1.25.2012

I am the 95% of dieters who regain the weight.

I am the 95% of dieters who regain the weight.

I didn't try to be part of the 95%. When I gained weight in college, I was struggling with accepting my changing body but also knew that dieting wasn't an answer. But then one summer I got very ill with a drug-resistant Strep infection and was basically on an extreme diet for 4-6 weeks when I could barely keep down food. After putting on about 50 lbs over a year, I lost it all in a month. When I recovered, though, the weight came right back on and then some. My weight stabilized after about a year and remained fairly stable for the next decade with a natural fluctuation of about 15 lbs up and down.

There is an old saying in Fat Acceptance that losing weight is as easy as holding your breath. Keeping it off is as easy as continuing to hold your breath. Dieting has breed a myth of its success off the fact that its not hard to induce weight loss. This period of "success" is what convinces dieters that its their fault when the diet fails. The truth is that the diet failed and was always going to fail. When I did might sound extreme, but its actually tame compared to some commercial diet plans. Even the most pseudo-reasonable "lifestyle change" relies on a fundamentally unsustainable formula. Sooner or later, we need to breathe. The diet industry, though, thrives on sustainability. Every time a diet fails, that's just a new customer. More billions to make off of peddling fat stigmatization.


I am the 95%. I did not fail. A culture of fat shame and fat hate has failed me.

32 comments:

Brian said...

Also available on Tumblr for those who Tumbl.

http://red3blog.tumblr.com/post/16465043084/i-am-the-95-of-dieters-who-regain-the-weight-i

fmudd said...

False premise.

You are not supposed to go on a diet and then stop. You are supposed to work to keep it off.

Such lying...

Brian said...

What "work", exactly is expected? My diet wasn't intentional, so neither was the end of it, but I also know that I was plenty active and eating less than my recommended number of calories in the year after when I regained the weight. By the standards of dieting, I should have been doing plenty enough of maintenance. But those standards are really the false premise. In truth, I'd have had to continue starving myself, probably even starve myself more, just to maintain the loss.

Plenty of other people in the 95% have a more stark experience. They did try to lose weight and they tried desperately to maintain their weight loss. You don't see a 95% failure rate because of a few outliers. The people who lose weight are actually the outliers. The people who aren't representative of what dieting achieves.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, Brian. I just wish I could make people around me, especially medical professionals, understand this. I have dieted many times in my life and I have been very "successful" in the short term plenty of times - so successful that some people used me as a poster child for self-control and successful weight loss. But not only was I often miserable during the weight loss and became totally preoccupied with food and weight (I remember telling myself that I would commit suicide if I ever ended up weighing more than 100 kilograms again), I also always, always regained the weight plus some. Things did not "get easier" during attempted maintenance - they got harder. In fact, I probably would be thinner today if I never had dieted, because if I never had dieted I probably never would have developed an eating disorder during which I gained most of my current weight. And everyone who suggests that I should diet again is basically making it harder for me to continue my recovery from that eating disorder.
I also wish I could finally manage to convince part of myself that I did not fail, that it was the diets that failed. And I wish that I would not have to struggle almost every day to NOT start another diet but to listen to my body. Maybe one day…
And no, fmudd, it's not a false premise. The point is that most people (and not just fat people - there are plenty of thin people who diet and who end up regaining the weight, even though they "only" have to keep off relatively small amounts of weight to be successful) CANNOT restrict food intake indefinitely. (There are also some people who regain while following the diet without "cheating" - but let's ignore those for a moment.) That's why the holding your breath comparison is actually very apt: Even you want to hold your breath indefinitely, automatic control mechanisms take over at some point and the urge to breathe becomes so strong that you will not succeed.

Anonymous said...

fmudd, please cite ONE study of a diet, any diet, were more than 10% of dieters lost at least 10% of their body weight and kept the weight off for at least five years. (Note: 10% refers to the people who originally started the diet - not to the people who remained in the study after five years.) If you can cite that kind of evidence I am willing to accept you as an expert on weight loss dieting and maintenance. If not - well, sorry, then I am pretty sure I and plenty of other people who say that intentional weight loss does not work for the vast majority of people know a lot more about this topic than you do.

(Oh, and I am the same Anonymous who commented at 2:19 PM.)

