What Obesity Hysteria Has Wrought

Yesterday in response to my blog about why Michelle Obama had made a mistake by declaring the Biggest Loser contestants role models of health when they admit to working out against doctors orders, ignoring the advice of nutritionists, and manipulating their weight through over and under hydration in ways that have caused them to lose their hair, lose their periods and urinate blood, I received this response [Trigger warning:  I find the comment is rude, paternalistic, wildly assumptive, and advocates interventions that are not evidence-based.  If you don’t want to deal with it you can skip the block quotes.]

What athlete or person in training hasn’t pushed themselves past these limits that are supposedly so bad? I’m not a huge fan of the show “Biggest Loser” because it’s reality garbage but the episodes I have seen just seem to be highlighting what needs to be done to get results. When I see people working out so hard they’re collapsing and throwing up I think, that makes sense. Growing up as a competitive athlete that’s exactly what you had to do to get results. That’s what people still do to get results. Weight loss is no exception just because it starts from a place of emotional woe. Marathoners train until they lose their periods, have blood in their urine and their hair falls out. They’re usually not obese either. Maybe we should stop making excuses for all the overweight children and adults and say that any publicity of physical training, healthy eating and goal setting is a step in the right direction. Even though it comes at a physical price. The fact that “Biggest Loser” contestants are being considered for role models as opposed to professional and collegiate athletes says a lot about what obese people are watching. Perhaps we could do more just by cutting out some tv time and going to an athletic event. You have to walk around and stand to watch a golf match. Could be a good place to start. Also, at what point did we start considering exercise and low calorie eating unhealthy? As defined by?

Let’s break it on down:

When I see people working out so hard they’re collapsing and throwing up I think, that makes sense. Growing up as a competitive athlete that’s exactly what you had to do to get results. That’s what people still do to get results. Weight loss is no exception just because it starts from a place of emotional woe. Marathoners train until they lose their periods, have blood in their urine and their hair falls out. They’re usually not obese either.

Let’s get some perspective: If you call every doctor in the country and say “I am vomiting, collapsing, and experiencing hair loss, bloody urine and amenorrhea.” not a single one will say “Wow, sounds like you are the absolute picture of health. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!”  There is a massive danger in confusing athletic pursuits with health.  I know several Iron Man Triathletes and every one is clear that what they did wasn’t healthy. Elite marathoners drop dead of heart attacks and suffer lifelong joint injuries as a result of their training, and VERY few athletes train to the point that they experience these extreme side effects, not to mention that they are training for sport specific achievement – not health or body size. There is not even a correlational link between vomiting, collapsing, urinating blood, balding, amenorrhea and better lifelong health.

I didn’t just grow up as a competitive athlete – I’m STILL a competitive athlete and  I train way past what I would need for just good metabolic health because I want my body to do things outside of the norm.  Nobody needs to be able to do the splits or do 2 minute intervals at 95% of their maximum heart rate to be healthy.  In fact many professional athletes end up crippled at a relatively young age.   Don’t confuse health and athletic pursuit – research shows us that simple healthy habits like eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and walking moderately 30 minutes a day 5 days a week leads to health for bodies of every size.  No losing your period, peeing blood, or balding  required.

As for weight loss coming from a place of emotional turmoil – that turmoil typically comes from being the victim of a tremendous amount of social stigma, and the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma – not making fat people pee blood.

Let’s talk about results:  Athletic work improves athletic performance in most people.  Healthy habits increase health in most people.  Weight loss fails for most people.  One of these things is not like the others, one of these things does not belong (With apologies to Sesame Street.)  The methods used by The Biggest Loser are NEVER necessary – almost everyone is able to achieve short term weight loss without going to the extremes used by the Biggest Loser.  It doesn’t matter though because only about 5% of people are able to maintain their weight loss over time, so the “result” of your method is that the overwhelming majority of people will end up as heavy or heavier than they were, and subject to the injuries and health issues that come with training like an elite athlete and weight cycling.  Weight loss, regardless of the means taken, does not meet the criteria for evidence based medicine.  Prescribing an intervention that fails 95% of the time and telling people that anyone who tries hard enough can succeed does not meet the requirements of informed consent.  The “results” here are either negative or “not typical”.

Maybe we should stop making excuses for all the overweight children and adults and say that any publicity of physical training, healthy eating and goal setting is a step in the right direction. Even though it comes at a physical price.

