Ozempic gossip will destroy our brains
On celebrity "gotcha" journalism and talking about your own weight loss.
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“All the celebrities are on Ozempic” wedged its way further into mainstream consciousness when Jimmy Kimmel joked about it at this year’s Academy Awards. If there’s an Oscars gag about famous people taking any of the so-called “weight loss” drugs — Ozempic being the buzziest right now — then you know it’s a Whole Thing.
Along with Mindy Kaling, one of the most prominent targets of Ozempic speculation is Kyle Richards, the subject of several “The lady doth protest too much” writeups. Here’s Jezebel, once again operating under the auspices of an ostensible feminist brand to essentially bully women about their bodies, making the case without evidence that Kyle’s Ozempic denial equals proof. And a March 15 Celebitchy article points out how Kyle’s been denying Ozempic use for two months and just did it again. So much of the conversation around these drugs is nothing but celebrity gossip.
Why do people care about these “Is she or isn’t she?” items? For one thing, they fall in line with the cultural obsession to call people out (celebrities or otherwise); Jessica DeFino discussed with me the “amateur detectives” making celebrity plastic surgery videos, and I recently wrote about the content that seems to accuse men with potential eating disorders of bad behavior. People deem celebrities’ potential Ozempic use bad behavior, too — there’s a shortage for those with diabetes who need it, and people think already-slender celebrities are hoarding Ozempic shots like dragons so they can lose eight pounds — so they’re determined to catch celebs in the act.
I find this gotcha sensibility incredibly boring — a reality television star or social media influencer or a Kardashian did something ignoble? Wow, you don’t say. I do not expect the modern celebrity to be a model for necessarily correct, “healthy,” or honest behavior, especially not in the realm of their physical presentation. I’ll say it again: No celebrity can be a body image icon. Write it down! If you’re upset that Kyle et al. might be using Ozempic because there’s a shortage, fine — I’d sooner direct my ire at the people who bear the greatest responsibility, like beauty boutique doctors making it rain with prescriptions, but fine. But let’s be honest about part of what’s going on here: People have a lot of negative feelings lately when celebrity women lose weight, drug shortage or not. (It’s interesting that nobody gave a shit when Elon Musk straight-up admitted to using Wegovy. I wonder if we hold men to a different standard about this or something!)
Those negative feelings recall a passage I wrote:
I can admit why I’ve cared about a celebrity or anyone else’s body before: Grappling with my own body image makes me insane, I’m insecure and emotionally and psychologically damaged about my body, and it can be a relief to fire some of that energy outward … Any time I’ve been in my feelings about someone else’s body for simply existing, it’s because I’m envious, it’s because I’ve felt it a great injustice that they “get” something I don’t have, it’s because I understand that our culture places a premium on looking a certain way and that way is not achievable for me or most people without a great many expensive or time and money-consuming interventions or cosmic blessings.
I think many people are simply terrified that American culture is on the precipice of a thinness-worship renaissance that will entirely roll back the concepts of body acceptance or weight inclusivity (thinness worship never entirely disappeared, but the ascendance of those concepts and their associated role models seemed to turn the volume down on it) and celebrity weight loss via Ozempic is the first sign that soon, everyone will be thin but them. The Ozempic conversation might be so destabilizing because it can throw one’s values into question; I can understand how a suddenly newly-thin celebrity (or person you know) in the age of Ozempic might cause terrifying thought experiments to run through one’s head: If I had endless free access to Ozempic with minimal or no side effects and no one would ever know I was taking it, would I? Do I really want to opt out of the pursuit of weight loss if weight loss suddenly became much, much easier to obtain? Do I really accept my own body as it is?
Take a breath. Consider the following:
Casey Johnston wrote here in response to New York Magazine’s “Life After Food?” article — which I can only describe as devastatingly horny for Ozempic — about how the take that “everyone” is on Ozempic is not only baseless but psychologically harmful: “There is a point where personal preoccupation shades into ‘so much cultural pressure that someone has no choice but to be preoccupied,’” she writes. Basically: No, not everyone is on Ozempic, and maybe you’re disturbed by the Ozempic conversation not because your worst “All my friends are taking it and I’m not!” nightmares are coming true, but because you’re simply hearing way too much about the rich, famous, well-connected people taking it. Casey also points out that body acceptance/positivity is not some “experiment” that ends as soon as some people lose weight.@1followernodad Yes, recalls to me how @caseyjohnston just pointed out re: Ozempic that the NyMag article breathlessly talking about how “everyone” is on it perpetuates this insidious idea that maybe the reader should be, too
[Sidebar: The “Life After Food” article blames Adele’s 100-pound weight loss for apparently obliterating the body acceptance concept: “Ours was supposed to be the feel-good era of Lizzo and Ashely Graham and Adele. Then Adele lost all that weight.” As Casey wrote, Adele “lost weight over a period of multiple years concurrent with a number of habit changes that would have impacted that.” To baselessly position Adele, who has discussed using weight lifting to help manage her anxiety (Je suis Adele!) as a harbinger of, I don’t know, a “feel-bad era” because she lost weight … my heart rate is spiking. It’s reprehensible.]
There is plenty of quality journalism about what these drugs do and don’t do, the side effects, why they’re beneficial for some people, etc. Before you waste another minute on celebrity gossip, read the articles I’m linking at the bottom of this one.
