Here’s Why I Hate the Weight Loss “industry”


images-2As I have gotten to the end of my rough draft of this post I have made a realization and have therefore returned to the first line of the post to give you a warning…..

WARNING!!!

RANT ahead!!!

Read at your own risk!  

All opinions contained here in are my own.  I (and no one else) am responsible for them.  If you have issues with my thoughts please feel free to comment freely, just remember, Todd will probably only see this blog at the same time you do….  so HE is blameless in this fiasco ok?

So this week I read an online article posted to my Facebook stream by my wonderful friend Deborah.  I read it from beginning to end and then decided that it would have to be the central thought for a blog post.  Why?  Well because it made a very clear arguement that actually stated my thoughts about the media, “research” and the “health” industry which I have long wished I could articulate better.  Basically?  RESEARCH can be manipulated!!!  Imagine that?  It is possible to take something that you WISH to be true, fiddle fade around with some numbers and then present it to a media “industry” who are more worried about “readership” than they are about TRUTH, and Les Voila, the perfect storm!!!  Your NON-FACTS become today’s news, and with the media’s blessing it becomes FACT.

eatchocolatelos.b7dc2131109.original

http://io9.com/i-fooled-millions-into-thinking-chocolate-helps-weight-1707251800

In case you did not get a chance to read the article from the link above, let me summarize.  You can create a bad study, with a very very small group (sample size) measure for multiple variables (the more you measure the more likely you will find an anomaly you can claim is significant) and you can throw out data that doesn’t fit your goal.  If you fudge your numbers enough (and manipulate your P score effectively) you can show “statistical significance” of some aspect that you wish to show.  You then have “created” a significant finding.  With any luck, the letters Phd after your name, and a broadcast of easily formatted publicity and sound bites, you can find a journal to publish your results with little or no fact checking or verification.  Then, if what you have “discovered” is has just enough of a disbelief factor, you can have it go viral and be seen worldwide despite lack of any evidence.  That is how the world came to find that eating chocolate every day will enhance your weight loss.  It’s also complete crap, like so much more of the diet, exercise, health and weight loss “knowledge” out there.

https://xkcd.com/882/

Over the years I have gotten very tired of all the fads and trends.  Maybe I’m just a straight forward kinda guy (somehow or other I doubt that very much).  Maybe I’m just an idiot.  But I’ve always thought that this was a linear kinda deal.  100 calories in – 100 calories burned = equilibrium.  3000 calories in – 2000 calories burned = weight gain.  2000 calories in – 3000 calories burned = weight loss.  I mean MAYBE there’s a big government coverup going on.  Maybe they are hiding the truth from us and if you drink camomile tea with a sprinkle of powered rino horn while facing east at midnight on the summer solstice while Mercury is rising……  you COULD wake up looking like Angelina Jolie (or Brad Pitt).  Or maybe it could just be as simple as eating less and burning more?  What is it Occam’s Razor says?  When multiple options exist, the simplest is most likely truth.

top-5-super-foodI have reached my fill of people who make all kinds of dietary claims.  Each and every month there seems to be a new “superfood” that will slim your waist, or cure your cancer or make you attractive to whichever sex you want to be attractive to.  This food will lower your blood pressure.  That food will increase your energy.  Of course you also get the opposite as well, the fear mongering.  If you eat GMO corn your insides will swell up and bloat you until you die!  If you wake up and don’t feel like you are living in the perfect rom-com with you as the central character then you must be “gluten-intolerant” and all gluten must be banished from your life in order to achieve perfection.  Carbs kill.  Fat is the enemy!!  It’s so annoying to see the media in it’s ever growing desire to obtain a “market share” spend more and more time trying to capture your attention and less and less time trying to actually communicate.

