Oh, Oh, Oh, Ozempic!
How diet culture encourages drug abuse.
Written by Olivia Schwab
With Paris Fashion Week concluding, aspirations of getting that “dream body” are at an all-time high. Weight loss sentiments haunt tabloids, social media, and everyday conversations. Diet culture is, quite literally, inescapable. Its message? Why be healthier when you could be hotter!
If female media personalities such as the Kardashians or Hadids are any barometer for the constantly changing goal post of what society deems the “dream body,” then 2023 signals a transition from “thick” back towards heroin chic.
Heroin chic was a fashion movement popularized in the 1990s, characterized by pale skin, dark circles, androgyny and unattainable thinness. The movement was popularized by models such as Kate Moss and Gia Carangi. The second wave of heroin chic is marked by none other than Miss Socialite herself, Kim Kardashian.
After building her brand off of her body, Kim Kardashian sported a much smaller frame at the 2022 Met Gala, dropping 16-lbs in three weeks to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. Kennedy” dress. Rumors spread of Kim K abusing Ozempic, a drug traditionally used to help diabetic people lower their blood sugar and control long-term weight management. Ozempic has recently become a topic of controversy after it went viral on social media due to its weight loss side effect. As the drug gains popularity on social media, doctors fear that people will associate it with vanity rather than a lifesaving medication. People with diabetes are going without a drug that they need to live, all so the uber-rich can lose a couple pounds. (Looking at you, Amy Schumer.)
The message is clear: big asses and boobs are out, rib cages and collar bones are in. Better drop $1,200 on some Ozempic!
"And so, like upgrading to the newest iPhone model, our bodies become an extension of our consumerist selves."
The return of heroin chic highlights not only the dangers of chasing unrealistic beauty standards, but also the exclusive social position associated with said standards. The ability to change your body at will is only accessible to the super rich. Brazilian butt lifts, a previously popular and incredibly dangerous medical procedure, are no longer as relevant as the Kardashians downsize their behinds. Buccal fat removal, a surgery that targets facial fat for sharper cheekbones, has become the new trend. The swinging of the beauty pendulum comes with a steep price tag: A BBL can cost anywhere between $3,000 to $30,000; a BBL reversal $5,000 to $30,000; and buccal fat removal $2,000 to $8,000. The physical metamorphosis demanded by fluctuating beauty standards is reserved for those who are delusional enough to afford it.
In a nation notorious for crazy-expensive healthcare costs, the ability to get an Ozempic prescription on a whim is an incredible luxury. The popularity of the drug has come at the expense of those who need it to control blood sugar.
The inaccessibility of a societally perfect body is further heightened by the fact that 44 percent of Americans struggle to even afford basic healthcare and 60 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Access to healthy food is increasingly a privilege, with an estimated 53.6 million Americans living in food deserts. For many, basic healthcare is out of reach, and participating in body trends is completely out of the question.
The politics of thinness has become a battleground for determining social status. A “non-trendy” body is deemed as being unhealthy or lazy. And so, like upgrading to the newest iPhone model, our bodies become an extension of our consumerist selves. The worse you feel about yourself, the more money you are going to spend on miracle creams or detox smoothies. Feeling discontent in your own skin is reflective of our individual investment in the “self-care” market. These actions contribute to a cycle of chasing validation and fueling the next body trend.
The pursuit of the trendiest body is harmful to our well-being. The Encyclopedia of Body Image and Human Appearance estimated that 20 percent to 40 percent of women are dissatisfied with their bodies. Men also fall victim to diet culture. About 10 to 30 percent of men show body dissatisfaction and 69 percent of male adolescents are worried about their weight. The National Organization for Women reports that 45.5 percent of teens consider cosmetic surgery, and 70 percent of college women report feeling worse about their body image after reading women’s magazines. No wonder the prevalence of eating disorders has more than doubled in the last two decades. Amplified by social media and consumer culture, expectations of the perfect body are contributing to this mental health crisis.
And yet, beauty trends remain popular. There’s a certain allure to revamping your closet in sync with fast fashion and attending expensive pilates and cycling classes. Conformity comes with intoxicating social credit. Conformity broadcasts the message that you have the time and money to indulge in the slew of consumer activities necessary to reshape your body. Or, if you don’t have the time, then you at least have the financial resources to obtain the drugs and plastic to uphold such an illusion.
Our society puts beauty standards on a pedestal while glorifying consumerism, drug abuse, eating disorders and cosmetic procedures. Bombarded by a flood of marketing and media personalities, we become stuck in a loop of perpetual dissatisfaction and insecurity. Deconstructing these narratives is not a walk in the park, but it begins with seeing the societally-deemed “perfect body” for what it is: an illusion. As weight loss resolutions promoted through rich social media influencers grow higher, let us instead acknowledge how body trends amplify socioeconomic imbalances and reflect on our own personal definitions of health.