Watch Nidhi Razdan: Weight loss drugs and the new face of health Video Credit: Gulf News

When I was a kid growing up in New York City in the 1980s, a new television star was making waves. Oprah Winfrey had burst onto the scene with her day time television talk show but much of the focus was on her weight.

Oprah spent the next few decades openly sharing her struggles with weight loss as the world watched her go from diet to diet, going a few sizes down and then up again. Her body was being scrutinised all the time.

For young pre teen girls like me back then, these struggles of someone as famous as Oprah, the countless magazine covers of skinny models and fashion shows with waif thin women, all determined our outlook to what is considered beautiful.

Today, Oprah has admitted to taking weight loss drugs and she’s not going to apologise for it. A few months ago on a prime time TV special, Oprah said her aim was to “start releasing the stigma and the shame and the judgment” around weight and weight loss, starting with herself.

“For 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport,” she said. And here is the irony. Those who are overweight are often shamed for not having enough “will power” to diet and exercise to shed those kilos. And now, those that are taking weight loss drugs like Ozempic are being shamed for taking them.

What the ozempic era has done is highlight how complex the debate on weight loss really is. Are weight loss drugs perpetuating the belief that only people with smaller bodies are happier?

Read more by Nidhi Razdan

Stop judging people

Losing weight isn’t just a vanity thing. It’s important for our health. Being obese puts you at a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.

But everyone doesn’t have to become a size 2 or 4 to be healthy. We are all different and that is what we need to embrace. And it’s about time we stop judging people for their weight and how they choose to get there.

If Oprah wants to take ozempic, it’s her choice. If someone else chooses not to, that’s fine too. As Oprah said on her show, “for people who feel happy and healthy in celebrating life in a bigger body and don’t want the medications, I say, ‘Bless you’.

For all the people who believe diet and exercise is the best and only way to lose excess weight, bless you, too, if that works for you. And for the people who think that this could be the relief and support and freedom ... that you’ve been looking for your whole life, bless you, because there is space for all points of view.”

Ups and downs with weight

Like most women, I too have had my ups and downs with weight. I don’t remember a single moment in the last 20 years where I haven’t been on some nutrition plan or the other.

Most of the time, it has done me a world of good. I exercise 4 to 5 days a week, with strength training and walking. I avoid junk food and sugar. Even though I have never been “fat”, I have always been critical of my body.

Many of us are like that. We keep focusing on our flaws. The media and fashion industry’s obsession with thin bodies doesn’t make it easier. But in the last year, something has finally snapped for me. I decided not to obsess about the numbers on my scale and refuse to weigh myself everyday. If I want to eat some chocolate, I will.

It has been refreshing to see the body positivity conversations in 2024. But at the same time, there are body positivity influencers who have been shamed for losing weight by those who follow them, who see the weight loss as some kind of betrayal. Stop the judgement.

Enjoy the chocolate, exercise, eat healthy and if you want to take ozempic, take it. Do what makes you happy. The culture of shame has to stop.