Even if Weight Loss Would Solve it All

BullshitWeight loss is touted as a miracle cure.  We’re promised that it will make us healthier, happier, more attractive  – that the life of our dreams is just a diet away. We are told that being fat is the cause for everything bad in our lives – single and want to be in a relationship?  It’s because you’re fat.  Have mobility problems?  It’s because you’re fat.  Have diabetes?  It’s because you’re fat.  Hit by a truck?  It’s because you’re fat.  Abducted by aliens?  It’s because you’re fat.

For today let’s put aside the fact that there are people of all sizes dealing with health challenges, unwanted singleness, diabetes, auto accidents and alien abduction.  Let’s set aside that there isn’t a single study of people who have lost weight long term showing that they were healthier for it.  Let’s not even get into a discussion about alien abduction (it’s beyond the scope of this blog).

Even if becoming thin would solve every single problem in every single fat person’s life, the truth is it doesn’t matter.  Because we don’t know how to get it done. The belief that we know how to help people lose weight and that weight loss leads to greater health is the Galileo issue of our time -widely believed, fervently defended, and unsupported by the evidence.

Let’s talk about what would define successful weight loss.  If we are going to buy into the idea of “healthy weight,” “overweight and “obese” categories (and this may be the only time on this blog that I suggest doing that) then successful weight loss would have to move someone at least one category lower than they are to make them more healthy, and preferably into the “healthy weight” category, otherwise their risk – based on this system of categories- doesn’t really change.

We are nowhere even close to knowing how to do that.  In studies of long term weight loss the vast majority of participants regain all of their weight long term, and many regain more than they lost.  Many never lose enough weight to change categories.

The Nutrition Journal published a review of studies used to prove that dieting works called “Validity of claims made in weight management research: a narrative review of dietetic articles”.  Here are some of the findings:

  • [studies included] claims of non-specific ‘health benefits’ which are not substantiated
  • It appears that beliefs about weight and health acquire a truth status so that they circulate as intuitively appealing ‘facts’, immune from scrutiny and become used, and accepted by editors, without supporting references
  • Dietetic literature on weight management fails to meet the standards of evidence based medicine.
  • Research in the field is characterized by speculative claims that fail to accurately represent the available data.

This information is even more fleshed out in the same journal in the piece “Weight Science:  Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift.”

When I first started reading weight loss literature, it was amazing to me how many studies cite an extremely low success rate (between .17% and 5%) but then assert in their conclusions that it’s still a good idea to set a weight loss goal and use the method that they just showed almost never works.

Weight Watchers own numbers show that the average person maintains a 5 pound weight loss after 2 years (a feat I feel could be accomplished by regular exfoliation and without paying a small fortune to Weight Watchers.)  Representatives from WW once said that they wouldn’t do longer term studies because it would be too depressing for their clients.

Weight loss is the snake oil of our time – promised to “cure what ails ya”, no matter what that is, when in truth there is basically no more research to support weight loss than there is to promote good old fashioned snake oil. There isn’t a study that shows that weight loss is possible for the majority of people, and there isn’t a study that shows that if it was successful it would make people healthier.  This entire thing is based on everybody knows.

Almost everyone who attempts weight loss fails.  Yet doctors keep prescribing the same things and blaming more than 95% of people for not trying hard enough or not doing it right. Can you imagine if Viagra only worked 5% of the time and we blamed 95% of the guys for just not trying hard enough?  It’s completely ridiculous.  But when I point this out people roll their eyes and say “everybody knows” that you can lose weight if you really try.

Let me say it again – even if weight loss would solve every problem, it doesn’t matter because we don’t know how to get it done and my opinion, based on the research that exists, is that it is a massive waste of time, money, and resources to keep suggesting, marketing, prescribing, and pursuing weight loss.  (Especially when there is good evidence that there are other ways to pursue health if that’s a priority.)  If people want to keep researching weight loss methods that’s fine, it’s also fine if they want to keep researching ways to help people fly like superman, but I certainly won’t be dieting or jumping off my roof and flapping my arms at least until someone has figured out that it’s possible.  For now losing weight to get healthier is doing something that nobody has proven is possible for a reason that nobody has proven is valid.

Talking to Your Doctor

There are two spots available for the online class “How to Talk to Your Doctor – Be Your Own Medical Advocate” class on Monday the 28th from 3-5pm Pacific. You can register at http://tinyurl.com/medicaladvocate or get more information at https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/workshop-talking-to-your-healthcare-provider/ (The paypal button is inventory controlled so it won’t let you register unless there are spots available.)