This is the voice of obesity hysteria talking, and that voice is condescending and wrong.  Nobody is asking anyone to make excuses – fat people don’t need your excuses, your pity, or your opinion.  We are as disinterested in you running our lives as I imagine you are in us running yours.  How out of touch would one have to be to think that we aren’t deluged with the message that we should be eating healthy and exercising? The assumption, often made by people who eat less healthy and exercise less than us, that we aren’t already doing it.  The idea that our bodies deserve to be abused because of their size is patently ridiculous.  My fat body is not an indication that I have a problem, that I want or need your assistance, or that I care what you think.

The fact that “Biggest Loser” contestants are being considered for role models as opposed to professional and collegiate athletes says a lot about what obese people are watching. Perhaps we could do more just by cutting out some tv time and going to an athletic event. You have to walk around and stand to watch a golf match. Could be a good place to start.

This paragraph is just a lump of erroneous assumption.  Michelle Obama said that the Biggest Loser contestants were role models – which says something about Michelle Obama and nothing about what obese people are watching.  Fat people can choose our own role models – we don’t need your help. The assumption that fat people watch tv and don’t do sports is convenient for the obesity hysteria myth but not accurate.  Maybe we could do more just by ending weight stigma and weight bullying and making sure that everyone has access to safe movement options that they enjoy (which includes the ability to leave the house in a bathing suit completely certain that we will not be ridiculed, shamed, or stigmatized) and then we can each worry about our own health and butt the hell out of other people’s lives.

Also, at what point did we start considering exercise and low calorie eating unhealthy? As defined by?

This is a fine attempt at oversimplification but I’m not buying it.  What I said I considered unhealthy was telling kids and adults that they should make role models out of people who allow themselves to be treated as “sub-human”, ignore the advice of doctors and dieticians, over and under hydrate to the point of urinating blood, vomit, collapse, go bald, etc. all to manipulate their weight for the express purpose winning a game show and, as previously mentioned, with an almost 100% chance that they’ll gain it all back. Nobody said exercise was unhealthy, suggesting otherwise is idiotic.

I find that people who want to make wild assumptions about others people and tell them what they have to do are much less enthusiastic about someone getting to make wild assumptions about them and tell them what they have to do.  I believe that people get to prioritize health in whatever way they choose and they get to choose their path to reach those goals in concert with the health professionals who, you guessed it, they choose.  It’s dangerous and nonsensical to prescribe for one group of people what we diagnose as a sickness in another group, and when I was thinner and acting exactly like the contestants on the Biggest Loser I was (rightly) hospitalized for an eating disorder.  Because eating 1000 calories and working out 5-8 hours a day has nothing to do with health no matter what size you are.

Because of the obesity hysteria people have abandoned logic and good sense and truly believe that I would be healthier if I was vomiting, collapsing, peeing blood and losing my hair and my period.  The number of so-called health experts and health care professionals who are buying into the hysteria and providing advice that is not evidence based while lying about the likelihood of success, while allowing the diet and pharmaceutical industries to make a fortune off the lies, means that I no longer trust them.  I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours reading the research so that I can take charge of my health.   I shouldn’t have had to do it, I should be able to trust doctors and healthcare professionals but I can’t so I logged the hours and did the work to take charge of my health.  So you’ll have to sell your hysteria somewhere else because we’re all stocked up with research here.

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Published in: on May 3, 2012 at 4:50 am  Comments (45)  

45 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What ARE obese people watching? I don’t own a tv, but if I ever do, it’ll be nice to know such info.
    We should stop making excuses for fat people (I didn’t know we were making them in the first place). If you don’t need an excuse to ruin your body with peeing blood, vomiting and collapsing on a regular basis, you CERTAINLY shouldn’t need an excuse for being fat.
    I also never saw anybody in the fatosphere suggest that exercise is unhealthy. Low-calorie eating might be unhealthy if it’s carried too far.
    The responder is capable of contributing to the health of fat people merely by treating with the respect he’d give any other random person. At the least, he should take responsibility for his misguided, ill-informed attitude.

    • I think that instead of going for “low calorie” diets, we should all aim for “right calorie” dietary choices. By that, I mean, we should eat what makes us feel good in amounts that nourish us as individuals. Every person has different needs. Every person, no matter what their size or shape, needs to nourish their bodies in the best way that they can. And honestly? I think that if we stop equating one’s moral standing in the world with their shape/appearance, we will all finally be able to relax around nourishment as something instrumental and empowering in our lives instead of something to be feared/overindulged in/controlled.

  2. Wow, that person really hates fat people, doesn’t he/she? I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable being in the same room with them. So many assumptions there, but the one that gets me the most is,

    “The fact that “Biggest Loser” contestants are being considered for role models as opposed to professional and collegiate athletes says a lot about what obese people are watching.”