This may sound terrible, but it seems that despite our ever expanding knowledge and sophistication as a species, we actually often can’t find the actual cause of the problems we encounter on a daily and repetitive basis.  Todd and I have recently been watching some episodes of the TLC show “My 600lb Life.”  There are so many things which I could say about that show and those situations.  I mean really, sometimes I want to yell at the screen because patient’s families are blindly enabling their husband/wife or sister/brother or mother/father to slowly but surely kill themselves.  Other times I want the doctor to be more direct and blunt.  Other times I just simply want to hear one of the patients say that they are “doing this” for themselves, instead of “because I love my wife” or “because I don’t want my kid to be motherless.”  When I watch that show I see such pain and so many mental health issues as the backdrop to a their stories.  Sometimes I wonder if the focus isn’t a little misplaced, but I guess, it’s the obvious physicality that people tune in to see, and as I’ve mentioned already, ratings rule.

Maybe it’s my own personal point of reference, but I have spent a lot of time trying to get comfortable in my own skin (with the being gay thing and all) and I really don’t think that external motivation is ever really going to be enough when you are talking about life change on this particular scale.  I have to admit, watching some of these episodes makes me EXTREMELY THANKFUL that I have Todd in my life.  Yes, I know he can be a little anal retentive, and may annoy the crap outta me sometimes, but trust me, I KNOW for a fact that if I ever got too heavy to be able to fetch my baconater meal from Wendy’s myself there’d be no way in hell he’d bring it to me.  I also know that on my way home from weight loss surgery he wouldn’t buy THREE fast food burgers and ask me to HOLD THEM WHILE HE DROVE!!!  I mean really.

Just as a counter point, and to prove that I CAN think analytically, I have to say that having been featured on a HG TV reno show ourselves at one point, I have an inkling of just how much “scripting” goes into even UNSCRIPTED shows.  While no one ever hands you pages with your lines written no them, you get asked the same question 6 million times in slightly different words until the director gets the answer HE wants to hear.  Oh, and sound bites can be edited together in some really interesting ways as well, the way I recall it.  So I actually take a lot of that stuff with a huge grain of salt.

But sometimes it takes a moment of clarity in order to see what’s really happening…..  Those are the moments that need to happen for people to be successful at this whole weight loss/life change thing.  I have seen moments of that show where people I knew were destined for failure  had a light come on.  Just something in them changed and success just followed (good editing maybe? but really, you can’t deny the end result when you see it on the screen can you….).  I think that’s the important thing in all of this.  Finding your light.  That moment when inside your own head things just make sense and you stop waiting for the movie.  When you no longer want to chase the next big fad, or find that “superfood” to fix the problem.  When the issue is no longer “if only I was in a better relationship” or “if I wasn’t so busy at work” or “once the spring comes and I can get out and get more active” or “if only someone LOVED me.”  I’m not trying to be harsh here.  Really I’m not.  Until someone finds their own INTERNAL motivating force, they will continue waiting for that magic fix that will never come.

I think that’s why I get so bent out of shape at all the “fat burning” plant extracts, and all the Dr. Oz shows and all the weight loss “systems” (yes weight watchers, jenny craig, herbal magic etc etc etc).  My beef here is not that these things are actually harmful.  It is not that they don’t work, some of them do when followed correctly (I’m sorry I bashed you weight watchers).  No, my beef is that all the marketing needed to create profits for these companies and products leads to bigger and bolder claims.  If Jenny Craig takes some effort and expense (for pre packaged meals) but with goji berries “pounds just melt away” you can guess who’s going to lose the market share right?  So people keep getting lead down the garden path with false expectations that results do not require energy, work or determination.  This of course leads to almost certain failure, which produces emotional distress and self blame, which begins a complete cycle of despondence emotional eating and even lower self worth.  Basically on this road North America is the perfect storm for weight loss companies and products.  It’s an endless self fulfilling marketplace.

