Trying To Quit Ozempic? Here’s What Nutrition Experts Say You Should Eat
If you took Ozempic for weight loss, it may be time to plan for a future without it. Here's a healthy sample menu to help keep the pounds off.
According to the experts, Ozempic is one of the most effective methods to pursue weight loss, if one of the most controversial. In a 2021 study in the prominent New England Journal of Medicine, people who took Ozempic and made healthy lifestyle changes lost on average approximately 15% of their body weight after a year and four months.
But there’s a shortage of Ozempic—whose primary indication is for diabetes patients—due to supply chain issues that began before the drug even hit the US market. Plus, Ozempic, whose generic name is semaglutide, is extremely expensive, and many insurance companies don’t cover the drug when a healthcare provider prescribes it for obesity. (One individual taking a similar drug to Ozempic told us they pay around $1,400 per month out of pocket.)
Because of these challenges, more and more people are being forced to quit or come off Ozempic, which is leading to an increasing number of people who ask the question: Is there a specific diet I can follow that will help keep off the weight I lost on Ozempic? The Healthy @Reader’s Digest spoke with experts to find out what you should and shouldn’t be eating to help maintain weight loss after you quit Ozempic.
Is there a specific diet I should follow after I stop taking Ozempic?
“For someone looking to maintain their weight loss after coming off Ozempic, weight maintenance is all about balancing the amount of food you’re putting into your body with the amount of energy you’re burning,” explains Tara Schmidt, M. Ed., RDN, and lead dietitian with the Mayo Clinic Diet.
The experts say to lose weight, most people need to eat around 500 calories fewer than the number of calories they burn per day. To maintain weight loss, most people should try to consume the same amount of calories they normally expend.
Dr. Andrew Kraftson, MD, who is a clinical associate professor of endocrinology and the director of the post-bariatric endocrinology clinic and weight navigation program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, explains that how many calories you burn on a daily basis on average is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). To determine your BMR, use the following formulas:
For men or AMAB (assigned male at birth):
- Multiply your weight in pounds x 6.23. To the number you get, add 66. This equals A.
- Multiply your height in inches x 12.7. This equals B. (If you are five feet tall, your height in inches is 60.)
- Add A+B to get C.
- Multiply 6.8 x your age in years to get D.
- C – D = your basal metabolic rate.
For women or AFAB (assigned female at birth):
- Multiply your weight in pounds x 4.35. To the number you get, add 655. This equals A.
- Multiply your height in inches x 4.7. This equals B. (If you are five feet tall, your height in inches is 60.)
- Add A+B to get C.
- Multiply 4.7 x your age in years to get D.
- C – D = your basal metabolic rate.
Consistency is key
As important as it is to keep track of and control your daily caloric intake, experts like Kraftson say the most important thing you can do to maintain weight loss or continue to lose weight is to pick a diet and stick with it. “Fortunately, the science shows that almost any diet can be effective when followed consistently,” explains Kraftson. “There’s evidence to support the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet, low carbohydrate or ketogenic diets, and regular calorie restriction diets—but the key is really consistency, it’s what pays dividends.”
Dr. Archana Sadhu, MD, an endocrinologist and director of the diabetes program at Houston Methodist adds that diets that are dramatic, like those that cut out all carbs or very low calorie diets, tend not to be very sustainable. And once you stop following one of these extreme diets, the weight will almost inevitably pile back on. “Really, the best diet plan is one that’s sustainable for you,” Sadhu says.
Focus on diets rich in lean protein
Sadhu and Kraftson note that the most effective diet plans for people coming off Ozempic tend to be high-protein diets.
“One thing I specifically advise patients to do is not to skip out on or skimp on protein after being on these drugs,” says Sadhu. She explains that’s because when people lose weight on Ozempic, a lot of that lost weight is actual muscle loss. This means it’s important to get enough protein and exercise to maintain or gain muscle mass. “As an added bonus, the more muscle mass you gain or maintain, the more your basal metabolic expenditure actually goes up, so you’re automatically burning more calories even without calorie restriction or exercise,” she adds.
Kraftson further explains that eating foods rich in lean protein help better satisfy hunger cravings and keep you feeling full longer. Sadhu adds that eating moderate amounts of healthy fats can also help increase your satiety, which means you’re less likely to feel like snacking after or between meals.
What should I eat after quitting Ozempic?
While there may not be a specific diet you should follow after quitting Ozempic, there are certain foods you should try to increase or limit your consumption of to help you maintain weight loss. “We encourage eating mostly nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and less energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods like ultra-processed foods that are high in added sugars and fats,” explains Schmidt.
Kraftson says for many people, it can be helpful to follow a red light, yellow light, green light system.
“Green light foods are foods we all need to eat more of, like your lean proteins, whole grains, and non-starchy vegetables,” Kraftson says. “Yellow light foods are foods that are still healthy, but their intake needs to be monitored, like fruits. Red light foods are those you should try to severely limit your intake of or avoid, like processed foods and simple carbs.” He adds that your list of red light foods should be very small and curated to your specific triggers to be sustainable.
Meal plans to follow
There is no one type of meal plan that is guaranteed to help you keep off the weight you lost on Ozempic after you stop taking it. But here’s an example of what your day on a plate might look might want to look like according to Schmidt:
- Breakfast: Overnight oats with banana and peanut butter
- Snack: An apple
- Lunch: Turkey, avocado, and baby spinach whole-grain wrap
- Snack: Veggie sticks
- Dinner: Salmon with green beans and quinoa
- Dessert: Raspberries with yogurt and a few chocolate chips.
- Dr. Archana Sadhu, MD : Endocrinologist and Director of the Diabetes Program at Houston Methodist
- Dr. Andrew Kraftson, MD : Clinical Associate Professor of Endocrinology and Director of the Post-Bariatric Endocrinology Clinic and Weight Navigation Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
- Tara Schmidt, M. Ed., RDN: Lead Dietician with the Mayo Clinic Diet
- The New England Journal of Medicine: "Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adults with Overweight or Obesity"