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Experts caution against quick weight loss fixes after December festivities

As the two weeks of overindulgence fade into the background, many individuals are left struggling with weight gain.

Although studies show that individuals gain an average weight of one kilogram during the festivities, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that most people don’t lose the extra weight. It is even worse for individuals who are already overweight as they tend to gain more, with multiple studies showing that they gain at least two kgs.

As a result, there may be huge pressure to lose weight, but experts have warned against quick fixes to shed the festive weight.

“After the festive season, there’s a spike in these market gimmicks, like the notorious get-rich-quick schemes. Sellers strategically zero in on a specific demographic—individuals grappling with body image concerns,” offers Stephen Ogweno, a board member at the World Obesity Federation.

Earlier this year, Ozempic, an injectable drug used in the management of Type 2 diabetes was touted as a miracle diet drug on different social media platforms.

The injectable drug contains ingredients that mimic glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone that helps the brain to regulate appetite. On TikTok, the hashtag #Ozempic garnered more than 600 million views. X boss, Elon Musk also credited the drug alongside another drug to his weight loss.

In 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration approved semaglutide to be used in weight loss treatment for non-diabetic individuals who are obese.

Marketed as Ozempic for diabetes and Wegovy for weight loss, semaglutide joined the ranks of approved medications for non-diabetic weight management. Liraglutide, sanctioned by the FDA for weight loss purposes since 2014, goes by Victoza for diabetes and Saxenda for weight management.

However, a new study published in October last year found that people taking these medications for weight loss may be at higher risk for serious digestive problems such as stomach paralysis, pancreatitis, and bowel obstructions.

According to Ongweno, who battled obesity in his childhood and has since founded Stowelink Foundation (Kenya) an organisation primarily focused on improving literacy, access to diagnostics, and patient Advocacy for non-communicable diseases like obesity, people need to be in full knowledge of complications involved.

“There are effective weight loss drugs, but they are offered in addition to other practices that when well combined, result in a healthy weight loss routine,” he says.

Highlighting the importance of a thorough evaluation, he emphasises that before embarking on any weight loss medication, individuals should undergo a comprehensive analysis, to check vital parameters such as lipid levels and blood profiles.

“Weight gain is influenced by a myriad of factors that are not related to overindulgence. It could be an underlying medication condition like a problem with your thyroid, kidney, or the heart,” he offers.

The 2022 Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) indicates a sobering portrayal of the obesity landscape in Kenya, with 19 percent of men and forty-five percent of women between the ages of 20 and 49 having excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.

For adults, the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines overweight and obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 25 and greater or equal to 30 for obese individuals.

“It’s not solely these medications that should raise concern among Kenyans. As we try to get back to our normal rhythms, a surge of peculiar recipes and concoctions floods the market, touted as miraculous solutions for shedding weight. I have come across who say they gained weight despite taking these concoctions and drugs,” he observes.

When it comes to weight loss, Ongweno underscores the essence of a gradual journey.

“It’s about embracing a lifestyle that involves monitoring not only your weight but also your mental health, recognising that all these aspects collectively influence weight dynamics. Further, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution,” he adds.

The first thing, he says, is realising that weight loss, much like weight gain, is not an overnight process. “It could take up to six months to lose weight in a healthy way,” he offers.

Besides physical activity, the health practitioner, recommends embracing a diet rich in healthier food choices and addressing emotional factors such as stress, that contribute to unhealthy eating habits.

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