Ozempic will spell the death of the push to turn obesity into an identity issue

Just as the pill detached fear of pregnancy from sex, Ozempic will level the playing field between healthy and unhealthy eating


Comedian Jimmy Kimmel opened the 2023 Academy Awards with a quip that — excuse the bad pun — punched above its weight: “When I look around at this room I can’t help but wonder, is Ozempic right for me?”

He was referring to a weekly injected drug that increases the production of insulin, thereby reducing appetite with generally tolerable side effects. The pounds fall away without the feeling of deprivation that accompanies other forms of dieting.

I started on Ozempic before it became fashionable. What you’re not being told is it only assist in losing up to 20% of you body weight and doesn’t work for everyone. For instance, if you’re on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications, those meds can actually block what Ozempic is supposed to do. It’s not a one size fits all and isn’t a cure all for obesity.
Kimmel’s joke was a wink to slenderness-obsessed celebrities who shouldn’t be using it — it is meant primarily for diabetics — but who find the usual doors open for them. Elon Musk, for example, who is not diabetic, says Wegovy, an Ozempic competitor, is the reason he looks “fit, ripped and healthy.”

It seems like the answer to a billion prayers. Ozempic and its “semaglutide” siblings are for now officially restricted and too expensive for merely overweight proles, but wait and see. In a year or two, as popular demand and widespread production brings costs down, these drugs will usher in an eating revolution.

Just as the pill detached fear of pregnancy from sex, rendering sexual restraint obsolete, Ozempic will be the weight-gain prophylactic that levels the playing field between healthy and unhealthy eating. This makes me wonder what it will mean for the fat-acceptance movement.

The genius of the fat-acceptance movement was to deflect attention from excess weight as a health problem and frame it as a political “rights” and “identity” issue. Just as Blacks were victims of racism, fat people were victims of “sizeism” — or, in the parlance, “fat oppression.” Thus, any expressed concerns for a victim’s health can be turned back on them as a “microaggression.”

In his book, “The Victims’ Revolution: The rise of Identity Studies and the Birth of the Woke Ideology,” Bruce Bawer recalls his attendance at a fat-studies panel at a 2010 women’s studies conference in Denver (fat studies is “overwhelmingly” a female-dominated discipline).

He listened as academics bemoaned the insensitivity of doctors who advised them to lower their body mass index, ads for diet products and slim fashion models. Their victimhood, it was alleged, could be traced to a phenomenon called “healthism,” which has been defined as “a coercive and potentially fascist act linked to capitalism, racism and Nazi-style eugenics.”

At the 2017 convention of the American Psychological Association, Joan Chrisler, a psychology teacher from Connecticut College, accused doctors who advise their patients to lose weight of “fat shaming.”

Building on the academic success of fat studies, BodCon, a virtual conference for fat people that started in 2021, has amplified the campus-based message to the general population. At this year’s conference, euphemism ruled, according to a report in Quillette by Jack Butler.

The “F-word” was eschewed in favour of “plus-size people,” “more diverse bodies” and “bigger bodies.” People don’t “gain weight” — that would be to assign human agency. Rather, they somewhat mysteriously find themselves in “a bigger body that used to be smaller.” The “F-word” did appear in the term “fatphobia,” though it was used to describe intentional weight loss.

There are significant problematic elements in the fusion of body size and identity politics. One is the “compelled speech” factor that has caused such tension in the trans rights movement. People have the right to privilege appetite over girth. But other people should not be compelled to agree with them that their choice has no impact on their health, or to agree that an aesthetic preference for certain body dimensions is a social construction.

Last summer, Jordan Peterson was slammed for “fat shaming” Yumi Nu, the plus-sized model who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a skimpy bathing suit. He tweeted: “Sorry. Not beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.”

Peterson took the hit for millions of other, more timid observers — and he wasn’t wrong. It would have been “fat shaming” to say, “That bathing suit wasn’t made for your body,” if she were sunbathing as a private individual at a public beach. But she chose to commodify her appearance, and Peterson’s comment was a market reaction that should have been taken as no foul, no harm.

The other significant problem with pushing obesity as an identity issue is that, unlike other identities, weight fluctuates according to will and action. Race, sex, ethnicity, permanent disability: these are immutable characteristics. Yet, under the identity rubric, a 300-pound woman can claim to be oppressed by sizeism. If she loses 150 pounds, she becomes an oppressor. So the fat-acceptance movement never made any sense as a political issue.

It’s all moot now, though. Ozempic and its competitors will become commonplace, and eventually made available through pharmacare. Obesity will be conquered. There will be no more heartrending films like “The Whale” (2022), starring Brendan Fraser in a fat suit, portraying a morbidly obese young man who is dying from weight-related congestive heart failure.

Semaglutide use will put an end to the fat-acceptance movement’s rejection of obesity’s link to poor health outcomes. Those who choose not to avail themselves of the prophylactic will be stigmatized as foolish or a drag on the health-care system. They certainly won’t be considered social victims. In fact, obesity may even be openly stigmatized once again. But not all stigmas are bad.

Goodbye “fatphobia.” You won’t be missed.