All the Fun, Way Fewer Pants to Wash

I was talking to my new friend Dawn and she mentioned that the commercials for Meridia diet pills are what actually got her into Size Acceptance, because they were fat women with great clothes who looked like they were happy and having fun.  I laughed and said that was fantastic because the side effects of Meridia are …unpleasant… so the commercials helped her get all of the confidence with none of the anal leakage. It turns out that she skipped a lot more than that.

First of all,  I was wrong, extra laundry of the pants and panties variety is not a side effect of Meridia.  But these are (feel free to skim, it’s a long list):

dry mouth, increased appetite, nausea, strange taste in the mouth, upset stomach, constipation, trouble sleeping, dizziness, drowsiness, menstrual cramps/pain, headache, flushing, or joint/muscle pain, fast/pounding/irregular heartbeat, numbness/tingling of the hands or feet, mental/mood changes (e.g., excitement, restlessness, confusion, depression, rare thoughts of suicide), change in the amount or color of urine, easy or unusual bruising/bleeding, black stools, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, yellowing eyes or skin, unexplained fever, shaking, unusual sweating, swelling of the arms/legs, seizures, chest pain, weakness on one side of the body, vision changes, trouble breathing. serotonin syndrome (for which there are class action lawsuits).

alli is the diet pill I was thinking of – the one that literally recommends wearing dark pants.   Side effects may include (feel free to skim, it’s a gross list):

back pain, sinus infection, soft stool, abdominal pain, fecal urgency, gas with a small amount of oil or stool, uncontrolled anal seepage, fatty or oily stool, spontaneous bowel movements, kidney stones, severe stomach pain, life-threatening liver damage (for which there are class action lawsuits)

I know that it’s just a homophone but fecal urgency is pretty far away from being an ally by my definition. And boy, to take on these risks a person might assume that  these must be some really damn effective treatments. How much weight can you lose? In studies Meridia helped people lose an additional 4.5 pounds a year.  Alli is expected to help people lose an additional 4 pounds a year (and it sounds like a fair amount of that leaks out).  If we pretend that I won’t gain the weight back, I’ll be in the healthy BMI category in just 35 short years. So for my 70th birthday  I can finally like myself, buy a bikini, and start dating.

No wait, screw a bunch of that.  I already like myself, and I’m healthy, I’m dating, and I’m not carrying around an extra pair of pants, or waiting on the liver transplant list.  Look, people are allowed to take diet pills if they want, but can we please not pretend that they are “medicine” that treats a “disease”.  Body size is not a diagnosis, and nobody is suffering from a Meridia deficiency or dangerously low alli levels in their blood.  These are for profit companies who are selling us drugs with horrible side effects and very little upside at a HUGE profit. The company that makes Meridia had over 25 Billion dollars in revenue in 2010.

One of the many massive problems with using weight as a proxy for health is that we then assume that weight loss behaviors are healthy behaviors, or that even if we use unhealthy behaviors to become thin it doesn’t matter because we’ll be healthier when we are lighter.  But that’s just not true. And for me, taking pills with life threatening side effects just to be four pounds smaller at the end of the year takes the fly-over past unhealthy behaviorsville and goes straight to what-the-hell-am-I-thinking town?

Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, I’m having a New Year’s Revelation this year.  I realized that in the past when I was trapped in weight cycling, my resolutions always involved being less and giving up:  weighing less, eating less, giving up soda, giving up sugar, no desserts.  Once I started working with Health at Every Size my resolutions became much more about adding and doing things: drink more water, eat more vegetables, find more movement that I enjoy.  My life is mostly an additive process now – being more instead of being less –  and I like it. Happy New Year!

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on December 31, 2011 at 7:04 am  Comments (27)  

27 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Interestingly, Alli (with all the side effects) is one of only 2 diet pills approved on prescription on the british national health system. My GP gave it to me when I was trying to lose weight a couple of years ago and yitch! Not only anal leakage, but very smelly too, which meant no way of hiding what had just happened… Also (sorry TMI) when you went to the toilet the “produce” was so greasy and horrible it was impossible to flush properly. Basically I was scared to leave the house, visit friends, or go to the toilet when any of my family were in the house with me. I told the GP I didn’t want to take it any more because of the side effects and he said “the side effects are supposed to put you off from eating fatty foods.” (Because they’re worse with fatty foods.) I said if feeling embarassed was enough to stop me from eating I’d have been thin years ago -all it did was stop me from taking the stupid pills.

    Now, a year after first reading about HAES my 350 lb, 52 BMI self just booked my first swimming lesson with an instructor to try and get more fit :)

    Thanks for your blog, I love it and it’s more helpful than you know…

  2. 4.5 pounds a year? Damn. My weight often fluctuates 4.5 lbs in one day!

