If reading press coverage burned calories, you could skip the gym for a month and just read all the articles circulating over the past month about Ozempic and its sibling drugs.
Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro have leaped into the conversation, because they seem to promise sustained weight loss.
Developed for diabetics, these drugs regulate insulin and blood sugar, and they happen to also slow down digestion, increase the feeling of fullness after eating, and massively slash appetite.
And because of those effects, people taking them tend to lose between 10 and 25 per cent of their total body weight over the course of a year.
Naturally, Hollywood celebs and rich people, who do not have diabetes, pounced on it in an effort to slim down. And more and more people have followed. With new drugs in this category coming out, prices are sure to come down.
This has caused a furor that already borders on a moral panic. It’s forming a new battle line in the wars between fatphobic and fat-acceptance cultures, and about what is and isn’t healthy.
But I believe a large part of it is about money, and class, and who “deserves” to be thin.
There seems to be a phobia around the idea that people won’t have to “work” for weight loss, that they can just buy it. That there’s somehow a righteous way to lose weight, with diet and exercise, willpower and grit. That thin people are inherently virtuous.
That’s always been bunk.
It’s easy to gain weight now because for the first time in our history as a species, many societies have access to cheap, plentiful, processed food, and because we don’t have to do back-breaking, calorie-burning physical labour to get it.
They ship high-fructose corn syrup by tanker truck, what did anyone expect to happen?
But when you look at stats, you can see that the poorer people are, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese.
That’s because rich people already buy health and thinness.
Personal trainers and coaches. Personal chefs. Fresh produce. In-home gym equipment. High-end bicycles. Treadmill desks. Most important, wealth buys time – grocery delivery and childcare and cleaning services allow people to devote the time to taking care of their bodies.
I’m not going to tell anyone they should take any of these drugs, that’s between them and their doctor.
But we live in a society that is structured so that it’s very easy to gain weight, and we all share a biology that makes it hard to shed that weight.
If we’re cautious about these drugs, it should be because we worry about side effects, or we feel it’s possible to be both fat and fit, or because fatphobia is an ugly prejudice, or because we want to build a society where people can easily be more active and food is better for us.
We shouldn’t do it because only some people “deserve” to be thin. Being able to afford better food and more time to exercise isn’t a moral virtue.
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