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“Your Body is Your Business”: A Psychologist Responds to the Rise of Ozempic Shaming

Written by Jessica Yu, Ph.D.

Published 02/26/2024

With the rise in popularity of weight loss medications such as Ozempic, Wegovy and others, everybody seems to be talking about weight and/or how to lose it. As a clinical psychologist whose early career focused on helping individuals with obesity and obesity-related conditions (e.g., type 2 diabetes) improve their health and well-being, I have mixed feelings about the chatter.

On one hand, I appreciate that the conversation about weight loss puts a spotlight on what experts agree is a “public health crisis.” After all, nearly 42% of American adults are considered to have obesity, a condition that puts them at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

On the other hand, I take issue with the fact that it seems to have given some people license to unnecessarily comment on others’ appearance, weight and weight loss efforts. The comments include: telling others they should use Ozempic, chastising those using weight loss medications for “taking the easy way out,” and comparing Ozempic users to thieves (as Ozempic was originally developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes). There’s even a term for this negative commentary: “Ozempic shaming.”

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Why do people care so much about others’ weight? And why do they feel like they have the right to comment on it? From my perspective, the answer lies in societal expectations around thinness. From a young age, we are exposed to sociocultural pressure through the media, our parents, and our peers to embrace the “thin ideal”—to work toward a physical figure that is slender or lean.

At the same time, we are also exposed to weight stigma—or the social denigration of individuals who don’t conform to these slender standards. And it may be that this combination of pressures has led us to believe that we are justified—moral, even—in calling people out for their weight.

We’re not. In fact, doing so is dangerous. The reality is that millions of Americans are living with obesity. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Shaming individuals with obesity can have serious negative effects on their health. Studies have shown that individuals who experience weight stigma exhibit less motivation for and adherence to treatment, and are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and suicidal thinking.

Calling people out for their chosen method of weight loss is also unjustified. Obesity and weight loss are complex. While lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise are obviously important factors in a person’s weight, there are many other variables, such as genetics, environment, family history, personal health history and more. Choosing to use weight loss medication doesn’t indicate that a person lacks willpower; rather, it signals that obesity simply isn’t easy to treat. From my perspective, asking for help when faced with a daunting challenge is a sign of strength. 

So, what can you do if you’ve been subject to unwelcome comments about your weight or your weight loss journey?

  1. Remember that your body is your business. No one should be able to tell you how to feel about it or what to do with it. If you find yourself unmoored by others’ commentary about your body, try closing your eyes, grounding yourself with a few deep and slow breaths, and repeating this to yourself: My body is my house, my temple. It is mine, and mine alone.

  2. Have a response ready for when someone asks you about your weight or weight loss journey. Sometimes, the best response is a direct (and polite) one: Thanks for being concerned about me. I’m not interested in talking about my weight.

  3. Be proud of what you’re doing in service of your own health. Whatever weight loss treatment you’ve chosen for yourself is likely to have a positive impact on your mental and physical health. Reward yourself for investing in yourself and celebrate your successes.

And how can you support others who have expressed to you that they are struggling with their weight—without talking about their body?

  1. Ask them for what they need. Sometimes people just want a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes they want help solving their problems. Sometimes they need something else. Learn what they need to feel supported, and see if you can offer it.

  2. Remind them that they are so much more than their body or their weight. Move away from the body talk and encourage people to remember what makes them unique, whether it be a special talent or a cool hobby.

The buzz about weight loss is likely to continue as weight loss medications become more common. But the shaming of those who are trying to lose weight doesn’t have to. Together, we can make a commitment to living our best lives—and supporting others as they do the same however they choose to.

8 Sources

  1. David Blumenthal and Shanoor Seervai, “Rising Obesity in the United States Is a Public Health Crisis,” To the Point (blog), Commonwealth Fund, Apr. 24, 2018. https://doi.org/10.26099/fth3-sd41
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, May). Adults Obesity Facts. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
  3. Suelter, C. S., Schvey, N., Kelly, N. R., Shanks, M., Thompson, K. A., Mehari, R., Brady, S., Yanovski, S. Z., Melby, C. L., Tanofsky-Kraff, M., Yanovski, J. A., & Shomaker, L. B. (2018). Relationship of pressure to be thin with gains in body weight and fat mass in adolescents. Pediatric obesity, 13(1), 14–22. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijpo.12179
  4. Fulton M, Dadana S, Srinivasan VN. Obesity, Stigma, and Discrimination. [Updated 2023 Oct 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554571/
  5. Westbury, S., Oyebode, O., van Rens, T., & Barber, T. M. (2023). Obesity Stigma: Causes, Consequences, and Potential Solutions. Current obesity reports, 12(1), 10–23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-023-00495-3
  6. Graham, C. E., & Frisco, M. L. (2023). The Mental "Weight" of Discrimination: The Relationship between Perceived Interpersonal Weight Discrimination and Suicidality in the United States. Journal of health and social behavior, 64(4), 610–625. https://doi.org/10.1177/00221465231200634
  7. Panuganti KK, Nguyen M, Kshirsagar RK. Obesity. [Updated 2023 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459357/
  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2023, May). Factors Affecting Weight & Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/adult-overweight-obesity/factors-affecting-weight-health
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