The nonstop TV advertisements for Ozempic ― a diabetes remedy that has off-label use as a weight reduction drug ― are loads annoying: “Oh, oh, oh, Ozempic!” the unnervingly upbeat TV spot goes, sampling the Seventies classic-rock hit “Magic.”
For some individuals who’ve handled consuming issues, the TV spots ― together with suspected movie star use and media protection that some really feel glamorize the drug ― aren’t merely annoying; it’s all been emotionally triggering. In some instances, discuss of Ozempic is pushing these in restoration one step nearer to relapse.
“The ease and availability of both Ozempic and Wegovy have given me pause and made me doubt my recovery journey,” mentioned Becca, a 26-year-old from Ontario, Canada, who’s suffered from disordered consuming for years.
Ozempic is a part of an increasing, groundbreaking class of medication referred to as GLP-1 receptor agonists that have been first launched as a diabetes therapy in 2017. Soon, it was found that the prescription injections additionally led to vital weight reduction in folks with weight problems. That’s as a result of GLP-1 slows down digestion and reduces meals consumption.
The FDA permitted semaglutide, the energetic ingredient Ozempic, for weight reduction in 2021 below the model title Wegovy. “This is the first time ever that we have really effective drugs to treat obesity,” one bariatric surgeon advised HuffPost earlier this yr of the “game-changing” drug.
In a year-end incomes name just a few months in the past, Novo Nordisk, the producer that produces each medicine, reportedly cited worldwide market development of fifty%, with virtually 40,000 new Wegovy prescriptions being written each week.
Now some people who seemingly don’t want the drug for his or her well being ― together with celebrities ― have found Ozempic and Wegovy. It’s not terribly laborious to search out docs, nurse practitioners or medi-spas prepared to prescribe each for off-label use. That’s all completely authorized, although not usually suggested.
That growth is disheartening for Becca. After a yr of working with a therapist and body-neutral coach to set physique targets tied to energy and weight coaching moderately than weight reduction, Ozempic is giving her pause.
“The existence of drugs like Ozempic have me thinking, what would my life be like if I could simply avail of these meds?” mentioned Becca, who, like many on this story, requested to make use of her first title solely to guard her privateness. “What would it feel like to fit into specific styles of clothing?” she mentioned. “What sort of ego boost will I get from people praising my weight loss?”
“The existence of drugs like Ozempic have me thinking, what would my life be like if I could simply avail of these meds?”
– Becca, 26
It’s the secrecy round Ozempic that bothers Becca most. Gossip accounts on Instagram like DeuxMoi debate which celebs they think are taking the weight-loss darling drug. Some celebrities, like Chelsea Handler and Elon Musk, have admitted to utilizing it.
Most stars have remained silent on the rumors, although just a few have expressly denied utilizing it, together with Khloé Kardashian and “Real Housewives” forged member Kyle Richards. (The remedy is a giant speaking level currently among the many “Real Housewives” set and their followers; Jackie Goldschneider, who’s recovering from anorexia and a star of the New Jersey iteration of the present, slammed the remedy as “an eating disorder in a needle.”)
“When celebrities deny and tout their weight loss journey and point to diets and exercise when they are availing of medication, it’s not only disingenuous but also massively fucked up,” Becca mentioned.
It doesn’t assist that the dialogue round Ozempic simply so occurs to dovetail with the dialogue about buccal fats elimination and the dialogue round Gwyneth Paltrow’s extremely restrictive “daily wellness” weight-reduction plan that appears extra harmful than nourishing.
All of it speaks to our cultural concern of being fats, mentioned Aaron Flores, a registered dietitian and nutritionist in Calabasas, California.
“It’s a reflection of how deep the fear of weight gain and existing in a large body truly is in our society,” he mentioned. “The message being sent is very clear; being in a large body is bad and you should do anything possible to change it.”
The means this remedy has change into stylish and in demand additionally speaks to the deep disparity that exists in well being care, Flores mentioned. (Ozempic retails for about $900 a month in case your insurance coverage doesn’t cowl it.)
The reputation of the drug has led to a nationwide scarcity, making acquiring it troublesome for diabetics who use Ozempic to handle their blood sugar and cut back their danger of coronary heart issues and different problems.
