I Starved Myself to Be Thin. But I Still Wouldn't Take Ozempic

I had only been dating my now-husband for a few weeks the night his parents took us to dinner and ordered my food for me. They ordered for the whole table, but it didn't matter. I knew instantly that I wouldn't be able to eat.

I'd studied the menu extensively before we went out that night and called the restaurant to make sure they'd accommodate my dietary requests. I worked out in detail what I'd order and how I'd order it to not raise any red flags.

But I didn't even have a chance to ask the waiter for my steamed vegetables and dry salad. Everything happened so fast as I watched in horror, too panic-stricken and embarrassed to ask the waiter for anything.

Jackie Goldschneider ozempic
Jackie Goldschneider (pictured) tells Newsweek about her struggle with having an eating disorder, and compares it to the weight loss drug, Ozempic. Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster/Chad Griffith

Now, with all my restrictions and rules screaming in my head, I'd have to smile and dance through the meal the way I often had to, pretending to eat, spitting discreetly into a napkin, and declaring myself full.

I would have no other choice. I couldn't talk about my issues with food to my future in-laws, or to anyone else. It wasn't glamorous to have an eating disorder.

I learned that lesson quickly at the start of my decades-long battle with anorexia. No one admired my patterns of restriction and deprivation that were often on display. No one revered the way I compulsively exercised until my knees buckled. And I'm certain that no one would've envied the way I counted calories or the hate-filled self-dialogue that compelled my diet-obsessed behaviors.

It was just glamorous to be thin, to walk through a room with a long silk dress clinging to your willowy silhouette, or to sip a cocktail with your lithe midriff exposed. It was glamorous to let your necklace fall onto elegant waves of breastbone.

But if the way you got there involved disordered behaviors and a chaotic body image, no one wanted to know.

For decades, I was lost in a world of toxicity, but I knew from day one that it wasn't aspirational to have an eating disorder. It was never chic to be public about it, to flaunt it, or to live with it out in the open, and for a long time, that's the way things were.

Until now.

When I was sick, I dreamed about enjoying food like "normal" people do. I watched people eat and wondered how they did it so calmly, without calculating and worrying. I thought recovery would make me one of them, someone who could eat and indulge without anxiety, like my friends, and live happily in an average-sized body.

And then suddenly, everyone started shrinking.

In a case of dreadful timing, my recovery coincided with the mainstream emergence of Ozempic, an injectable drug intended to treat type 2 diabetes but now being used in droves, off-label, for weight loss.

Along with other semaglutides and tirzepatides (like Wegovy and Mounjaro), Ozempic mimics the hormone that tells your brain it's full, without your having to eat. It also affects the appetite control area of your brain and slows your digestion so much that you feel full for much longer than normal. These drugs let you shut off hunger so that you hardly eat, and quickly lose a lot of weight.

One by one, it felt like everyone around me and on social media was suddenly thin. One by one, it seemed like celebrities, reality TV personalities, and countless everyday people were admitting to using the drugs.

At first, there were whispered accusations and quick denials. "She's definitely on it" was met by excuses, as average-sized women flaunted their newfound lankiness and declared they'd merely cut carbs or got a trainer.

But more recently, something changed, and increasing numbers of the newly thin decided to embrace their decision to use these drugs. Despite the global Ozempic shortage caused by its soaring popularity (forcing those with diabetes to either ration their dosage or switch medications), the newly svelte were no longer in the mood to be shamed.

"Screw that," they seemed to say, "I'm an adult and I can make my own medical decisions."

Empowered by the strength in numbers, and defiant of the dialogue surrounding the drugs that have finally given them what they never admitted to desiring and cherishing, those who use these drugs are now part of an elite group who can not only afford them, but no longer give a damn what you or I think. It's becoming a status symbol to be on a semaglutide-type drug without any evidence of diabetes.

Suddenly, it's glamorous to have an eating disorder.

Consider the hallmarks of an eating disorder: An unhealthy relationship with food, shutting off your hunger instead of feeding it, eating too little, risking harm to your organs for the sake of being thin.

When you consider that, it becomes clear: These drugs induce an eating disorder, especially in the average-sized people who don't need them. People willingly endure debilitating nausea and constipation to lose weight, and risk pancreatitis, intestinal blockage and thyroid cancer in order to be a smaller size. They choose to pre-emptively eliminate their hunger instead of feeding it.

Rather than nourishing themselves, they choose to numb their appetites with medicine the way I once numbed my own with guilt and self-criticism. They sign up for a life sentence, since going off the drugs generally means the return of a voracious appetite and almost all of the weight lost, if not more.

And then what? Do you have to go back on another drug? As for the long-term effects, we don't even know what those are, because these drugs haven't been studied long-term in people without diabetes.

From where I sit, the only major difference between anorexia and using Ozempic is hunger.

Hunger was my biggest enemy for the two decades I spent trying to outrun it. I did anything I could to shut it off, ignoring the lightheadedness, eating plain lettuce and fiber crackers to trick my body into fullness, and taking walks at mealtimes instead of sitting down to eat. Starving was hard because it hurt.

But starving on Ozempic doesn't hurt because your brain doesn't care; it doesn't send the message that you're hungry. Your body no longer wants food. Ozempic lets you be anorexic with none of the physical or emotional pain.

I can't avoid these drugs because they're now everywhere, offered at every med spa I pass, advertised on endless jingly commercials, and on display at every dinner I go to with my friends who take them.

I'm acutely aware that I'm now bigger than many of the people in my line of work. I've spent the last two years in therapy trying to transcend my issues with food and weight, learning instead to honor my hunger and let go of the guilt.

But when you're the only person at dinner who cleans their plate, it's damn hard not to call yourself names. I'm the only pig who finished their food. But also, I'm the only person with a healthy relationship with food and her body.

I know how to silence those voices now, the ones in my head that tell me not to eat, that it's a failure to gain weight and that thin is beautiful. I know that means I'm winning this battle, but it also means that pieces of it still live inside me, and probably always will.

I'm caught between worlds.

Today, when I look at myself in the mirror, I see that my stomach is no longer flat, my arms have a bottom layer of thickness, but I can joyfully share ice cream with my children. I can eat without rules. I'm not skinny anymore, but I don't spend vacations in hotel gyms.

Sometimes I miss being thin, and when I do, I hate knowing that this medical option exists, right at my fingertips.

I could start taking Ozempic this afternoon if I wanted to. I could skip right over recovery and lose all the weight I gained back with none of the self-imposed restrictions or pain of starvation that I endured for decades. Now anyone can be as thin as they want, and the newly thin are so thrilled that they don't see a problem. But it is a problem.

I've spent two years letting go of the beauty standards I've internalized since childhood, and trying to unteach my children the lessons I spent the entirety of their young lifetimes teaching them by example: That being thin is more important than anything, including your health, enjoyment, and sanity.

As I get healthier and the world gets thinner, I worry how this all will end. Will everyone eventually be on diet drugs? Will hunger become obsolete? Will my daughter ask me to put her on Ozempic if she gains weight as a teen?

No one has answers right now. But even if the whole world goes on Ozempic, and one day everyone is thinner than me, I know one thing for certain: I will never again sacrifice my health to be thin.

I don't want to be part of this elite club, even if I'm the last woman standing.

Jackie Goldschneider is a star of the Bravo hit TV show The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Before joining the show in 2018, Jackie was an attorney and freelance journalist.

She is the author of THE WEIGHT OF BEAUTIFUL, a memoir about her decades-long battle with anorexia and public journey to recovery. The book is available everywhere books are sold on September 26, 2023.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

Do you have a unique experience or personal story to share? Email the My Turn team at [email protected]

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