Melissa McCarthy and Barbara Streisand.Share on Pinterest
Barbra Streisand recently asked Melissa McCarthy in an Instagram post if she had taken Ozempic, sparking a fierce debate about questions regarding other people’s weight loss journeys. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for BSB
  • A comment Barbra Streisand left on Melissa McCarthy’s Instagram has sparked a debate about weight loss conversations.
  • Streisand asked McCarthy, “Did you take Ozempic?” and was called out for fat-shaming.
  • Experts say questions about weight loss can feel incredibly intrusive and spark feelings of shame, embarrassment, and pressure.

Barbra Streisand recently sparked controversy when she left a comment on one of Melissa McCarthy’s Instagram posts.

McCarthy shared two photos of herself attending a gala. In the comments section, Streisand wrote, “Did you take Ozempic?” referencing the GLP-1 medication, one of several popular drugs that can aid with weight loss.

Streisand was quickly called out for her comment, which many said was fat-shaming.

In an Instagram story posted hours later, she wrote, “OMG – I went on Instagram to see the photos we’d posted of the beautiful flowers I’d received for my birthday! Below them was a photo of my friend Melissa McCarthy who I sang with on my Encore album. She looked fantastic! I just wanted to pay her a compliment. I forgot the world is reading!”

It appears McCarthy took the comment in good spirits. In an Instagram post, she wrote, “The takeaway? Barbra Streisand knows I exist. She reached out to me and she thought I looked good. I win the day.”

Nevertheless, Streisand’s comment has many people debating: Is asking someone about their weight loss ever okay?

Should you comment on someone’s weight loss?

Registered counselor Georgina Sturmer says it’s rarely, if ever, okay to ask someone about weight loss or weight gain.

Questions about whether you achieved weight loss with medication are also off-limits, she believes.

“The way that we feel about our bodies, and the way that we look is deeply complex and personal,” she explains. “It’s built on so many layers, like the messages that we heard when we were growing up, our interactions with friends, family, and romantic partners, and social expectations about what is and isn’t deemed attractive.”

Because our shape and size are part of who we are, Sturmer says questions about them can feel deeply personal.

“They can make you feel as though your body is public property, and often they come across as a judgment on who we are as a person,” she surmises.

Psychotherapist Kamalyn Kaur agrees. “Commenting on weight loss is insensitive because weight can be a sensitive topic for so many people and is often tied up with self-esteem, body image, self-worth, past traumas, childhood memories, and even medical conditions,” she notes. “Asking about it can trigger painful and uncomfortable feelings, from the past or present.”

If you’ve used medication to lose weight, questions about your weight loss may feel particularly intrusive.

“It can come across as though they are making an assumption or judgment about your decisions, lifestyle, habits, and health,” Kaur reasons. “It might leave you feeling criticized, judged, and inferior, and as though you are doing something wrong or inadequate.”

The impact of prying questions about weight loss

Sturmer points out that when people comment on weight loss, it’s often framed as a compliment. You might ask someone, “Have you lost weight? You look fantastic!”

While these comments may seem innocent and well-intentioned, Sturmer says they are inherently fat-shaming.

“There’s an implicit suggestion that weight loss is something to be curious about, something to be commended on. We comment on it in a way that we don’t publicly comment on weight gain because the suggestion is that weight gain is something to be ashamed of,” she notes.

“If someone has lost weight and another person points it out, it can make them worry about how they used to look before and whether other people were talking about them then,” she added. “It can leave them feeling worried or anxious about re-gaining the weight and how people might respond to this,” she adds.

Feelings of embarrassment, shame, and added pressure can be common for people who face these questions.

“You might feel embarrassed and worried about other people’s view of your body shape or weight loss, and this embarrassment about your body can lead to a sense of shame about who you are,” says Sturmer.

In turn, she says this can add weight to any negative thoughts you already have about yourself and have an impact on your confidence and self-esteem.

How to prepare for comments about your weight loss

If you’ve recently lost weight, you might find it hard to avoid questions like these. You might also find that people assume you’ve taken a medication like Ozempic, whether or not that is the case.

How can you prepare yourself for these kinds of comments? First things first, remember you have a right to privacy, says Sturmer.

“No one has a right to know your private medical information, and that’s exactly what this is,” she points out. “If you view it as private, personal information, then it will make it easier for you to reject other people’s questions if you wish to do so.”

It can be helpful, too, to think about the perspective of the person asking these probing questions. People ask about weight loss for all sorts of reasons, for example, curiosity or because they are projecting their own insecurities.

Sturmer says a culture of “Ozempic shaming” has emerged, too, where people criticize others for using medication in this way.

“It’s helpful to remember the motivation behind the question,” she notes. “Did they set out to make you squirm or feel uncomfortable? Or perhaps they were simply making small talk or issuing a well-meaning ‘compliment.’”

Whatever their motivation, Sturmer says it’s important to remind yourself that you can not control what other people are thinking or feeling. Often, their comments are more a reflection on them than they are on you.

How exactly should you respond if questions like these make you uncomfortable? There’s no right or wrong way, but it may help to have some ready-made phrases up your sleeve.

Kaur advises saying something like, “I appreciate your concern, but I prefer to keep my medical information private,” or, “I understand your curiosity, but I’d rather not get into that topic right now.”

If you do want to respond, Kaur says to keep it brief, concise, and to the point and make sure that you stick to your own personal boundaries.

“Only share what you are comfortable with sharing, and do not hesitate to stop the conversation if you begin to feel uncomfortable with the questions,” she advises.

If you’re using a GLP-1 drug like Ozempic or Wegovy as part of your weight loss plan and want to address that, Kaur advises using a phrase like, “I’m making some changes to support my health, and my medical practitioner/doctor has prescribed this medication as part of that plan.”

Takeaway 

Ultimately, Kaur says asking questions about a person’s weight loss and how they might have achieved it is intrusive because “everyone has the right to control their own body and health decisions.”

“You shouldn’t put someone in the awkward position of answering a personal question or pressuring them to justify their actions,” she says.

If you’re worried about being asked uncomfortable questions, it can be helpful to have a few responses prepared.