    What?! How does the writer get from A to B? I’m obese, and I’ve never watched “The Biggest Loser” (or ever, ever considered going on the show).

    I hope that the person who wrote that response, as well as others who feel the same way, read your response and get some idea where they have gone wrong.

    I left a message on Michelle Obama’s FB page. I don’t know if it will do any good, but it might not hurt.

  3. Hi Ragen,

    Thought this might interest you!


    Hugs, Dianne

  4. Just who DOES watch TBL? I have seen about 5 minutes of it, which was all I could bear to watch. The shaming and unhealthy stuff was just plain unpleasant to witness. For the life of me, I can’t figure out who would get any pleasure out of it.

    • “For the life of me, I can’t figure out who would get any pleasure out of it.”

      I can take a guess: People who enjoy shaming/ridiculing fat people. They sit there feeling all smug and superior while they watch the fatties humiliate themselves on television.

      I don’t watch it either… or any “reality” shows, for that matter.

      • kittenmommy, I call it ‘cruelty TV’ because that’s exactly where it’s coming from – there’s an attitude in a lot of reality TV that’s exactly like Romans baying for the blood of centurions, or rich 18th-century folks touring round Bethlehem Hospital to gawp at the insane people.

        There seems (to me at least) to have been an increase in this attitude among the general public in recent years – this idea that it’s OK to mock and bully other people for fun – and while how much TV influences people’s actual behaviour is controversial, there was that experiment recently that showed that watching TBL increased people’s fat hatred, so you have to wonder…

      • As a passionate student of ancient Rome, I think you might mean that they Romans bayed for the blood of “gladiators.”

        Centurions were a mainstay of the Roman legions. They were each responsible for approx. 100 legionaries, whipped the green ones into shape, and encouraged the veterans to keep fighting even when things were going very badly indeed. Caesar couldn’t have won his military victories without them. It’s said that he knew the names of every centurion under his command. Each legion of 6000 men had about 60 centurions, and he often marched with as many as 10 legions.

    • the germans have a term for it…they call it Schadenfreude. Schadenfreude is is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. leave it to the germans (joke yall) put a word on giggling at a bully’s handiwork.

    • I used to be a big fan of the show. At the time, I was still deluded by the myth that I just wasn’t “working hard enough” to lose weight, and from that perspective it was inspirational. But as time wore on and contestants began doing more blatant things to manipulate their weight (over/under hydrating especially) in the name of game play, I began to see the light.

  5. “vomiting, collapsing, urinating blood, balding, amenorrhea”

    Yeah, that sounds like the absolute picture of health!

    “Even though it comes at a physical price.”

    Really? That sounds *reasonable* to that poster? I just can’t even.

  6. This is one of the best posts yet, thanks so much Ragen! Yesterday’s local paper had the cover story be about a fat girl who was bullied and had terrible self esteem finally go have beriatric surgery and is losing weight since she couldn’t do it through any diet etc and had a history of health issues in her family. It was actually sad to read because she felt she deserved to be treated like a sub-human because she was fat.

    And since when is self abuse as described by this person considered OK and healthy? The world is nuts.

    Weight war, in her own words
    Woman shares story of stomach surgery, health quest


    Press Enterprise Writer

    Jennifer Dreisbach overheard humiliating whispers about her weight at a party a few years ago in North Carolina.

    “Somebody said, ‘Look at that fat girl. She shouldn’t be eating,'” recalled Dreisbach, 36, of the embarrassment she felt.

    It was yet another dark moment during a life’s struggle with being overweight.

    The 1993 Bloomsburg High graduate returned home three years ago to take a marketing job at Geisinger after living a dozen years in North Carolina.

    Back in Bloomsburg, she was no longer surrounded by the comfortable “support system” of friends who accepted her despite her “morbid obesity.”

    She was a lonely, single woman whose misery was compounded by a constant battle against health problems triggered by her weight.

    “I was heading down a bad path,” Dreisbach said. “There was a history of diabetes in my family. There was a history of obesity in my family. I didn’t want to have a heart attack when I was 50.”

    Dreisbach finally had enough.

    She had failed in past attempts to lose weight.

    She knew she couldn’t do it on her own.

    She finally admitted to herself she needed help.

    She turned to Geisinger for stomach-altering bariatric surgery.

    “Was I reluctant? Oh, sure,” Dreisbach said. “Am I doing the right thing, permanently and drastically changing the makeup of my body?

    “It’s forever. I’ve seen people fail with the same surgery — (singer) Carnie Wilson. She gained the weight back.”

