13 Dietitians on Why They Don’t Promote Weight Loss

scale - no signLast month BuzzFeed asked me to contribute to an article called, 13 Experts Explain Why Diets Don’t Work And What To Do Instead and I was all, “Well, okay, yeah, I guess…” Who am I kidding? I nearly climbed through the internet to Sally Tamarkin’s desk to say HELL YES I’LL CONTRIBUTE!

Anyhoo, it’s the new year and I thought this was a great affirmation of why I don’t promote diets and a focus on weight loss. And neither do all the other cool RDs quoted in the article, many of whom I am proud to know personally. They are all doing amazing work, fighting the status quo of the harmful weight loss paradigm.

I hope you’re starting out the new year with resolutions to treat yourself with kindness and compassion, and prioritizing self-care. I wish you a year of relaxed eating and peace with your body.

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Sayonara, The Biggest Loser

DU + TBLLast year, Aaron and I did a podcast on how much we hated the terrible, exploitative show The Biggest Loser. Some data had just come out about how participants metabolisms had all but flat-lined and stayed that way for years after their time on the show. For us, it was no surprise, but it was good to finally see some data supporting what we already knew (and what data from other studies also showed).

Imagine, then, how delighted we were when we heard that The Biggest Loser would NOT be returning this year for another round of fat-people abuse. We REALLY needed to celebrate this – and who better to celebrate with than a former contestant of the show?

Kai Hibbard was a season 3 contestant who came in second that year. Since then, she’s become an outspoken critic of the show and its tactics, a proponent for body positivity, and an all ’round riots-not-diets kind of sHero. When we contacted her to see if she’d like to come on our podcast and toast the end of this shit-show of shame, she was all in.

What followed was an honest exposé of her time on the show, how she developed extremely disordered eating during and after the show, her eventual recovery and transformation into a body positive warrior. Yes, there is lots and lots of swearing, too.

And while we have no doubt this is not truly the end of the exploitation of fat people for the profit of network TV, we think it was a nice little nail in the coffin. We need to celebrate every win against diet culture.

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Find Kai at her website or on Facebook

PCOS and Weight

DU + JulieI’m amazed to say that before a few years ago, I had never heard of the condition Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS for short). A friend in college had first mentioned that she thought she may have it, but couldn’t get a firm diagnosis.

Since then, I’ve met many more women who have PCOS – so many, in fact, that I have a hard time believing the statistic that 1 in 10 women have it. If I had to guess, it’s more than that – but the typically poor attention and research around many complex women’s medical conditions will probably hinder proper diagnosis and of course, appropriate treatment.

PCOS causes hormonal imbalances, can hinder fertility, may be related to unexplained weight gain, and is related to insulin resistance and diabetes. One of the common treatments suggested has been weight loss – and you know how a HAES® dietitian feels about that. Weight loss in absence of any medical condition is already difficult to achieve and nearly impossible to maintain. PCOS makes it even harder. And as we know, it is in all likelihood a temporary solution at best, with the most likely result being even more weight gained in the long run.

That’s why I’m so glad my wonderful colleague and fellow podcaster, registered dietitian Julie Duffy Dillon, is an expert in the area of PCOS. She’s on top of all the latest research. So, of course, I reached out and said, “Julie! Make sweet, beautiful podcast magic with us on this incredibly complex condition!” and happily she said yes without hesitation.

If you or someone you know struggles with PCOS and related weight gain or insulin resistance, I think you’ll find this episode of Dietitians Unplugged incredibly enlightening and reassuring. There are things you can do for your health and your fertility, but luckily, one of them isn’t suffering under the tyranny of yet another weight loss regimen.

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Check out Julie’s excellent podcast, Love, Food and her free PCOS Roadmap. She also has a PCOS and Food Peace Support Group on Facebook.

 

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4 Things That Happen When You Ditch Dieting

I did a guest blog post for non-diet dietitian Taylor Wolfram over at her site Whole Green Wellness! Check it out:

Say goodbye to dietsI spend a lot of time talking about how I quit dieting and why (hello – life of misery). I discuss how we know now that dieting does not actually produce long-term weight loss for most people, and how diets are a part of an oppressive culture that doesn’t encourage us to live fully expressed lives in which we can feel good not just about our bodies, but our total selves.

