Dieting/WLS, Media, You've Got to Be Kidding Me

Shut up, Bob Greene

A couple people have e-mailed me (thank you) about Bob Greene saying on Larry King that it’s healthier to yo-yo diet than stay fat. Specifically:

King: Is fluctuating weight like Kirstie Alley bad, Bob?
Greene: Well, there’s two sides to that story. First off, if you remain heavy, that’s when the most damage is done to your heart and the excessive health ramifications from keeping overweight. So as long as you’re watching, even if it’s yo-yo dieting, that’s healthier than the person that remains heavy.

Except for how that’s probably the opposite of true. I’m too distracted for a full rant right now, but Shinobi’s on it, and I’ll tell you what I just told her in comments. I just re-read the big 2007 UCLA metaanalysis of weight loss studies (PDF). They recommend further study on weight cycling, because the current data is (or was) inconclusive — but it doesn’t look good at all. Money quote:

“In sum, the potential benefits of dieting on long-term weight outcomes are minimal, the potential benefits of dieting on long-term health outcomes are not clearly or consistently demonstrated, and the potential harms of weight cycling, although not definitively demonstrated, are a clear source of concern. The benefits of dieting are simply too small and the potential harms of dieting are too large for it to be recommended as a safe and effective treatment for obesity.”

And here’s what comes right before that:

It is also possible that weight regain leads to health
problems of its own. An analysis of the benefits and harms
of dieting must consider the potential harms of weight
cycling. Weight cycling, the repeated loss and regain of
weight, is commonly observed in dieters (Brownell &

It is also possible that weight regain leads to health problems of its own. An analysis of the benefits and harms of dieting must consider the potential harms of weight cycling. Weight cycling, the repeated loss and regain of weight, is commonly observed in dieters (Brownell & Rodin, 1994; National Task Force on the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity, 1994). There is evidence from largescale observational studies that weight cycling is linked to increased all-cause mortality (Blair, Shaten, Brownell, Collins, & Lissner, 1993; Lee & Paffenbarger, 1992) and to increased mortality from cardiovascular disease (Hamm, Shekelle, & Stamler, 1989). In addition, weight cycling is associated with increased risk for myocardial infarction, stroke, and diabetes (French et al., 1997), increased highdensity lipoprotein cholesterol (Olson et al., 2000), increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure (Kajioka, Tsuzuku, Shimokata, & Sato, 2002), and even suppressed immune function (Shade et al., 2004).

It has often been suggested that the harmful effects of weight cycling result from unintentional weight loss (i.e., from smoking or illness) rather than from intentional dieting (French & Jeffery, 1994; National Task Force on the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity, 1994). However, at least two large-scale studies that controlled for unintentional weight loss still found that intentional weight loss is linked to mortality risk (Andres, Muller, & Sorkin, 1993; Pamuk, Williamson, Serdula, Madans, & Byers, 1993), and the balance of evidence does seem to implicate intentional weight loss in adverse health outcomes.


Shut up, Bob Greene. Shut up a lot.

101 thoughts on “Shut up, Bob Greene”

  1. From my first-year nutrition textbook (Understanding Nutrition, 9th ed., 2002, by Whitney and Rolfes:

    “Such fluctuations in body weight appear to increase the risks of chronic diseases and even premature death, indepedently of obesity itself. Maintaining a stable weight, even if it is overweight, may be less harmful to health than repeated bouts of weight gain and loss.”

    What an ass.

  2. My partner used to work in drug development (cancer drugs not diet drugs). He now teaches and he finds a disturbing lack of insight among his students when speaking of the ethics of early clinical trials. The students often only think about the potential benefits of a treatment as compared to the current status of the patient, they rarely think of the extremely detrimental outcomes that may result (often because that has not been their job to think through at the time). I think that we have become so socialized to think that thin = health that the idea that it may be healthier to maintain a stable weight at a larger size is just completely untenable.

    This then brings me to the completely unreasonable assumption that “healthy” is some static and well-accepted state of being.