    Dreisbach had the surgery in February.

    At the time, she weighed 263 pounds. Since then, she has lost 62 pounds with the help of a healthier diet and regular exercise.

    She’s on a mission to shed another 50 pounds.

    Dreisbach will relive in words how she got to this point, sharing her personal medical diary each Wednesday and Friday in the Press Enterprise.

    Today’s is the first chapter:


    Jennifer’s journey

    My name is Jennifer. I am 36 years old and have struggled with weight for as long as I can remember. I am a marketing professional — a job that requires self confidence, assurance, tenacity and a certain amount of sass and boldness. These traits are relatively easy to master … for thin people. For those of us who struggle with weight, it is not always easy to pull off the confidence, assurance and sass. I love my job and knew as early as 7 years old that this was what I wanted to do. I didn’t know at 7 that working as a marketing professional would be exponentially more difficult because I would grow up into an obese adult.

    Now, my job is only one part of my life, albeit a big one (no pun intended!). There’s the social side of my life. The family side of my life. The “me” side of my life. All of which are affected by my weight — not to mention the subsequent side effects of being obese (joint and back pain and insulin resistance).

    From puberty to today, my weight has dominated every aspect of my life. I have joked about it, cried about it, pretended it didn’t exist and used every diet in the book. Nothing has worked. Nothing. I finally realized that I couldn’t do this alone and needed help. If I don’t do anything about it now, I will continue to pack on the pounds and be miserable — which would spill into my job, my family, my friends and my psyche.

    Let’s pause a moment and define obesity. WebMD defines obesity as having so much body fat that your health is in danger. Your level of obesity is calculated based on your body mass index or BMI. There are four BMI levels: Normal, Overweight, Obese, and Morbidly Obese (those of us who fall into the morbidly obese category HATE that term). My BMI is over 40, putting me in the morbidly obese category. Doctors, websites and published literature say I need to lose weight to save my life (or, at least prevent long-term costly health issues).

    So, I enrolled in Geisinger’s Bariatric Program and had gastric bypass surgery. This blog is my journey. You will hear about me and my history, challenges I have faced over the last 25 years struggling with weight, how I came to the decision to have surgery, the ups and downs of the program, surgery day and the year following surgery.

    So come with me …

    • Bariatric surgery cuts down the average person’s lifespan to an average of 5-10 years. It is surgically induced starvation/malnutrition. The average side effects (common) are “dumping” (ie: you shit your pants), gum and bone loss, severe B vitamin deficiency (if you decide to have children after bariatric surgery, they are at a severely increased risk of neural tube defects), and then there’s the “diet” which mostly consists of liquid based foods, a ton of vitamins and supplements (many of which are not absorbed since most of them are fat soluable and eating fat after bariatric surgery leads to “dumping”), and the list goes on and on. A “weight loss” low calorie liquid diet is NOT a “healthy” diet. Most of the weight lost is in muscle mass and bone density. It is not actual fat cells.

      The “honeymoon” period of bariatric surgery lasts, on average, about a year or two. This is when the person loses weight (really quickly), and type 2 diabetes “disappears” (of course, new studies are now showing that diabetes symptoms disappear RIGHT AFTER the surgery is done, which means it is not the weight loss but something in the actual surgery that is either masking or stopping the symptoms of type 2 diabetes). After this period, most people gain most to all of the weight back- they are left mutilated, malnourished, and once again as obese or more-so than when they started. The shame most of these people feel silences them, which is why you hardly ever hear about it, and of course, it “helps” the bariatric surgery industry that any weight gain ever can be chalked up to “personal responsibility” and fat people come pre-shamed so they’ll basically believe that any weight gain is their own fault (of course, this is when they can’t even eat a fast food meal lest they shit their pants and not even digest it, and it’s STILL their fault if they gain weight on liquid supplements?). Let’s also not forget that many of these bariatric surgery patients are silent because they are DEAD- the complications and long-term ramifications of bariatric surgery are not widely followed past the “honeymoon phase” and many of them are left with a death sentence from the horrors of surgically induced long-term malnutrition (which manifests itself the same way in fat people as it does in the severely anorexic).

      The main thing that people become obsessed with is the psychological validation from everyone they know, which says a lot more about the prejudices of being fat than anything else. So intensely do these people want that validation, love and acceptance that they are prepared to mutilate their bodies in any way possible to fit that “ideal” or simply to become normal size so that the comments, the discrimination, and the bullying will stop.