But today I’m going to talk about what it’s like to take those first few steps away from dieting and diet culture…. Continue here to keep reading

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The Weight You’re Supposed to Be

Bulldog

One of the most common reactions to what I write about learning to accept our bodies at the weight they are and taking a Health at Every Size® approach is, “But I’m not at the weight I’m supposed to be…I should be XXX pounds because that’s what I was [when I was my healthiest weight; when I was an athlete in college; before I had three kids; before I developed this knee condition; when I ran marathons all the time].” I totally get it. Lots of us have that utopian time in our lives when our weight was perfect (or so we think in hindsight), our health was optimal, and we were going to live forever…and we so desperately want to get back to it.

Even when, intellectually, we know that dieting doesn’t work, that weight loss is typically short-term (<3 years) at best, that even when our own personal experiences tell us that previous weights were not sustainable, we resist in accepting this. I recently read a great term for this: data resistance, meaning no matter how clear the science is on this topic, people still want to believe that long-term weight loss is possible for more than a tiny fraction of people. The propensity for magical thinking is strong in us humans, and weight is no exception.

Let’s roll with it, then. Maybe you aren’t at your optimal weight. Do you want to diet to try to get there? Is that something that has been sustainable for you in the past? If not, why do you think things would be different this time? What happens if, despite all your efforts, you never get anywhere close to your desired weight? How do you live your life then? What happens if the weight you are now is your weight for the rest of your life? I think it’s worth it to have this conversation with yourself, so you at least have some options.

There are also important things to know before you decide what to do next. First of all, despite what we have been told ad nauseam by the diet industry, your weight is not really within your control, at least in the long term. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you are well aware by now that intentional weight loss has a 90-95% failure rate over the long haul (>5 years). If you’re new to this blog, head on over to my Scientific Lit page and have a look for yourself.

Your weight is really determined by a combination of your genetics, your metabolism, and your environment (past and present) – and not so much by the weight you actually want to be. Do you have fat parents or family members (genetics)? Have you spent any part of your life restricting calories or foods (environment)? And if so, did you know that your metabolism is probably running slower than if you hadn’t (metabolism, obviously)? Possibly most significantly, if you have made multiple weight loss attempts throughout your life or were put on diets as a child, your natural set point will be higher than what it might have been had this never happened. Unfortunately, we’ve all been fed the calories in/calories out bullshit, and have been taught that calories out are totally within our control, when in reality our sneaky metabolism comes along and adjusts everything to make sure we aren’t spending too much energy, because Lord knows the body loves homeostasis.

So now you’re well-armed with information about the spectacular failure of long-term weight manipulation. That’s all well and dandy, you think, but maybe I’ll be one of the 5% who keep the weight off. Maybe you will be! I was for a long while – before The Diet Monster took over my life and made me more miserable than I had ever been as a fat person. It’s a dicey gamble to make – you might be one of the 5% who manages to maintain long-term weight loss by making it your life’s work, OR you might be one of the 95% who gains some, all, or even more of your weight back, leaving you even fatter than you started. In the words of Dirty Harry, “You gotta ask yourself, ‘Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya??

“But I’m simply not healthy at this weight.” Hey, you might not be. I don’t know your particular health habits or your lab values. Just remember, though, that weight is not a health behavior; it’s a size. Health at Every Size® does not purport to say that everyone is healthy at whatever weight they’re at; it simply means that whatever weight you are right now, you can start to work toward better health. So maybe your health isn’t great right now – is losing weight truly the only way you can improve your health? What about improving your eating habits or activity level? If you consider yourself too large to exercise, check out The Fat Chick’s webpage for activity for people of all sizes. Plenty of studies show that fitness is a better determinant of health than fatness and recently even more are showing that weight loss in some populations is associated with greater mortality rates.

“Well, I’m just not comfortable at this size.” I understand; moving in a thin body is different than moving in a fat body. While I personally don’t notice all that much difference (I’m lazy at both ends of the weight spectrum!), I also recognize that my weight difference might not be as great as someone else’s and that my experience is not universal (I also developed osteoarthritis in my feet at my thinnest, so even that wasn’t a guard against joint problems). Whether your discomfort is physical or psychological, how much do you think our culture’s prevailing attitudes about weight are influencing your discomfort with your weight?