    I always thought any diet pill was phony baloney anyway.

  3. Also I wonder how many of the side effects listed are actually experienced and how many are just there to avoid a lawsuit. I love the ones that list “Death”…yeah sounds like something good, right? I don’t take any pills regularly beside my birth control, which lists tons of side effects but I don’t really experience any of them.

    • If a side effect is listed, it means that it was experienced during a clinical trial. So the chance of you experiencing any particular side effect may be low, but there’s enough evidence that they have to list it.

    • I think the possible side effects include anything that anybody experienced while taking the pills. So probably a portion of them are actual adverse reactions to the pills, and some are random coincidence, and some are an indirect result rather than being directly caused by the drug. Like, if someone with mental health issues takes the diet pill and is even more depressed because they’ve only lost 2 pounds during the study, that’s not directly caused by the drug, but is going to be reported as a side effect.

      At least, that’s my second-hand understanding of how it works.

      • Yes but they have to list the side effects in order of frequency of occurrence. If you go to a site like drugs.com it lists the most common side effects (which means a high percentage of people in the trials experienced these effects), then they have less common, then rare side effects.

        So, yes, while it is true that they have to mention depression if anyone in the trial experiences it, it will only be listed as a rare side effect if it affects a small percentage.

        The side effects they mention in the commercials are usually the common side effects, which means a majority of people who take the drug can expect to experience these effects.

        So, for example, with a drug like Chanitx suicidal thoughts is a listed side effect because a large percentage of people experience this when taking the drug.

    • Ashley, this list all the side effects that people experienced during the drug trial. But remember that the most life threatening side effect of each was experienced enough to warrant class action lawsuits. Also, you have a reasonable expectation that your birth control will prevent pregnancy – the point of the blog is that the result of the diet pill doesn’t really warrant putting yourself at risk for a mild cough.

      ~Ragen

  4. Here’s the commercial! http://youtu.be/t56bkVzz3BQ Look at those woman — they are laughing and gorgeous and loved. They have great clothes and great hair and great smiles and they’re out there doing fun stuff in the world. Eleven years ago I watched that commercial and decided to quit putting off buying new clothes and getting a hair cut and you know, waiting for my life to start. I also subscribed to the old MODE plus size fashion magazine thanks to it because I was determined to start seeing myself as lovely. I think that my response really speaks to how important it is to SEE happy, accomplished fat women, which I know is something you spoke to in our interview yesterday. (I have no idea if their campaign ended up moving to ye olde shame model but I’m glad I happened to see it before they did.)

  5. What is the difference between fecal urgency and spontaneous bowel movements, or do I not want to know?

    • Dan,

      You know I love my readers and I’d do almost anything for you guys but I’m not googling that.

      ~Ragen

    • I would wager a guess that Fecal Urgency (or “FU”) is exactly that, you saying “FUUUUUUU—” as you’re running around looking for a bathroom because it’s coming and the other you don’t even have the chance to run.

    • I don’t know if I’m medically correct, but my assumption would be that ‘fecal urgency’ means you suddenly feel a desperate need to go take a crap, whereas ‘spontaneous bowel movements’ would mean that you suddenly feel a desperate need to change your pants without having realized you were about to take a crap.

      • PERFECT DEFINITION!!! :D

    • I’m not sure if the prescribing info is using the terms the same way, but when I talked to my gastroenterologist (I have Crohn’s), he explained it to me in approximately the same terms as what other commenters have said here. fecal urgency is when you suddenly NEED TO POOP while spontaneous bowel movements are when you have suddenly ALREADY POOPED. It is, of course, possible to experience one and then the other in rapid succession. :D

  6. Like you, my New Years Resolutions (when I make them) focus on adding things to my life, not subtracting. This year’s: Eat more fruit, drink more tea. Wear moisturizer with sunscreen daily. Floss.

  7. Just viewed the Meridia commercial. Take away the voice-over and much of it could be a commercial for HAES.

    I think it would be interesting to interview the actresses in the commercial about their own body image, whether they’re trying to lose weight or not, etc.

  8. ” If we pretend that I won’t gain the weight back, I’ll be in the healthy BMI category in just 35 short years. So for my 70th birthday I can finally like myself, buy a bikini, and start dating”.

    Ragen, you crack me up as always! And of course make total sense and make me think as always too! Happy New Year!

  9. i had a great deal of those meridia symptoms when i was in the midst of a lupus flare that tried to kill me. vomit that looks like coffee grounds? been there, done that. it was awful. i don’t know why anyone would choose to do that to themselves.