      Imagine if we took some other arbitrary body trait and shamed people as intensly for it- hair color, foot size, chin shape, etc. Exactly how surprised would anyone be if suddenly self-mutilation, severe bullying and other negative issues began to increase towards people who do not display “ideal” characteristics in these areas?

      I liken it to the “choice” to be gay- you can change your behavior and outward appearance to suit the ideal of the society if the negative consequences for being yourself are too great (ie: being killed or outcast for being gay). So why is anyone surprised that there were tons ot people who were actually gay who were hiding out in heterosexual marriages and relationships out of the severe shame and fear of how they would be treated or even KILLED if they came out of the closet (and sadly, there are still many gay people even today who feel like this)? Being gay is not wrong, neither is being of a specific body size/shape. But when society so severely punishes you for being or appearing a certain way, can you truly blame individuals of the “punishment class” who play directly into their own oppression and blame themselves (or hate others like themselves who do not act with “proper” shame or self-loathing) for the way that OTHER PEOPLE treat them?

      When will our society finally admit that fat shame does not serve our citizens, and that hating people for “their own good” does no good at all? When will the “protections” against those who hate people who don’t fit into specific body shapes and sizes be removed so that they can be labeled as the bigots they are and expose them to a society where fat shame and encouraging mutilation of fat bodies is no longer status quo.

      • Thank you for the information, and for your eloquence!

        A good friend is excited about having weight loss surgery and will hear nothing against it. He is a person who is bitterly opposed to (or perhaps incapable of) moderation or any degree of personal discipline. I understand restraint will be critical post-mutilation. I am concerned that he might not survive the aftermath of the surgery.

      • Kudos to this comment. My mother had weight loss surgery in 1980, still has ill effects but the weight is back. In 2002 I was an occupational therapist who treated a bed ridden woman in her early forties. She was rapidly losing bone density and her hips had crumbled. She couldn’t walk anymore. Despite vitamin supplements… she lost all of her teeth. The surgeon would not do hip replacement until her mouth had been fixed because of risk of infection and she couldn’t get dental work because she was unable to work anymore and had spent all of her savings on the weight loss surgery. When my care was done – she was still bedridden and on disability. All for the goal of being “thin”… Do you see that on billboards all over town. NO. And you know what she said “there was nothing wrong with me before, I was just fat.”

      • Please, in an adjoining state, someone wants to put a dr. who specializes in duodenal switch therapy on the board of a children’s hospital. You know..to fight childhood obesity.
        Didn’t know what DS was…it’s SURGERY.

      • Actually, that is not what “dumping” is. Dumping is when a large amount of fat or sugar “dumps into” or enters your bloodstream quickly due to ingesting something with those items in it. I can tell you from first-hand experience what the symptoms are:

        cold sweats
        pounding headache
        possibly chest pains

        The symptoms can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours and it is generally best to try and just sleep through them because otherwise you’re in hell for that amount of time.

        Secondly, not everyone ends up in such dire straits as you present. Technically, I am a weight loss surgery “success” as I had the surgery over five years ago (before I discovered HAES) and lost around 140 pounds. I have kept 135 of it off. Of course, I still weigh 365 pounds as of my last doctor’s appointment.

        For most people the pouch that they create in the Roux-en-Y surgery stretches back out within a year or two. Generally, it stretches out to hold 1 to 2 cups of food at any given time. This is still much smaller than the average stomach, so one DOES have to be careful about overeating. The hard part is that your body is never the same. You can eat foods and be fine one time, then have a food reaction the next. You can eat a healthy portion of foods one time, and that will be overeating the next with very little difference in conditions.

        I agree that weight loss surgery is not the way to go (my diabetes is back, my arthritis never went away, and I still have to use a CPAP machine). I do not agree, however, that it is necessary to treat extremes in results like the norm. Yes, a lot of WLS folks regain the weight and that is DEFINITELY something that people need to be aware of. Yes, when you have WLS you DO have to pay close attention to things like your Vitamin B levels for the rest of your life. No, I would not recommend it now based on what I have learned and what I have lived. BUT I don’t think that we help ourselves by SHAMING people who were desperate enough to try it at some point or another. That’s the same sort of tactic that the other side is using to get people to have it to begin with.

        So in the future, folks, please stop and THINK before you start presenting the evils of Weight Loss Surgery. Yes, we need to be sure that those negatives are out there and brought to light to prevent others from damaging their bodies, but it is imperative that we do so in a way that does not shame or persecute those who had to learn those lessons the hard way and whose trials have given us the information that we can now use to argue against the surgery.

        Thank you.

        • Thanks, Lys, for the clarification. Well said!

