As a 22-year-old, internet addicted senior in college, Ozempic came on my radar in the form of speculation about actress Mindy Kaling, who recently lost 40 pounds. Rumors of her “Ozempic parties” were all over my social media, particularly TikTok and Twitter (I refuse to call it X). And I can’t lie – I was intrigued. If it’s good enough for someone who is that successful, maybe it would work for me.
But Ozempic is just your classic eating disorder wrapped in a shiny new bow. It’s insidious, because it’s celebrity-endorsed (or at least perceived that way) and you get it from a doctor – and if a doctor says it’s okay, it must be, right? Most people aren’t going to recognize this as disordered behavior because it doesn’t involve hunching over the toilet with your fingers down your throat or obsessively counting calories. But taking a drug to limit your appetite for the sake of vanity is still unhealthy.
The Washington Post recently released an article reporting that prescriptions for Ozempic and similar medications, which were first intended for people with diabetes, “quadrupled between early 2020 and the end of 2022. Yes, you read that right – quadrupled. I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a huge wave of new diabetes diagnosis, so we can reasonably assume that most of these new prescriptions are for people who want to follow in Kaling’s (purported) footsteps.
Ozempic has been portrayed in the media as a quick fix for losing weight and a favorite strategy of glamorous celebrities. Despite a hefty price tag (around $1,000/month), and protest from diabetics whose access to the drug has become alarmingly limited, people are using Ozempic for non-medical, cosmetic purposes. And very few are asking the question, “Is this safe?” My guess is that even fewer actually care. Why would they? Women of all ages are constantly feeling the pressure of impossibly high beauty standards. So it’s no wonder that, out of pure desperation, women will shell out thousands of dollars to be thinner.
“Everyone is suddenly showing up 25 pounds lighter,” Andy Cohen, the TV producer who created the “Real Housewives” franchise, tweeted in September. “What happens when they stop taking #Ozempic?????” – New Yorker, March 2023
Sarah Hennis, Olivia Mone, and Julia Johnson are friends of mine and fellow seniors at Elon University in NC. Mone, like me, was initially curious about what it would take to get an Ozempic prescription. But all three girls agreed that it is not worth the money or trouble.
“We are in a pretty young stage of our development; our bodies and our minds don’t stop developing until we’re 25. People our age are more predisposed to eating disorders,” said Johnson.
For the most part, however, college students aren’t taking Ozempic. It’s not that they’re smarter, less insecure, or more evolved than the generations before them, it’s that they simply don’t have the funds. With external and internal pressures to be thinner, young people can push through the discomfort of hunger. But if they didn’t have to feel hungry, imagine how much further they could take it.
“You gain the weight back and then it’s even harder to lose again, so it’s like, why are you even doing this?” said Hennis. It was interesting to me that a lack of permanent effectiveness seemed to be a more important reason for them to not use Ozempic than, say, dangerous side effects. Stomach paralysis is one of these side effects, which I had to look up… and let’s just say it’s definitely not worth it.
In my opinion, Ozempic is a temporary solution for a larger problem. It’s just the latest in a long line of dangerous weight-loss strategies that never solve the larger societal issue of what it means to be beautiful and what you should be willing to do to get there. The particular curse of being a woman is that we’ve all felt, at some point in our lives, unworthy based on how we look. I mean, there are women prepared to lose their lives in the process of becoming thinner. No amount of FDA warnings or sketchy side effects is going to change that. So, don’t be surprised if in 10 years, the 20-somethings of today make a pharmaceutical company a lot of money on the next Ozempic.
If you have taken Ozempic or Wegovy for weight loss and became ill, we understand and want to hear from you. Don’t let the people profiting off of your pain get away with it.
-Palmer Boothe, ACFW Intern