  3. As a gamer, it’s really hard not to just reply: PWNT!

    It’s so disappointing to see people still claiming that obesity causes the things that are actually caused by yo-yo dieting (or really, dieting in general, because how many people actually manage to stay on one diet forever and not subject themselves to cycling?), creating a vicious cycle where fat people try not to be fat but can’t, and just end up confirming their biases by getting sick.

    However, I’m happy these studies are coming out, because now I can eat another delicious muffin and consider how I’m actually be keeping myself healthy. Om nom nom, blueberry.

  4. I just love how his website touts his program as providing “steady, long-lasting weight loss” right next to a photo and comment from Oprah Winfrey, the queen of failing at “steady and long-lasting weight loss” on his program. The cognitive dissonance is staggering.

  5. I think anything associated with Biggest Loser and it’s trainers is ridiculous.

  6. Is this the same guy that was on the Colbert Report recently, talkin’ about how you don’t need to diet, you just need rehab to get over your unhealthy addiction to food(!!!)? Yeah, douchebag, I’d noticed that, when I stop eating I do get some physical withdrawal symptoms. Go figure.

  7. Ah, but repeated yo-yo dieting can increase your setpoint. Which in turn means you become even FATTER and thus a bigger mark for the con men I mean a bigger success story when you DO lose it all. Right?

  8. Nonononononooooo….iCan’t with this man! [I tried to write something halfway witty/snarky here, but alas, nothin’. Barring that, shinobi, here’s your cosign.]

    *fixing Bob a STFU smoothie with extra syrup, which will be poured into one of those fishbowl glasses* (anybody got some baker’s chocolate?)

  9. (hands raine some baker’s chocolate)

    Make it a triple, will you?

    And may I add this large, delicious STFU muffin with chocolate sprinkles on top?

  10. I mean, I guess when it becomes obvious that the diets you’re selling don’t work this is what you have to retreat to? You have to buy my product for the rest of your life even though it doesn’t work because trying my product and having it fail over and over again is healthier than not usig it at all!

  11. I am particularly disgusted by these two dudes disgusting Kirstie Alley’s body with such derisive and superior abstraction. Hi, fellas, she’s an actual person. I know you’re not accustomed to noticing that, seeing as how she’s a fat woman, but it’s true. And since they are *actual* human beings, fat women’s health is therefore a real, measurable thing about which it’s possible to say true and false things. I KNOW, RIGHT? You say whatever uncritical prejudice you hold, and the rest of us can go out and check whether you’re right! This is what makes fat women like males, automobiles, and sports teams; and NOT like unicorns, people in video games, or characters on the teevee.

    See the difference? Rebecca on Cheers was a character on a teevee show. She’s pretend. Kirstie Alley is an actress who played Rebecca on Cheers when she was a lot younger. Kirstie Alley doesn’t look like she did in the 80s, because human females look different after a few decades. So when you muse and pronounce about whether Kirstie Alley is too fat, you’re actually talking about a real person. You’re not discussing whether you think the Cheers universe became more or less entertaining once Rebecca got fat.

    I know, it’s hard to keep track sometimes. Maybe someone in the fatosphere could draw you a chart.

    Fuckers. Health, my ass. This has nothing whatsoever to do with health. This is about Dude Nation feeling entitled, not just to a world that presents it with whatever it wants, but to a world in which “whatever the Dudes want” is thought of as so obviously intrinsically better that it’s considered rude even to TALK or THINK in a way that suggests otherwise.

    I know that sentence was bad, sorry. I’ve had lots of run-ins with assholes lately and it’s trying my patience. I SWEAR I HATE SOME PEOPLE SO MUCH!!!!

  12. Oh shit. First sentence — change “disgusting Kirstie Alley’s body” to “discussing Kirstie Alley’s body.”

  13. I think we’re all in agreement… he’s a jerk !
    Of course yo-yo dieting is good for you..oops, I mean him !…. He can’t sell millions of books to all of us fat, out of control losers if he admits the truth.