I used to feel like I had to suck in my stomach, no matter what weight I was. As I regained weight, my stomach was beyond sucking in – I could tighten those ab muscles all I wanted, but that layer of fat wasn’t going anywhere. Sucking in made me feel physically uncomfortable. Not sucking in made me feel psychologically uncomfortable. I felt out of proportion, and I felt like I was being outed by my tummy as a fat person. When I finally acknowledged that how I felt about my stomach had more to do with how the world views fat people and less to do with how I actually felt, I eased up on my expectations of my body. If your feelings of discomfort are 100% physical, consider a HAES® approach in which you could find activities that you are comfortable doing right now, and work your way up from there. Bodies are amazingly adaptable, especially when we are being kind to them.

I wish I could tell you that our desires controlled our weight. That it’s just a matter of trying really hard and you’ll have some satisfying weight loss that lasts forever without totally ruining the quality of your life. My own personal experience, the experiences of all the other people I’ve met in the fatosphere, and the bulk of available science on the subject does not permit me to do so. I can only recommend a kinder approach in which you let your body decide what it will weigh – it will do that eventually anyway – while you find your own way of living as healthfully as you want and can. That will give you a stable weight that is right for you. Because, with this one life you have, how long do you really want to struggle against your body?

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Is Weight Loss Body Positive?

BoPo heartI’ve been waiting a while to write this post. Like, months. Because it’s a complex issue, and it deserved some thought. (Also, I figured I’d probably piss a few people off with my take on this, and I really needed some time to galvanize myself)

I think this question breaks further down into three questions:

  1. Is it body positive to want to lose weight?
  2. Is actively trying to lose weight a body positive act?
  3. If I happen to lose weight, am I no longer being body positive?

Let’s start with the first one:

1. Is it body positive to want to lose weight?

We live in a culture that reviles fat bodies, heavily endorses one type of beauty (thin, white), and insists that if you just work hard enough you can change whatever body you’re in and suddenly fit into the impossibly stringent beauty standards that have been set up for women (and now increasingly, men).  With all this pressure bearing down on us, I see it as completely natural to still wish for thinness in order to fit into the mainstream so we can get all that love that society sends out for those who’ve made it.

So no, I don’t think it’s necessarily unbody positive to still have this desire for societal acceptance. We are geared to want to belong, which is why we humans have, for the most part, gelled into tribes and communities and civilizations. We’re also geared, in general, to strive, to move forward, to achieve (though this is not true for everyone nor should it have to be). And often we want all sorts of things that we might never get, even when that desire isn’t rational or achievable.

The problem with body positivity and weight loss is not the wanting, which stems from a society that tries to vilify or erase all sorts of bodies. The problem is with the actual attempting of weight loss. Which leads me to…

2. Is actively trying to lose weight a body positive act?

This is where it gets complicated.

Diet and weight loss culture is not body positive because it is rooted in the belief that fat bodies, bodies that do not conform to the very narrow beauty standards (thin, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered), are wrong, unattractive and/or unhealthy. Diet and weight loss culture simply does not respect the broad diversity of body weights and sizes that exist.

In addition to these nefarious underpinnings, dieting to lose weight simply isn’t sustainable, based on all the best available data (and for this data, you should read Traci Mann’s Secrets from the Eating Lab in which she reviewed all the most rigorous weight loss studies and discovered that…long-term weight loss doesn’t work). And when we say “diets don’t work,” what we mean is that they work for a little bit at first, and then, usually within three to five years, some, all or even more of the weight is regained for most people. Failure on this level is simply not a lack of motivation or willpower, and the diet industry is unable to show that long-term weight loss is achievable for more than a tiny fraction of people.

Weight loss for health is wholly unnecessary. Studies show that our health habits (balanced diet, fitness, not smoking, not drinking excessively, etc.) make more of an impact on our health and longevity than weight ever could. We can begin to work toward fitness and eating well at any weight. Weight loss may be associated with health improvements, but there are three problems with concluding that weight loss is the solution to health problems: 1. Studies that show this association rarely take into account the health habits that typically change when someone tries to lose weight, so we really don’t know if it is the weight loss itself OR the change in health habits that are affecting health. 2. We’ve seen from other studies that health improvements can be accomplished through change in health habits in the absence of weight loss (eg. Eating a more nutrient dense diet, exercising more, etc.), and 3. Since weight loss is typically short term, any improvements made to health based on weight loss alone may end up being short term as well.

Body positivity is founded on the belief that all bodies are good bodies and that a person’s value is not based on her/his body. Weight loss culture is founded on the belief that all bodies are better smaller. So no, participating in diet and weight loss culture is not, in my opinion, a body positive act.