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If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

40 thoughts on “Even if Weight Loss Would Solve it All

  1. I don’t want to be a jerk but please check the your/you’re in the first paragraph!!!! I link you to a lot of friends for discussiona dn I don’t want people trying to use the grammar Nazi arguments against your brilliant writing!! xx

    1. Totally not a jerk. I changed the phrase from “It’s because of your fat” to It’s because you’re fat” before I published it and I didn’t make the your/you’re switch – proofreading my own work is absolutely not a strength of mine! Thanks for your help 🙂



      1. Proofreading your own work in a short time is almost impossible as your mind knows what it should be and it takes a great deal of skill to read what exactly is there.

        Spelling and grammar checkers don’t help either as long as you use a proper word, which is why I always get someone else to proof read for me, which is just as well or a leaflet I typed up for a charity I volunteered at would have been asking, ‘Who ate the volunteers?’


        1. You know, my mother used to have a saying: never choke a volunteer.

          But I don’t think it ever occurred to her to actually eat one. ; P

  2. I do not have enough words to express how much I like this post. It must be shared with the world! Once again, I must express my heartfelt gratitude to you, Ragen, for all that you do on a daily basis.

    ~ Layla

  3. “Representatives from WW once said that they wouldn’t do longer term studies because it would be too depressing for their clients.”
    This info is jawdropping, and kinda hilarious, to me. They’re not even bothering to at least pretend the shitty product they’re peddling works? Kind of illustrates how messed up the weight loss industry is. Love this blog, by the way!

    1. STUNNING. So they admit that they are a complete failure at what they advertise, *and* admit to the cover up. And people continue to give these quacks money WHY?

      1. Because it sometimes works in the short term, and when it does people are quick to talk about their “success”. They will talk about it to anyone who will listen, but when the weight comes back those same people who were singing the praises of their weight loss program stay silent about their weight gain. Because there is suddenly shame there, because “everyone knows” that when weight loss fails (as it does 95% of the time), it’s the peson’s own fault, their own failings. Because Everyone Knows that anyone can get and stay thin, they just have to try harder -anyone can do it long term If They Just Try Hard Enough. It’s crazy, what other product could fail 95% of the time and instead of people being critical of the product, the users are really blamed.

        1. Any product with that kind of failure rate would be yanked off the shelves, unless it had to do with weight loss. Look at the weight loss pills that have been shoved at us and shoved down our throats over the years. So what if you die from a heart attack? At least you were thin. What a shame we have to be bombarded by these fat-shaming messages every day.

  4. It sort of reminds me of one rainy recess when I was in the fifth grade that almost the entire class spent browbeating me to just write with my right hand instead of my left so my handwriting would be better.

    Even taking the time and trouble to demonstrate that literally nobody would be able to read a single word I wrote didn’t work with them. They ‘knew’ that right-handed people have better handwriting.

    Same shit, different trigger.

    1. One of the best stories my mom tells is about the silly Kindergarten teacher who went on and on about how my mother should work with my sister to teach her to be right handed. It was at a parent teacher conference. My mom let the lady go on and on as her smile got bigger and bigger. Finally the teacher asked why–well dear, I’m afraid it would be very difficult for my husband and I to do. To which the teacher said, Oh, no, just spend time with her every evening. But you don’t understand, both her father and I are also left-handed.

      My sister has beautiful hand writing.

      1. that’s a great story.

        though interestingly enough, i was retrained to be right-handed as a child (because being left-handed is a sign of the devil, dont’cha know), and contrary to weight loss, it took. but when i say “retraining” that makes it sound so benign. it wasn’t; it was cruel.

        of course today i am retraining myself to be ambidextrous, and even my parents’ idiot religious cult doesn’t care anymore. just goes to show how ridiculous some of society’s notions are, and the crap they put us through for no good reason at all..

        1. Yeah, my dad was a “converted” lefty. He was born in 1918, so using your left hand just wasn’t on. In his 60’s he taught himself to write with his left, and he had the neatest writing. Funny thing, he continued to sign his name with his right hand. He was 88 when he died 8 years ago. We used to do the cryptic crossword puzzles together. Oh I miss him!

  5. You’re quite correct, and well-stated (as usual). The National Weight Control Registry asserts that it contains 10,000 individuals who have lost more than 30 pounds and have maintained that loss for more than a year. 10K people out of all of those who have dieted in the USA. That stat alone reinforces your point.

  6. People who know me don’t understand that having lost weight doesn’t change my mentality. I’m still the depressive, suicidal, and neurotic person I’ve been since puberty. Becoming thin, or just being inside the magical BMI healthy numbers, won’t change who I am or how I see myself. It merely changes how others treat me.