  14. Wow, this guy really does think women’s bodies are property. In an interview about his side hobby of flipping houses, he said:

    The irony about this is, the two things I love most — a career in health and fitness and real estate — most people say jeez, that’s such a disconnect, those are such different worlds. But quite the contrary: It’s about maximizing the potential, whether it’s a property or a human being. If you start with a sound foundation, whether you’re talking about a human or a house, and you build from there, you can never go wrong. Most people don’t get that and think it’s a stretch, but it really is the same mechanics.

    Link here:

    You asshole. This is why I’m still religious. Sometimes it’s too much to give up belief in a final judgment by an all-knowing deity. And Dr. Greene, you’ve just pissed her the hell off.

  15. Bob Greene really annoys me. How can he make a claim like that when he doesn’t seem to have any evidence to back it up?

    I wish that instead of having people on these shows talking about how you need to lose weight, or if you just cut out soda, you could lose X pounds a year (I’m thinking of that Sarah Haskins video on diets) they would show people offering ideas about new foods to try or fun activities to do. I love getting ideas for new foods to try or new combinations, but I hate when everything is always tied to weight. Or the ones who don’t necessarily mention weight, will talk about how you can only have dessert once a week or other strict rules. I hate that!

    And I wish that if they wanted to have “health segments” they would at least come up with some new material. I’m so tired of hearing the same tired tips trotted out again and again as if no one has ever heard or tried that brilliant idea before!!

    Also, like what slythwolf was saying, why does Greene assume that everyone who is “too heavy” in his eyes has some sort of eating disorder. To me that just trivializes eating disorders and also perpetuates the myth that everyone who falls out of “socially acceptable” ranges has an eating disorder and that you can tell what type of eating disorder someone has just by looking at them.

    I don’t know if I’m coming across okay; I hope I didn’t say anything wrong.

  16. Losing and gaining weight is a terrible strain on your heart and body, especially when your electrolytes are going crazy. It messes with your sleep and your energy. I suppose a *slow* yo-yo, of losing and gaining twenty pounds over the course of a few months, *might* not be so bad, but considering what you might be doing to lose that weight, I doubt it.

  17. But, if he admitted the truth, how on earth would he sell his books?

    Exactly. He sells diet books for a living. Of course he’s going to say that all that matters is that you are dieting.

  18. You asshole. This is why I’m still religious. Sometimes it’s too much to give up belief in a final judgment by an all-knowing deity. And Dr. Greene, you’ve just pissed her the hell off.

    Ha. Not really relevant but I was once so angry with my husband that I said, “Right now I wish I wasn’t a universalist because nothing would give me more satisfaction than knowing you’d be going to hell!”

    Which then struck both of us as such a ridiculous thing to say that we started laughing and the fight was over.

    It is, back to the article, a sad day when Kathy Freaking Ireland has more nuanced and insightful things to say about health and weight than a supposed “health” expert.

  19. Bob Greene can’t admit that yo-yo dieting is detrimental because it would shine a light that his most famous client is doing something, UNDER HIS GUIDANCE, that is bad for her. If yo-yo dieting is bad, then Oprah is doing something that is bad for her, and her trainer can’t do anything to stop it. “Wow,” people may say, “he must be a bad trainer!” By declaring that going up and down is better than staying “up”, he’s attempting to shine the light away from the fact that he endorses an unhealthy and unattainable lifestyle.

    Also, how long do you think Oprah would keep him around as her training guru if he went around declaring that the very cycle that she finds her self in over and over is unhealthy.

    This man makes me angry. Actually, the whole thing makes me angry.

    And @A Sarah? “I am particularly disgusted by these two dudes disgusting Kirstie Alley’s body with such derisive and superior abstraction.”

    ME TOO!!! That struck me as so incredibly invasive and demeaning and misogynistic. And creepy.

  20. Today has been frustrating in terms of people being doucherazors about weight. Mostly because I got a notice in my email today about renewing healthcare and it included that lovely phrase “recent legislation requires employees to list their tobacco habits and weight on their enrollment forms.” BUT THAT’S OK, I’LL JUST YO-YO AND BE HEALTHIER. WEV.

  21. Also, why in the world would a person who is thin, who has always been thin, have any significant insight into what fat people face, or should do or deal with on a day to day basis. It’s like a vegetarian making sausage for a living.

