Kelly Clarkson is the latest celebrity to admit to using weight loss drugs. Do stars have a responsibility to share?

Kelly Clarkson is the latest celebrity to share that she is taking weight loss drugs. Why does it matter?
Kelly Clarkson is the latest celebrity to share that she is taking weight loss drugs. Why does it matter? (Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Kelly Clarkson revealed this week that she's among the 2 in 5 adults in the U.S. who've used a weight loss drug. This admission comes after months of questions about her transformation, which she initially said was a result of walking around New York City.

“I didn’t plan on talking about this,” she said on The Kelly Clarkson Show on May 13 while discussing Whoopi Goldberg’s use of weight loss drugs. Clarkson told her guest that she had ended up using one too. “Everyone thinks it’s Ozempic. It’s not. It’s something else. But it’s something that aids in breaking down the sugar. Obviously, my body doesn’t do it right.”

Clarkson wasn't pressured to reveal how she lost weight, but her revelation does beg the question: Are celebrities obligated to tell the world that they’re using medication to aid in weight loss? What are the implications of them doing so, or not? Here, experts discuss if disclosure from stars is necessary and why.

Regardless of fame, patients don’t have any responsibility to share medical information and treatment to anybody other than their doctor, says Dr. Kyra Bobinet, a physician with expertise in behavioral change. However, she believes that being a public figure speaking about weight loss and omitting details on how it was achieved can have negative effects.

“Celebrities do not have a responsibility to disclose their use of weight loss prescriptions any more than they need to reveal all of the cosmetic procedures they use for beauty,” Bobinet tells Yahoo Life. “If celebrities are going to speak to losing weight with healthy habits, they should always add the context that they are using weight loss prescriptions if that is the case, so that their story sets realistic expectations for their fans and audience.”

Oprah Winfrey, who has long touted WeightWatchers’s behavioral programs for weight loss, did just that when she revealed to People magazine that she is now using weight loss medication as an additional maintenance tool. She’s gone on to discuss her experience with it.

Rachel Goldman, a psychologist who works in weight management and the treatment of obesity, says that this openness is an expectation across almost all areas of a celebrity’s life, as a result of parasocial relationships, which is a one-sided relationship that someone develops with a public figure that they don’t know personally. “It gets even more complicated when it comes to weight because it’s appearance-based,” she tells Yahoo Life. “We see if people are losing weight and because our society values thinness, values appearance, values image, the question is then, ‘How did they do that?’”

Ally Duvall, a senior program development lead for the virtual eating disorder treatment program Equip Health, tells Yahoo Life that this isn’t anything new.

“Celebrities have historically welcomed discourse on their appearance and body changes — the era of Ozempic is no different,” she says. “Conversations that should take place between patients and medical providers quickly become hot-topic interview questions and a source of expert opinion for viewers to internalize.”

It doesn’t oblige celebrities to be honest, however. “It's their own personal life. It is their own health journey. It is their own body, they don't have to [disclose],” says Goldman. However, their role in society should be considered when exploring the implications of these disclosures, good or bad.

There are both pros and cons to public figures sharing their experiences with weight loss medications, say experts.

“Celebrity disclosures can support stigma-reduction efforts through increasing the public's awareness of obesity, modeling behavior and generating openness on speaking about obesity and on seeking help when needed,” Dr. Mary Jacobson, a physician and chief medical advisor at Hello Alpha, a women’s health platform, tells Yahoo Life. “[They] also serve an educational role by increasing public knowledge about symptoms, available treatments and correcting myths.”

Their candidness can also normalize the use of these medications and help people struggling with weight and weight-related health issues feel less alone, says Goldman.

The problem with celebrity use and discussion of weight loss medications, however, is that they might be contributing to society’s value of thinness and causing harmful comparisons while these drugs remain inaccessible to many who need them. Many don’t disclose whether they have underlying conditions, such as heart problems or diabetes, that would necessitate the use of these medications.

“When people with large platforms discuss their weight loss, regardless of their intent, many take it as a sign to pursue that same change themselves, often at all costs,” says Duvall. “We have systematically treated weight as a moral compass, and in turn, we collectively feel pressure to pursue thinness and encourage weight loss,” regardless of other metrics of health.

Bobinet agrees, saying: “Celebrity beauty and weight loss is easy attention bait because our brain naturally wants to track what those with high social status do, compare ourselves to them and even mimic what they do. Right now, it is a financial privilege to be able to access and afford these drugs. … Unlike flaunting the latest designer bag, health privileges often correlate with life or death.”

Clarkson and Winfrey haven’t specified which medications they’re on, but Goldman says that that might help to lessen those comparisons. “Because why does [the specific medication] matter? If it is working for them, that's all we need to know. And what’s working for them isn't necessarily going to work for you, so it's not helpful,” she says. “But what is helpful is that celebrities and people in the public eye are coming forward and saying, ‘I'm also struggling, you're not alone. I also needed to seek treatment.’ That’s a really powerful message.”