I 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.
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
2. It looks like I’ll be in Europe later this year. I’m putting together a European speaking tour so if you’re in the area and interested in having me come speak shoot me an e-mail at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll work out the details!
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