Swan Children Listening to Mom

Do Obesity Meds Threaten Body Acceptance?

For years, many health experts have been raising alarms about the rising prevalence of obesity. It’s an epidemic – no, a pandemic. In the absence of a good solution, though, most people move on to worrying about problems they can solve. So the idea of body positivity and acceptance has gained traction. “Diet culture” became as much a boogeyman as obesity itself. But in a very engaging essay in The New Yorker, Jia Tolentino asks if the arrival of new and more effective obesity meds will reverse this progress in body acceptance. She writes:

“It is possible to imagine a different universe in which the discovery of semaglutide was an unalloyed good – a powerful tool to untangle the knot of genetic tendencies, environmental forces, and behaviors that conspire to make more and more Americans gain weight.

“We might recognize metabolism and appetite as biological facts rather than as moral choices; rising rates of Type 2 diabetes and obesity around the globe could be reversed. In the actual universe that we inhabit,the people who most need semaglutide often struggle to get it, and its arrival seems to have prompted less a public consideration of what it means to be fat than a renewed fixation on being thin.”

The Medical Spa View of Obesity

Tolentino covers all three threads of public discourse on obesity we see in play: the medical spa thread, the hostility, and the health science perspective. But the hostility thread is obviously a dead end and health science doesn’t work with short attention spans. So Tolentino fixes her gaze upon the medical spa worldview.

She describes the practices of unethical telehealth businesses that hooked her up with dubious concoctions of semaglutide from compounding pharmacies. These are the type of businesses linked to tragic deaths and illnesses for years. She closes with the view of a TikTok plastic surgeon. Unsurprisingly, he sees no need for body acceptance when improved obesity meds are an option:

“They’re no longer going to accept that they should just be happy with the body they have.”

To that worldview we say, no thanks. We’ll stick with the real world, where sound obesity care is helping people live healthier lives in their own bodies.

Click here for Tolentino’s essay.

Swan Children Listening to Mom, photograph by Konstantin Staschus, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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March 21, 2023