Existing in a reality in which unconditional body acceptance is both a radical concept and a genuine challenge is a bonafide mind game. And to witness phenomena like shifting body-type trends (that seem to always eventually shift back to unattainable thinness) while overhearing the constant conversation about a drug that actually makes it attainable — especially as someone who knows how simultaneously foolish yet forgivable it is for me to speak almost exclusively negatively to myself about my body — is a special kind of low-grade hell.
Yes, this is another article about Ozempic, this time written from the perspective of someone who is willing to admit her very complicated feelings about it. I have a diabetic bestie who uses Ozempic for its official purpose; I’m relieved that she hasn’t struggled to access it amid the off-label run on it by people willing to pay thousands of dollars a month and inject themselves for weight loss, but I also don’t envy how awful it makes her feel. And yet, despite knowing diabetics sometimes can’t get it and despite knowing her physical discomfort, I’ve had the truly screwed-up fleeting, recurring thought of, Maybe I should try it.
I have found myself concurrently judging and envying the celebrities who have allegedly used Ozempic to become their slimmest selves. I volley from, Why don’t they just accept their bodies as they are? (as if that’s easy or succumbing to societal standards in the public eye should be considered a treason-like crime) or the more autonomy-friendly, If they want to lose weight, why not just do it through diet and exercise? to, Gee, I wish I could afford to use it — still fully aware of my diabetic friend’s side effects and the news stories about folks like her not being able to get their prescriptions filled.
It’s hard not to take a step back and wonder what the hell is wrong with me. But when you take yet another step back, it becomes apparent that having these mixed and maybe even disordered thoughts is to be expected in the current climate.
“The media has a way of blowing things out of proportion and making it seem as if ‘everyone’ is taking Ozempic. In reality, it’s a small percentage of celebrities and upper-income individuals,” says New York-based psychologist Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D. “It creates a panic mentality of, ‘Everyone is going to be slim except for me!’”
Dr. Hafeez also notes that this FOMO is affecting people who, unlike the celebrities who may be using Ozempic — and who already had financial access to other things that make looking a certain way easier, like personal trainers and plastic surgeons — do not have jobs that rely on looking a certain way. “If you are not a celebrity or model, and your income does not depend on your body alone, then carry on with your life as you did before you ever heard the word Ozempic,” she says.
It’s easier said than done, of course, not to mention revealing of the unapologetically unreasonable standards put upon celebrities and models. And the struggle is nothing new.
“Going back to the waif-like ‘heroin chic’ ideal [of the 1990s] will certainly have a negative impact on the eating habits and aesthetic standards of many people who follow these trends in the media,” says Dr. Hafeez regarding current body-type trends (an absolutely horrifying combination of words). For much of the 2010s, Dr. Hafeez notes, the pop-culture-prescribed body ideal was a very specific version of curvy; now, some of the people who made ample hips a common sight on the red carpet are suddenly the thinnest we’ve ever seen them. “It means that more women will likely try to emulate the super-svelte look,” she says.
The thing is, I don’t follow any body-trendsetting celebrities or influencers on social media. But between what I do for a living, what my friends talk about, and what it means to simply live and perceive and be vulnerable at a time when there are bright screens with impressive imagery everywhere you look, it feels inescapable. I know I’m going to be emotionally influenced, regardless of my penchant for critical thinking.
“Celebrities significantly impact so many practices we adopt and items we purchase in our daily lives. When we see significant, and in some cases staggering, weight loss shown off by these famous people, it can be so tempting to want the same for ourselves to reach these standards of aesthetic ideals that are thrust before us,” Dr. Hafeez says. “Although not many of these celebs have admitted to using the drug, it is somewhat obvious by looking at those who have had rapid weight loss. In many cases, the celebrities were not overweight. This sets up unrealistic body image ideals.”
And where the impact on me may stop at an unpleasant internal debate between advocating for body acceptance and wanting to be thin anyway, for others, the impact can be more dire. “In a quest to duplicate the results of Ozempic, some may resort to unhealthy starvation diets,” Dr. Hafeez says.
Ultimately, there’s no magic bullet when it comes to body acceptance, let alone body positivity, and cultural moments like off-label Ozempic would inevitably serve as a force field if there were. Although I often feel guilty for my vain moments of wishing I could access it, I know that even those using it for weight loss shouldn’t be made to feel guilt about it. While they may unwittingly be making so many of us question our appearance, they were likely feeling the same nagging desire to look a way we’ve blatantly and subconsciously been told to look our whole lives — they’re just doing it with more money and a greater tolerance for side effects.