You can’t scroll social media without being bombarded with images of perfect abs, thigh gaps, filtered faces and toned bodies. An hour on instagram, can leave you feeling inadequate and imperfect. And in a moment of weakness, you might find yourself considering a quick fix solution.
Before we go any further, I am more than aware that I do aesthetics procedures, which could count as part of the problem. That is why I try to practice responsibly, teach people about the risks and realities, and absolutely never treat people who want to look like a snapchat filter, or like their lips might burst. I also share posts about cancer screening, kindness and sunscreen – I am trying to provide some balance. OK, now that’s addressed, let’s continue.
From one side we get messages to “Love yourself!”, “#bodyposi” and “strong not skinny”. Jameela Jamil has done some outstanding work with the I Weigh movement, encouraging people to put worth on more than their weight and measurements, but rather on their achievements, their kindness, their work and friendships. But keep scrolling, and you’ll see adverts from your favourite celebs for skinny coffee, meal replacement shakes and appetite suppressant lollipops. The latest trend? Skinny Injections.
With the pressure from social and mainstream media mounting, there’s a host of businesses just waiting to cash in on our insecurities with cleanses, supplements, 3 – D Lipo, and now, Skinny Injections. Over the years, I’ve been asked if I’m going to prescribe and sell them. My answer has always been, and will always be, as below.
I am not a weight loss or bariatric specialist, nor an Endocrinologist . And neither are most of the people prescribing these injections.
I’m going to try to give you some clear, easy to understand information about what these injections are, how they work, who they are meant for, and what the potential side effects are. Stick with me – this might be a long one, but if you’re considering using this drug, it will be worth reading!
Let me be clear; I have absolutely no judgement for anyone who uses any of these supposed quick fixes. But I do want to give some information that will hopefully enable you to make a safe and informed decision about what you put in to your body. And if you share it with friends who are thinking they might want to use them too, then all the better!
What are Skinny Injections?
“Skinny Injections” or “Thin Injections” are a drug called Liraglutide 3mg. The brand name is Saxenda. It’s a small injection pen, used daily. You inject under the skin, starting with low dose, and gradually building it up over 5 weeks.
In lower doses, under a different brand name and licence, the same drug is used in the management of Type II diabetes. However Saxenda itself is not a diabetes treatment. It has been developed, and licensed, to aid weight loss in those who are Obese (BMI > 30) or Overweight (BMI more than 27, but less than 30) who have other conditions such as Type II diabetes or sleep apnoea. This bit is very important. It has been developed as an adjunct with a calorie controlled diet and exercise.
I’m going to say that again.
It has been developed to be used WITH exercise and calorie controlled diet, in the obese, and overweight.
Please do not @ me about BMI. I am aware it is not a fool – proof way to assess someones weight, but for the average person (not 6’7″ bodybuilders) it’s a reasonable tool to assess weight, and what we still largely use in the NHS.
The NICE Guidelines suggest that Liraglutide can be trialled in patients who have reached a plateau or are not managing to lose weight with behavioural and lifestyle changes. It is not intended as a first line treatment for weight management, or as a stand – alone treatment. NICE also recommend that treatment is discontinued if patients have not lost 5% of their body weight after 12 weeks of treatment.
Science bit – albeit very basic! It is a GLP-1 (Glucagon Like Peptide) receptor agonist. GLP – 1 is a hormone produced by the body. A receptor agonist is a drug that binds to the receptor and initiates a biological response. Are you still with me?
In very simple terms, it may increase how full you feel for longer, by slowing down how quickly your stomach empties, and causes insulin release from the pancreas. In a healthy person, with a normal BMI, the body does this all on it’s own (it’s very clever, your body!)
What are the Side Effects?
I’ve included the full prescribing information (basically the leaflet you get with the injection pen) here. But I’m definitely not expecting you to read it all (although I would strongly advise you do if you are considering using the injections!). Just a few of the potential side effects are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Kidney impairment/damage *due to diarrhoea/vomiting and dehydration in some cases requiring dialysis
- Pancreatitis (Inflammation of the Pancreas) including fatal (i.e DEAD) and non – fatal haemorrhagic (bleeding) and necrotising (tissue dying) pancreatitis
- Thyroid tumours (It is not known if Liraglutide will cause Thyroid C – Cell tumours in humans but was shown to cause dose – dependent and treatment duration – dependent Thyroid C – Cell tumours in rats and mice) It is important you notify your Doctor if you have a history of Thyroid tumours, or a family history
- Acute gallbladder disease
- Suicidal behaviour and ideation and depression
- Heart rate increase/palpatations
- It can affect oral medicine absorption and effectiveness because of slowing down the emptying of the stomach
Sounds fun, right?