Anonymous said...

fmudd - please back up your claims by actual studies. And just for your information: I started dieting by the age of, oh, ten or so - and I am 32 years old now. I have successfully beaten binge eating disorder (I would not call myself recovered, but I am recovering). I am eating mindfully and without guilt for the first time in years, and, yes, I do exercise and I eat "better" (if there is such a thing) than most thin people around me. I am also a pretty smart person, who knows how to read the evidence - so you comment is actually damn condescending. Cite scientific evidence and I am willing to listen - but do not treat me as if I simply don't know what I am talking about.

Meraydia said...

fmudd - Ah yes the no true scotsman of proper diet and exercise fallacy. If only fat people did the *right* diet and exercise then we wouldn't be having these so-called obesity problems. Except everytime it fails it's either the person or the solution - when the problem of fatness may not even be a problem at all.

Really, recommendations for nutrionists, doctors,trainers and of course lay people such as yourself never seem to agree on what actually constitutes an effective plan. Is it 30 minutes of moderate activity a day and max 1200 calories, low fat, high protein for a woman? Wait no, because this physician has claimed that it needs to be extreme activity plus a no-carb plan...but wait this one requires supplements.. and so on and so forth.

You would expect with the number of individuals involved and the money that is poured into the weight loss industry we would have found a solution but we haven't because some bodies may just be FAT. That is their natural state, that is the state that aging bodies trend to, that is what stress and environment may contribute to. And at the end of the day- if it really is the inidividuals fault- who cares? Effective public health is not built around shame and blame, it is built around acceptance, harm reduction and a commitment to accepting the choices that individuals make.

Anonymous said...

I am also a part of the 95%. But once, I was a part of the 2-5%.

My entire immediate and extended family is obese. I've been overweight pretty much since birth. My mother started me on diets at age 5, and I've pretty much constantly been on a diet for the 34 years since.

After college I started a career that involves extensive physical activity, hiking for hours daily, every summer. Over the first couple years, I lost 80 pounds, just barely reaching the upper limit of the "normal" BMI category. For the next 8 years I weight-cycled, losing 10-15 pounds every summer, but regaining 15-20 pounds every winter, despite dieting and hitting the gym.

Ultimately, I maintained a ~40 pound weight loss (+/- 10 lbs) for ~8 years. But then, 3 years ago, something changed. Despite continuing the same diet and levels of physical activity, I stopped losing weight in the summer. Despite going on ever-stricter diets and spending more time at the gym in the winter (I eat 1200-1500 calories and work out 1 hr/day, 5-6 days/week), I kept gaining weight. I'm now back around the highest weight I reached in high school - though I still weigh less than any other family members - and my body shows no sign of reaching a set point.

So, fmudd, I'm proof positive that weight regain is not due to "stopping". Not only have I kept up my diet and exercise, I've both *decreased* caloric intake and *increased* exercise. Yet I still gain weight. The problem is not calories in/calories out. The problem is my metabolism, which has crashed after 34 years of dieting and weight cycling.
~viajera (can't figure out how to use my handle here)

Brian said...

I tolerated one post from fmudd, but this is not an acceptable forum to try to audit my health or the health of any other commenters. I have no patience for any variation on "If you don't match up with my expectations, you must be lying or stupid". His subsequent posts have been deleted.

Anonymous said...

fmudd - you have NOT in any way provided a study that intentional weight loss works in the long term. For that you would have to find a study that took a group of fat people, put them on a diet, followed them for at least five years (although, as Anonymous @ 2:59 pointed out, weight regain might occur even after that period) and then found that an appreciable number of people starting the diet managed to lose weight AND maintain it for the whole period.

Just for the record: I am not Amercan - I actually come from a country somewhere on the middle of that list. I also did not say that environmental and cultural factors do not play any role in the average weight of a population - in fact, I am pretty sure they do. But first of all, it is likely that not all those factors are under individual control and secondly the factors that make people gain weight do not seem to necessarily be the same factors that make people maintain that higher weight. As I said above I have gained a lot of my current weight during while binge eating after diets. I have since normalized my eating, and to be fair I do weigh a little less than I did weigh when I was at my heaviest - but I am still "morbidly obese", and my weight has pretty much stabilized.

Look, I have asked you to cite scientific evidence supporting your claims. I will give you some evidence for my claims, like this review from 1991. Granted, it is old, but it is in no way outdated. There are newer papers, and I can give you those citations, too.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Brian, I your comment only after I posted my comment.

Brian said...