Please know that I never blame or judge those who participate in diet and weight loss culture. They are victims of a society that profits from their insecurities. Keeping women busy with smallness keeps us from fully participating in society and therefore unable to change the rules to actually empower women; it also means we will buy whatever is offered to help us fit into this rejecting society, including weight loss “solutions.” Dieters are, by design, pawns of a $60 billion diet industry. But all of this is why an anti-fat-body culture is not body positive.

Allowing diet culture messages to highjack body positivity renders it just more of the same, and we are left with a culture that continues to insist that some bodies are good bodies, while others aren’t.

3. If I happen to lose weight, am I no longer being body positive?

Changes in body weight and/or size can occur for many reasons. Often a person’s body will change as they age. Sometimes bodies lose or gain weight with illness. Sometimes body size or weight changes can occur with improvements in diet, eating more intuitively, or increase in exercise. Change in diet or activity level is not a guarantee of weight loss, however weight loss may occur. Weight loss as a result of self-care is not inherently unbody-positive. It is simply something that happened while you were looking after yourself.

It’s important to remember that this loss may be temporary, or it may be permanent, but a focus on weight loss will eventually undermine attempts at sustainable self-care as we attempt to coax the body into a shape or weight that may not be natural for it. That is why Health at Every Size® is weight-neutral.

Focusing on caring for oneself in the best way possible while also learning to accept the inherent shape and size of your body is body positive. However, how the body responds weight-wise is better treated as a side-effect of self-care, not the focus.

These are, needless to say, my own opinions. I don’t own body positivity, I merely promote it. Also, it’s not a club where you can have your membership revoked if, heavens forbid, you do something unbody positive. It’s a movement that is trying to change the status quo of body hatred.

I did meet the woman who owns the body positive trademark (and she is pro-HAES®), so if you want her take on it, her website is here. She didn’t trademark it for financial purposes, but to protect it from the diet world co-opting this term for profit, as we see happening now.

Recommended further reading: This is a great article by Virgie Tovar that further explains why body positive spaces need to be free of weight loss talk.

Last week to register for Stop Dieting and Start Living

If you’re ready to stop dieting, or already have, and would like some help with your intuitive eating skills, check out my online course and group coaching program, Stop Dieting, Start Living, which will help you do just that. Class starts February 6 and this is the last week to register. Come join us!

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Not *My* SELF

stop_sign-please-justThis weekend I saw this SELF magazine article on Oprah’s weight loss. So, I decided to write them a letter! I’m over magazines posing as advocates for female empowerment when they are just more of the same oppression.

Dear SELF,

Your article on Oprah’s weight loss was disappointing, however not surprising.

Oprah has not found a permanent weight loss cure, she has simply found a new way to diet. And like the other 95% of people who attempt to lose weight in any way, she will most likely regain this weight in 3 to 5 years. If she manages to develop the eating-disorder-like tendencies that the few people who sustain weight loss beyond this time frame do, she may be slightly more successful, but her life will then revolve around her diet. Is this what we expect one of the world’s most successful women to be concentrating on? Her diet? This expectation is unacceptable for any woman.

The science on weight loss is now clear: all but a tiny fraction of people who attempt weight loss will regain some, all, or even more of the lost weight in 3 to 5 years after the initial weight loss is achieved. Even Weight Watchers, by their own data, cannot show better results. A weight loss-focused mindset drives the restriction/disinhibition cycle and does not yield significant long term weight loss or better health for most people.

I am a former SELF subscriber. I read your magazine faithfully in my most restrictive dieting days, and unfortunately, the weight loss-centered advice in your magazine aided and abetted my extreme disordered eating. Women don’t need to change their body shapes to achieve their best selves, but I know this is what sells magazines. The dangled carrot of a “better looking” or smaller body will always ensure you have subscribers. A focus on body appearance plays women small, though; it robs them of body autonomy and the time and energy to pursue real equality and power in society (Did you know women don’t have this yet? Surely you do.).

I’d like to invite SELF magazine to change it’s editorial focus from weight-centered to non-weight-and-body-appearance-centered. I’d like to invite you to take a truly feminist, body positive stance which does not include the promotion of weight loss or the adherence to cultural beauty standards (because why do we even need beauty standards? Are we not so much more than this?). We can have discussions about health that do not involve weight loss or our appearance. I’d like to invite you to embrace true size diversity by featuring, regularly, women of all shapes, sizes, colors and abilities in your magazine.

