How To Be Condescending About Weight-Loss

(Image courtesy Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. All images that appear on posts about weight at LoveLiveGrow will be of fat people with heads.)

I read a lot of stuff on the internet. I’ve got my search patterns pretty well dialed in so that most of what I read is stuff I want to read. I’m either probably going to like it, or I’m probably going to enjoy not liking it. Every now and then, though, I accidentally run across something that causes seeing-red anger. Joshua got the immediate frothing rant on this one, and now that it’s been awhile and I’ve gotten over my initial brain-overload, I’ll try to compose some readable froth for you, too. Watch out! Sarcasm, sputtering, and the liberal use of the word fuck ahead!

Enter “How to Lose 20+ lbs in January 2011” by Julian Smith.

From the title, you can already tell it’s going to be bad. 20 pounds in 31 days is over a half a pound a day, which goes against most advice about losing weight safely at the rate of 1-2 pounds a week. Then there’s the subtitle, This is probably the only diet post you will ever need. Which, you know, will be quite a sight to behold. Countless diet books, magazines, nutritionists on the news, talk shows, and lectures from your mother later, it turns out all you need is this one post! This is truly going to be something to see!

Julian claims to have helped lots of people over the last year lose a lot of weight. Right there, warning bells should be going off. Studies of different types of weight-loss attempts come to all kinds of conclusions, depending on what exactly they were studying and how long the study went on, but the basic bottom line is that people cannot lose weight and keep it off. The oft-cited conglomerate of all those numbers is that 95% of people who attempt to lose weight will have gained back all (usually more) of the weight within 2-5 years. So, basically, when Julian says he’s helped people lose weight in the last year, that’s completely meaningless. Almost anyone can lose some weight. Almost no one can keep it off.

But, we’re going to take this ride anyway (for fun!), and Julian says he’s got some very simple rules for you to follow. Simple! Well, that’s comforting, at least. All this time you thought it would be hard to lose weight, but Julian is here to set you straight.

#1. Cut out sugar and flour.

OMGOMGOMGOMG. This is where I start seeing red. I mean, it’s a diet piece, so I knew I was going to hate it. But now he’s called cutting out sugar and flour “simple”. He actually says, in bold type, “Doing this is easy.” As someone who just recently began cutting out carbs from my diet, let me respond with a hearty Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck You! Anyone who says that cutting out sugar and flour is easy is an idiot. Period. And he’s not just talking about “added sugar”. He even bashes on complex carbohydrates a bit. If you cut carbs from your diet, you’re talking about your diet consisting almost entirely of meat and dairy products. Yeah, vegetables are in there, but they don’t have a lot of calories. You’re talking about A LOT of meat and dairy. He talks about eating foods your great-grandmother would recognize. You know what else she would recognize? Fucking bread! Cutting out sugar and flour from your diet is not easy. It’s not simple. You’re a douche.

#2. Sleep the same 8 hours every night.

Oh, my bad. You’re a privileged douche.

Let’s just set aside whether or not having a sleep schedule is “good for you” in some way that does or doesn’t involve weight-loss. Apparently, no one that Julian has “helped” lose weight is a parent. Or works a job with a rotating schedule. Or has a medical condition that interferes with sleep. Or just doesn’t have 8 spare hours.

#3. Try intermittent fasting.

Okay, the train just derailed into eating disorder territory. There may be reasons to fast sometimes. I fasted once and enjoyed it. But of the reasons to fast, not eating because you want to lose weight isn’t a good one. It’s a dangerous one. Julian says that he fasts for 16 hours a day. Which, first off, isn’t really fasting, is it? It’s just… not eating for most of the day. And second, it’s just weird. And third, telling people who want to lose weight to not eat is just downright irresponsible. And cruel, really.

#4. Educate yourself.

If the rest of this shit wasn’t condescending enough, this one takes the cake. People who are trying to lose weight have often been trying to lose weight for years, if not their whole lives. Because people generally cannot lose weight and keep it off. Which means that if you buy into the “you must lose weight” doctrine, you have to keep trying and failing for your whole life. And most people aren’t trying on just good wishes and hopeful thinking. They are fucking educated. They talk to their doctors about losing weight. They read books about how to lose weight. They research losing weight on the internet. They join commercial dieting programs. They are fucking educated.

Julian presents a bunch of links to help you get started educating yourself, and I can tell you that none of them are secret mystery links that no one has ever read. Julian does not have the secrets to weight loss, and neither does anyone else. Shocker.

#5. Spread the message.

Like #3, this one is creepy. Julian wants you to be very public about your weight loss goal because that “may embarrass you into keeping it”. I’m not fucking kidding.

Wrap Up

Finally, Julian says that “being overweight should not drag down our self esteem and make people feel hopeless”. I agree with this statement. But being overweight exists within a cultural context that says horrible things about fatness, and that drags down people’s self-esteem. And his blog post is part of that context. Articles that say, “It’s easy to lose weight, you’re just somehow stupid and doing it wrong,” are part of that context. People telling you that in order to be a good person, you have to do something that is actually impossible for 95% of people is what makes people feel hopeless.

He goes on to say that, “Everyone knows it’s a problem and that they’re more likely to die from it…” and maybe this statement should have come at the beginning so it would have been crystal clear that this man has no idea what he’s talking about. Because guess what? Being fat doesn’t generally increase your risk of death. In fact, most fat people live longer than thin people. There are even health benefits to being fat. And do you know what does increase your risk of death? Weight loss. Yeah, that’s right.

I generally avoid dieting bullshit online, so I don’t know how this one sneaked by. In any case, a good hearty Fuck You feels good now and then, and as far as deserving one goes, this guy really wins first prize.