      • @Lys, I honestly do not bear anyone who has gone through this disfiguring and life-altering surgery any ill will, nor do I propose to “shame” them.

        The only people who should be ashamed are the DOCTORS who are prescribing bariatric surgery to CHILDREN AND TEENS as well as adults as a MAGIC BULLET to “stop” obesity and comorbid conditions.

        There is very little empirical data that bariatric surgery has any longterm benefits, and these findings are largely ignored and suppressed by the bariatrics people. Most support groups for WLS have an aura of an almost religious revival to them- many people are shamed out of speaking of the negatives of their experiences with WLS because of this- and that silence can lead others to erroneously think that this surgery is perfectly safe and will improve the quality of their lives.

        And yes, “dumping” can also mean shitting your pants- largely because if your body can’t process all the food you just ate, it comes right out the other end because your body can’t digest it. I’ve read about several people who refer to “dumping” as including diarea so severe and explosive that it’s impossible to hold it in, shortly after eating “too many” carbs.

        Bottom line is, you should not consider yourself unworthy of respect or deserving of shame. The medical establishment failed you, and in a just world they should pay for every single problem that you must now live with just because of that. And unfortunately the “worst” is yet to come. You say that you are 5 years out of bariatric surgery. Unfortunately, I’ve heard it can get worse after the 3-5 year mark, and it’s almost impossible to stop the long-term effects of surgically induced malnutrition, even with all the supplements and strict monitoring of your vitals.

        I wish you the best of luck and all the internet hugs you are willing to accept. NO ONE should have to suffer like this just because they wanted to be a smaller size. 😦

      • Also, to add some perspective, here’s a really good article by Junk Food Science on the subject:


        I don’t think it’s about shaming someone who got bariatric surgery, but we must take a look at the facts before we even THINK about touting WLS as a “choice” or “option” that people should seriously consider in order to lose weight. This is not like the breastfeeding VS formula debate or the Kindle VS Nook debate- this is between being fat and using a surgery that mutilates your body and places you in permanent malnutrition mode in order to be less fat or not fat at all (most websites that I have checked with “inspirational stories” seem almost exactly like diet sites- they only show smiling professional grade pictures of thin people with some “before” picture that looks absolutely awful, like it was taken with a moving Polaroid camera).

        Once again, I have addressed the fact that the stigma of being obese, and even more so if you’re super morbidly obese is so great that people will go through extreme lengths to attempt to be smaller- the main problem seems to be that bariatric surgery does not seem to work in the long term and can even make certain medical conditions WORSE. The worst thing about all of this is that this procedure is being used to essentially mutilate and experiment on obese people…AND THEY PAY FOR IT OUT OF POCKET TOO.

        It is sick and disgusting to watch these doctors taking money from desperate people and then destroying their bodies in the name of “health.”

    • All other comments on what you’ve said and on that article aside, could I ask that you please include trigger warnings when you post material like that? I wasn’t expecting it and now I’m having a minor panic attack.

      • There is a trigger warning in the first paragraph that reads “[Trigger warning: I find the comment is rude, paternalistic, wildly assumptive, and advocates interventions that are not evidence-based. If you don’t want to deal with it you can skip the block quotes.]”

        I’m sorry if that wasn’t a sufficient warning- I’m completely open to suggestions.


        Sent from my iPhone Please excuse my thumbs!

      • I don’t know why, but it won’t let me reply directly to you, Ragen – I wasn’t referring to your post, which has very adequate warning (and I skipped over the main blockquote as recommended, because I’ve been internalizing everything recently). I was referring instead to Helga Loncosky’s comment, and the article that was included in it. I’m sorry if I’ve stepped on any toes.

        • Hi Cami,

          No worries at all – I was answering from my phone so it looked like you had posted the comment to me. I was being serious asking about the warning not being sufficient – I’m not the best at remember to put in TWs and I was worried that maybe you felt like what I said in the TW wasn’t sufficient warning. I think we’re all copacetic now, let me know if we’re not! Thanks 🙂


  7. Great post and great responses to that ludricrous block quote. I had a more eloquent response types out, but for some reason WordPress loses my password on a daily basis. I’d comment more often, but it’s a huge hassle to reset my pasword every day.

  8. Disordered eating, loss of a period, and osteoporosis as a cluster have a name:female athlete triad. Those are absolutely NOT signs of health, they are symptoms to be treated. The vomiting, bloody urine, and hair loss are also common other symptoms, and also not healthy. I think the person who originally made the comments quoted in this post might have been at high risk but refusing to admit it.

