Why You Should Avoid TikTok's 'Budget Ozempic' Hack At All Costs

While videos of golden retrievers in raincoats may garner a stream of "awws," social media also has a way of making us scratch our heads in concern. If the latter was your reaction to TikTok's latest hack, "budget Ozempic," then you're in the same boat as us. The trend, which actually caused a shortage of laxatives in the U.S., has to do with consuming laxatives like Miralax, Ex-Lax, and Glycolax  to lose weight. How did it start, and why is it called "budget Ozempic"? 

Ozempic is a weekly injection prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes. It works by lowering blood sugar levels and also by telling your brain that it's full by inducing satiety. The active ingredient in the drug, semaglutide, which mimics the hormones in your body to make you feel full, can cause weight loss. This is probably why some doctors also prescribe the medication for weight loss. While it's unclear exactly where and how Ozempic became known for weight loss on social media (some suggest it was because celebrities were talking about it online), the "budget Ozempic" hack seems to have originated from a desire to use cheaper alternatives, as the diabetes medication is relatively costly. 

As far as doctors are concerned, however, "budget Ozempic" can be added to the list of unexpectedly risky TikTok trends. For starters, the weight loss from laxative use is temporary and superficial. "Patients using laxatives only lose water weight in their bodies, which is different from fat loss," explained weight loss expert Dr. Steven Batash (via Essence). 

Other dangers of the 'budget Ozempic' hack

In addition to the obvious fear that such hacks promote disordered eating habits, using laxatives for weight loss comes with both short-term and long-term risks, according to registered nutritionist Anna Mapson (via Healthline). Dehydration, stomach cramps, diarrhea, excessive gas, loss of electrolytes, and tiredness are some of the short-term effects of laxatives. Dizziness, headaches, and dry mouth are other side effects. 

Laxatives make you skip an important part of the digestive process, according to Mapson, where fluids and electrolytes are reabsorbed from the contents of our large intestine. "During this phase, our body is trying to recycle as many nutrients as possible before we pass the bits we don't need out of the body," explained the nutritionist, adding that skipping this process could cause dehydration or too much electrolyte loss.

Taking laxatives for purposes other than what they're intended for can lead to nutritional deficiencies and related health concerns in the long run, per Dr. Steven Batash (via Essence). Not getting enough potassium, magnesium, and sodium can lead to kidney troubles and heart issues, and improper laxative use can put stress on your gut and liver too. Even if you were to go the route of using the semaglutide Ozempic for weight loss, you're not guaranteed results, according to Dr. Batash. "Neither Ozempic nor laxatives guarantee weight loss. Ozempic may assist some individuals in losing weight, but each body reacts in its [own] way." Talk about weight loss myths you should stop believing

The importance of following proper weight loss methods

While the appeal of hacks like "budget Ozempic" might be that they're affordable, readily available, and seemingly effective (at least when you weigh yourself on a scale right after the laxative has done its job), there are psychological implications for harmful quick fix trends like these, says nutritionist Tony Cottenden (via Healthline). "This can lead to a vicious cycle of misuse, as you may increasingly rely on laxatives to maintain a perceived ideal weight. This not only perpetuates the physical health risks but can also contribute to the development of eating disorders and other mental health issues."

If you're looking to lose weight and feel like you need some additional help, try meeting with your healthcare provider. As explained by Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, an obesity medicine expert could help you figure out what route you should be taking (via Prevention). 

Also, instead of turning to health advice on TikTok that straight up lied to you, you could try following some tried and tested methods like eating a balanced diet of whole grains, leafy greens, healthy fats, and lean proteins, as well as exercising regularly. Even if you were prescribed treatments like Ozempic for weight loss, they should be part of an already healthy lifestyle, per experts. TikTok is famous for quick fixes. While some are harmless, others (like this one) aren't. Be prudent and ask the right questions before following social media hacks.