Oprah Winfrey opens up about pressure to go on Ozempic

“That’s the easy way out,” Oprah Winfrey said about drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy during a recent panel on the obesity and weight crisis. 

Oprah Winfrey is no stranger to discussing her weight or the shame associated with gaining weight. 

The media mogul recently hosted the Oprah Daily’s “The Life You Want Class: The State of Weight” panel, with obesity specialists Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, Dr. Melanie Jay, and psychologist Dr. Rachel Goldman. Together the group discussed the global obesity and weight crisis. 

Oprah Winfrey, Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro, weight less drugs, diabetes drugs, Oprah Winfrey weight loss, Black health and wellness, Black women, Obesity, Black obesity, theGrio.com
Oprah Winfrey with George Stephanopoulos and Arthur C. Brooks discuss “Build The Life You Want” at The 92nd Street Y, New York on Sept.12, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

According to People, during the panel, Winfrey, who has experienced weight change throughout her life, opened up about her thoughts on drugs like Ozempic, FDA-approved to treat people with type 2 diabetes but reportedly being used for off-label benefits such as weight loss by many of the rich and famous. It’s among the class of drugs like Wegovy and Mounjaro, which target the brain to impact hunger.

“When I first started hearing about the weight loss drugs, at the same time I was going through knee surgery, and I felt, ‘I’ve got to do this on my own.’ Because if I take the drug, that’s the easy way out,'” Winfrey said.

According to CNN, Winfrey, a board member and shareholder for WeightWatchers, told the crowd she’s been on this journey for most of her life and noted she weighed 237 at heaviest.

“One of the things that I’ve been so ashamed, shamed myself about and was shamed in the tabloids every week for about 25 years is not having the willpower,” she said. “I think that there is a distinction between mindset which we are now hearing, the brain tells you a certain thing about how you process food versus willpower.”

Dr. Stanford explained that “obesity is a chronic disease” and “willpower” isn’t a word she uses with her patients.

“It’s hard to see you ostracized in the way that you’ve been. Because this isn’t about willpower. It’s not your fault,” she said. “It’s how our bodies regulate weight and each of us is different, each of us is unique, not one is superior to another. We’re just different and acting on those differences and treating the differences in the heterogeneity of the population is how we’re going to actually make change in this disease.”

Winfrey is far from alone; America is experiencing an obesity crisis. While 41.1% of adults in this country are obese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 75% of Black Americans have the disease, and four out of five Black women are at risk. When it comes to diabetes, what Ozempic was originally approved to treat, 96 million Americans are at risk

Speaking about drugs like Ozempic earlier this year during a feature on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Dr. Stanford emphasized how many physicians and insurers fail to understand obesity as a complex disease fully. She said it isn’t always something that a change in lifestyle or diet can impact. 

“It’s a brain disease. The brain tells us how much to eat and how much to store,” she said. 

She explained that the brain develops a “setpoint,” or a weight range the brain forces the body to maintain by controlling how much food the body consumes and stores. Setpoints can fluctuate throughout a person’s life for a variety of reasons. When the setpoint doesn’t change naturally, regardless of any effort from the patient, medicines like Ozempic can help the brain recalibrate things. 

The panel discussion, per CNN, continued around themes of shame for both those who struggle with their weight and those who use medication to treat it. 

Winfrey said, “Shouldn’t we all just be more accepting of whatever body you choose to be in? That should be your choice.” 

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. TheGrio’s Black Podcast Network is free too. Download theGrio mobile apps today! Listen to ‘Writing Black’ with Maiysha Kai.