Hollywood Rear View

Hollywood, HAES, and GLP-1 Agonists

In GQ recently, Will Peischel asked if the world is ready for extremely effective weight-loss drugs. Of course, the simple answer is yes and no. First of all, it’s clear enough that most people don’t really understand these drugs or the condition they treat. Peischel makes that clear right up front when he calls them “weight-loss drugs.” That label is a throwback to the era of amphetamines for quick and easy weight loss. That never worked out because of the addictive potential of those drugs when used inappropriately and because obesity is a chronic disease that doesn’t yield to quick fixes. But even so, even today, some folks in both Hollywood and the HAES movement seem to be stuck on archaic ways of thinking about obesity and a new generation of GLP-1 agonists that effectively treat it.

The Hollywood Sizzle

Variety and a host of other publications have found some good click bait in stories about stars using semaglutide, calling it “Hollywood’s secret new weight-loss drug.”

“It has saturated the industry in recent months, helping the beautiful and wealthy shed extra pounds in the never-ending Los Angeles pastime of optimizing appearances.”

Of course, this cosmetic approach to using GLP-1 agonists is nothing but an uncontrolled Hollywood experiment, outside the bounds of evidence-based medicine. What could go wrong when someone uses a potent drug for which they have no medical need?

Apart from the harm ambitious stars might be doing to themselves, the message they’re sending is terrible. These are obesity meds, not accessories to a visual styling routine. Obesity is a medical condition, not a cosmetic flaw. This Hollywood narrative trivializes it.

The HAES Indignation

Then we have militant and misinformed segments of the HAES movement, apparently pushing an anti-science narrative that GLP-1 agonists can bring nothing but harm. Oddly enough, these trolls have a lot in common with the appearance fixation of Hollywood. In their rants, we hear a conviction that obesity is not a disease, it’s just a cosmetic problem conjured up “by fat phobic scientists and physicians.”

We note, however, that this kind of misinformed rant may not represent the views of people who believe in the ideal of pursuing health regardless of one’s body size. Size diversity is real, just like the medical condition of obesity is. Different people can find their best health at different places on the spectrum of body size and shape.

Missing the Point

The point that both shallow Hollywood personalities and militant segments of the HAES community miss is the same. GLP-1 agonists are seriously useful for treating obesity – not for tweaking a person’s appearance. Obesity is a complex, chronic disease, not a superficial, cosmetic problem.

Click here for the click bait from Variety and here for more from MedPage Today. For perspective on weight bias and HAES-aligned dietitians, click here.

Hollywood Rear View, photograph by Caleb George / Wikimedia Commons

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October 15, 2022