No worries. My position is that this blog is a safe space for discussion of fat acceptance and fmudd was clearly demonstrating their intention to demand that we justify ourselves and that is a dynamic I simply have no regard for. Because, as fmudd demonstrated, no justification will suffice. I say I was active, they just insist I must not have been active enough. Someone says they tried to maintain weight loss, they just insist they didn't try correctly. People like fmudd feel entitled to audit us because of the privilege fat stigmatization enjoys in our society. I simply don't feel beholden to that privilege and encourage others to feel so as well. Anyone who tries to use this forum to enforce anti-fat privilege will not be welcome here. But, by all means, if someone is saying that here and I haven't removed it yet, I don't expect anyone to hold their tongue.

Dolly said...

I am the 95%. I did not fail. A culture of fat shame and fat hate has failed me.

EPIC!!!

Genevieve said...

Love this so much.

Anonymous said...

What's hilarious to me now (in a tragic, lolsob sort of way) is that looking back, the evidence that, at the very least, bodies are WEIRD and do WEIRD stuff often not in accordance with what we have been culturally lead to believe, but I refused to see it. Like when I would go back to old diets that had worked well previously and they wouldn't work as well or at ALL. But of course, I would blame myself "I shouldn't have gone off it and thought just making healthy choices was enough, I should have kept exercising enough to REALLY blow out my knee, etc, etc, etc" and would figure I was somehow doing it wrong this time.

Of course what was really happening was my metabolism having already adapted to that particular brand of deprivation.

Brian said...

Lets say you bought a TV and it worked great for 6 months. Everything you hoped it could be and more. Then after 6 months, it started getting worse and worse until about a year after you got the TV its stopped entirely, you've dragged your old TV out of the basement and now you're saddled with a huge, useless TV you need to deal with.

What the diet industry has done is convince you that YOU were to blame for the TV's failure. Instead of never buying that brand again, you think you are at fault for its failure after a year and that the company made a good TV. After all, it worked fine for 6 months. Clearly they can build a TV that works, you just couldn't keep it working.

Only, its worse than that because with the diet industry, its not just one brand screwing you its the entire market segment. Its as if all TVs just didn't work but consumers kept blaming themselves because 5% of the TVs keep working so it must not be a problem with the technology but with the user.

Its an absurd scenario, but that really is what diet culture is. We live with this absurdity right now, but we've been conditioned to think it makes sense.

Palaverer said...

I sense the making of a new meme . . . Occupy Your Body.

Anonymous said...

I am so indebted to you and other fat acceptance and rationality bloggers for helping me to continue on my path of freedom. I'm a psychotherapist and I find that I just no longer encourage my clients to diet or attempt to lose weight as a way to increase their self-esteem and sense of agency. I point out the 95/5% fact and encourage them to be healthy at their size, to nourish themselves and to give up the endless cycling - not only the weight cycling but the idea that you have to be thin to be happy or to love yourself, but you can't get thin because you are defective, so you can't love yourself and so on. - lookfar

cmonfatso said...

Fucking yes. Thank you.

Heather said...

sometimes I feel a little like the odd one out among fat people because weight cycling seems so common and so many people seem to indeed lose weight when they try (just to regain it, of course) but not me... I've never lost weight from any kind of dieting and even at the worst of my eating disorder I lost very little weight. I think 15 pounds was the most I ever lost and that was two weeks of zero food, diet pill abuse (back when ephedra was legal), and over exercising- i realize that's a lot in 2 weeks, but it took extreme measures. I think I should be thankful that my body was never really put through weight cycling.

Brian said...

I've only had that one episode, Heather. And admittedly, it wasn't intentional as most episodes of weight cycling sadly are. Not all weight cycling happens in chunks of 50-100lbs or more, though. I think a lot of dieters have an experience of losing 10-20 lbs, then gaining 15-25lbs back and repeating the cycle over and over. Most of the fat dieters I've known have only had one or two significant loses in their lives. Most of the experience was taking drastic and unsustainable measures that saw their weight yo-yo in a smaller range.

Sadly, we don't really know how much risk this puts on our bodies compared to maintaining a stable weight. There is indication that weight cycling is a significant risk, but it goes unstudied in favor of focusing on fat stigmatization.

Anonymous said...

