The Short Term Weight Loss Lie

Success and DietsThe vast majority of people who attempt intentional weight loss end up gaining the weight back in a few years, with many gaining back more than they lost. So if we know this, why is weight loss still being sold by everyone from doctors to the government to that annoying person in every Facebook group pushing shakes or whatever? It can often come down to very poorly drawn “scientific” conclusions, and the complete lack of ethics in the diet industry.

The fact is that most people are able to lose some weight over a short amount of time. The problem is the two conclusions that are drawn from that, which then form the foundation for diet culture.

The first is that if it’s possible to lose a little weight, then it must be possible to lose any amount of weight. The second is that if short-term weight loss is possible for almost everyone, then maintaining weight loss must be possible for almost everyone.

These conclusions are total crap. They simply cannot be logically drawn from the facts. They are hypotheses that are disproven by the evidence. It’s embarrassing that so many doctors are still peddling this BS. They, too have been duped by (and/or are profiting from) weight loss and diet culture, very profitably perpetuated by the diet industry, currently worth $66 Billion a year, up from $55 Billion in 2007. (If their product actually worked, their profits would go down over a decade of people getting and staying thin, so the constant increase in profits is a good sign that this is a scam on a massive scale.)

The diet industry has also made a habit of funding studies that only last for two years. A common outcome is that people who stay in the study lose 10 pounds in the first year, they gain back 5 of those pounds in the second year.

The study then stops, they make no attempt to figure out what happened to the people who quit (could it be that they weren’t losing weight?) and the diet industry claims that the majority of participants (meaning the majority of people who didn’t quit the study) ended below their starting weight after two years, which they often call “long-term success.” Of course two years isn’t really long-term anything, and they are conveniently ignoring the fact that the research that goes beyond 2 years finds that the trajectory of weight gain continues, and that most people gain it all back within about 5 years, with many gaining back more than they lost.

For a visual interpretation:
weight loss - studies and truth

Once again, what the research shows is that almost everyone can lose some weight short term. Almost everyone gains the weight back in 2-5 years. Knowing this, the diet industry claims “well, they go back to their old habits…” which is true only to the extent that they go back to not giving their body less calories than it needs to survive in the hopes that it will consume itself and become smaller. When people are talking about an intentional weight loss attempt and they say “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change” what they mean is “It’s a change to a lifestyle where you diet all the time.” Starvation is not sustainable.

There is nothing wrong with being fat, but even if someone thinks a large body is a problem, an intentional weight loss attempt is the absolute worst thing that they could do (and worst advice we could give them,) since it results in weight gain the majority of the time. For the research around this, I highly recommend Lindo Bacon and Lucy Aprhramor’s Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift.

We have to start telling the truth about weight and health or we risk coming to the end of our lives to find that we were so busy in the near impossible pursuit of a thin body (and lining the pockets of the diet industry in the process,) that we never took the time to truly live. I don’t know about you, but I wasted years trying to manipulate my body based on stereotypes of beauty and lies about health. No more. I live a full life in the body that I have. Getting off the diet roller coaster is always an option.

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7 thoughts on “The Short Term Weight Loss Lie

  1. My grandmother died about ten years ago. My aunt said they had talked about weight loss and being thin, neither were for very long at any point in their lives, when she asked my grandmother/her mother: “What would have changed if you had been thin?” My grandmother replied: “Well, I would have at least tried.”
    No, idea what to make of that. But I imagine the very fact you will not be treated like a piece of shit by %98 of the people you interact with in your life has got to have something to do with it.
    It is like this maybe: Why do people fear getting old, cause they see how they themselves dismiss, marginalize and resent old people. Who wants that? Why do bigots live in terror of the world turning brown? Because they see the short shrift people of colour get. They may even dish out a bit of the bullshit themselves and who wants to live with that? Through that? Anyone can see it is easier, you get more social respect and value if you are a thin person than if you are fat. My God it is so obvious it is positively unseen. At this time, in this world (“world” meaning the people in it and all they do), who would want to be fat, if you knew it led to casual ill treatment, interspersed with pointed harassment from all and sundry and even your closest loved ones. Who would sign up for that?

    Now, lets talk about this cure. Just a little effort on your part, and for a nominal fee we can guarantee that will never ever happen…

    There is everybody else…and then there is you… Alienating isn’t it, that runs counter to human evolution. It’s dangerous to be dismissed, unwanted, disliked…’other’. You’d almost kill yourself to avoid it. It’s amazing they bother to put bells on it at all. “Weight loss as fun and easy.” “Weight loss as a lifelong lonely grind, and you still might not make it.”

    Fuck em! In a hundred years we’ll all be dead. Live for Now. Live for You! Put down the food schedules, don’t order that exercise machine/clothing rack (unless you really want it) And go look up holiday brochures. They can’t legally keep you off the beach. Wear your suits, go with friends and raise a glass at any one who gives you the stink eye!

  2. People hating fat people and trying to diet seems to have been around for centuries. I suppose it goes along with all the other kinds of hate. After all, people have been trying to convert someone else’s religion forever, and there are skin lighteners and all kinds of other ways to try to fit someone else’s mold. Why do humans fear and hate what is different?

    1. Actually, Linda, it has only been around since about the 1920’s, when the corporate model of just about everything was getting to full steam. Can’t have soft nurturing people or bodies if we have to “keep up” all t he time, can we? (And note this is exactly when “soft” and “nurturing” as desired attributes for women went out, as well. They were considered “Victorian” and obsolete. You had to be thin and flatchested and tough to be considered chic. Remember the flapper girls?)

  3. Actually Fern, diets existed for thousands of years. Check out Calories and Corsets by Louise Foxtrot. One of the first recognized dieticians in western culture was George Cheyne who wrote An Essay of Health and Long life in 1794.

  4. There’s always been fatphobia, but the flavor did change dramatically around the turn of the century. I remember the suggestion this may have come from the period’s changing values (if fat people are supposed to be bad but what you think is bad has changed, your stereotypes about fat people must change to match your new definition).

    Also, eugenics and phrenology, because of course eugenics and phrenology.

    And MetLife’s role in pushing this model through Ancel Keyes’ variant of Quetelet’s statistics-gathering BMI tables so they could make more money charging fat people more than thin people for the same goods and services must never be forgotten.

    Click to access pekar-ims-bmi.pdf

    You know, society’s mindset that any fever dream anyone in a lab coat had once is valid science forevermore and that you are free to believe it and hurt/kill people over it long after it’s been proven false has occasionally tempted me to start insisting studies show the height of your of bigotry is directly proportional to the stench of your B.O. If I asked y’all if fatphobia stinks, most of you would say yes, and self-reporting from some randos on an Internet forum is every bit as solid as most of the obesity research out there, so I would present these numbers in graph form and use a lot of phrases like “double-blind” and “inversely proportional,” I would exclude everyone whose experiences didn’t fit my hypothesis as “outliers,” and boom! I would in fact have a study showing bigots are more likely to have awful B.O. than everyone else. I would call my “discovery” Salvifoetor and the study of the epidemic Salvifoetology. I would write a book about it, and I would sadly dab my eyes and somberly say “I understand the emotional response you’re having. I hate telling this harsh truth as much as you hate hearing it, but we are in a Salvifoetor crisis right now, and we MUST do something,” whenever a critic pointed out all those numbers and three-dollar words haven’t shared so much as an across-the-room glance with the scientific method and don’t actually prove shit.

    But then I remember I need to be able to sleep at night and look at myself in the mirror.

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