How drugs like Ozempic, Mounjaro could transform holiday dinners like Thanksgiving

Drugs used for weight loss have skyrocketed in popularity.

November 21, 2023, 10:53 AM

When Tara Rothenhoefer sits down at the Thanksgiving table this year, she said she envisions being able to enjoy herself rather than feel stressed about the food on the table.

Rothenhoefer said she attributes that change to Mounjaro, a medication that she said has helped her lose more than 200 pounds.

Prior to taking Mounjaro, Rothenhoefer said at a holiday like Thanksgiving, centered around a big meal, she would be worried about being able to "make good choices" when it comes to food.

"You're just really focused on the food as a whole rather than the holiday," Rothenhoefer told "Good Morning America," adding of the change she's seen since starting the medication, "I've been able to turn that fear and anxiety into more enjoyment and making sure that you know, I'm still eating the foods that I enjoy. I'm just making sure that I'm not eating as much."

PHOTO: Tara Rothenhoefer told "GMA" that Mounjaro has helped her lose more than 200 pounds
Tara Rothenhoefer told "GMA" that Mounjaro has helped her lose more than 200 pounds
ABC News

Likewise, Joe Sapone, who has lost more than 100 pounds on Mounjaro, told "GMA" that for him, gathering at holidays like Thanksgiving is now more about the company he's around than the food.

"My enjoyment has not really decreased," he said. "Because it's as much about being with family and friends as it is about eating food."

Mounjaro and other drugs used for weight loss like Ozempic and Wegovy have skyrocketed in popularity over the past year as they have proven successful in changing some people's eating habits and helping people who are overweight and obese lose weight.

Clinical studies show users of the medications can lose between 5% and 20% of their body weight on the medications over time.

PHOTO: Joe Sapone told "GMA" he has lost more than 100 pounds on Mounjaro.
Joe Sapone told "GMA" he has lost more than 100 pounds on Mounjaro.
ABC News

The active ingredient in Mounjaro, tirzepatide, works by activating two naturally produced hormones in the body: glucagon-like peptide-1, known as GLP-1, and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide, or GIP. The combination is said to slow the emptying of the stomach, making people feel full longer, and suppress appetite by slowing hunger signals in the brain.

Mounjaro -- made by Eli Lilly and Co. -- is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat Type 2 diabetes. Earlier this month, the FDA approved the drug Zepbound to treat obesity, which contains the same active ingredient, tirzepatide, as Mounjaro.

The drug is similar to semaglutide, the active ingredient in the medications Ozempic and Wegovy -- both made by Novo Nordisk -- but works slightly differently because it targets two hormones involved in blood sugar control rather than just one.

Ozempic is currently approved by the FDA as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes alongside diet and exercise if other medications cannot control blood sugar levels well enough.

Wegovy is essentially the same injectable drug as Ozempic prescribed at a higher dosage. The FDA has specifically approved Wegovy for patients with severe obesity, or who are overweight and have one or more weight-associated conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Possible side effects of all three medications -- Mounjaro, Ozempic and Wegovy -- include nausea and stomach pain.

PHOTO: In an undated stock photo, a Thanksgiving meal is seen from overhead.
In an undated stock photo, a Thanksgiving meal is seen from overhead.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

Dr. Katherine Saunders, clinical assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, said people who are taking medications used for weight loss should be prepared to manage their expectations when it comes to big holiday meals, like Thanksgiving.

"It doesn't completely remove the pleasure that comes from food," Saunders told "GMA." "It enables people to have a couple of bites and then say, 'I don't need to eat a large portion of this. That was enough.'"

Saunders noted too that it can take time for people to adjust to eating different amounts and different varieties of foods when on medications like Ozempic and Mounjaro.

"It can definitely take some time for people to get used to eating differently and selecting food differently when they're on these medications," she said. "So, if you don't change your eating behavior, or the content of your diet at all when you take these medications, that's when people can get into trouble."

Related Topics