And The “Does Not Get It Award” Goes To…

Does not Get it awardI get a lot of hatemail, but sometimes I get something that I would call more…patheti-mail.  People who perhaps think that they are being clever but are, in fact, simultaneously completely missing and illustrating my point.  Today the “Does Not Get it” Award was won by Chris S. Chris decided to spend time emailing me this gem:

In your blog you wrote that losing 5 pounds in two years is not a success and that you could easily do it.  So if its [sic] so easy to lose that weight why don’t you prove it?

Chris has missed the point in a way that I can only describe as epic. If you’re interested in what I actually say about this, you are welcome to read this post. But I do appreciate Chris perfectly illustrating for us the kind of ridiculous thinking that leads to the continued recommendation of weight loss as a way for people to get thinner and/or healthier (two different things) despite the mountain of evidence that makes it clear that it is terrible at both of these things.

First of all, a quick review about how weight loss works or, y’know, doesn’t.  Almost everyone can lose weight short term, almost everyone gains it all back within 5 years, a majority of people gain back more than they lost.  (Diet companies have figured out how to successfully take credit for the weight loss, blame the client for the weight gain, and make a ton of money on repeat business.)

This leads to people pointing to short term weight loss as proof of the possibility of long term weight loss.  I think that’s very much like suggesting that the time I spend in the air after I jump off the roof is proof that I could fly to avoid hitting the ground if I really tried hard enough.  Both the time in the air, and the impact with the ground are inevitable from the time I jump off the roof as, for almost everyone, are the short term weight loss and long term weight regain inevitable from the time they start the intentional weight loss attempt (whether they call it a diet, lifestyle change, eating plan or something else.)

This has also led to the claim that [ever decreasing x amount] of weight loss has a positive effect on health – the number that constituted x pounds started out as a specific weight based on height, but doctors weren’t able to get people to lose weight to that amount, so they started saying “20% of body weight” but they couldn’t get people to lose that so they started saying “10% of body weight” but they couldn’t get people to lose that so they started saying “just 5%” and when that didn’t work for Weight Watchers, they claimed that 5 pounds in two years (regardless of your starting weight) is a good result.

Just to make it crystal clear, the amount of weight one “needed to lose” to have “health benefits” started as an arbitrary number and actually got less research-based from there. It also leads to the ridiculous ideas that weight loss by any means is somehow a good thing which in turns leads to doctors prescribing things to fat people that they would diagnose as problems in thin people.

So the answer to Chris’s inquiry is that, while Chris may well be the kind of person who would do something poorly advised because of a dare from a stranger on the internet, I am not nearly so foolish. I have already done my time on the diet roller coaster and, having done the research and knowing that health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within my control, or guaranteed under any circumstances I am very comfortable that my decision to focus on behaviors (rather than trying to manipulate my body size) is best for both my mental and physical health.

Random Request:

1.  I’m trying to meet Beth Ditto for a possible collaboration – if you know her, I would love an introduction you can e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org

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24 thoughts on “And The “Does Not Get It Award” Goes To…

  1. Eeeee! I hope you come somewhere close to me (Munich), so I can come hear you speak! I have, however, no connections to help make that come to pass.

    1. Yes. On the Wii Fit game, I set my goal weight loss, do my workout, and weigh again: guess what, I met the goal and passed it. Can’t be that much in a 15 min session doing marching and soccer balls?!

      Also going to the bathroom results in that amount of weight loss for me.

    2. 5 lbs? Pfft! I can do it without even trying, every single month. One of the advantages to being a woman is that I get to “diet” with VISIBLE RESULTS! every month! So, yeah, the first day or two after my period, I get the “You lost weight” comments.

  2. I was about to say the same thing. Everyone’s weight fluctuates, larger people’s perhaps more than thin people’s, & often premenopausal women’s weight more than most. Most of us tend to fluctuate by 5-8 pounds over the course of each month while we are having periods. Very active people, especially competitive athletes, may lose 8-15 pounds while they are playing/working out, but replace it as soon as they rehydrate. I am a normally quite active but disabled woman living in Maine, where we are currently having the winter from hell. My balance is poor, I fall easily, so for outdoor walking, I usually use a rollator walker. You basically CANNOT push one through snow, so when I go out, I am using a quad cane & not walking as far as usual because it is slippery & there are piles to climb over & walking on the side of the road with high snow banks & quite a bit of ice is dangerous. My point is, to make a long story a bit shorter, that, while I try to stay active indoors, go out when I can, & my family members get me to stores to walk around shopping, I am not getting the amount of exercise now that I get 8-9 months of the year. Over the course of this winter, I would estimate that I have gained 8-10, as I generally do gain 5-10 pounds most winters, depending on how severe the winter is. However, when the ground is bare again, I will lose those pounds without doing a thing beyond living my normal life. Being human, my weight will always fluctuate somewhat. It does NOT follow that this means that, if I really wanted to, I could lose 80-100 pounds & keep it off. It just doesn’t work that way. I can pretty much guarantee that the genius who made this comment is not exactly the same weight every single day of his life either.

    1. I hear you on the winter. On the western side of the continent though, we are experiencing summer! The snow/ice melting in our cul-de-sac has created a lake in front of our house do to poor drainage in the curbs. When it freezes at night (and now it’s snowing again) it turns into a giant skating rink.

      You can’t walk on it, the only safe way to get over it is by car.

      1. Sounds like a good time to buy some skates. In Holland they have these nifty strap-on skates. You wear your regular shoes, and when you hit an icy spot, you strap on your skates, skate around to your heart’s content, and then remove the strap-on skates and continue your walk.

