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Learn more about the results we get at Within

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Tirzepatide for weight loss (Mounjaro)

Tirzepatide (Mounjaro) was approved in 2022 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating type 2 diabetes. It is also often prescribed off-label for weight loss. Like many other weight loss drugs, taking Mounjaro for weight loss can be dangerous for your physical and mental health and may lead to disordered eating or an eating disorder.1

Last updated on 
August 24, 2023
January 18, 2024
Tirzepatide for weight loss
In this article

What is tirzepatide?

Tirzepatide, also sold under the brand name Mounjaro, is an injectable type 2 diabetes prescription medication that, when used with exercise and a meal plan, can greatly improve blood sugar control and management. Physicians have also begun prescribing Mounjaro for weight loss in some patients.1

What are the risks of taking tirzepatide weight loss pills?

Although tirzepatide is safe to take when a doctor prescribes it for type 2 diabetes, taking it to lose weight or without a prescription can be dangerous, especially when people are under the impression that it is a quick weight-loss fix, which it isn’t.  

Not only can taking Mounjaro for weight loss cause hazardous side effects, but it can also increase your risk of engaging in disordered eating or even developing an active eating disorder. That’s because using tirzepatide to lose weight doesn’t occur in isolation—people often turn to medication in pursuit of an “ideal” body type, weight, size, or shape, which is influenced by diet culture, fatphobia, and anti-fat bias.

Mounjaro is not a quick weight-loss solution and shouldn't be taken for this purpose.

Mounjaro side effects and health risks

Taking tirzepatide can result in many harmful adverse effects. Mounjaro side effects may include:1,2,3

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Acid reflux
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite reduction
  • Pain in the upper abdominal area
  • Stomach pain
  • Vision changes
  • Gallbladder issues

Other health risks include acute kidney damage, acute pancreatitis, and hypoglycemia, the risk of which increases the higher the dose.1

Researchers also found that Mounjaro can cause thyroid tumors in rats; however, it’s unknown if this medication causes thyroid cancer in humans. That said, the FDA recommends that you avoid taking Mounjaro if you have a family history of thyroid cancer or have Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2.3

Mounjaro for weight loss

Can you overdose on tirzepatide?

It is possible to overdose on Mounjaro, although research is limited, especially given how new the medication is.

However, as with any other medication overdose, you should call 911 immediately if you are worried someone has taken too much. Stay by their side until emergency medical personnel arrive on the scene. 

Experts recommend that people who overdose on tirzepatide receive constant monitoring and supervision to ensure their safety, especially since Mounjaro has a long half-life, meaning the body takes a while to eliminate it, and issues could still occur well after using the drug.1

The problem with using Mounjaro for “weight loss”

Much like other diet trends and off-label medication use, the popularity of Mounjaro may be triggering for people who struggle with disordered eating, body image issues, or eating disorders. People online share “miracle” stories of how much weight they’re losing on Mounjaro, and celebrities like women on The Real Housewives have praised the medication for its weight loss capabilities. 

With access to medications like tirzepatide, people may be even more compelled to pursue what they believe to be the “ideal” body type, thanks to weight stigma, diet culture, healthism, and anti-fatness—all of these influences contribute to the societal beliefs that people should prioritize appearance and body weight over well-being, and that there is only one ideal body type.

Learn more about other weight loss medications, such as Ozempic and Wegovy.

Learn more

Moreover, using Mounjaro for weight loss can result in a severely decreased appetite to the point that the individual begins engaging in disordered eating, ultimately increasing their risk of developing an eating disorder (particularly in vulnerable populations). And on the flip side, someone who is compulsively taking or seeking out prescriptions for tirzepatide may already have an eating disorder, especially if they present other symptoms, such as:4

  • Poor self-esteem
  • Poor body image
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • A pathological drive to lose weight (even if there is no excess weight to be lost)
  • An intense fear of weight gain
  • A preoccupation with weight and food
  • Severe food restriction
  • Skipping meals or cutting out entire food groups
  • Compulsive exercise
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Laxative use

Although not everyone who uses Mounjaro for weight loss will struggle with disordered eating or an eating disorder, it can still indicate an unhealthy or fraught relationship with food and body image. This is especially true for patients who continue using it despite losing their goal weight or those who continue to ask for higher doses despite the current amount being effective and resulting in average weight reductions. In this way, taking Mounjaro can become compulsive, just as other disordered eating behaviors can. 

If you’re struggling with disordered eating, it’s never too late or too soon to seek help. Treatment is available in many different settings, including inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and virtual care.

Remote care is a viable option

At Within Health, we offer a comprehensive and inclusive remote eating disorder treatment program that helps people of all sizes, genders, sexualities, races, ethnicities, and ages get the care they need to heal their relationship with movement, eating, and food.

We consider your personal or family history with eating disorders and provide a specialized treatment program tailored to your needs.

Cal for a free consultation

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.

Resources

  1. Farzam, K., Patel, P. Tirzepatide. (2023). In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. 
  2. FDA Approves Novel, Dual-Targeted Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes. (2022). Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved May 11, 2023. 
  3. Medication Guide: MOUNJARO (tirzepatide) injection, for subcutaneous use. (2022). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved May 11, 2023. 
  4. Eating Disorders. (2023). National Institute of Mental Health.Retrieved May 11, 2023. 
  5. Ma, W., Huang, T., Zheng, Y., Wang, M., Bray, G. A., Sacks, F. M., & Qi, L. (2016). Weight-Loss Diets, Adiponectin, and Changes in Cardiometabolic Risk in the 2-Year POUNDS Lost Trial. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 101(6), 2415–2422.

FAQs

What is Mounjaro?

Mounjaro is the brand name for the prescription medication tirzepatide, which is used in conjunction with a meal plan and exercise to treat type 2 diabetes.

How does Mounjaro work for weight loss?

Mounjaro, or tirzepatide, causes the pancreas to release insulin, reducing blood sugar levels.1 This medication also increases adiponectin levels, helping to regulate insulin sensitivity, lipid metabolism, and glucose levels and effectively leading to weight loss and reduction in abdominal fat.5 However, Mounjaro can cause many dangerous side effects and health risks.

Is Mounjaro FDA-approved for weight loss?

No, Mounjaro is only FDA-approved for type 2 diabetes; however, doctors commonly prescribe it off-label for weight loss.

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