“But if you have the financial privilege to go outside of your insurance coverage, you can find someone to prescribe this drug to you, no problem,” Flores mentioned. “Large groups of people who take this for its intended purpose are going to be denied access to this intervention, only because others with more privilege and more money can circumvent the system.”
It ought to be famous: Ozempic comes with some fairly gnarly unwanted effects. Anecdotally, Flores mentioned that his purchasers who’ve taken this and different drugs prefer it have struggled with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. Still, even understanding all that, the attract of being skinny through a easy needle jab is powerful.
Candice Coppola, a 41-year-old enterprise coach who’s struggled with bulimia prior to now, has needed to briefly cease herself from scrolling on Instagram, given how many individuals she follows who she suspects are taking Ozempic.
“These are people I otherwise very much enjoy,” she mentioned. “It concerns me seeing this rapid weight loss of other people, 35 pounds in three weeks.”
Coppola, who hosts the “Power in Purpose” podcast and lives in Connecticut, mentioned there have been occasions within the final month when she’s paused and thought: Maybe I might discover someone to prescribe the drug to me. Maybe I may very well be just a little thinner.
“I’ve had to remind myself of how far I’ve come and that it’s not necessarily about fitness, it’s about how you feel, and I feel good so why would I feel like I need to do that?” she mentioned.
It’s helped Coppola to speak about her worries, particularly along with her husband, who’s diabetic.
Abby Rose Morris, a 26-year-old actor from New York who skilled durations of maximum calorie restriction in center college and highschool, is fearful that the normalization of off-label Ozempic prescriptions will put much more strain on girls to drop pounds.
“With these drugs available, fatness is starting to be viewed as a conscious choice not to take the ‘easy’ solution that would spare people from all the discrimination and harassment that comes with living in a larger body,” she advised HuffPost.
“I’ve worked very hard to heal my relationship with food, and going on a medication that can take away hunger or make eating difficult could definitely jeopardize that,” she mentioned.
Culturally, Morris thinks we’ve pathologized the will for meals, one thing we have to survive. “Feeling liberated from your hunger cues is not normal,” she wrote in a viral tweet earlier this month. “Sure, use Ozempic for medical reasons, but being hungry is not a disease.”
Some folks on-line have mentioned that conversations round Ozempic and consuming issues should be extra nuanced ― “please kindly understand there is more than one eating disorder, and Ozempic is life changing for binge eating disorder,” one woman tweeted.
While this can be true and valid, the experts we spoke to worry that some might look at Ozempic as a solve-all for something complex like binge eating. Yes, it’s an eating disorder, but it’s also a complex mental health condition that isn’t just about food intake.
“Weight loss drugs may result in changes in weight but do not address the emotional and psychological aspects that contribute to disordered eating. Weight loss will not ‘cure’ an eating disorder,” said Ashley Moser, a clinical education specialist at the Renfrew Center, an eating disorder treatment program in Philadelphia.
“Many, many people are invested in you hating your body ― it lines their pockets.”
– Jessica Sprengle, licensed professional therapist who specializes in eating disorders
In fact, while eating disorders often do not have a single identifiable cause, Moser said many people who develop eating disorders report dieting as a precursor. Plus, Moser noted, once someone stops taking a medication, the preexisting issues return: their blood sugar rises, their cravings come back and they often regain weight. This is why most people who take the drug typically use it long term for maintenance as well.
Model and size-inclusivity advocate Remi Bader recently admitted she’d been prescribed Ozempic because she was pre-diabetic. After going off the medication, she “gained double the weight back” and her eating disorder resurfaced.
“Drug[s] like this clearly do not treat the root cause of eating disorders,” said Brittany Burgunder, a certified professional life coach and eating disorder specialist. “Instead, it places a temporary bandage on internal woes until it no longer works, resulting in a recipe for relapse.”
But if you have an eating disorder ― no matter which one ― and see others achieving desired results with the use of a single drug, “it becomes a much more alluring route to follow versus doing the long, tedious and challenging work that is required of long-term recovery,” Burgunder said.
If talk of Ozempic as an easy path to weight loss is triggering you, we asked eating disorder specialists ― and people who are in recovery ― to share the advice they’d give to anyone who’s struggling right now.
Be cautious about the hype.
