A New Drug Switched Off My Appetite. What’s Left?
“Something’s happened,” I told my wife. She is a veteran of watching me try to fix my body. I told her: Where before my brain had been screaming, screaming, at air-raid volume—there was sudden silence. It was confusing. Would it last?
I went alone that night to a Chinese restaurant, the old-school kind with tables, and ordered General Tso’s. I ate the broccoli, a few pieces of chicken, and thought: too gloopy. I left it unfinished, went home in confusion, a different kind of sleepwalker. I passed bodegas and shrugged. At an office I observed the stack of candies and treats with no particular interest.
Decades of struggle—poof. Apparently the Mounjaro molecule targets the same hormone as Ozempic, plus a second one, so it doesn’t just stimulate insulin production but also boosts energy output.
“I urgently need,” I thought, “an analog synthesizer.” Something to fill the silence where food used to be. Every night for weeks I spent four, five hours twisting Moog knobs. Not making music. Just droning, looping, and beep-booping. I needed something to obsess over, to watch YouTube videos about. I needed something to fail at every night to feel normal. And I was also manic, dysregulated, and wide-eyed, sleeping five hours a night, run-walking, with pressured speech; my friends, happy for me but confused, called me “cocaine Paul.” I bought more synthesizers off a guy from Craigslist, meeting him in Bushwick, Brooklyn, with a grand in cash. A body is not designed to lose 25 pounds in eight weeks, starting during the holidays. Beep. Boop.
With the relief come new anxieties. What if it stops working and I slide back into the vale of infinite noise? Compounding that, these drugs are hard to get, both because of supply chain problems and because they are being prescribed off-label for weight loss instead of diabetes. I can’t get a steady prescription from the pharmacy. I’m developing a rationing plan, stretching from an injection every seven days to one every eight or nine to build up a stockpile.
I can see my anxiety mirrored in the wave of reactions starting to appear—op-eds, TV segments, people explaining why it’s good, actually, that the vast majority of those using this drug lose a quarter of their body weight. On social media, fat activists are pointing out that our lives were worthy even without this drug. The wave of opinion will not crest for years.
And that’s fair because this is new—not just the drug, but the idea of the drug. There’s no API or software to download, but this is nonetheless a technology that will reorder society. I have been the living embodiment of the deadly sin of gluttony, judged as greedy and weak since I was 10 years old—and now the sin is washed away. Baptism by injection. But I have no more virtue than I did a few months ago. I just prefer broccoli to gloopy chicken. Is this who I am?
How long is it before there’s an injection for your appetites, your vices? Maybe they’re not as visible as mine. Would you self-administer a weekly anti-avarice shot? Can Big Pharma cure your sloth, lust, wrath, envy, pride? Is this how humanity fixes climate change—by injecting harmony, instead of hoping for it at Davos? Certainly my carbon footprint is much smaller these days. Are we going to get our smartest scientists together, examine the hormonal pathways, and finally produce a cure for billionaires?
When I let the domain name for my diet blog expire, I accepted that there was no technology that could change my biological responses to my own satiety. Now there is, and the part of me that tracked every meal, searched for solutions in apps and programs, wrote code, and took notes is obsolete. Was that time wasted? God, yes. But I did learn a ton—about nutrition, about exercise, about myself. All of those lessons are a joy to apply now, without the panic of self-destructive hunger.
Lately I’m finally less manic. Still losing weight, but much more slowly. Exercising more. At night I play with my synthesizers and watch online classes in music theory. Headphones on, processing all those years of futile effort. As I fiddle with knobs I am sometimes angry, sometimes ashamed, and often grateful. I don’t know how long this post-appetite era will last, or how it will end. Just that, once again in our lives, everything has changed.