In a world obsessed with self-care and quick fixes, where every promise comes with a catch, a new heavyweight has emerged in the realm of weight loss. Ozempic, a once-reluctant entrant, has risen to prominence, and it’s not alone.
With its comrades Mounjaro, Wegovy, Rybelsus, Victoza, and Sanxeda, this new generation of diet options is taking the market by storm.
But their success isn’t just about shedding pounds; it’s about how drug companies are stepping in where self-care often falters, offering solutions that really work. Welcome to the evolution of weight loss in the age of self-care.
In today’s digital age, the idea of self-care has transformed from simply focusing on mental health or taking a break to becoming the best version of ourselves, driven by hard work, determination, and a hefty budget for countless products.
This shift has been propelled by the influence of image-centric social media and turned self-care into more than just a trendy word; it’s now a marketing tool, a mindset, and a whopping $1.5 trillion industry, as reported by McKinsey & Company. Unfortunately, it often excludes many, both financially and by emphasizing self-control as a moral virtue.
Enter Ozempic, a medical injection that costs nearly $1,000 per month without insurance, which often doesn’t even cover it. In the era of wellness characterized by unconventional practices, expensive treatments, and pseudoscience, Ozempic’s success isn’t a fluke.
It’s the outcome of an overblown self-care landscape that championed willpower above all else, leaving many women behind.
Ozempic, along with its companions
Mounjaro and Rybelsus, belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 antagonists, designed initially to treat type-2 diabetes in adults. However, the side effects, like reducing appetite and keeping people feeling full longer, made it an appealing choice for weight loss.
Demand for Ozempic has skyrocketed since 2021, with an estimated 370,000 people using it, even leading to a national shortage of the drug. This surge has ignited discussions about the outsized role of weight in defining a healthy body by medical standards and what wellness culture looks like when there’s a seemingly simpler, albeit expensive, alternative.
The latest version of wellness and self-care culture has become tightly linked to achieving weight loss at any cost, all while using language centered around taking care of your body, rather than simply looking good. According to Christy Harrison, a registered dietitian and author of “The Wellness Trap,” this modern wellness culture often connects having a muscular body and specific body shapes with being healthy and morally upright.
It encourages weight loss and body transformation as a means to attain a higher status, even as it elevates individuals who don’t fit the conventional image of health. The message is often framed as, “You’re doing this for your health, to be the best version of yourself.”
Harrison points out that a significant problem with self-care is that it convinces many people that the only thing standing between them and success is their own willpower. This message is echoed online, especially on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where a lot of self-care content presents unrealistic beauty or health standards.
It persuades large groups of followers that they can achieve these ideals, often without disclosing the financial resources and free time required to reach those goals.
In response to these unattainable ideals, the body positivity movement emerged, celebrating bodies of all sizes. It was followed by the body neutrality movement, which promotes accepting your body, even if it’s not the size or shape you’d prefer.
Now, Ozempic is marketed as a continuation of the self-care narrative, offering a way to take control of your well-being without placing blame on yourself.
The Ozempic craze has filled a gap that self-care hasn’t sufficiently addressed:
The healthcare disparities faced by cisgender women. Weight loss and health marketing predominantly target women.
According to Novo Nordisk, at least 81 percent of Wegovy users, a version of Ozempic designed for weight loss, are women. Many of the vocal Ozempic supporters and online influencers also deal with a range of hormonal syndromes, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or chronic thyroid issues.
These conditions can lead to rapid weight gain or make losing weight difficult. These influencers have shared their Ozempic success stories, often claiming that the drug has worked where previous healthcare solutions failed.
Dr. Daniel Ginn, an OBGYN at UCLA Health, explains that receiving a diagnosis and treatment for conditions like endometriosis, PCOS, or other related pelvic disorders can be incredibly challenging. On average, it takes seven to nine years to diagnose endometriosis, leaving people desperate for alternatives.
Dr. Ginn acknowledges this challenge and mentions that many patients arrive at his clinic after being ignored or misdiagnosed, which is heartbreaking. He and his team often witness patients feeling heard for the first time, which is both an honor and a sad reflection of the healthcare system’s shortcomings.
As Christy Harrison, the author of “The Wellness Trap,” notes,
The ground is fertile for the development of wellness culture because there are numerous legitimate issues within the conventional healthcare system. Many individuals with conditions like autoimmune diseases, PCOS, or poorly understood and under-treated health issues seek alternative solutions.
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Even as a prescription medication, Ozempic has fueled a growing skepticism of Western medicine, leading some to disregard doctors’ advice. The official Ozempic shortage prompted the FDA to issue warnings about compounded semaglutide, a generic version of the drug available from compounding pharmacies or telehealth platforms. Despite these warnings, the practice of obtaining cheaper compounded versions online has continued.
TikTok videos on the subject often overshadow the advice from healthcare professionals, pushing the narrative of taking control of your health, even if it means disregarding your doctor’s guidance.
A recent report from Fortune highlights a network of financial incentives and payments motivating much of the Ozempic-related content on TikTok. These incentives encourage influencers to post more about the drug. Online, taking Ozempic has become synonymous with taking charge of your own well-being, even if it means ignoring medical advice.
However, Christy Harrison, author of “The Wellness Trap,” hopes that as more issues with the self-care industry are exposed, people will focus on addressing the societal problems underlying these challenges instead of seeking a new quick fix.
Harrison emphasizes that wellness culture often wrongly suggests that taking care of yourself means losing weight, following restrictive diets, or adhering to specific exercise routines. It overlooks the larger systemic issues at play and makes people feel guilty for not prioritizing self-care.
Harrison believes that collective efforts to address these systemic pressures would be far more effective than individuals feeling pressured to take self-care into their own hands.