Weight Loss Medication in the Calibrate Program: A Guide to GLP-1 Medications
At Calibrate, we know that metabolic health goes beyond what the scale says; it means you’re also healthy and balanced on the inside.
Reprogramming your metabolic system isn’t about restricting calories or implementing extreme physical activity into your routine. Instead, it’s about incorporating impactful and sustainable changes in the foods you eat, how you sleep, how much you exercise, and how your emotional health is supported.
But that’s not all.
With Calibrate, you’ll also leverage the power of clinically-proven, FDA-approved weight loss medications called GLP-1s, like Ozempic® (semaglutide), Wegovy® (semaglutide), Trulicity (dulaglutide) and Saxenda (liraglutide), to help lower your set point and send signals to your brain to regulate your metabolic function, reduce your appetite, and help you feel full. Keep reading to learn more about GLP-1s and their unique benefits at improving metabolic health. We spoke with endocrinologist and Calibrate doctor Gaja Andzel, MD, about what to know.
WHAT ARE GLP-1 WEIGHT LOSS MEDICATIONS?
GLP-1s (glucagon-like peptide-1s), also known as incretin mimetics, are a class of prescription medications that have been proven to be effective in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and in support of losing body weight.
GLP-1 medications mimic the effect of the GLP-1 hormone naturally produced in the gastrointestinal tract. GLP-1s were initially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2005 as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. But experts soon learned that in addition to improving glucose levels, GLP1-s also resulted in weight loss and other metabolic health benefits.
How do GLP-1s work?
In your body, GLP-1s are powerful hormones made by your gut that send signals to your brain to help you feel full, regulate your blood sugar, and decrease your appetite. Research suggests that people who hold onto more weight experience reductions in GLP-1 signaling.
The GLP-1 weight loss drugs used in the Calibrate program help your body to fight the natural increases in appetite and hunger that occur as you begin to lose weight. They also work with aspects of your metabolic system, including your body’s blood sugar regulation and your weight “set point,” so you can keep weight off for the long-term.
Why does Calibrate use GLP-1 medication?
GLP-1s target the underlying biology that is most critical for weight loss by affecting your body’s set point and improving how it handles insulin and glucose. But GLP-1s also work to improve metabolic health, with far-reaching benefits including reducing inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk. In that way, these medications don’t just help you lose weight, they help you to live a longer and healthier life.
So, how are GLP-1s different from other weight loss medications?
Unlike other weight loss medications, GLP-1s address the underlying biology that is most important for weight management.
Phentermine, for example, is a stimulant (an amphetamine-like analogue) that reduces hunger so that you can more easily stick to a low-calorie diet—but again, eating less is not a sustainable solution for weight loss. Phentermine can also cause serious side effects including migraines, increased thirst, dry mouth, and significant elevation in blood pressure—which can force your heart to work harder and exacerbate any existing heart conditions.
Contrave, another popular weight loss medication, is a combination of Wellbutrin (a medicine primarily used in the treatment of depression), and naltrexone (a drug used primarily in the prevention of alcohol or opioid abuse). Like phentermine, Contrave helps to reduce appetite, but does not address the most important underlying biology of weight gain.
I take other medications for other health conditions. How do I know if GLP-1s are right for me?
GLP-1s are safe to take with most other medications. Your doctor will review your medical history and medication lists to determine if this could be a safe and effective medication for you.
How long does it take for GLP-1s to work?
It usually takes a couple of weeks of tapering up on the medication before you start losing weight, but you should notice appetite suppression within the first week.
What are common side effects?
Many individuals don’t have any side effects at all with GLP-1s. However, for those who do, nausea is the most common possible side effect. We encourage sticking it out because the nausea typically goes away after 3-4 weeks. If the nausea is intolerable after escalating the dose, you can go back to the prior dose and stay on that.
Are there any risks to taking GLP-1s?
There are a couple of contraindications for GLP-1 medications. The first is a history of pancreatitis or for people who have current disease of the gallbladder. We also do not recommend GLP-1s if you have a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer or MEN syndrome. GLP-1s can be safely taken with other common prescription medications, including those for high blood pressure, thyroid, and diabetes medications.
Since its approval in 2005, sixteen years of research demonstrate that for most people, GLP-1s are a safe and effective treatment option to improve metabolic health and support weight loss, and the medication has even been approved for use in children twelve years of age and older.
How long do Calibrate members need to take GLP-1s?
GLP-1 medications aren’t short-term fixes. They form part of a comprehensive program designed to make long-lasting changes to your life and health. GLP-1 medications are intended to support your metabolic health in the long run, so it’s important that you continue to take them as long as your doctor recommends and as long as you wish to reap their health benefits. Though specific recommendations depend on each person’s individual metabolic health, the minimum recommendation for most Calibrate members is one year.
Why isn’t it just medication alone in the Calibrate program?
Calibrate is built on the principle that small steps lead to big wins and that success isn’t about a single event or medication. In other words, GLP-1s are not magic pills that can help you keep weight off forever. They work best for sustained weight loss when used in conjunction with lifestyle changes proven to support long-term weight loss.
The goal is that by the time you stop taking GLP-1s, not only will you have lost weight and improved your metabolic system significantly, but you will also have the tools to maintain the food, exercise, sleep, and emotional health habits needed to sustain those changes over time.
Will my insurance company cover the cost?
Yes, your commercial insurance plan will cover the cost of the GLP-1 medication (as well as the cost of your labs). Even with copays, this usually means that your insurance company is covering 90%+ of the cost of Calibrate’s program. We’ll navigate your insurance to find labs and medications paid for by your plan.
Unfortunately, Calibrate is not yet able to work with government insurance.
What else do you tell patients about GLP-1s that we should know about?
Our goal in prescribing GLP-1 medication isn’t primarily to help our members to lose weight—it’s to improve their metabolic and overall health. Losing weight is just the cherry on top. To achieve both objectives, it’s important to remember that GLP-1s are not magic pills and that they work best when used in tandem with food, sleep, exercise, and stress modifications. Using this medication will empower you to optimize your weight and metabolic health for the long-term.
Interested in a whole-body metabolic reset? Learn more today.
Gaja Andzel, MD
Gaja Andzel, MD, is a Southern California-based endocrinologist and functional medicine specialist. She underwent her internal medicine training at Loma Linda University in California followed by an endocrinology fellowship at Banner University Medical Center in Arizona. Dr. Andzel appreciates bringing a whole-person approach to medicine and partnering with people to formulate a personalized treatment plan that fits their unique needs and challenges.