There are a growing number of us who refuse to any longer play the weight loss game, and have chosen a weight-neutral, non-diet path to health. We have been damaged by the diet industrial complex but refuse to let it rob of us true health and vitality any further. There is no magazine* for us.

Supporting the weight loss paradigm does not improve women’s lives. Oprah is not better because she’s smaller. Someone temporarily losing weight on Weight Watchers or any diet is not revolutionary, it’s more of the same. I hope you will decide to do better by women someday.

Glenys Oyston, RDN
Dare To Not Diet

If we want change, we are going to have to start demanding it, loudly, publicly, and all the time. It’s tiresome. I don’t want to do it, but I’m going to anyway. Will you join me?

*Except one magazine!

Ready to Stop Dieting and Start Living?

If you’re ready to stop dieting, or already have, and would like some help with your intuitive eating skills, check out my new online course and group coaching program, Stop Dieting, Start Living, which will help you do just that. Class starts February 6! Registration is open until February 2 or until the class is full.

Free Group Coaching Call January 28

I’m hosting a free group coaching call on January 28 at 10 am PST. The topic is “Why can’t I stop eating even when I’m not hungry?!” I’m only sending the call details to people on my newsletter list so sign up here if you want in on the fun.

Join our Facebook group community!

We have a very cool little community going on over at Facebook called The Dare To Not Diet Society. Members give each other support, cheer each other on in their non-diet journey. I’m there too! It’s a body positive, non-diet, non-weight-loss focused community, and we’d love to have you.

Dietitians Unplugged: Melissa Toler Wants to Change the Body Positivity Conversation

Cover2Dietitians Unplugged is back with a new episode! We interviewed Melissa Toler after she sent out a recent newsletter about how she was tired of the mainstream body positivity conversation. Melissa tells us all about her journey from a weight-loss centered body coach to a weight-neutral one, and what she sees missing from the current body positive movement. No punches pulled here!

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Ready to Stop Dieting and Start Living?

If you’re ready to stop dieting, or already have, and would like some help with your intuitive eating skills, check out my new online course and group coaching program, Stop Dieting, Start Living, which will help you do just that. Class starts February 6! Registration is open until February 2 or until the class is full.

Free Group Coaching Call January 28

I’m hosting a free group coaching call on January 28 at 10 am PST. The topic is “Why can’t I stop eating even when I’m not hungry?!” I’m only sending the call details to people on my newsletter list so sign up here if you want in on the fun.

Join our Facebook group community!

We have a very cool little community going on over at Facebook called The Dare To Not Diet Society. Members give each other support, cheer each other on in their non-diet journey. I’m there too! It’s a body positive, non-diet, non-weight-loss focused community, and we’d love to have you.

Diets Make You Lose Weight. And then…

woolly_mammoth
Preventing diets for thousands of years since the dawn of time.
One of the reasons diet culture is so persistent and refuses to die is that diets do cause weight loss – for at least some people, for a little while.

Low fat or low carb or high fat or high protein or no sugar or all butter (whoops, did I make that one up? Patent pending!) have all worked pretty much equally well at some point for some people. Studies from a few years back even compared all the current diet methods and said no one diet method was better than any other for shedding pounds (and these studies mentioned nothing about keeping the pounds off long term). I remember back in the early 2000s when Atkins was making a comeback and people, having dropped all manner of carbohydrate out of their diets, did lose weight like crazy (or at least I heard some people did; one guy I worked with didn’t but smelled like deli meat all the time and friend of mine ended up with the worst constipation ever for a month but lost no weight) and the scientists were all, “It’s just because they’re eating fewer calories!” and the Atkins people were like, “No, we’re eating a shit ton of fat, we’re getting lots of calories.” In truth, no one knows why these diets work at first, whether it’s calorie restriction or macronutrient deprivation or what.

So I have a theory on this – and it’s JUST a theory, so take it for what it’s worth. Our bodies seem wonderfully adapted to eat all manner of food and that’s been great from a survival aspect. Some groups of people probably did well just on, like, animal blood and milk, and others did great on mostly some sort of starch and whatever else they picked up off the nearby ground. No diet was necessarily better than another because that’s what was available and we’re great at adapting to what’s available.