Be cautious about the information that you read online, since not all sources are reputable or accurate. While it can be tempting to believe losing weight will solve your problems, especially when it feels like everyone but you is using Ozempic, remember that taking the drug is not worth losing your progress over, Burgunder said.
“This drug has yet to be systematically tested in those with body weights that fall outside of the FDA’s criteria and either way, more often than not, turning to quick fixes backfire[s] in far greater ways, both physically and mentally,” Burgunder said.
Remember that the diet industry is a 70 billion dollar industry that has a lot to gain from your buy-in, said Jessica Sprengle, a licensed professional therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders.
“It’s geared toward making sure you hate your body enough to do anything in your power to change it,” she said. “Many, many people are invested in you hating your body ― it lines their pockets ― and they will do everything imaginable, including marketing drugs like these, even if they’re dangerous, to make money.”
The pressure to buy in to quick fixes may even come from your doctor. As noted in a recent New Yorker piece on Ozempic, doctors “frequently misdiagnose, undertreat, or shame fat people, who then accumulate reasons to distrust medical care.” A 2012 survey of almost 2,500 U.S. women found that 69% reported feeling stigmatized for their weight and 52% endured recurring fat bias by their doctors.
Mute words and phrases that trigger you on social media.
If you’re extremely online (or even just semi-online), it’s near impossible to escape articles and gossip items about celebrities (and non-celebs with money) using Ozempic for off-label use.
Thankfully, you’ll be able to mute the phrases “Ozempic” and “Wegovy” from displaying up in your Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.
If your YouTube feed is wall-to-wall Ozempic trend videos because you watched a clip or two and now the algorithm thinks you’re interested, remove individual videos from your watch history. That alone may reduce the chance of similar recommendations in the future. (It also might help to remove individual searches from your search history.)
Start following body-neutral influencers and writers.
Time and time again, body neutrality experts we’ve spoken to recommend curating your social media feeds to omit Influencers and Instagram accounts that bring you down. (Think “fitspiration” and diet-centric content, or anyone who’s more subtly pushing the need to slim down.)
Coppola said that this small step has had a huge impact on her recovery journey.
“It really does help to just liberally remove people from your social media feed and from your social media world who trigger you, who bring up these thoughts and who are beginning to rewire your old habits, routines, rituals, and ways of thinking,” she said.
In their place, diversify your following list to include dietitians and mid-size and plus-size content creators who value body acceptance and neutrality.
“I follow a ton of anti-diet dietitians who remind me regularly that being hungry is OK and normal,” Morris said. “Outside of carefully curating your social media feeds, I just have to keep going back to the books and articles and podcasts that convinced me to stop dieting.”
Sprengle suggests reading content that more holistically discusses the harm these drugs can cause and how we’ve gotten here, like Marquisele Mercedes’ piece on Wegovy from 2021.
Get outside help and talk about it.
People in recovery are always encouraged to talk with people they trust about how exposure to certain headlines impacts them.
“Expressing how you feel to people who understand has a way of defusing the emotions that are activated by exposure,” Moser said. “Seeking professional support in navigating systemic diet culture messages is important while also receiving specialized help from therapists, dietitians and physicians.”
Remember how far you’ve come in your recovery process.
When Morris goes down a rabbit hole of reading about Ozempic or similar treatments, she tries to think of the big picture, she said. Will this matter in 10 years?
“I know many of us have regrets about the experiences we’ve missed out on because we were so worried about food or what our bodies looked like, so thinking of it in terms of your past is helpful, too,” she said.
“It also really helps me to think that humans evolved to need and enjoy food,” Morris said. “It’s natural, it’s normal to be hungry. That’s your body trying to keep you alive. It’s incredibly self-loving and self-caring to embrace that, listen to your body, and give it what it needs to keep you alive.”
Becca, quoted at the beginning of the story, is also leaning in to her progress and coping skills, as well as her hard-earned love of cooking and food.
“Eating is one of the biggest passions in life and it’s one of the ways I’ve reclaimed my relationship with myself, so the sheer apathy towards food in the culture right now makes me very uncomfortable,” she said.
“Knowing that I’m feeding my body the nourishment it needs helps me ignore a lot of the disordered eating nonsense the internet seems to be promoting more and more,” she said.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.