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New Weight Loss Drugs and Anti-Fat Bias: A Discussion on Ozempic

Public opinion is so easily swayed. Have the right people speak and use the right key phrases about current social issues--and we have a recipe for a fairly unified public opinion. Unfortunately, that opinion might not align with all the facts or with the best interests of the public. The new weight loss drugs such as Ozempic have opened a discussion on anti-fat bias.

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Opinion on new weight loss drugs such as Ozempic is a key example. There is a loud voice of "Ozempic is anti-fat bias." While of course I can't speak to the feelings of every person with obesity, and I am sure some people feel that way, I think there is a lot more nuance to this discussion.

A lot of my patients with obesity hold a lot of emotional scars related to their experiences with their body weight. Many have been outright bullied by peers as kids. Many more have been subtly shamed by people who love them. My patients describe believing that they are ugly, defective, and lazy. Society's harmful body ideals definitely play a role in this experience.

I believe that everyone deserves to be raised in a way that encourages them to feel that their body is beautiful and attractive. Parents are a big part of this in a child's youngest years, but very quickly the opinions of other family members, friends, medical providers, and society creep into children's beliefs about their looks. Once someone is an adult, it can be very hard for a person to see beauty in their body when they are convinced it is unattractive.

I think that we all, no matter what size we are, could be thoughtful about our own beliefs about body size. I think we can all be more intentional about how we express our beliefs and opinions about how people look. This is not an issue that society is anywhere close to finished dealing with.

To begin with, those of us who interact with children--either our own kids or others', need to know that childhood is a key time where self-concept is built. How are we talking to children about our own bodies, people who we see, and their bodies? But that thoughtfulness in discussion of body size needs to continue. For those of us who work in the medical field, how do we interact with our patients? How do we discuss our patients with other providers? And in general, for those of us who interact with any other people as adults, how do we speak? Do we focus complements on how thin someone is? Or discuss how clothes make someone look fatter or thinner? Do we talk endlessly about our own diet and weight loss efforts?

Clearly this is an issue that we can all work on as individuals. For society to change, I think we first need to work on ourselves.

But health and medical conditions is a completely separate discussion. The ability to perceive a fat person as beautiful, attractive, worthy, intelligent, and lovable is an idea completely separate from concern about medical comorbidities of obesity.

I don't know every healthcare provider who specializes in obesity. But those who I do know do not recommend obesity medication like Ozempic out of disrespect for the person. It comes from a place of respect, belief in the person's worth, and concern.

Ozempic or other new weight loss drugs are not a panacea for the ugliness of society to people with obesity. They are not even a guaranteed solution to all obesity comorbidities. But new weight loss drugs are way closer to that than they are to an anti-fat bias.

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