Flash forward to the future (now)…and we are like diet nomads, wandering from one restriction to another but on purpose. Like, we have that food but we decide not to eat it for reasons of conforming better to society’s standards of beauty and thinness (something I’m sure our cave people ancestors could have totally gotten behind had they not been busy running from woolly mammoths all the time in between picking up mongongo nuts from the ground half the day). So our body goes without that food and because a WHOLE part of the diet has been eliminated, the body loses weight at first which triggers a biological feedback system that, when it hits a certain point, signals the metabolism that it’s maybe never getting that food again, and it makes some live-saving adaptations, like slowing down your metabolism, making you crave high-energy foods to replace the missing food, getting more efficient at using the available energy (meaning it can use fewer calories for the same functions it used to use more calories for before your diet), and also getting hella good at storing fat, because who knows how long this famine is gonna last. The problem with any diet is that it does make you lose weight and we see that as a good thing while it’s probably just some part of an elaborate feedback system to keep you alive and thriving. The weight loss is quite possibly a symptom of something going wrong in your environment.

Of course, it’s just a theory. And it doesn’t even matter really, because whatever the reason, weight loss is pretty much almost always temporary, unless you manage to develop some seriously disordered eating habits and make maintaining this weight loss your full-time job (which I don’t recommend. You’ve got better things to do).

I like my theory, though, because it also explains why each dieting attempt seems to get harder and harder each time, and no one diet works as well the second time you go on it, am I right? So you’ve got to hop around from diet to diet, and each time you drop some food group out of your diet, your body goes, “OH SHIT this again?” and it goes through the whole feedback system and in the end makes you gain even more weight because that is safety.

But even if I’m wrong about the mechanism, I’m not wrong about what happens. You lose weight on pretty much any diet, your body overwhelms you with a desire to eat, your body makes adaptations (this much we know), and next thing you know, you’ve regained all the weight you lost in those first few halcyon moments of a diet.

And those halcyon weight loss days are soooo fucking seductive. They keep us coming back for more, again and again, just like a cheatin’ lover you just can’t shake.

Meanwhile, we look at the French paradox (that thing where they seem to eat all the foods and they aren’t as fat as us, so we’re told) and go “Zuh, it must be the wine” when in reality it’s probably that they didn’t starve themselves systematically and consistently as we have here in North America for all of the 20th and 21st centuries. They’re bodies probably didn’t get all adapty – until Mireille Guiliano came along and told everyone how French women didn’t get fat and I bet all those French fat women that do exist are on diets now trying to prove her right. (also, it was totally disingenuous of her to tell everyone to just enjoy their food and they’ll get slim, because there is absolutely no evidence that enjoying your food makes you go from fat to thinner. She couldn’t just tell us to enjoy our food and leave the body shame at home?).

All this to say: don’t be fooled. Weight loss from diets IS temporary. We don’t really understand WHY it happens but we do know it IS temporary unless you manage to develop the most disordered of eating habits and devote your life to maintaining your body shape. Trust me when I say, there are so many more worthy causes out there to spend your time on.

If you are so very sick of this diet-and-weight rollercoaster but don’t know what to do next, schedule a free 30 minute no-diet strategy session with me and we’ll figure it out.

Dear Penn Jillette: Your Diet is BS

Penn_Jillette_in_Denver_2015I read last week that Penn Jillette went on a crazy diet and lost a lot of weight.

Penn Jillette is a professional magician and used to have a show with his magic partner, Teller, called “Penn & Teller: Bullshit,” on which they debunked various “pseudoscientific ideas, paranormal beliefs, popular fads and misconceptions” (thanks wiki!). Oh the irony, amiright??

He said he was inspired to lose weight (ultimately 100 lbs in all) because he had been sick, and diagnosed with very high blood pressure. I agree that something like that could indeed use a nutrition intervention, but instead of making some reasonable, sustainable changes to diet and exercise, he dove in headfirst to dietland.

First he went on a diet for two weeks that consisted of only 5 potatoes a day, which provides around 800 calories and 20 grams of protein, not enough for most active hamsters. Unsurprisingly, he lost 18 pounds after two weeks. This is called a monotrophic or mono diet. It’s apparently also featured on many pro-anorexic websites according to this article.

He then switched to something called a Nutritarian diet by Dr. Joel Furhman (look it up yourself, no way I’m linking to this diet page) that he described thusly: “Turn on the TV, look at the billboards, read magazines — see all that food? I don’t eat any of that. I eat no animal products, no refined grains, and extremely low salt, sugar, and oil.” By the way, the text at the bottom of Furhman’s diet website: “There is no guarantee of specific results. Results can vary.” He’s required to put that there by law because by now it’s well-established that diets don’t work to produce sustainable weight loss, results cannot be predicted with any degree of accuracy, and within 3 to 5 years most or all weight is regained…and because his diet is no different. This is Penn’s moment to pull the curtain aside and expose who the Wizard really is, but no. Instead he just goes on the diet.