I know this post will sound so miserable, but I am that 95%, I lost almost 60lbs in 2 years, I did diet, from about in 2006 and I stopped in 2008, I was almost 200 lbs overweight, so losing 60 lbs didn't really make me thin, slim or anything, I am still morbidly obese. When I stopped, I weighed at 260 lbs (+/-10 lbs). And then last year, around April - May, I had a problem (boy problem), I got depressed and I regain 30 lbs. So I managed to maintain my weight after diet only for about 2 and a half years. And I know this may go against every right thing you and I actually try to fight, but since about a month and a half ago, I have been starving myself, because I feel so terrible about my body, I look in the mirror and I'm so disgusted and I just want to change. What I feel is miserable and I am hungry!! I only eat 2 pcs of grilled chicken everyday, and lots of water. What's more pathetic is that, after more than those month and a half of starving myself, I only lost about a pound. And I don't want to stop. I'm still disgusted by myself, and I know I shouldn't I just can't find anything positive in me, so maybe losing weight can change that. I just hope that I don't have to do it to make me feel better about myself. I need help, I know, but... ah well... I'm fed up with people who says, "if you don't like yourself because you think people don't like you because of your appearance, why not change??"

I'm just fed up... look I'm starving myself, I hope all of you fat haters are happy!

Brian said...

Anonymous, one of the things about being in the 95% of dieters who gain back the weight is that you aren't alone. So many people have dealt with the same struggles you are dealing with now. Virtually every fat activist you will come across has been right where you are. Desperate for the promise of weight loss and hurting their body to pursue it. I know it feels difficult right now, but I know that you can find happiness in your body. Not in the body you are told you should have, but in your body. The one you are in right now. Acceptance and self-love is difficult. It'll be something you will find yourself challenged with every day, but its something I know you can achieve, a fight I know you can win. I hope someday you can find your way to a peaceful relationship with your body. The fat haters will never be happy with us, even as we starve ourselves. So better to flaunt our transgressive bodies, I say. They deserve no comfort in our pain.

Anonymous said...

Thank you David, All I want to say is that nobody, no human being, not one person, deserved to feel what I feel. It is a very depressing, sad, miserable way to live a life. I do know, I should just stand up for myself and flaunt my negative points to turn it into positivity, but I just haven’t found a way to not feel what I’ve felt all my life. I just don’t know how to “un-feel” those feelings I have every time I feel like life is not worth living, even though I know in my brain, it is worth living. I know what and how I should feel, what and how I should react, behave, think or even deal with everything. But my body just can’t do it. My feelings just won’t feel it. The whole senses of my body just don’t react the way they should, they chose to react the way they want, no matter how hard I try. So I just go on with life, feeling everything that I feel every time I feel like it. It’s just too hard and too exhausting. Maybe, it can actually be done. Maybe my fat cells are just lazy… maybe…

Anonymous said...

Oh GOD, I'm sorry, I meant, Brian!! oh silly me, I'm so very sorry Brian... why would I call you David *smack head*... really sorry... :D

interesting though, in a very sad and depressing state I was, when I knew I called you David, I laugh like an idiot, and it felt good :D

Brian said...

Every self-accepting fatty will have a different story to tell, but I don't know anyone who has figured out a way to un-feel those negative emotions and self-loathing. We all struggling with those feelings because we cannot escape a culture that constantly tries to reinforce them. But that doesn't mean things are hopeless. Just that perfect mustn't be the enemy of better. For me, its about learning how to respond to those feelings of negativity and self-hate. Recognizing the negativity and addressinging it mentally is a big help for me. Sometimes, that's repeating affirmations to myself even while I'm not really believing them. Being a part of a fat accepting community is also helpful because I can look to the positive energy of others as a reminder that the negativity is not inevitable. I know its hard. We are all right there with you. But I know there is a path to feeling at peace with your body and learning to appreciate what your body is instead of scolding yourself for what it isn't. I wish there was a magic formula to snap out of it, but I can't promise you that. But I'd urge you to find fat positive blogs, follow fat positive people on Twitter and Tumblr. Introduce that influence into your life as a reaction to all of the negative reinforcement we constantly endure. I know it may feel impossible, but we've all been exactly where you are. Negativity is not a destiny. In time, you may learn ways to respond to those feelings that work for you and find a love for yourself that seems distant right now. I know its possible for you.

Brian said...

