Oprah’s ‘Weight Loss Revolution’ Is a Brief, Surface-Level Overview of Obesity Drugs: TV Review

For decades, there have been studies and conversations regarding the perils of obesity, and though being overweight doesn’t inherently make someone unhealthy, it can cause severe medical issues. While those who struggle with excess weight are often told to eat fewer calories and exercise daily, millions of people are still categorized as obese. Now, in “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution,” Oprah Winfrey is addressing obesity as a disease, the revolutionary medications being used to combat food noise, exiting the WeightWatchers board of directors and giving viewers a glimpse into her personal weight struggles and experiences with prescription weight loss medications.

Whether someone has had trouble maintaining a healthy weight or not, there has been no avoiding the recent discussions around medications like Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy. However, because so many people get their information second-hand from social media apps, misinformation and distrust have also spread far and wide. Using the public critiques and mockery of her body as an avenue into the conversation, Oprah opens the special by recalling the mortification she felt throughout the 25 years when she was publicly ridiculed for her fluctuating size. She also recalls the unhealthy pathways she took to lose weight, which ultimately weren’t sustainable.

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Though Oprah doesn’t address the exact medication she has used to achieve her most recent weight loss, she does take the time to identify obesity as a disease that many people cannot control. Unfortunately, this classification still gets pushback and flack from those who believe people in larger bodies simply lack willpower and self-control. Using the same format as her acclaimed talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Oprah addresses television viewers and her in-studio audience by doing a rapid overview of how weight loss drugs have transformed lives. She showcases the experiences of a suburban mother, as well as a midwestern mother and her 16-year old, as well as getting detailed facts from professionals like Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. W. Scott Butsch and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Dr. Amanda Velazquez.

The sit-down conversation moves rapidly, with Oprah connecting with her guests personally and empathetically. “Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution” focuses on the emotional and health burdens of obesity, but the reported side effects of the medicines aren’t given the same amount of screen time. Doctors like Dr. Velazquez acknowledge that some 17% of patients will see adverse symptoms, but she reiterates that severe long-term issues have not been seen in human trials. Interestingly, just one woman speaks of her horrific experience of constant vomiting after being prescribed one of the medications. Moreover, no men share their experiences with drugs during the special, making this special very woman-centered.

After providing introductory details on the obesity drugs, the special discusses why the medications remain inaccessible to many. Insurance companies are unwilling to cover them, and with millions clamoring for them, there is now a shortage. Unfortunately, discussing how these issues might be addressed never comes up. While several audience members are showcased nodding along and listening, during the mother-daughter segment, others seem to be vigorously shaking their heads in dissent. But perhaps that is the point; we don’t need to agree.

Our personal relationships with our bodies should have no bearing on other individuals’ opinions of them. Still, it would be disingenuous to suggest larger people aren’t ostracized and made to feel humiliated simply because of their physical appearance. For many, “Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution” won’t sway opinions on using prescriptions to aid in weight loss, but for others, it may lead to more probing conversations with healthcare providers. Though the special isn’t a comprehensive deep dive into semaglutide injectables, it reminds us that we should all have the right to make decisions about our bodies without fear of harm or embarrassment.

“An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution” premiered on March 18 on ABC, and will stream on Hulu as of March 19.

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