He had promised me that he would work a miracle, that I would improve my physical condition, my health. That the drowsiness I had every morning that made me fall asleep on my PC while working would pass. The pact that I was supposed to make, however, I signed with the devil. One shot a week for 6 months, “slow release”. Unlike insulin, Ozempic injections for diabetics should be given once a week because the drug works slowly and is not addictive. Almost.
With this drug (which today is very popular on Tik Tok among guys who want to lose weight) I would have kept a whole series of side effects at bay linked to the onset of a sneaky disease. Because diabetes, especially type 1 (which for non-experts is autoimmune diabetes, i.e. linked to an alteration of the immune system, which leads to no longer producing insulin independently) is a disease that cannot be feel. It won’t bring the stomach ache of gastritis, nor the pain in the temples of a headache. You’ll have some symptoms – and not even always – and a whole host of related diseases to run into, but eventually you’ll learn to live with it.
When Dr. Vincenzo Provenzano – head of Diabetes at the Partinico hospital (in the province of Palermo) as well as national president of Simdo (Italian Metabolism, Diabetes, Obesity Society) – told me why a cup of strawberry ice cream enjoyed mid-morning as a snack or a square of 70% dark chocolate after dinner led me to lose lucidity, to always feel so sleepy that I was unable to connect my mind to my body and because my waistline continued to gain inches despite the diet (and the ice cream and chocolate had been allowed by the nutritionist) I realized that my life was changing. And I had to change with her.
Hand tests, glycemic curves after glycemic curves, I discovered that in my future there would be a new travel companion, a partner who also accompanies other “thin young adults” like me (this is the technical definition) because in Italy and especially in Sicily there is a high incidence of Lada diabetes (which is the acronym of “Latente Adulto Autoimmune Diabetes”): a sort of autoimmune diabetes typical of children where, however, the cannon that fires the shot hits and kills the “beta” cells ” of the pancreas is only one of the autoantibodies (in my case two) compared to the three that sanction the disease by protocol. “There’s good news,” Provenzano told me. Because in the initial phase, with this type of clinical picture, the thin young man is not yet insulin-dependent (Nirad variant) and is not even yet fully ill.
A sigh. While he was telling me that I was about to marry quoad vitam with no possibility of divorce as with any husband by simply signing before a judge, he stroked my head and said that, if treated with the right drugs, the onset of this disease (which leads total insulin dependence with it) might never even come. “It depends on our lifestyle, on many factors, on our genetic history. What luck to have discovered it now, let’s play in advance” he continued to say. And meanwhile he showed me the solution.
The solution is called semaglutide. A molecule, until then unknown to me, known to the scientific world as Glp-1 (it is also used in some therapies against obesity): it is a hormone produced by the intestine which stimulates the secretion of insulin by inhibiting that of glucagon from the pancreas. Very technical things, but also very intuitive. Ozempic basically regulates the relationship between the two hormones (insulin and glucagon) responsible for everything that leads to being sick. Its “slow” release (that’s why I pricked my belly only once a week) takes place after the meal and only comes into action when blood sugar rises due to the carbohydrates introduced with food.
I close my eyes, breathe, trust and entrust myself. Dr. Provenzano is one of the leading experts in Italy in metabolic diseases. In a few months my body would dry out, getting rid of that visceral fat leading me to other health issues I overlook. He suggested that I keep an agenda where I could jot down my measurements. Every Monday at 11, once I put the Ozempic pen in the fridge, I took the measuring tape and wrote down every circumference of my body: breast, hips, thigh, wrist, ankle, forearm, calf and so on. I wrote down the centimeters next to it. It was shocking to see how 4 months later my measurements and my weight (already not excessive, as a good thin young adult in fact) had reduced and my waist had turned into a wasp waist. In the mirror, 16 weeks after starting the therapy, there was a real silhouette.
Nocturnal or postprandial hypoglycemia disappeared. I monitored them with a holter, a kind of white disk with a needle under the skin that I had affixed to my arm and which, connected to my cell phone, recorded my blood sugar minute by minute on an app. I was better. However, the price to pay was very high: this drug led me to reject food, to have no appetite, to live with a constant state of malaise made up of nausea, stomach cramps, reflux and headache. I was no longer sleepy, but I had all this. As the weeks went by, my body got used to it, but the side effects never went away. I was doing all of this for myself, yet I would have gladly done without it. Even quitting was not easy and neither was starting again. A loop that paranoia and ruminant thoughts give fewer obsessions in comparison.
Without that beacon who was my doctor I would never have subjected myself to such torture. Once I had to wait a week to recover from a lunch of mozzarella and tomato plus 50 grams of bread. In short, imagining that today many naive (and naive) use it to lose weight quickly makes me believe that Umberto Eco, speaking of social media and the legion of imbeciles, wasn’t so wrong. If Tik Tok is enough to gather a population of 350,000 followers ready to pierce their stomachs with a subcutaneous injection every week in order to achieve a goal (that is, lose weight) while still putting their health at risk with this lightness in the name of a good supreme (the photos on Instagram where you can see that the costume test was passed with flying colors) makes me believe I live in a wrong world. This drug cannot be purchased without a prescription (and I would like to see), without an adequate therapeutic plan, it is very expensive (at least 200 euros per pen) and can cause risks if used without direction.
Someone even took the trouble to launch the hashtag #ozempichallenge, leading the antidiabetic drug par excellence to go viral not only in Italy but also among Hollywood stars. A totally improper use of a very delicate drug which, which should not be underestimated, risks running out of stocks (in fact, pharmacies are already in short supply) for those who really need it, for those like me who suffer from a metabolic disease. Young people chasing likes, whose only gratification is the mirror, willing to take on any challenge to take care of their image, unaware of the fact that the best weapon for losing weight (and for pleasure) is found in the brain. There you know that it stocks up on likes. An illness is still a private matter, the doubling of your fragile soul: the one that pushes you down and then brings you back up thanks to science, enlightened doctors and a good dose of luck. But today I felt a strong need to make this experience public. Dear sweet tik tokers, could you therefore continue to use Schopenhauer’s aphorisms and filters for your costume photos? That I don’t need those yet.