Scroll through your social feed, and there it is – conversation everywhere about Ozempic. It feels like the whole world is hunting for the fastest way to lose weight, and Ozempic has suddenly become the spotlight. But the big question remains – is Ozempic the answer we’ve been looking for, or is it a bit more complicated?

Originally, Ozempic was designed for people with type 2 diabetes to help manage their blood sugar. But then, something unexpected was discovered. It also makes people feel fuller for longer because it slows down how fast the stomach empties. This side effect quickly turned into a weight loss sensation.

For individuals dealing with diabetes or obesity, Ozempic has offered a new path. It’s allowed them to approach their health and body image in a new way, and that’s a personal choice. However, it has also led to a resurgence of harmful beauty standards, promoting the idea that being thinner is always better.

Sinovuyo, a 24-year-old Medicine student, says, “It needs to be understood that it is not some miracle drug. It’s approved for Diabetes with a recognised side effect of weight loss for that period of use.”

The pressure to be thin isn’t just something adults face; it’s hitting teens, too. In the United States, the fact that about one in ten girls have turned to weight loss medications speaks volumes about the societal pressure on body image, especially with Ozempic making headlines.

In South Africa, getting Ozempic requires a prescription and isn’t cheap, with prices typically ranging from R1,200 to R6,000 for a 30-day or more supply. Nonetheless, some influencers have been showcasing their access to it, influencing perceptions among their audience. Young female influencers like Naledi Mallela and Xoli Gcabashe have openly shared their experiences, showcasing their monthly doses obtained from medical clinics, highlighting the relative accessibility of the medication but also the side effects such as nausea and having to maintain their bodily weight so it doesn’t return to normal, which happens when one stops taking the medication.

Dana, a 23-year-old psychology student, shares, “The people who society cherishes the greatest can damage others without consequence.” Loveness, 24, living with type 2 diabetes, reflects, “There is the kind of weight loss that is done to avoid shame and enhance status. While both men and women face unfair treatment if they are overweight, women suffer more for not being small enough, which is why I think we’re seeing such an increase in the use of the drug.”

The influence of celebrities and influencers has made this issue more prominent, setting unrealistic standards that have led to mental health issues and body dissatisfaction for many.
British activist Jameel Jamil questions the societal obsession with thinness, “Can’t we just let people live? Can’t women eat and enjoy a meal without worrying about what they’ll look like, what they’ll weigh tomorrow?”

Ozempic offers a potential future where weight loss seems more achievable. Yet, it’s crucial to proceed with an awareness of its broader impacts and understanding that body size doesn’t define self-worth.

Share your thoughts on how we can change the story about body ideals.