    1. True that. And this is the issue. I don’t want people to assume that just because I’m overweight I can’t hack the Zumba class. It’s a pride issue for me. True story – someone at a dinner party referred to 2 out of 5 of us as “not skinny enough to sit next to the wall” at the dinner table. This coming from the hostess, who outweighed all of us. I don’t like being singled out because someone else thinks I’m this or that. I don’t want to not get a job because of my weight.

      I never thought anything different about myself at this weight, 20 lbs ago or 20 lbs heavier.

  7. In regards to your previous grammatical/spelling errors I have a daughter who is a linguistics major and teaches so I pheal your pane!

    In regards to dieting and weightloss being a magical tool I found that as a young fat girl who was pretty darn cute as a child and a nice person growing up was always prone to being placed either on a diet by my mom, Weight Watchers of course, being shamed about my fat or forced into a variety of physical activities many of which I actually enjoyed like biking for miles (away from home and grief) to shops with friends, all by ourselves but luckily never getting abducted by a lune!

    This then progressed, once I was on my own to continue with my mother’s teaching of self hatred to more diets, illegal pills, pregnant women’s urine injections, legal pills, more diets and then the failed lap band installation and it’s removal and then finally the gastric bypass. I went from obese to overweight in a year but after a year put back on some poundage and now am finally obese but it was worth it!

    Found FA after the lap band fiasco but now it’s a reality in my life!

    What happened to my psyche if that’s the correct term is while I was thin for a while after being on drugs (speed) in my late teens and found all that life had to offer me as a thin person (woman) I still didn’t know how to be “me” the me that was there from the beginning I almost felt like I was playing the roll of “thin me”. Plus if I could change myself in that way what else could I do to please others and there’s a whole list that I won’t even go into!

    Back to “today” I consider myself a recovering RNY patient who now has to deal with what deficiencies RNY surgery has cost my body. I have to come to terms with what I’ve done as it was my choice whether I felt societal pressure, family pressure (even if only in my head) to do all these things or not. No one held me down and forced any of this on me. But as a responsible adult I feel the need to at least share that there is no magic pill or surgery and if you’re lucky enough to have family and friends support you no matter what size you are you are indeed a lucky person and can get past the pressure and if not there are some great people here to help!!

  8. Thank you, once again, for providing this format to reinforce my beliefs about size acceptance. I’ve been around the movement for a long time, but I still need recharged. I have often sung this song about how weight loss is impossible, and, although friends and family no longer debate the issue with me, I know that they shake their heads behind my back. I feel sad about that.

    Indeed proofreading is a task. Proofreading backwards – starfting at the end and reading right to left – picks up typos and other errors.

  9. i suspect that one reason why the mentality of weight loss being possible persists despite the evidence to the contrary (aside from the billions of dollars being made from it by unscrupulous people) is that temporary weight loss is (for most people) not that hard to come by. even ridiculous diets “work” for a time. and if they stop working, it’s easy to blame the dieter for not trying hard enough, because everyone has watched some “reality” show where people are made over and of course we never see the follow-up 5 years later. heck, even if we did, the contestants would be blamed because they “let themselves go”; nevermind that nobody sane could possibly keep up the gruelling routine of said reality show, not if they actually want to also have a life.

    even people who have experienced multiple diets failures do this to themselves, blame themselves for not trying hard enough. extend that thought — what would it mean to try hard enough for many of us? if we went on long-term starvation diets, that would “work”; we’d become emaciated after some time — but i’m hoping nobody calls starvation diets healthy, because they kill people a lot faster than any supposed dangers of obesity.

    sometimes i wish weight loss diets wouldn’t work even in the short run because then we’d long ago have ditched the weight loss idea.

    seriously, “weight watchers” talks about 5 lb of long-term weight loss? is that a joke? that’s how much flushes down the drain after my morning ablutions. just weigh yourself right after going to the bathroom, and voila, there’s your apparently ever so desirable and healthy long-term WW weight loss.

  10. Went to the doctor yesterday for a flu shot and to discuss whether or not I need an MRI to see if I have a pituitary tumor.

    He said, “Is it time to consider going to the weight loss clinic at UCLA?”
    I said, “No.”

    As an aside, at least now I know why I was abducted by aliens…

    1. I must not have the right types of aliens around me. I thought the reason I haven’t been abducted yet was because I was fat. *le sigh*

  11. As to the Tori Spelling and Kelsey Grammer corrections buy readers, is it reely necessary? It’s tiersome scrolling threw the blog cawmeants to get two the purrtinent responses to Ragen’s ah-ha-some and erudite essay. Trust me, no one is more anal about proper use of language than me. But as Dr. Phil says: Do you want to be right? Or do you want to have a relationship? Peace and love, kiddies!!

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