The Ozempic epidemic in Hollywood

Art by Michelle Deng for the UCSD Guardian
Art by Michelle Deng for the UCSD Guardian

The Ozempic epidemic in Hollywood highlights a complex intersection of health, celebrity influence, and societal beauty standards. Hollywood’s focus on narrow, often unattainable beauty ideals, amplified by celebrity endorsements, fuels a culture of body dissatisfaction. This can lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as disordered eating and drug misuse, as individuals strive to emulate these glamorized standards. The impact is widespread, affecting not just celebrities but the general public, particularly impressionable young people. The rampant use of Ozempic in Hollywood highlights the need for a cultural shift towards celebrating diverse body types and prioritizing well-being over appearance to mitigate the harmful effects of these beauty standards.

Ozempic was originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2017 for managing blood glucose in Type 2 Diabetes. The drug is a semaglutide injection and mimics a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that suppresses appetite and leads to reduced calorie intake. Due to this, one of Ozempic’s side effects is significant weight loss, which has catapulted the drug into the spotlight as an easy weight loss method among individuals without diabetes. 

However, this is not the first time that a drug has been abused to maintain a certain body image and promote weight loss. Before Ozempic, other drugs, such as those in the GLP-1 agonist class, to which semaglutide belongs, were also used to aid in weight management, albeit primarily in individuals with Type 2 diabetes. For example, Liraglutide, marketed under the name Victoza for diabetes and Saxenda for weight loss was another medication in this category that was used before Ozempic’s rise to prominence.

To mitigate these harmful effects, there is a pressing need for a cultural shift towards celebrating a diversity of body types. This involves recognizing and valuing individuals for their unique qualities and contributions beyond their physical appearance. Media outlets, influencers, and content creators have a pivotal role in this transformation by showcasing a broader spectrum of body shapes and sizes and promoting stories that highlight inner qualities and achievements rather than just aesthetic appeal.

Additionally, prioritizing well-being over appearance means redefining what it means to be healthy. It’s about moving away from aesthetic-driven fitness goals to a more holistic view of health that encompasses physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This approach encourages practices that support long-term health, such as balanced nutrition, regular physical activity, mental health care, and self-acceptance.

Educational initiatives that focus on media literacy can also help individuals critically assess the images and messages they are exposed to, reducing the impact of harmful beauty standards. By fostering an environment that celebrates diversity, encourages healthy lifestyles, and values individuals for their unique contributions, society can counteract the negative effects of narrow beauty standards and create a more inclusive and supportive culture.

Ozempic’s popularity soared after high-profile figures, like Elon Musk, credited semaglutide for their weight loss. Influential figure, Oprah Winfrey, who was on the board of directors of  ‘Weight Watchers’ for almost 10 years, also recently left her position following her announcement, stating she has been taking Ozempic as a weight loss drug. This was furthered by the social media platform TikTok, where users shared dramatic weight loss stories. This has led to a shortage of the drug in addition to a rightful debate about the ethical use of medical treatments for cosmetic purposes.

This surge in demand, fueled by social media trends and celebrity endorsements, has led to a global shortage, impacting patients who rely on the medication for its intended purpose. Individuals with diabetes are finding it increasingly difficult to access this crucial medication, forcing them to seek alternatives that may not be as effective or covered by insurance. This situation underscores the need for a balanced approach to medication use, prioritizing medical necessity over cosmetic desires. Moreover, it raises questions about the role of celebrity culture and social media in shaping health behaviors and the broader implications for public health. 

In summary, the Ozempic epidemic in Hollywood is more than just a trend; it is a reflection of deeper societal issues related to health, beauty, and the influence of celebrity culture. It is crucial for discussions around such topics to consider the ethical implications and prioritize the well-being of individuals who are taking these medications for their weight loss.

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