Just to make matters worse of course, even the “reality shows” that showcase the REALITY of weight loss, i.e.: The Biggest Loser, end up mired in controversy and accusations of abuse.  “It was physically gruelling” “I felt belittled constantly” “I was yelled at and pushed past my limits to the point that my hair started falling out” “I was told that if I wasn’t successful at this my children would be motherless before they finished high school.”  Ok, let’s be honest no one wants to hear these things, feel these things, do these things.  That is true.  Yes, people CAN be terrible and say things that are inappropriate.  But this isn’t kindergarten either.  You don’t get to PASS and go to grade 1 just because you showed up and ate some paste.  This is real life, and it HURTS.  If there were no pain you wouldn’t know what joy felt like.  Life is full of contrast.  It’s what makes the colours so much more beautiful.  Every artist uses black in their paintings.  Every interior designer I know has said “every room needs some black to ground it.”  Every life needs a little pain, a little challenge, some difficulty to make living it worthwhile.  I guess some of us have just forgotten this…..

Of course.  There is also the growing movement of “body acceptance.”  I tread lightly here as I type.  I love the concept of being happy in who you are.  I have no issue with women wearing bathing suits post mastectomy.  Or embracing the birthmarks you were born with, or being proud of your accomplishments after loosing a limb for whatever reason.  Being of an “unusual” physical proportion or appearance should not in any way shape or form be something that brings shame.  Embracing your unique qualities that make you YOU are perfectly wonderful, amazing even.

It took me a long time to become happy.  There were many false starts.  Many detours.  And an awful lot of learning to get to this moderately successful point on THAT journey.  BUT.  I have seen many many times where the “body acceptance” type of thinking has given people an opportunity to simply not have to be “responsible” for their own situation.  That is a dangerous thing in my opinion.  So, let me be clear….  shaming someone because they don’t have the physical build of Kate Moss is wrong, hurtful and outright deplorable.  But in the same moment, allowing someone with a 600lb frame who cannot physically care for themselves or their families to “embrace themselves” and be absolved of responsibility is not wise or beneficial to anyone, least of all the person in question.

I think that the “body acceptance” movement should maybe tweak their name just a little.  I don’t think it’s about accepting your “body.”  It’s about “self acceptance.”  It’s time to transcend the limits of the physical and deal with the realities that occur within our brain and that’s what I think the “body acceptance” concept misses on some level.  Just as I can be happy and content with who I am, while also dealing with an ending relationship (which does not need to define ME as a person), one can be happy and content within themselves while still recognizing issues to work on (if needed).  My occupation does not define who I am .  Nor does my economic status, or my hair colour, or my ethnicity or MY BODY SIZE.  I am a specific collection of thoughts, emotions, experiences, memories and relationships.  I can be complete and whole despite any of the external trappings of this life.  BUT IT DOES NOT GIVE ME A HALL PASS.  I cannot just put my life on auto-pilot and expect an acceptable outcome.  I need to live an examined life.  That is the key.

LightbulbIn all of this I don’t think I can honestly tell you when my great “moment” of awareness occurred.  I mean I had actually “embraced” my belly.  Made it part of the funny little jokes.  Talked about “the food baby” or how “these damn twins would never be born….gestational period of an elephant I tell you!”  I learned to “make the baby kick” just for the realism of it all.  I even used that silly little ledge to rest my drink on at times.  I mean I wasn’t happy with my shape, I surely wasn’t 600 lbs but let’s be honest I wasn’t happy about how difficult it was to tie up my shoes each morning.  I will openly admit that just like everyone else on the planet I am human.   I had my head stuck firmly in the sand.  I didn’t WANT to deal with my growing issue.  But for some reason or other, wether it was the fact that my scrubs made me look particularly pregnant one day, or that I just didn’t want Todd to be calorie counting alone doesn’t really matter, a day came where it just clicked and it was “the right time.”

I just hope that all of the manipulated research, all of the marketing ploys, all of the new and miraculous “super foods” or even of the “body acceptance” talk doesn’t keep you from being the person you want to be.  I believe in being happy in the body you have for sure.  So be happy.  Live life.  Set some goals along the way.  Be brave and courageous and bold.  Make you mark on the world, on the lives of others.  Live a life worth remembering and being remembered for.

images-4

A great motto

Thanks for reading!!

Duane

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