No matter what happens with these drugs in the future, the only way to find peace is to figure out what your values are and act accordingly. Do you value accepting your body at any moment and rejecting any intentional body change interventions? Do you value losing weight for health reasons and want to make an informed decision to take one of these drugs? Do you value fitting in with “everyone” around you who is getting thinner and think your life will be better if you use Ozempic to lose 11 pounds? A good way to figure out your values and whether you might need to adjust them is something else Jessica DeFino told me:
Every time you get an urge to participate in something, some sort of beauty behavior or a negative thought about yourself and your body, just keep asking, “Why?”
Why do you feel the need to have the same body as the people around you? Why do you think your life will be better if you lose 11 pounds? Why is a drug a better choice than some other means of action? Why is it important to you to reject any intentional interventions? Where do all of these motivations come from? Do they serve you first and foremost?
Stop asking questions about the behaviors of celebrities and start asking questions about yourself.
I’d like to point out something about Kyle Richards.
The idea that her talking so much about her allegedly non-Ozempic weight loss is a sure sign that she did use Ozempic amuses me. The Ozempic detectives writing these articles must not have ever talked to someone who’s lost a lot of weight before. I’m one of those people, so let me tell ya: It’s very easy for people who lose weight, no matter how they did it, to fall into the habit of constantly mentioning it.
In my experience, losing weight means a lot of people ask questions about it and comment on it. Since Kyle’s a slimmed-down celebrity doing red carpet interviews at the precise time when weight loss drugs are all over the news, it’s going to come up. It is entirely unsurprising to me that she’d be defensive if she did do it, and it’s entirely unsurprising to me that she’d be defensive if she didn’t. I would have been annoyed years ago if people insisted I lost weight in a way that I didn’t. No one else gets to tell the story of what I did with my body but me.
No matter how Kyle lost weight, I relate to her inability to keep it out of conversation. Here you are in my newsletter where I write about it, yes (because I assume your voluntary readership means you want to know about it) but I have had to learn over the past decade to zip it IRL where weight loss talk is concerned unless someone asks about it. In my early post-weight loss days I dropped into conversation far too many mentions of all the things that used to be the case when I was bigger but were newly the case now that I was smaller. I felt like I couldn’t help it: I had to buy all-new clothes. The person in the mirror and in pictures was new. I was working out seriously for the first time. I was eating differently. People treated me differently and talked to me differently. Of course it consumed me — it changed everything about my life.
Still, body change talk can be especially dicey because it pushes the buttons of all those people in the world who are struggling with their own bodies in some way or another while the speaker bloviates about their moment in the sun (before they come to realize all the weirdness and struggles they must continue to face).
Not that long ago, weight-loss discussions were quite different. In 2023, people still want to lose weight but have learned it’s less somewhat less acceptable in some contexts to say that outright — Weight Watchers changes its name to WW, all things “diet” become “wellness,” it’s gauche to explicitly compliment someone’s thinness but we still openly fawn all over “long, lean” bodies. People are talking around weight loss and thinness attempts but low-key making them anyway. At the same time, in certain circles you are persona non grata for even mentioning weight loss: “... when it comes to the [body positivity] movement at large, the threat of being exiled to social Siberia for losing weight is real,” writes Ashlee Marie Preston.
But circa 2011 when I first lost a lot of weight, there was still an unfortunate mainstream idea that losing weight was always and necessarily good, no matter the method, period. I lost weight and every person I knew congratulated me on it, complimented me on it, and asked me for tips about how to do it. I posted a before-and-after picture (that’s not a link to the picture, it’s an essay about the concept) because that wasn’t seen as a potentially iffy thing to do, and it was the most-liked thing I’ve ever posted. I was a smug little swimmer in a sea of adulation. Smug people are annoying. People who are hyper-focused on something in their lives and can’t stop talking about it are annoying. I was annoying. Still can be.
I don’t think this is entirely indefensible. It’s natural to talk a lot about significant things in one’s life, and the body is significant for many of us. I give myself grace here, and I offer grace to anyone who might be swimming in their own smug little sea. It took me time to realize that it was not the weight loss itself that made me proud (read: smug, bloviating), it’s the changes I made to my life — therapy, managing disordered eating and anxiety, building new habits, etc. If you catch yourself talking a little bit too much about your body changes because you’re proud of things like this, I get it.
And while I don’t doubt for a second that many celebrities are using their money and connections to get Ozempic because they prioritize thinness (using their money and connects to get stuff to maintain their status is what celebrities do), let me remind you: Some people really do lose weight without the help of medications. Kyle Richards without question has access to the best trainers, dieticians, and quality food money can buy. That, combined with the fact that she said she stopped drinking alcohol — my friends, there’s (at least temporary) weight loss in them thar hills.
If you build new habits that change everything in your life for the better, you might find yourself a little manic with enthusiasm and vigor, and that can be kind of grating to the people around you. Often this is their issue more than it’s yours, but we live in a society and we want to be kind and consider people’s feelings. No matter where you are with your body, try not to make it the star of the discourse at all times, and perhaps bend the conversation toward the other shared interests you have with the person you’re speaking to.
I didn’t end up in the pages of Jezebel and Celebitchy for yammering on too much about my weight loss before I realized that the deeper stuff was actually what mattered, but I probably reinforced to the people people in my life that simply becoming smaller was the most interesting thing about me. This is not the case, so I have to remember not to make it so.
Further reading about weight-loss drugs:
Ozempic Can Cause Major Weight Loss. What Happens if You Stop Taking It?
Is the World Ready for Extremely Effective Weight-Loss Drugs?
America Isn’t Ready for the Weight-Loss-Drug Revolution That’s Coming
The idea of “blaming” Adele for ruining body image is a mental gymnastic leap of such magnitude. I mean honestly. Agree on the word choice, reprehensible!