Game-changing weight-loss drug is making people cringe for their favorite foods, including coffee and Chick-fil-A

Game-changing weight-loss drug is making people cringe for their favorite foods, including coffee and Chick-fil-A

  • People say semaglutide, a popular weight loss drug, makes it hard to eat their favorite foods.
  • Not only do they feel full faster and longer, but some say their taste buds have changed.
  • Experts don’t know what’s going on, but it could involve how hormones and taste buds interact.

Staci Rice had been drinking coffee daily since seventh grade. A marketing pro and mom in Georgia, she loves the taste, the routine, and the way she feels: awake.

But about six months ago she walked into the kitchen to make a pot – and poured it. “All of a sudden,” she said, “I didn’t want to anymore.”

Rice, 40, had recently taken the popular weight-loss drug semaglutide, which has since helped her lose nearly 50 pounds. She’s now wearing pants she discarded 16 years ago and seeing results she could never maintain on diets like Weight Watchers and Optavia.

But Rice still can’t swallow her morning coffee. “Every morning I tried to make coffee, thinking that one day it would be nice to me again.” No chance. “I miss having energy,” she said.

Rice has lost her taste for other foods and drinks she once loved and has acquired a few new ones. A longtime fan of Chick-fil-A’s “number 1” — a 440-calorie fried chicken sandwich served on a buttery white bun — she now describes the chain’s kale salad as “delicious.”

Ground beef is no longer in the dinner rotation (“my husband and son are a little upset,” she said), and chocolate has lost its appeal as well.

When Rice tried a Kit-Kat, which she believes to be the ultimate candy bar, for Halloween, she winced. “I can’t even describe the kind of flavor it had,” she said. “I just didn’t want it.”

Staci Rice before and after six months of semaglutide

Rice before, left and after six months of semaglutide.

enough rice

Others on the drug have reported similar experiences. They expected semaglutide to curb their appetites, but in some cases it seems to have hijacked their taste buds, turning fries lovers into kale lovers and coffee snobs into smoothie kings.

And while many people say the trade-off is worth it, the unexpected hit to their identity and social life can be hard to swallow.

“Food is so much more than just fuel. Culturally, we have rituals around food that bring us joy and good memories,” said Rachel Goldman, a New York psychologist who specializes in weight management. “What are you doing to fill the void? »

Semaglutide Makes People Miss Their Favorite Foods

Semaglutide, sold under the brand names Wegovy and Ozempic, is an injectable drug that stimulates the production of insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar. While semaglutide was originally developed to help manage diabetes, Wegovy was approved as a weight-loss drug in June 2021.

Some obesity medicine experts have called the drug a “game changer.” Research has shown that it can lead to a 15-20% reduction in body weight over 68 weeks when combined with a low-calorie diet and regular exercise.

Semaglutide works in part by increasing satiety and slowing digestion, which can lessen food cravings. It also affects the brain’s reward circuitry, dulling the dopamine hit someone might otherwise get from a greasy fry, a hot fudge sundae or a dirty martini, said psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Volpicelli and addiction researcher at Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, previously told Insider.

“Things that are pleasant are no longer so pleasant,” he said.

And life with less fun can take some getting used to. “I miss eating. I miss going out to restaurants. I miss ordering a normal plate of food,” Kait Morris, who is on Ozempic, said in a TikTok video from September.

Morris, also a former Chick-fil-A fan, also developed a dislike for meat. “No part of me wants chicken. It can be fried, it can be grilled, it can be covered in barbecue sauce,” she said in the video. “I do not want it.”

“The only thing I crave is smoothies,” she added.

When what was salty or sweet turned bitter

It makes sense that a drug intended to keep you full faster and longer would naturally limit your intake of heavy foods. “It’s almost like having a bunch of knees without surgery,” Rice said.

If you try to eat as before, you risk paying the price: nausea, bloating and digestive disorders that set in right away and can last for days. As a result, the next time you look at that burger or milkshake, you cringe.

“If your ancestors started feeling nauseous or dizzy, it’s probably something they ate,” Adam Wenzel, a psychologist at Saint Anselm College who taught a Harvard course on the psychology of food. “This conditioned taste aversion is ingrained in us.”

Staci Rice with her husband and son on a baseball field before starting semaglutide

Rice with her son and her husband. Before starting semaglutide, she hid her body in photos.

Courtesy of Staci Rice

But what is more curious is that people report that their taste buds have changed. On a Reddit thread for semaglutide users, someone who had vehemently defended In-N-Out Burger’s fries as “the best” said they now taste bitter.

“They’ve never had this taste for me before, ever. Maybe I almost cried,” she wrote. “I love these silly things, and suddenly they taste like potato-shaped bits of metal.”

The poster also said that a donut was bitter. “A chubby girl here has never met a donut she didn’t like,” she wrote. “I’m in hell. Send some soup. Something not bitter. Maybe tomato? Scream.

There’s no research yet on what exactly might be going on, but Lynnette McCluskey, a neuroscience professor at Augusta University who studies taste regeneration, said it might have to do with the fact that taste cells and the nerve fibers passing through them release GLP-1, the hormone semaglutide mimics and activates.

“So you’re really playing with the signals that go to the brain, telling you what’s in your mouth,” McCluskey said. “Once you start playing with all of these cues – and it can be different from day to day, or when you’ve taken the drug – you really have a lot of potential for dysgeusia or taste distortions. ”

Adapting to Semaglutide Can Be Emotional

People distraught over their new taste buds could see if a lower dose of semaglutide helps minimize unwanted side effects, said Goldman, the New York psychologist.

Wenzel also pointed out that food aversions can usually be overcome with repeated exposure. Who really enjoyed their very first beer tasting?

But most of the time, Goldman suspects, people with taste aversions to semaglutide will have to overcome the emotional adjustment of suddenly not liking universally agreed upon delicious foods.

“It’s the same conversation I have with clients before they had bariatric surgery, and there’s a sense of loss,” Goldman said. The difference is that many patients on semaglutide say they did not expect this potential effect or were not advised. “It’s normal to be grieving over food,” Goldman added.

The key is to work to find a healthy replacement, she said. It could be knitting when you used to choose potato chips or order bag-friendly dog ​​food instead of skipping meals with friends altogether.

Staci Rice with her son

Rice with her son, six months after starting semaglutide.

enough rice

Rice, who used to turn to food for comfort, said she has now found herself more invested in working out, spring cleaning and even posting her weight loss experience on TikTok. . “My confidence has increased a lot,” she said.

And that, she said, she will have coffee every day. “What scares me,” she added, “is that as soon as I get out of this, I’m going to go right back to where I was before.”

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