  22. “Wow, this guy really does think women’s bodies are property.”

    Yeah, he does. Bob Greene abused his position by having sex with a teenage intern in the early 1990s. He quit the Tribune over it when it came out years later. I wish he’d stayed under whatever rock he crept to after his resignation. He’s a scumbag.

  23. Auuugh! This guy is AWFUL!

    Who does he think he’s fooling with this “yo-yo dieting is totally good for you!” bullshit? If you just think about it for a minute, it’s bleeding obvious that stable weight is better than constant flux, because, hello, the human body really really likes an equilibrium. That’s pretty much the goal of every body system, in fact.

  24. Yeah, he does. Bob Greene abused his position by having sex with a teenage intern in the early 1990s. He quit the Tribune over it when it came out years later.

    Different Bob Greene. Not that I wouldn’t like to attribute every awful thing possible to this one.

  25. Interestingly, during my field trip to Borders to buy The Book, which Borders classifies as belonging in the Diet and Other Weight Loss section, I noticed that “Kate Harding” would go right next to… “Bob Greene.”

  26. Meep! Really? I thought the columnist and the so-called guru were one and the same. RETRACT. Sorry, Kate. Either my eyes were just as bad back then, or the tiny photo in the Trib isn’t the best basis for recognition. ::blush::

    This one’s still a jerk and a half and I still think he should be under a rock. Like others have said, I don’t know how he dares show his face with his most famous client speaking publically about “letting herself” weigh 200 lbs.

  27. Sticky, it’s because he’s a Man Who Knows Best and we are just silly wimmens who are not smart enough to know that being fat is bad (for our health!) and that chocolate is bad (for our health!) and diets are good (for our health!). Duh.

  28. I’m really into doing this thing with comments today where I say something and then… say something else.

  29. I wish my brain had built-in disambiguation. Thank you, Kate.

    I wonder how many other creeps and/or jerks are named Bob Greene? And do other, nice and normal Bob Greenes have to tell people they aren’t like *those* Bob Greenes?

  30. In my ideal world, the Surgeon General would go on TV and bust some ass on people who lie about this seriousness.

  31. Sparklepants-

    Is that legislation about reporting weight for insurance forms national, state or at your place of work…
    That seems like a REALLY big deal to me…

  32. @redwood:

    I agree that The Biggest Loser is ridiculous, but Bob Greene is not a Biggest Loser trainer. You are probably thinking of Bob Harper.

  33. Just cross-posting essentially the same comment that I posted on Shinobi’s blog…which is to say, even back in 99/2000/2001ish, which is the last time I did WW, the WW leader herself said that yo-yo dieting was more dangerous than being fat.

    Of course she used it as a segue into how WW is a “lifestyle change” rather than a diet, so therefore WW was going to fix this yo-yoing problem (of course!) but the fact is, even the diet folks DO know that yo-yo dieting is dangerous.

    Green’s just an ass.

  34. Wow, good thing we have “knowledgeable experts” to set us straight where if we read the studies we would just get discouraged. I posted once about the book Strong Women Stay Slim, which if you ignore the dieting stuff and just look at the exercises (which I use regularly) and recipes is enjoyable. The author did the exact same type of thing there–she was all citing studies, quoting statistics, etc. and then when it came to the obligatory “A lot of party poopers will want to tell you that diets don’t work, but that’s just not true!” her reasoning was… “you probably know” someone who has lost weight and kept it off, or have done so yourself (uh, I doubt anyone would have picked up the book if they had successfully done so themselves), besides there are “hundreds” (now several thousand, I think, but still) of “success stories” in the National Weight Control Registry. Which now only requires you to keep 30 pounds off for ONE YEAR in order to be included. Considering that half of us are “supposed” to be trying to lose weight at any given time, and even more than that probably are, I find this reasoning SLIGHTLY FLIMSY.