Anyhoo, the rest of the article in which Jillette talks about his new transformed way of eating reads like the most disordered of food journals. Here’s an especially concerning excerpt: “I had a handful of unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts with Tabasco sauce….I guess I had two handfuls. I love eating spicy in the middle of the night. The peanuts were very filling so I didn’t eat the rest of the day. One thing I learned from my lifestyle change is that I don’t have to eat all the time. When I don’t eat, I get focused and clearer and … well, happier” [italicized emphasis mine]. That focused, clear feeling? A lot of us have had that in the early stages of dieting. I have a theory that this is your brain readying you to look for food because you’re basically starving. I had a lot of energy at my thinnest, but it was reserved only for thinking about food, looking for food, scrounging food and quickly scarfing food. I was the most ambitious and effective office-hunter-gatherer you ever saw. I may have been happier, but I didn’t really have time or emotional space left to recognize if I was since FOOD! WAS THAT FOOD I JUST SAW?! GIVE ME THAT FOOD! ME WANTY FOOD!!!

More tidbits from the Sad and Curious Food Ramblings of Penn Jillette with a little of my own interpretations thrown in:

“It had been about 36 hours without food, and I wanted to eat.” (extreme restriction)

“I had watermelon. Usually when I eat watermelon it’s a joke amount, like a whole watermelon, cut up and very cold. Watermelon is magic. It’s like candy but really good for me. There seems to be no limit to the amount of watermelon I can eat.” (binge behavior, food moralizing)

“My dessert in the middle of the night was the idea for which I will win the Nobel Prize. I invented this. I took a lot of blueberries, like four big containers (this one is expensive), rinsed them off and then put way, way, way too much cayenne pepper on them. Way too much. Lots. I shook that around and then added way too much cocoa powder, no fat, no sugar. It’s like a Mexican flourless chocolate blueberry cake. It’s my favorite food. I went to bed with my mouth on fire and my belly full.” (okay, I just included this one because it’s weird as hell, but also a bit bingey)

“…I was hungry after our Vegas show at the Rio… I got up and had a hummus wrap with Tabasco. This was store-bought and a bit too salty. That wasn’t enough, so I had a bunch of spoonfuls of peanut butter. This is my downfall — too salty, too sugary, too high fat, oil, and salt, but so good. I ate so much it would make you sick. It made me happy.” (binge and then guilt. Serious fucking alarm bells for disordered eating going off for me right now)

“I was full, but I still had some peanut butter for bedtime.” (finishing off with some superfluous eating)

I get that getting diagnosed with high blood pressure and other metabolic-type conditions can be scary and they are something that can be helped with improvement in eating habits and exercise. But look around; do all the “healthy” people you know eat even remotely like this? (Gawd, I hope not). We don’t need to become diet addicts and emotional slaves to food to drop pounds in the name of “health.” We don’t need to miss meals for 36 hours and slather hot sauce on everything because we’re not eating what we want, not really, or enough to satisfy our appetite. We really don’t need to eliminate sugar, fat and salt from our diets. Most of these changes, I’m predicting, will not be sustainable for him, as they usually aren’t for most people. So far he’s maintained the weight for 17 months; a lot of us ex-dieters did that too. It’s too early to know how this will play out for him, but based on statistics alone, he will regain that weight between 3 and 5 years after he lost it. But most significantly, what Penn has done here is conflate weight and health, and that is the ultimate bullshit.

Penn Jillette can do what he wants with his body, that’s his business. But now he’s writing a book to tell us how we, too, can lose a third of our body weight by developing an eating disorder. Penn, you didn’t find the cure to obesity, and statistically speaking, your weight loss has a 95% chance of failure by year five. If you do manage to become one of the elite 5% who maintain your weight loss longer than this you will probably have to do it by developing a sub-clinical eating disorder that everyone will applaud and will make you secretly crazy. Again, that’s your choice, but your book makes you part of the $60+ billion diet industry which fails just about everyone, and that’s just wrong.

We don’t need another diet book from someone with extreme disordered eating habits that has only maintained his weight loss for 17 months, so I’m calling bullshit on you, Penn Jillette.

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