So what’s the problem?
I do not have any issue with this drug being used for the patients it is intended for (as outlined above). Under close supervision and monitoring from their Specialist Doctor (not remotely prescribed by someone on Social Media). Studies have shown it can be very effective in helping people with weight management problems to lose more weight than those that took placebo.
But that is not what this post is about. And that is not what is happening.
What is happening, is that people are selling this drug on Instagram. Doctors and Nurses, who have no experience in weight loss management are prescribing this drug to people with either a Skype assessment, or no assessment at all. Telling people to increase the dose over WhatsApp messages. Without monitoring, or psychological assessment. What’s worse, is that influential people, with huge followings of impressionable women, are advertising this. Telling people it’s a solution to help you lose weight. Women with perfectly healthy bodies, who use personal trainers and meal prep companies. It’s that irresponsibility that has got me so riled up! Never mind the fact that these guys are bleeding you dry. The injection retails for less than £60 to the prescriber. But you get to pay the bargain price of £250!
I could make a killing (literally!) but I refuse to contribute to this toxic industry, cashing in on people (mainly women) feeling like they need to be thin to be worth something, I don’t have the means to monitor your blood tests regularly, or to offer proper psychological counselling. And if the NMC asked why I was prescribing this drug, off -licence for the large majority, I would have no answer. I’d likely lose my PIN number, and my job. And I’d be very interested to hear how the Doctors and Nurses who are prescribing this drug remotely, and off – licence, would justify that decision.
More importantly than all of that, I could do serious physical and psychological harm to someone.
Today I saw a post, that said “Every girls dream is to eat without getting fat” with the caption beneath it that “with this (sic) pen, anything is possible”. That is absolutely irresponsible (and false) advertising. And actually is not my dream at all. My dream is to be able to retire early enough that I’m fit and able to travel for my whole retirement.
These Instagram accounts would have you believe that you do not make lifestyle changes, just keep eating more calories than you’re burning, and then inject yourself and tah – dah!! Watch the weight drop off.
These injections only work with diet and exercise. And for the vast majority of people, diet and exercise is enough, and don’t carry the huge list of physical and mental potential side effects.
And do any of these posts mention risks? Or that you should have a BMI of 30 or above? Nope. In fact, one feedback message mentions that her weight has now dropped to around 9.5 stone. Unless this client is less than 4ft 7inches, it is pretty unlikely their BMI is over 30, or that it ever was.
These injections, and every other cleanse, detox or supplement, that promises weight loss, may give you a short term loss. But then you stop them, and go back to doing exactly what you did before. So you buy it all again. You see how that works as a business model?
The truth is, there is no magic fix. Obesity is one of the largest risk factors to health, increasing risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer, and costing the NHS a lot of money. If there was a magic injection, they’d be using it.
And I haven’t even touched on the fact that it’s illegal to even advertise a prescription only medicine. But I appreciate this has been a long old post, and if you’ve made it this far, we’re nearly done, I promise!
So darling reader – if you are struggling with weight loss, and you fit the criteria for these injections, go and see your GP. Ask for a referral to a weight management clinic or a bariatric specialist. Have a thorough mental and physical assessment done, and then have the injections, under the close monitoring and assessment of a highly trained professional. Don’t buy a prescription – only medicine, off someone on instagram.
If you are wanting to drop half a stone for your wedding, or lose a bit of weight pre – holiday, but your BMI is normal, still follow all of the above steps. Because that professional will tell you that these injections are not intended for you. Exercise more, eat well, and unfollow anything in your instagram feed that makes you think, even for a second, that buying an injection for £250, and taking all of these risks with your health is in any way worth it.
Because honestly, all you’ll lose is £250, and potentially your health.
This post is not intended as medical advice, and if you are in any way affected by the themes mentioned, please seek advice from you GP.