    I think Bob Greene did the same thing here (just said what he baselessly believes because he really, really wants it to be true and doesn’t want any fat person to have an “excuse” not to be dieting at all times), and I’m not sure it was 100% cynical on his part (though I’m sure selling books and foods with that stupid “bestlife” seal don’t hurt). These people are really super invested in and evangelistic about believing that diets work, because after all most of them are naturally thin, so why wouldn’t eating and exercising similarly to what they do make everyone thin? And why wouldn’t everyone by definition (because thin=healthy) then be healthy? It’s so simple! Unless, as A Sarah suggests, you actually consider fat people as individuals. I also agree with withoutscene that there should be some kind of consequence or at least rebuttal for spouting nonsense that hurts people in a public forum, but everyone in government seems to be as fanatical as the Bob Greenes of the world, so of course that would never happen. I think they all need to be locked in a room and subjected to a reading of Rethinking Thin, with a test to follow so they can’t just tune out and daydream about salmon and fat-free cottage cheese.

  35. My 9-year-old daughter started the day off today by telling me that she hated herself because she weighs too much. She’s NINE FREAKING YEARS OLD! WTF??? Apparently the topic had been discussed amongst her girlfriends, and she figured out that she weighs significantly more than any of them. We had a long conversation about self-worth, health and confidence and ignoring the opinions of idiots. But all day long I’ve been seething over the assholes in this world who have already made my beautiful, talented, smart baby girl think she should be ashamed of herself. Bob Greene, you just got added to my list of assholes.

  36. there are “hundreds” (now several thousand, I think, but still) of “success stories” in the National Weight Control Registry. Which now only requires you to keep 30 pounds off for ONE YEAR in order to be included.

    Whee! I could have been on it twice!

    Wait, I might have just proved a point or something.

  37. It strikes me as an interesting coincidence that all the problems of weight cycling are the same problems that supposedly every fat person has. It makes me wonder what kind of results would come out if someone did a long-term health study following a group of fat people that have never dieted and have maintained a stable weight vs. a group of fat people who have regularly yo-yo dieted. I also wonder if there are enough people in the former category to find a substantial enough representative sample, seeing as people like this douche have infected our entire culture with the diet mentality.

    The sad thing about the yo-yo dieting is I’ve also heard for a long time that it’s bad for you (as in it can adversely affect your immune system on top of all the things listed in the post), but it wasn’t a warning against dieting at all, it was just an extra club to beat people with when they didn’t lose weight and keep it off forever.

  38. Whee! I could have been on it twice!

    Come to think of it, I probably could have been on it a couple of times myself, if I am remembering the timeline correctly. I wonder what this all could mean?!

    I don’t know and don’t care to dig around enough to find out, but I swear you used to have to at least keep the weight off for maybe 3 years to be on the NWCR. If that is the case, then it seems clear that they moved the goalposts just so they could pad their database, and the ridiculous thing is that it is still a tiny number of people when you consider how many of us have ever tried to lose a significant amount of weight. It’s kind of like fat fu’s post about how even by Weight Watchers’ own data, its program is a miserable failure.

  39. (But yo-yo dieting isn’t bad for you, so no problem! You just join WW over and over again until you die!)

    I originally typed “yo-ho” dieting by mistake. I should write a book called The Pirate Diet.

  40. Emme Bea put it perfectly. If he were to admit that yo-yo dieting is horrible for your health, he’d be out of a (very lucrative) job.
    And Isn’t Kirstie Alley in her 50’s? Why the fuck is she supposed to look the same as she did 30 years ago?!?!?!

  41. Whee! I could have been on it twice!

    And I could be on it too, not for dieting weight loss but for post-Lexapro weight gain weight re-loss. Bet you anything they don’t distinguish between returning to your set point and losing weight deliberately — I know our trolls don’t.

  42. I swear you used to have to at least keep the weight off for maybe 3 years to be on the NWCR. If that is the case, then it seems clear that they moved the goalposts just so they could pad their database

    Yup. I also wonder how much of the weight you have to keep off to qualify. Both times I lost a lot, I lost more than 30 lbs. and kept it off for about 2 years before it started coming back. But even then, after 3 years, I was still “maintaining” over a 30-lb loss WHILE REGAINING. I still could have qualified — but it wouldn’t have made me any less fat after 5 years. It’s also why I love the studies that claim significant weight loss is possible b/c people kept of 5-10% of their weight for 2 years or something. I kept 5-10% off until the bitter end, man, but that eventually came back, too.

