Ozempic, Oprah, And Weight Loss Culture

“I’m not quite sure that something’s that’s just a tiny little prick can be so powerful in so many ways.”

I’m not 14, but every time I hear that line, I giggle.

It’s said in earnest as part of a woman’s testimonial for, a telehealth enterprise now busy selling an Ozempic-like drug, one in a class of appetite-suppressing GLP-1s that have revolutionized “fat” culture and upended the traditional diet-and-weight loss industry.

Previously, these semaglutide drugs were mainly used to “help manage blood sugar (glucose) levels in people with Type 2 diabetes” but have recently been found to successfully treat obesity and the many other diseases that tend to go with being overweight, according to the Cleveland Clinic. 



Typically, they can be administered by the patient with an injectable pen device at home – aka that powerful prick.

“Gray lost 25 pounds in six months with Ro,” text tells us at the top of the spot, shot to look handheld in an organic way in her home. We see quick cuts of Gray injecting herself in her belly as her silhouette narrows to illustrate her progress.

As unpolished as it is, it’s an effective ad. Gray’s seemingly innocent prick line has the attention-getting power of a doorbell to a dog.

As I researched to see whether it was legit, I discovered that the company is an umbrella organization that started out as “Roman.” As with the suggestion of “Magnum” sized condoms, the name Roman served as a higher-testosterone moniker for selling Viagra-like erectile dysfunction prescriptions via cheesy commercials appealing to male potency.

So maybe “just a tiny little prick” is a tiny little inside joke?

Since the Roman days of focusing on men’s health, however, Ro has made innovative acquisitions in the virtual and home visit medical space, and supplies pharmaceuticals for men and women.

It’s one of several telehealth startups marketing various forms of semiglutide at various prices. I tried to sign up for their $90 a month package (prescription sold separately), but the online test had the integrity to disqualify me because I didn’t have 20% of my body weight to lose. (Fudging the stats, of course, could have a different outcome.)

Already, the popularity of the wonder drug has had a thunderous effect on the global economy. In September 2023, according to the New York Times, Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical company manufacturing Ozempic and Wagovy, overtook the luxury-goods retailer LVMH to become Europe’s most valuable company. Its market capitalization – an estimated $450 billion – was higher than Denmark’s annual GDP. Unfortunately, as demand has soared, it has also caused shortages of the drug for people with diabetes.

Moreover, this “magic pill” idea – a miracle with side effects, some of which are not yet known – goes against the whole “fat acceptance” movement that started in the ‘90s and pioneered new ideas about body-positivity and the beauty of not conforming to traditional standards.

In reality, no matter how many "diets” some people try, or how much will power they muster, their weight tends to return to their own normal, which is higher than what is considered socially acceptable.

Influencers who were making careers in that anti-fat bias category who’ve now lost weight using Ozempic-like drugs have reported that their friends in the community are angry, judgmental, and think they are cheating.

It seems that many people who are not on the drug are jealous of those who are. For many, the drug is unaffordable, plus some want to avoid common side effects like nausea and muscle and bone loss. And, the term “O-face” has been rejiggered to describe those who’ve lost weight on Ozempic and develop a hollow, saggy face.

No one has embodied the last 30-plus years of weight loss struggle more publicly than Oprah Winfrey. You might recall that back in 1988, she famously dragged that red wagon of fat on the stage of her show to demonstrate her 67-pound weight loss on a liquid diet. She looked great, only to gain it back.

So I was surprised last fall that she acknowledged that she was using a drug to maintain her weight. WW Inc, a company that she still partly owns, has always been a program based on a nutritious diet combined with activity, weekly weight monitoring, and group meetings to help motivate the change in eating habits. Prescription drugs were verboten.

Winfrey’s announcement started to make sense when Weight Watchers revealed that it had acquired Sequence, another subscriber telehealth platform that also provides prescriptions for Ozempic and Wegovy. Oprah invested in it and is a board member.

And as Oprah moves, so goes the nation.

She still has hedged her bets, saying that the drug is for maintenance, in addition to a healthy diet and “hiking and hydration.”

But as Oprah moves, so goes the nation.

The next big swing?  The tiny little prick.


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