‘Real Housewife’ slammed for saying she's on Ozempic: Her doctor speaks out

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When "Real Housewives of New Jersey" cast member Dolores Catania said she was taking Ozempic ahead of filming the reunion episodes for the show's 13th season, the tweets followed.

On the Tuesday, April 4, episode of "Watch What Happens Live," host Andy Cohen commented that the reality star, 52, was "looking thin" and asked if she was taking Ozempic, a medication that's been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat Type 2 diabetes and can also induce weight loss. She said yes, though she later revealed she's taking Mounjaro, another Type 2 diabetes drug that can induce weight loss, according to manufacturer Eli Lilly.

Catania hasn’t shared whether she has medical reasons for taking Mounjaro.

Cohen joked, "What housewife isn't on Ozempic?" referring to the universe of women in Bravo's Real Housewives franchise. Catania replied that she wasn't going to show up to reunion "looking any bigger than any than anyone else."

"So I got on the bandwagon," the mother of two added. Asked if she has any side effects, she said that she just feels "not hungry."

At least two other women on "Real Housewives of New Jersey" have also said they're taking medication for weight loss. Margaret Josephs told Insider, and Jennifer Fessler shared on "Watch What Happens Live."

Both semaglutide and tirzepatide, the generic names for Ozempic and Mounjaro respectively, work by activating receptors in the brain that in turn stimulate nerves that mimic the effect of eating, TODAY.com and NBC News previously reported.

Dolores Catania on
Dolores Catania on

After Catania publicly shared the reason for her recent weight loss, social media users were quick to react.

"Wait isn’t there a shortage of ozempic for diabetes patients? And Dolores just casually admitted she’s on it with a big smile on her face?" one person tweeted. (The FDA lists both semaglutide and tirzepatide injections as currently in a shortage.)

"Dolores admits to being on Ozempic ahead of the Jersey reunion. Unhealthy and triggering," another person added.

"Kind of messed up that Dolores and the rest of the #RHONJ cast was so quick to jump on the Ozempic train as their cast mate Jackie is recovering from an eating disorder..." shared a third.

But others praised Catania's honesty.

"Dolores is a breath of fresh air! I think she is the first housewife that admitted live on air that she is on Ozempic and she even said she is jumping on the bandwagon. So many housewives are taking it?" one fan tweeted.

"I love Dolores’ honesty though. A lot of rich folks are on Ozempic right now and lying," wrote another.

Catania declined TODAY.com's request to provide further comment.

Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic, previously told TODAY that it "does not support or promote the use of our medicines outside of the FDA-approved indication.”

Eli Lilly, maker of Mounjaro, told TODAY.com in a statement: "Mounjaro is approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes as an adjunct with diet and exercise. Lilly does not promote or encourage the off-label use of any of our medicines."

What do doctors say?

The physician who prescribed Catania Mounjaro is Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen of New York Endocrinology, Salas-Whalen's rep confirmed exclusively to TODAY.com. Salas-Whalen has worked for Ozempic manufacturer Novo Nordisk in the past but on projects unrelated to Ozempic. She has never worked with Eli Lilly.

Salas-Whalen says you can’t judge whether someone needs to be on a medication like Ozempic or Mounjaro simply based on their appearance.

"Whenever we see somebody that we may think they don't need the medication, unless you're their doctor, you don't know their medical history," she tells TODAY.com. "You don't know what medications they're taking, you don't know their internal health and the reasoning for a patient ... to be on this type of medication."

Salas-Whalen declined to share any personal details about Catania, but she explains that many women in middle age and in menopause or perimenopause start to experience weight gain or struggle to lose weight due to hormonal changes, even if they live a healthy lifestyle.

"Menopause comes with many health complications. There's higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia — and if you add to that mix being overweight or having obesity, then we increase the risk for disease for the patient," she says.

"Entering menopause (at) a healthy weight is very preventative for long-term complications from aging and weight and menopause," Salas-Whalen continues. "Many middle-aged woman, they benefit from this medication because it’s out of their control.”

She adds that some people experience improved mental health when on these medications because they can alleviate intrusive thoughts about food and weight, and they can help people with a family history of obesity or a genetic predisposition to gain weight.

"Nobody can assume just by looking at somebody that they don't need it or that they're doing it for the wrong reasons," she stresses.

Salas-Whalen believes some of the controversy around Catania's comments is rooted in society's focus on weight loss with a goal of being thin, instead of improving health. "It's our own misconception that we have of how somebody should look and what it means," she says. "Weight loss is complex. (It's) not just the number on the scale going down."

Dr. Elizabeth Wassenaar, regional director of the Eating Recovery Center who has not treated Catania, tells TODAY.com that the way the conversation about Catania's weight loss transpired may be triggering for people who struggle with body image.

"It reinforces this idea that in order to be acceptable, in order to be loved, in order to show up to things, you have to look a certain way — that your body is always being judged by others and that you'll never be thin enough," Wassenaar says.

She adds that the competitive nature of Catania comparing her body to her cast mates' echoes a common struggle for people with eating disorders because they're "always judging themselves really harshly and judging whether or not they're as thin people around them," Wassenaar explains. "This moment ... I think (is) really triggering for people who have those voices in their head already," she says.

Charlotte Markey, Ph.D., psychology professor at Rutgers University at Camden, also tells TODAY.com that "these sorts of comments reinforce society’s overvaluation of appearance and thinness in particular. For someone trying to nurture self-acceptance, physical and mental health, these sorts of comments can do real harm."

But Wassenaar says she agrees Catania's "transparency" about how she lost weight is important for people struggling with their own body image.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com