The Magical Weight Loss Drug No One is Talking About

In June 2021, the FDA approved semaglutide, one of the first drugs specifically designed for weight loss. For some, it’s been a godsend. But is it also promoting fatphobia?

Raja Ravi Varma, In Contemplation
In Contemplation by Raja Ravi Varma

Sadaf Ahsan


November 14, 2022


9 min

Several years ago, after a car accident, Shreya Mehta (name has been anonymized)* began to experience intense chronic pain. It left her unable to keep up with her usual routine and diet. Very quickly, she gained 25 pounds. Unable to recognize herself and accept her situation, she dubbed it “the end of the road.” For years, she had struggled with her body image. Now, it all felt insurmountable. Then, suddenly, there seemed to be hope. In June 2021, the FDA approved a version of semaglutide, a drug that could reduce one’s weight by as much as 15% — just by taking an injection. It seemed too good to be true.

It wasn’t. In nine months, Mehta* lost all the weight she had gained. She plans to continue with it forever if she can, hopefully losing another 10 to 15 pounds, explaining that, if you had the choice, “Why would you ever be fat again?”

Semaglutide, whose brand names include Ozempic, Rybelsus, and Wegovy, has become increasingly popular in recent months as the first FDA-approved drug for chronic weight management. The drug, which can cost thousands per month, is a proven treatment for obesity and diabetes. But it has also become known as a quick, magical fix for those hoping to slim down. In a world where the media is schlepping the “return” of the “heroin-chic” body and where celebrities like Kim Kardashian lose 16 pounds in three weeks to fit into a dress that Marilyn Monroe once wore, is semaglutide just another rich person’s tool to pathologize fat bodies? Or is it a much-needed treatment for those disproportionately affected by diabetes, heart disease, and other comorbidities? For experts, the answer — for now — is mixed.

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