Don't worry. I figured it out. David and Brian both have 5 letters, so its an easy mistake. :D

Anonymous said...

gahahaha, god I feel bad :p, but seriously Brian, (I got it right this time!), thank you, I know I won't suddenly feel amazing, but, thank you :), I live in a country (somewhere in asia) where fat people are rare, and fat people are strange, fat is wrong, fat is irresponsible, there's no way fat can be healthy, because fat itself is unhealthy. But the numbers of fat people in my country is getting known, and the nation is in fear, the news were reporting a fat (morbidly obese was their choice of words) 15 year old girl in a remote village as if it's an important phenomena that all the nation should now, that fat people is invading the nation, how dangerous the situation is. But, all I can see is just a girl living her life to the fullest. I can see her smiling throughout the shot, but I almost faint when the anchor said as if it needs to be said, "The girl is so big, that every time she wants to commute she has to be lifted into the truck" and with it goes her image, where she's trying to get into the truck and there's this man "helping" her by pushing her by her bottom laughing!! I'm just... speechless... thank god my father who was sitting beside me quickly change the channel, if I sit there for another minute, I might throw a chair to the TV!

I can't help her, but it's just wrong. Dead wrong! And everybody should know that! I'm a human being, the girl is a human being, and nobody deserves that kind of humiliation!

GeekGirlsRule said...

I am the 95%. I spent my late teens and early 20s subsisting on as little food as possible (low fat yogurt 1 container for breakfast, no lunch, part of a half-sized take out container of rice with 2 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce. Once a week I would binge and have chicken and broccoli. I just barely dropped below a size 10 for about fifteen minutes. I was constantly sick, drinking the majority of my calories on the weekends (serious binge drinking problem), and working out 4-6 times a week for 2-3 hours a day, lots of aerobics.

Even though I caught every illness that came down the pike, everyone kept telling me how great I was doing, but I still had so far to go! And did I really want to lift all those weights, wasn't I afraid I'd "get big." That's how you know that people's health concerns are bullshit, or one of the ways, because they are concerned over things no right thinking individual would think was a concern. Was I concerned about being too muscular? No.

Right now I'm probably the heaviest I've been. I'm also active, my bloodwork is good (better than my lighter than me husband's). I eat healthier, make a habit of getting off the bus a couple of stops before I need to for extra walking, do dumbell workouts and all that. I'm also the sanest, because starving yourself does really, really bad things to your mind as well as your body. I'm still working on the self-acceptance part, some days I do better than others.

Anonymous said...

@GeekGirlsRule, it's almost what I do every day now, except that I only work out 1 hour a day... I want to keep working out to be just healthy without any concern of losing weight, but to be honest that's not what I feel right now. I just want to stop being a "weirdo". Self-acceptance is still a long way to go.

I hate going to the doctor! Once, I went to a doctor, he felt that I'm not healthy, because, of course, I'm fat, so he told me to do a full bloodwork panel. When I came with the result, he opened the envelope and then said, "this is not right, not right, do it again, do it in another lab, I think the lab you're going to is not doing their job right", just because the result that came turns out to prove every number in my bloodwork is normal. I was 13 back then, in the car going home, I told my mother "I'm not going back, I don't care if I die fat, alone and unhappy, I don't care even if you just told me nobody is going to want to date a girl like me, I'm not going back!". She just looked at me stunned in disbelief.

I'm 25 now, and still fat, but until now, I don't go to the doctor, no matter what illness I got. They frightens me!

Brian said...

The blog First Do No Harm http://fathealth.wordpress.com/ is a good source for a lot of stories just like yours, Anon. A fat person in good health is constantly being denied and when we do have health needs, we often face even worse treatment. We're put in the difficult position of needing to advocate for ourselves constantly and most fat people are taught to just take the abuse. Sadly, I think a lot of people respond just by avoiding the situation which just results in an even lower quality of health care. Frankly, I tend to respond the same way with avoiding going to the doctor. I didn't go at all for a good 9 years in my 20's. Sadly, its not an unreasonable response.

I know acceptance feels really hard, but I just want to say that to even be reading a site like mine, hell, even to have that compulsion to think an exploitative news story or a disrespectful doctor are not fair is already so much further than most people get. A friend on Twitter shared me her story of coming to acceptance and it reminded me of how incredible it is just to feel like fat people are treated unfairly.

http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/My-Word-1321123.php

She talks about how much she was punishing herself as a fat person and so many people do this without any consideration. Its just how it is. They think it is what they deserve. Even a moment of self-determination to say, "No. I deserve better" is just extraordinary. Try to hang on to that, because really its something very special.

Anonymous said...

(Hane) Every single person I've every known who has had bariatric surgery--even procedures as radical as gastric bypass--has gained at least some of the lost weight back. So I'm giving this post a HELLS YEAH!!!!!

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