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Taking Ozempic for Weight Loss: Diet Culture Turned Eating Disorder


min read


“Oh, oh, oh, Ozempic!”

Chances are, the irritatingly chipper TV ad jingle for this diabetes medication just sung in your head. While some are trying to remember the next lyrics of “Magic” by Pilot, others are trying to fight the urge to relapse in their eating disorder.

Newest diet drug Ozempic has boomed in popularity, becoming a prescription brand name almost as recognizable as Viagra or Botox. From celebrities to your average TikToker, anyone who can get their hands on this drug are using it to quickly lose pounds. But people who are losing weight using Ozempic are gaining something much worse: disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with food.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is an FDA-approved semaglutide originally created to treat type 2 diabetes. This GLP-1 receptor agonist is administered through injection in the thigh, upper arm, or stomach. Semaglutides are useful for regulating glucose, something that the population with diabetes struggles with. Subsequently, Ozempic can stimulate the feeling of fullness and decreases appetite.

Ozempic is not the first of its kind. Exenatide was the first GLP-1 drug, followed by liraglutide. The introduction of this type of medication was revolutionary, as it is incredibly effective. The earlier drugs required more frequent injections and reduced less weight than Ozempic. So when the higher-dose semaglutide was released in 2021, the diabetes (and general) crowd went wild.

Due to its appetite suppressing qualities, Ozempic is also being prescribed as a weight loss drug for those with a BMI of 27 or higher. But using Ozempic this way is considered “off label”, which some doctors are strongly urging against. This hasn’t stopped the public from doing so though, and this includes some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Social Media, Hollywood and Ozempic

Reports have claimed Ozempic to be Hollywood’s secret weight-loss drug for years, helping celebrities get “thin enough” for the red carpet. The diet drug’s debut into social media was during the 2022 Met Gala, where there was much debate on Kim Kardashian’s use of Ozempic to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s iconic dress. While Kim (and the rest of the Kardashians) have denied their use of it, celebrities like Elon Musk have attributed their weight loss to semaglutides.

With the big Ozempic weight loss secret out of the bag, TikTok became flooded with videos gushing over the dramatic results of taking the drug. But along with “before and after” photos were the spread of medical misinformation. The glamorization of this “wonder diet drug” conveniently leaves out the original intended use of Ozempic and subsequently its major side effects.

Is It Safe to Take Ozempic for Weight Loss?

Putting the fact that Ozempic is not an FDA-approved weight loss drug to the side, many are wondering if it is safe to use off label. One of the majorly overlooked things of Ozempic is its side effects and risks, especially if you are taking it when you are not diabetic.

As for its side effects, short-term ones include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pains
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation

And if you’re taking the drug without having diabetes, you could be at increased risk for:

  • Malnutrition
  • Hormonal disruption
  • Bone loss
  • Low blood sugar
  • Eating disorders
  • Pancreatitis
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Thyroid cancer

But Ozempic’s long-term effects are not yet clinically understood due to the lack of long-term studies associated with it. The FDA has issued a black label warning for it, the most severe label they can mandate for prescription drugs. They are meant to highlight serious drug reactions, and for Ozempic it highlights its risk of thyroid c-cell tumors.

Ozempic has many reminiscent about the Fen-Phren crisis from the early 90s. Before Ozempic, the combination drug fenfluramine and phentermine, or Fen-Phren, was the biggest miracle diet drug on the block. It was used for obesity treatment, and was massively popular for its weight loss qualities. However, after research discovered its association with valvular heart disease, it was quickly pulled from the market in 1997.

Lack of Ozempic specific research aside, any kind of fast weight loss method is dangerous and even temporary. Ozempic is no exception. The risks of taking Ozempic are not worth it, especially because the Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that a majority of semaglutide takers gain the weight back within a year of stopping their prescription. If losing weight is your goal, the CDC states that one to two pounds per week is the safe amount of weight to lose. Losing weight slowly and steadily is key for healthy and sustainable weight loss.

Diet Culture and Eating Disorders

There’s no denying that we live in a society that values thinness above all else. Even with the rise of body positivity and wellness trends, thin supremacy and diet culture remains ever present. Anti-fat bias, or fatphobia, makes individuals afraid to live in bigger bodies due to shame and understanding that those who are fat are treated differently. There is even fatphobia present in the medical industry, with many doctors significantly displaying both implicit and explicit anti-fat bias. Many people who identify as fat report avoiding routine preventative care due to weight discrimination and being treated disrespectfully by healthcare professionals.

When peers, media, and even medical professionals are stressing the importance of losing weight and avoiding being fat, it’s easy to see how diet culture became as prevalent as it did. The problematic messages and practices of diet culture can lead to detrimental effects to our mental health, especially when it comes to eating disorders.

Diet culture teaches you to obsess over how much you eat, if what you’re eating is “good” or “bad”, and which body type is supposedly ideal. But healthy comes in all different shapes and sizes, and there is no way to know who is healthy just by looking at someone’s body. Depending on someone’s age, disabilities, genetics, illnesses, and a multitude of other factors, health is different for everyone.

Diet culture is also typically based around restrictive regimens surrounding food and exercise, which can be physically and psychologically harmful. Diets are inherently rigid and unsustainable; yet social media loves to portray them as possible through enough discipline and will power. This ends up leading to massive guilt around eating, and possibly even a binge and restrict cycle which is a sign of disordered eating.

Other examples of disordered eating popular in diet culture are:

  • Skipping meals/fasting
  • Using diet pills, like Ozempic, or laxatives/diuretics
  • Cutting out food groups
  • Exercising to “make up for” eating certain foods
  • Only eating foods you consider healthy or “clean”
  • Obsessively counting calories or tracking food

These behaviors increase the risk of developing eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder. More than ever, studies are showing that diet culture is not sustainable or healthy for your body.

How to Rebuild Your Relationship with Food and Your Body

If you’ve found yourself restricting food or leaning into diet culture, you’re not alone. Fad diets (90’s south beach diet anyone?) have been pushed on the public for decades. But there are a few ways to start to retrain your brain and rebuild your relationship with food:

  • Try body neutrality. This means instead of unconditionally hating or loving your body, just accept it as it is. Focus on what your body does for you instead of how it looks. This can make it easier to be grateful of your body’s functionality instead of obsessing over its aesthetics.
  • Eat when you’re hungry. Also known as intuitive eating, this means learning how to be mindful of what your body needs. Listen to your body’s hunger and satiation cues to determine when, what, and how much to eat. This means even eating the “bad” foods when you’re craving them! This may take a while to learn, especially if you have a history of disordered eating. But keep working towards trusting your body and giving it what it needs.
  • Add movement to your day. Many of us are guilty of exercising in order to punish ourselves, but exercising is meant to feel good. You don’t have to hit the gym, just try to add any kind of movement in your day that makes you feel good and more connected to your body. This could mean walking, yoga, dancing, playing a sport, etc.
  • Follow body positive/neutral role models. Seeing problematic messaging on social media is unavoidable, but you can recalibrate your feed by following more body positive/neutral role models. It can be helpful to know that you are not alone in your journey, and inspiring to see others committed to unlearning the same things you are.

If you struggle with eating disorders or other mental health problems, The Meadowglade can help you repair your relationship with food and yourself. Our individualized programs will ensure that your unique needs and goals are catered to with compassionate care. For more information, contact our admissions team today.

Fight for yourself, not with yourself.

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