanding leads to the harmful notion that people with larger bodies must be sedentary or have unhealthy eating habits.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about overweight people is that they all sit in chairs and stuff their faces with food all day,” says Rothenhoefer. “I can tell you that’s not the case. Even when I weighed 380 pounds, I was still a very active person.”
But the relationship between weight and health is not simple. It’s possible to follow a good diet and exercise regimen to get healthier without seeing any changes on the scale, says Angie Asche, a registered dietitian.
And someone’s size is not a good indicator of their health or a reflection of their lifestyle, experts previously told Insider.
You can’t change your body or your lifestyle overnight
Another misconception about using medication for weight loss is that it is a “quick fix” that can help people lose weight quickly and keep it off.
Rothenhoefer says her weight loss journey has been a gradual process, with medication supporting small adjustments she makes in her routine over time.
“For the first few weeks, I didn’t make any big changes,” she said. I just eat less.”
As the weeks passed, she added new healthy habits (sometimes called “habit stacking”) but never relied on extreme measures like cutting out carbs.
Instead, she tries to eat less processed foods, cut down on added sugar and increase exercise during the day like walking at lunchtime. She also started doing quick exercises during the day, such as doing 10 squats every time she went to the bathroom. Finally, she felt energized enough to go to the gym and try new exercises like wall push-ups to prepare for more difficult exercises.
“It’s not something I’ve ever done before,” she said. “All these little changes you’re making cause you to lose more and more weight and you feel like you can do more.”
Medicines do not replace diet or exercise
Rothenhoefer said the biggest thing she wants people to understand about taking tirzepatide and other weight loss drugs is that taking it is a serious, long-term decision and not a miracle pill.
When she first lost access to the drug during a clinical trial, she was terrified of running out and stockpiled supplies in the refrigerator. Since then, she’s gradually reduced her dosage as much as possible and says she’s been able to maintain her weight at 142 pounds.
She attributes this change to her efforts over the years to build a new routine, including paying more attention to fueling her body with whole, nutritious foods and keep active.
“I feel like I got the job done,” she said. The injection is a great tool and I don’t think I would be here without it, but it’s not all about the medicine.”
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