A friend of mine alerted me to this article (trigger warning – weight loss talk, conflating weight and health etc.) The article tells two stories. The first is of a women who is using a blog to keep her “accountable’ while she loses weight. The article talks a lot about the bullying she’s undergone and how that motivates her to want to lose weight. Of course this woman is allowed to choose dieting, but as a society we need to understand that the cure for bullying is not weight loss, the cure for bullying is to stop bullying. Basically this is the typical weight loss story and obviously she’s just starting and we have no way of knowing if she is one of the 5% of dieters who actually maintain their weight loss.
The second story is about Priscilla Allen who lost weight when she stopped secretly binge eating and started exercising. It’s been 10 years and she has maintained the weight loss. Sometimes that happens, I’m glad that she is in a better place with her health, but this thing takes a pretty odd turn.
First of all the article says that she is now at “an extremely healthy weight” and I’d like to thank the article’s author for illustrating the ridiculousness of the concept of a “Healthy Weight” which in reality does not exist. I guarantee that there are people at the same weight as this woman who are extremely unhealthy. If we weren’t so quick to conflate weight and health we’d stop making this dumb mistake.
Next it talks about how she is helping people lose weight, I did some digging and it looks like she is a certified personal trainer, although it doesn’t say who qualified her (there are vast differences in various programs.)
The article says that “Allen believes weight loss for many people is 80 percent emotional.”
This entire sentence sounds like the product of a rectal pull. How many people is “many”? How did she arrive at 80%? Why does she have a precise percentage for the emotional component to weight loss but no idea how many people to whom that precise component applies? Where is her research with a statistically significant sample size and properly controlled variables that proves the validity of her method?
I see this a lot – somebody loses weight and now they are a weightloss guru.
It interests me because I am a metabolically healthy obese person – statistically about 33% of obese people are metabolically healthy and we are considered “anomalies”. Only 5% of people are able to maintain weight loss long term, but they are considered experts who can teach other people to lose weight. What the hell? Makes me think I need a bumper sticker “Stop losing weight now, ask me how!”
In order to believe that success at weight loss makes one qualified to help others lose weight, one would have to make the mistake of believing that all fat people are fat for the same reason, that this person’s ability to lose weight means that everyone is able to lose weight, and ignore the fact that we don’t even have one study showing a weight loss intervention that works for a majority of people. Her method seems to be just another take on the “eat less exercise more” that has been such a spectacular failure in research. Like so many interventions her advice would be good if it didn’t include the “…and then you lose weight” component, but because of the inclusion of the weight loss component it doesn’t meet the criteria for being an evidence based intervention.
However well intentioned they are, people who lose weight and then become “weight loss coaches” based on the idea that their experience can be everyone’s experience are gambling with other people’s health. And often they don’t even have a clue about the odds. Their followers will lose weight at first but most of them will gain it back subjecting themselves to the health risks associated with weight cycling. Typically the guru will claim that their method works but that their clients failed, even though a thorough review of the evidence tells us that weight regain in 95% of people is exactly what we should expect, and that a focus on health is much more likely to produce a healthier body than a focus on weight.
This problem wouldn’t happen so often if we, as a society, hadn’t grossly overblown the health risks associated with obesity thus creating the mistaken belief that that the danger of being fat somehow outweighs the danger gambling with fat people’s health using completely unproven interventions (like creating billboards that shame kids under the guise of helping them be healthy – just as a random example…). I vehemently disagree with this practice, hence my Behavior Centered Health lifestyle. If I were to be looking for a weight loss solution (you know, in opposite world) I would certainly want to see some real scientific proof before I would allow someone to play roulette with my health.
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