Weight Loss Drugs as a Moral Dilemma
We spend our whole lives trying to lose weight; what is the psychological meaning of a pill or injection that could guarantee our success?
Happy New Year! The cliche is that modern people start thinking about weight loss around December the 26th, and start with the resolutions to hit the gym and kick the crisps around the 3rd of January (got to leave time to get started). But the reality is that most people never stop thinking about their weight even when they’re gorging themselves into a state of feral self-hatred on Christmas Eve. In fact, on any given day of the year, the spectre of obesity haunts our minds the way Sin haunted the minds of previous generations. Our ancestors would happily have popped a pill that relieved us of our sin. Is that what Wegovy, Ozempic and their successors will do for us? If these drugs are the communion wafers of weight loss so why is that the prospect of salvation fills us not with hope, but dread?
As these drugs gradually entered the market the initial concern was simply whether they worked and were safe. Now that they’re here some of us are beginning to feel the tingle of a different and deeper worry - not that they don’t work, but that they do. For people who spent their whole life working on their weight, having small successes and then erasing those with setbacks, but dusting themselves off and starting again. The idea that by swallowing a pill or injecting themselves with something they could finally achieve that goal seems like the worst kind of cheating - the kind that works. What in retrospect is the meaning of all that psychological struggle if in the end you just popped a pill?
The medications are already accidentally creating a hierarchy of weight loss; people at the top who were able to master their demonic impulses, and then the other, who had to pay for it. It’s the difference between a romantic conquest and visiting a prostitute. Many people will not accept that about themselves; in weight loss terms they’d rather continue to be incel. Of course you could split the difference here and take the drug, lose weight but pretend that you did so naturally and of course there are lots of celebrities already doing this. It’s a kind of health-based stolen valour.
There is also the dread of the psychological and spiritual problems that the drugs paper over. When it comes to food we are like heroin addicts who live in an environment in which heroin is freely available and abundant. That won’t change. Separately, food is a safe, socially acceptable and easy way of medicating anxiety which isn’t going anywhere. We already live in an environment where repressed political urges shoot out of us in all kinds of extreme and morbid ways. We don’t need another one.