    I know 5 friends who run marathons. Not one of them had had those symptoms. They are also people of every body type. They run because they enjoy it, not to get skinny or to punish themselves. So no, marathon runners don’t train themselves sick, and yes, even fat people can run marathons.

  9. I wish I would have known what you know when I was in college. I was a runner then and overdoing it but I thought all exercise was good. Clearly that is not the case

  10. “Maybe we should stop making excuses for all the overweight children and adults and say that any publicity of physical training, healthy eating and goal setting is a step in the right direction. Even though it comes at a physical price.”

    Y’know, I’ll make as many excuses as I have to, to make sure I won’t pee blood or watch my uterus shrivel up and die.

    • i wish there was a like button! ❤

  11. As the mother of once nationally ranked athletes (something like #6 and #9 in the nation), I take offense at this statement: “Growing up as a competitive athlete that’s exactly what you had to do to get results.”

    The twins never worked out like that. If there had been vomiting and hair loss or any other extreme physical symptoms, they would have been to the doctor immediately. And I’m certain their doctors would not say any of it was “normal.”

    Goodness, how did this person train?! Even the college recruiters who came to speak to us spelled out very strenuous but very safe ways to train.

    One thing I can tell you: the twins didn’t start out at their peak. They WORKED UP TO IT! They didn’t show up for track practice their freshman year and start training like the ranked athletes they ended up being.

    I used to watch The Biggest Loser. I used to joke I would do anything for trainer Bob. Then I watched one of the very first episodes a few seasons ago and saw newly active people of incredible weight jumping on and off a weight bench. That was one of their first workouts on the show!

    I knew right then and there that people were watching, looking at me, and wondering why the hell I wasn’t doing these acrobatic moves. So yes, it’s creating a fat bias!

  12. “Also, at what point did we start considering exercise and low calorie eating unhealthy? As defined by?”

    My DH who used to lead bicycle tours for a living in the summers and also spent some time racing quite simply told me “You cannot both train and calorie-restrict.” Granted this is anecdotal, but I have at least one opinion from someone who was pretty dang athletic that exercise + calorie restriction is not a good idea. Someone who cares about me and wants me to live a long time. Exercise is one of the quickest ways to better health. Depriving your body of nutrients is not.

    Never watched the Biggest Loser. But then, most reality TV to me is just mean, mean, mean. We all had to deal with cliques and backbiting in junior high — why relive that misery?

  13. “Growing up as a competitive athlete that’s exactly what you had to do to get results. That’s what people still do to get results.”

    Really? I was a three-time All American in my sport and an NCAA Division I athelte. I never pissed blood or lost my period. Shit, I bet I could have been an OLYMPIAN if I had only peed blood. [/sarcasm]

  14. I think this blog rocks! I appreciate the intelligent, brave posts, and I personally have seen positive shifts in my attitude and habits since I began reading the blog. thanks!!!

  15. 1) I watched a video about “where are they now” in regards to the Biggest Loser in the UK. Most of them had gained all of the weight back (plus more), and all of them expressed heavy amounts of shame. Of course, whoever did the video was specifically video taping them going out to the mall and eating some crappy mall fast food, as though that proved anything.

    2) They interviewed (in the same video) a professional athlete who basically said that even during training periods, he would never “work out” more than 6-8 hours a day (which is what the Biggest Loser advocates). There is no evidence (clinical or scientific) that exercise bulimia (which is what this is) is healthy in any way, shape or form.

    3) What struck me as even more disturbing was the amount of shame and apologizing these prior contestants kept heaping on themselves. Who has 6-8 hours to keep up a crazy exercise regimen when they’re working full-time or multiple jobs? Who has the time to work full time, eat specially prepared meals and actually, ya know, SLEEP?

    4) The “reward” that you get for losing weight is so large (acceptance from others), that most people who get gastric bypass will stay stunningly silent about the severe and life-threatening problems that occur because of the surgery. Same thing with the over-exercise and starvation portrayed in that show. The thing is, when you hurt yourself to gain acceptance from others when you are not obese, that’s not considered healthy, that’s considered a disorder. So why should it change if you have some extra padding?

  16. I just found your blog last week and I am so happy that I did. I have been fighting my weight most of my life. It started with my mother when I was just 11 years old. I was 5’2″ and weight 95 pounds. For some reason my mother decided I was fat and put me on a diet. She had me on and off diets during all of my teen years. I got larger and larger. She ruined my metabolism as well as creating other problems in my health. I grew up hating myself because I did not fit in my mothers definition of beauty.

