Magic Pill: The Extraordinary Benefits and Disturbing Risks of the New Weight-Loss Drugs by Johann Hari

A fascinating look at the new drugs that have dramatically shaken up weight loss treatment, and an exploration of the broken relationship that the West has with food, body image, and pharmaceutical interventions as solutions rather than systemic ones.

25% of the US population are expected to be taking these medications within the next two years; if it wasn’t for the current cost of treatment, I expect those numbers would have already been achieved. Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic, has already climbed into the #1 spot for the most valuable company in Europe.

Johann Hari (Chasing the Scream, Stolen Focus, Lost Connections) is a somewhat polarizing author. He doesn’t seem to be able to write without firmly placing himself into the narrative. Magic Pill details his own use of Ozempic after life long struggles with his weight, including being an emotional eater that always enjoyed feeling stuffed after gorging on fast food. This is part of what endears his writing to me: how personal it can be. Give me what some critics disparage as “breathless style” any day. The appeal of this book should be fairly obvious, with over half the people in the US & UK overweight or obese, with Canada coming in at 35% overweight, 30% obese. Even if this isn’t an issue for the individual reader, odds are it affects someone in their life, not to mention the societal ripple effects (e.g. the effect of an obese population on health care costs).

It won’t surprise me if this book sparks contentious debate and some angry reviews. Hari left his journalism job at The Independent in 2012 after it came out that he’d stolen quotes and libelled rivals and has never been forgiven or forgotten for this in some circles, despite his owning it and apologizing for it. Others are already crying foul for “classic fatphobia” simply based on language found in the book’s blurb. Hari does write at length about the effect these drugs are having on the body positivity movement, which has already resulted in some leading figures that have lost weight being shamed for it, as though abandoning the cause. But I’d urge people to read it and make up their own minds.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr7458617

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