The 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:
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 Linda 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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