        I used to carry mine with me all the time to and from school, when I was there as a child, because there were plenty of frozen canals and the like, and the opportunity for a quick skate. FUN! Plus they were really light, so it wasn’t a burden to carry them. I wish I could find those here.

        Of course, I live in the south, so skating rinks are really my only opportunity to skate, anyway. So, I’m kind of jealous. Free skating! Silly of me, I know. You just want to safely leave your house for living your daily life, without having to lug around special gear to do it. And a cane or walker would be useless on a skating puddle. I hear your frustration. I’ve been iced in to the point I couldn’t even check the mail or do the laundry. I was SO glad for a well-stocked pantry, because going to the grocery store was impossible, since I couldn’t even reach my car, let alone lug the groceries back from my parking spot.

        Sending warm thoughts to all my northern friends! Stay safe, and may the winter end soon.

        1. However, when you have cerebral palsy, with poor balance & wobbly ankles, skating is also not an option. It does sound like fun, though.

        2. I wish I could find some strap-on skates. Would definitely make it easier to leave the house!

          Back when I first started uni and took the bus daily, the “road” was so bad, I had to create foot holes in the 2 neighbours’ yards so that I could walk through their yards to get to the main street (which was shoveled). I did that for about 6 months.

          1. When I was at college, I had to walk up a hill every day, or else go quite a bit out of my way, and cut through a building, take the elevator or stairs up, and exit on the other side. When the ice storm hit, I was among many students who learned quickly to suck it up and walk through the prickly bushes, because it was the only way to get any traction.

            One morning, I saw a very determined young woman, walking right up the center of the path up the hill. She got along fine for a while, but then hit an icy patch, and slid down at almost the same rate as she was going up. It was like watching someone walking up the downward escalator. And as she was right in the middle of the very wide path, she couldn’t reach anything, or anyone, who could help her out of the icy patch. Her only option was to give up, slide down, and then side-step the whole thing, via the prickly bushes.

    2. Oh! The winter-weight gain. It’s perfectly natural and not an issue at all, as it will come off again naturally when you become more active in the spring time.

      However, we get blamed for it. “You’re not a bear! You’re not supposed to get ready to hibernate!” is my favorite comment. At least it doesn’t spoil the holidays. I mean, who came up with the bright idea of making Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years so full of traditional foods and food-centered celebrations, and then BLAME people for eating? Even if you eat normally, you’re still going to gain a few pounds in the winter, if it’s a real winter. Not so much way down south, perhaps, but not all of us can be Snowbirds and live in Miami Beach.

      You know, people in Southern California and Florida do have an actual natural advantage, in that the weather permits more active lifestyles. Then, in L.A., people drive everywhere, anyway, but expect people to be “Hollywood” thin. Blows my mind.

      I wonder what it’s like in the Southern Hemisphere, when winter is just winter and the holiday season comes right in the middle of summer, when you’re more likely to have a pool party than chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

      1. I have also read that, as far as the ‘big holiday weight gain’ is concerned, it is largely a myth & that the average person gains 2 pounds or less between Halloween & New Year’s, which, as we all know, is a tiny & perfectly normal fluctuation. Because I don’t diet, i actually don’t eat much differently during the holiday season anyway. And, you are right, whatever change there is changes back during the warm weather.

        1. I used to be part of a “Maintain, Don’t Gain,” group, every winter, and i never had any trouble maintaining. I weighed in early in my period, and then I just didn’t worry about it.

          Inevitably, though, there would be a team-mate who determined that we all had to lose at least five pounds, or else it wouldn’t count, or something. We weren’t in any competition, but some people make anything into a competition, even if they’re only competing with themselves.

          I think that although I did eat more special treats during those holidays, I was also a bit busier than usual, and a bit more stressed than usual, and that may have countered it, a bit.


    I, too, know that my body will naturally fluctuate by several pounds in a single day. A few years ago I was house sitting for some friends for a couple days. Their house was out in the middle of nowhere and I don’t drive, so I got a little bored. One day I decided to weigh myself through the day. I got on their scale at least a dozen times that day, and went up and down by about three pounds without doing anything unusual. I ate, I read, I watched TV, I cooked, I played with the cat… I didn’t even take my usual walk.

    It was kind of interesting that one day, but I cannot imagine ever spending my life fretting over such an insignificant difference.


    Even if it’s possible to lose five pounds over two years, why would I do it for the (indeterminate) benefit of Chris S? I might also be capable of learning to hang glide, but I have no interest in doing so. I can definitely do a good job with makeup, but I don’t care to wear it. I have worn high-heeled shoes successfully in the past, but it’s not something I like to do what with the way I tend to fall off them and hurt my ankles, so I don’t. I am more than capable of reading the Twilight series, but it’s not something that appeals to me.

    There are literally thousands of things I could do… but the opinion of a random confused person on the internet in no way obligates me to do any of them. And that definitely includes making a specific effort to lose weight… especially considering that if I am successful in the short run, I will almost certainly have it reverse itself and more in the long run.

  4. Hey, in the Hitchhiker books by Douglas Adams, it states that you can learn to fly once you learn to miss the ground!

    Of course, you have to do it by accident, which is incredibly hard. This is why almost nobody flies. But I’m sure if you kept trying…

  5. Sadly, I think a lot of people miss the point. They read something and in their minds it twists into what they want to read. It’s just like “you hear what you want to hear” – well a lot of people tend to read what they want to read. Reading comprehension is becoming a lost art.

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