    • No kidding. Another member of the Lupus Club here, and, ugh. The vomit wasn’t so much a problem for me, but a good flare will have me pooping so much red and black you’d swear I ate a Death Metal concert. I’m also stuck taking various Medications With Nasty Side-Effects–Methotrexate, Plaquenil, Lyrica, etc.–and I have NO IDEA why someone would voluntarily take something that may or may not cause you to wake up with jaundice. (Hasn’t stopped me from having a Long Island Iced Tea on holidays, but I’m sick, not dead. I just have to remind myself that those particular details might switch places if I have more than one delicious glassful.)

  10. I remember once having an awful circular argument with a friend about her and her teenage sister deciding to take Alli together to lose weight. I kept saying ‘but look at the side effects’ and she kept saying ‘but we’ll lose more weight.’ I kept saying, yes, you’ll lose a couple more pounds, but it won’t stay off and look at the side effects.’ She kept saying ‘but we’ll lose more weight and that’s good.’

    It’s been something like four years… I haven’t heard a word about Alli since from her, so I don’t know what the results were, but she’s still pretty much the same size as she was when we had that conversation. We’ve had several similar conversations about other weight loss products and regimens since, so I’m guessing it didn’t do anything that she found particularly helpful.

    On the upside, I’ve now known her for some eight years, and this week for the first time EVER we had two days’ worth of conversation without her bringing up the desperate need for her to lose weight.

    Then again, I was wearing my Ragen tee shirt. And my scarlet Fat necklace.

  11. I love the idea of New Years Revelations! I think we need to make this into a movement.

  12. I had totally forgotten about those meridia commercials. After watching it I remember the first time I saw it and how the first thought that came to my mind was: “If you want to leave food on your plate, just LEAVE FOOD ON YOUR PLATE instead of taking a drug. For that matter, if you want to eat less, just PUT LESS ON YOUR PLATE TO BEGIN WITH.”

    Of course, the really bad thing about that commercial is it feeds into the idea that hunger + eating = poor self control. I mean, sure, there are problems with the “clean plate club” — people who have been trained to eat everything on their plates past satiety — but those problems are independent of weight. And there is also a problem with people feeling shame for satisfying their hunger or eating a full meal.

    And why are these commercials directed at women? Theoretically (as in that’s what people believe), ALL people get fat from eating too much. So why focus on just telling women that they have to eat dainty portions AND leave a little behind?

    For that matter, now that I’m on it, why do the diet commercials for men address the idea of food as a sign of manliness? Apparently real men eat steaks, burgers, fries, and pizzas and they would never eat tiny portions or leave a little behind… but they aren’t allowed to grow beyond a certain size.

    Although there appears to be a little more leeway for men to have size than women. John Goodman and Kevin James are acceptable, Roseanne Barr and Margaret Cho are not.

    But I digress.

    • re: “hunger + eating = poor self control”

      Just to add irony to injury, new research suggests that willpower requires energy (i.e. calories); it is harder to maintain one’s resolve about *whatever* one is trying to exert willpower regarding, if you’re hungry. This scientist said that the quick way they strengthened people’s willpower in lab tests was to give them sugar. (Yet another way that starvation dieting is made of fail.)

      http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/201112304

  13. Years ago, I asked my doctor about Meridia. He was a very thin man that walked everywhere (and ended up having bypass surgery which caused him to retire from working, but that’s another story). Anyway, he said flat out I didn’t need it, he wasn’t going to give me a prescription for it and all I had to do was to decrease salt and increase movement. No diets, no Weight Watches, no lap band, just increase movement and watch the salt. I was in the low 300’s at the time.

    It’s a shame that more doctors out there can’t be like that, where it seems the treatment for fat patients these days, whatever the ailment, is “lose weight fatty.”

  14. New Year’s Revelation!! Thanks for the new phrase! That’s what I’m going to tell people when they ask me about my ‘New Year Resolution’ from now on. Also, as someone else said, I’m going to focus on adding things to my life, not subtracting them.
    You are so inspiring, you and your readers! (All of my friends love you, too_

  15. I used to love the old MODE magazine. But I remember towards the end they started using skinny models. People complained, and they said “but if we use plus-size models, no one buys the clothes.”

    Are there any HAES fashion/lifestyle magazines out there? How about it, Ragen – you’re a businesswoman!

    • I can relate to the “but if we use plus-size models, no one buys the clothes” problem. Back before I embraced HAES, I visited sites like IGIGI and thought: pretty dress, but I don’t want to look like that! It seems that back then if the clothes were on thinner models I didn’t think about how the clothes looked on my body size, only about what the clothing looked like. Now that I’ve accepted my size as a badge of honor (I survived all that weight fluctuation and evil dieting) I look for models that might give me an idea of what something would look like on my body.

      I was really sad to see MODE go away as it was one of the items that helped ease me into HAES. I also loved BBW back in the early 90s/late 80s. I’ve searched for plus sized mags and they are all on line. In face BBW is online now, or at least was a few years ago.


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