The Morality of Weight Loss Drugs

A diabetic friend was recently told he needed to lose weight for the sake of managing his diabetes. It’s standard advice, for good reason. Weight loss does help with diabetes and several other conditions (PCOS, sleep apnea, high blood pressure…). But he was clearly having a lot of trouble doing it on his own. As he pointed out, “I wouldn’t have gained the weight in the first place if I’d been able to avoid it.”

His insurance, however, will not cover weight loss medications. They are considered cosmetic. Never mind that in some cases, they actually aren’t cosmetic at all. Aside from insurance companies trying to pay for as little as possible, I suspect some of it has to do with cultural prejudice.

I get that weight loss drugs are controversial. The side effects for some of them (psychiatric disorder, woo! rapid heartbeat, yay!) are pretty freaky. What I don’t get is the idea that taking them is somehow bad or wrong. Immoral. Breaking it down, the objections seem to be:

  1. Using anything artificial for something like weight loss is wrong. Natural all the way. (pfft.)
  2. It’s a matter of discipline. Fat people just need more discipline.
  3. Anyone who needs to take drugs to lose weight is lazy and weak.
  4. Fat people do it to themselves.
  5. The bible says so (see the seven deadly sins).

Most of it seems to be judgment of the weight gain in the first place. I know this issue has been hashed to death. Weight and gender, weight and privilege, weight and race, weight and status… Bah. Weight isn’t a moral issue. Weight loss drugs aren’t, either.

As I said earlier, I understand not wanting to deal with the side effects. I understand wanting to lose weight on your own. You have to adapt your diet and exercise whether you take meds or not. They don’t work just on their own. And the results don’t last without permanent change.

At any rate, I actually started writing this because I’d found articles saying that Wellbutrin was just as effective for weight loss as any of the dedicated meds. See here, and here, and here. Oh, and here, too. And many more I didn’t bother to read through.

I’ve been on 300 mg of Wellbutrin a day since we found out about my mom’s breast cancer, in May. That decision had nothing whatsoever to do with weight, but my appetite did go down. And I have lost weight. About four pounds by the end of June. And then, another 13 after I went gluten free in July. That’s 17 pounds since early May. And it was surprisingly easy.

Which is not to advocate taking Wellbutrin for weight loss. I’m not a medical professional. But it is something you might consider talking to a doctor about if the issue comes up. After all, insurance does cover antideppressants.

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