Anti-Obesity Medication Stopped My Obsessive Thoughts About Food and Helped Me Become a Stronger Woman

As told to Jacquelyne Froeber

March 4-8, 2024, is Obesity Care Week.

“If I don’t get food in the next two minutes, I’m going to die.”

This is how my brain works. Every day, at various points throughout the day, panic seeps into my thoughts and consumes me. I think of nothing else but food. And then I obsess over what my next meal will be.

I’ve been like this since I was a little kid. I remember my grandmother telling me that if I was hungry I could eat an apple. And that made me furious. What the hell was an apple going to do? I needed food. And I needed enough to quiet the worry rising in my chest.

I’d also never heard anyone else talk about food like this. I grew up making jokes about being hangry and my family and friends accepted this was just who I am. I didn’t have hypoglycemia, a thyroid disorder or any other medical conditions that could explain what I was feeling.

Over the years, the mental cycle of panic and worry made living with obesity even harder. I yo-yo dieted my way from middle school to dropping my kid off at middle school. Despite the bootcamps and gyms, nothing stuck in the long run. And just like that, I’d find myself high on the BMI scale again.

I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my second pregnancy, which then turned into Type 2 diabetes, and I was terrified that if I didn’t get my blood sugar under control I would have serious complications.

I started taking an anti-obesity medication (AOM) to help get my blood sugar under control and lose some weight. It was working but very slowly. Then, in April 2022, everything changed.

My doctor prescribed a new version of the AOM I was taking for insurance reasons. And almost immediately I knew my life would never be the same. The day after I took the new AOM injection, I went to work and by late afternoon, it hit me — I wasn’t worrying about dinner or what I was going to eat. I’d gone hours without thinking about food. I held my breath and waited for the familiar feeling of urgency to take over. But nothing happened.

It was like someone had opened up my head and taken all the obsessive thoughts and panicky feelings about food out of my body and — poof! Tossed them away in the trash.

For the first time ever, I felt free. I exhaled and welcomed feelings of relief and gratitude. I knew the AOM was the missing piece to my treatment puzzle. I was ready for a life change.

First was my diet. The medication makes you eat less, but you can’t necessarily eat the same things you did before. For me, fried foods cause major GI issues (I call them sulfur burps) and they’re so uncomfortable I had no problem trading in fast food and bringing chicken salad or yogurt and fruit to work. I learned protein shakes aren’t as boring as I thought, and I started buying more protein-rich foods to make meals at home for myself and my family.

Melissa and her husband MichaelMelissa and her husband Michael, 2023

As I was losing weight, I started working out consistently. I go to step aerobics four or five times a week. Taking an AOM can cause muscle loss, so I’ve incorporated weight training into my routine.

Thanks to the combination of diet, exercise and an AOM, I’ve been able to stop taking all the medications I was on for high cholesterol and high blood pressure. My blood sugar’s good, and I feel strong. When my daughter asked me why I want to workout I told her it’s important because it keeps me healthy so I can watch her grow up strong and live her best life because I feel like I’m living mine.

Many people think taking an AOM just works like magic. But it also takes work. I work hard and I plan my workouts and meals, and I do it out of respect and gratitude for this life change and medication that have helped me achieve a quality of life I didn’t think was possible. Sometimes I close my eyes and listen to the glorious sound of nothing. It’s the sound of freedom to me.

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Our Real Women, Real Stories are the authentic experiences of real-life women. The views, opinions and experiences shared in these stories are not endorsed by HealthyWomen and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HealthyWomen.

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