    The last time I dieted I went on severe calorie restriction (1000 calories a day or less) and exercised at a gym 5 days a week. I was running 4 miles a day. After a month of that, I gained 10 pounds. I didn’t get thinner. I got heavier. At that point, I had a major emotional meltdown all over my husband and declared I was never dieting to lose weight again. He agreed.

    Even though I’m fat, I’m healthy now. Ask my doctor. When I saw him a few weeks ago for my annual physical I talked to him about a local weight loss program that involves hypnosis. You see, I struggle with my self esteem because of my body size. I know how society views me and it hurts. There’s a part of me that wants to be skinny in the worst way. My doctor told me I don’t need to diet. I’m healthy. I think I’ve found myself a good doctor.

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who knows that body size bears no relation to a persons health.

  17. I know I can’t trust media reports, organizations or the medical profession to reflect reality. Ragen, your blog is the reality check that I use to balance and get perspective on the junk that comes my way; your work is a HUGE blessing in my life! THANK YOU!

  18. Hi Ragen. You just got trolled very badly, I’m afraid. That was a super troll comment. They’re sometimes more subtle than your average hater.

    • Oh absolutely – I’m aware that I was trolled, but I thought it provided a good framework for a lot of the points that I wanted to make.


      • Fair enough! Just try not to be upset by those idiots who fake sincerity. They’ll say things that are outrageous but just about plausible enough to sucker people. Give it credence and this idiot will have the only screaming orgasm he will ever experience.

  19. If you REALLY want to be disgusted, watch “Our Big Fat Weight Loss Story”. The episodes I watched angered me so much that I wanted to SCREAM! While the trainers didn’t push the families to blood and baldness, I saw the people being degraded from the moment they walk in until the end. One episode, he took the family on a 44 mile bike ride through the hills and berated them everytime they got tired or wanted to quit. You take someone who is sedentary and tell them to ride 44 miles…please tell me the logic in this? The trainer puts them through an obstacle course in the beginning and the end of the episode and insults them to the camera the entire time! Then he gets on the single parents for having unhealthy food. I thought the purpose was to change for the better, not attack them for the past?!

    Apparently, there’s a major stigma attached to obesity in which people think that it’s okay to make yourself sick to be slim. There’s never a focus on healthiness, just skinniness.

    • As someone who generally rides 50-70 miles a week, taking someone who sedentary and making them ride 44 miles non-stop is a GREAT way to make sure they’re too injured to exercise again for at least two weeks. But I suppose doing it the right, and respectful, way makes for poor television?

  20. Most of the points I would have made have been well and truly covered by other commenters, as well as by you, Regan, but I do have one thought nobody else seems to have brought up.

    That crack about how marathon runners aren’t fat? Yeah, had that person not heard about the Sumo wrestler who famously took up marathon running on the side? Also, I attended the Oakland Marathon last year (Mr. Twistie’s band was playing along the race path and I was there to help schlep equipment), and while they were certainly not the majority, there were quite a few fat runners doing just great when they passed us. I’m guessing that if you really look at the runners in other marathons, you’ll find some fat asses making good time there, too.

    As for who watched TBL, I can tell you for a fact this fat lady has never turned it on even once. My taste actually runs more to classic films, some sci-fi/fantasy, and gruesome crime dramas. Oh, and the vast majority of reality shows I watch are wedding-related to mine for fodder for my wedding planning blog and parse the social messages being sent out by them. I am, however, completely addicted to Top Chef and Project Runway.

    Oh, and when Olympic athletes pee blood, faint, and vomit during training? They are sent to the doctor. Why? Because it’s a sign they aren’t healthy and need medical help.

  21. Another great post! And good comments too. I’m so glad I found this blog. It is helping me refocusing from desperately trying to lose weight, which was just making me eat comfort foods out of anxiety, to focusing on eating healthy and using the pedometer to increase my daily activity. (Put the pedometer on yesterday and was surprised I did over 10,000 steps on a regular day in my job as a librarian.) I’ve been overweight most of my life but very active and fairly healthy, until I had my child two years ago and became stuck inside the house with the pregnancy and taking care of her after. In retrospect, I could have done things differently to not let that happen that way. Now, I need to get back to a more active lifestyle. Thanks!

  22. I haven’t owned a TV in nearly a decade, so I’ve never seen the biggest loser.

    But YOU, Ragen, are MY role model!

  23. I am loving this blog. Whenever a friend tells me they are training for a marathon, I tell them, “you realize the man who ran the very first marathon, the Greek who ran 26 miles to the city of Marathon to give news of a battle, died immediately afterwards, right?”

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