    There’s a great line in that Mann, et al., article that says basically, “We have to remember that the regain doesn’t necessarily end when the study does.” NO SHIT.

  43. Bob Greene’s most famous patient, Oprah, has never gotten her weight under control. Yet his books continue to sell.

    His books will be temporary solutions, but he’s on tv telling you that this cycling is better for you, which it is not.

    He long ago lost legitimacy with me.

  44. So true about the difference between weight loss on the part of an always-fat individual not being differentiated from a return to setpoint after externally induced (maybe pregnancy, medication, stress, etc.) temporary weight gain.

    I also wondered about the situation where someone loses, say, 100 pounds and regains 70 over a couple of years. I will grant you that keeping off those 30 is still quite a feat if it happens, but it does make the timeline very fishy as you describe, Kate, if the individual has an experience similar to yours. The regain might be delayed and make someone’s study look more promising (since almost nobody has the money to follow people for long enough to really get the whole story), but it still happens.

  45. @MamaD: I’m so angry about this. My 10 y.o. niece has been chubby for a few years, and now after a significant growth spurt last year, she is “thin.” People keep CONGRATULATING her which makes me just seethe. She hasn’t DONE anything except go through the normal changes involved in growing up. Plus it’s such a backhanded compliment where it’s made clear that she was somehow inferior before, and that’s what these people were thinking that all along.

  46. “I should write a book called The Pirate Diet.”

    Mmmm… salt meat and hardtack full of weevils. I’m in!

  47. Don’t forget the scurvy! It does hurt to eat when your gums are bleeding, so more than likely you’ll be able to “shed quite a few pounds” that way.

  48. spacedcowgirl and MacNabb, be serious. Do you have any IDEA how many POINTS are in a tablespoon of WEEVILS? You can’t expect to lose weight that way. Better go for the breast of parrot cooked in pam with steamed broccoli and despair.

    (Off topic to MacNabb: your gravy frosting recipe is now my go-to one. Thanks!)

  49. Oh, and I will stop quadruple posting now, but lots of hugs to all the folks who are dealing with a beloved child in pain because of society’s reaction to her/his weight. It must be so upsetting to try and counteract the harmful messages but know that they’re still getting bombarded with fat hatred everywhere else they go in the world.

  50. Oh, it is ON. Weevils are low-carb! On MY diet you can eat as many of them as you want and that way you are always satisfied and never feel deprived!

    “breast of parrot” hahahahahahahahha!

    Hey, remember how I said I was going to stop spamming up the thread? Oh well. Good times.

  51. OK, let me see if I have this straight.

    First the diet mavens claim that THEIR super-duper whoopie deluxe weight loss method is the BEST BEST BEST, because you will totally lose all the weight you want and keep it off forever (yes, that’s right! forever! you’ll be in such fabulous health that you’ll never die!) without ever having nightmares about pizza that will cost you four hours of sleep a night.

    And now that everyone is laughing in their faces and going, “Yeah, RIGHT, tell me another goddamn fairy tale,” now the marketing pitch is being switched to, “Okay, you’re going to gain all the weight back, everybody knows that…but my highly spendy method for losing weight temporarily is better than everybody else’s because…um…”

    Nope. Still can’t follow it.

  52. From Spacedcowgirl: “A lot of party poopers will want to tell you that diets don’t work, but that’s just not true!” her reasoning was… “you probably know” someone who has lost weight and kept it off

    Yeah, and I know people who got $100K or $200K or even millions thanks to the magic of Microsoft stock options. Doesn’t mean that everyone in the tech industry gets rich.

  53. Really cool blog!!! I posted a blog this weekend on how women treat overweight women. My niece read it and then told me about this site. Thanks to her, I have a new place to go!!

  54. I’m thinking about sending copies of Kate and Marianne’s book to Kirstie Alley, Bob Greene and Oprah, anyone want to donate to the cause?

  55. I Lurv you guys! Bob Greene is like the asshats at the Y I go to– They cut out positive articles about fat in the magazines-like yoyo dieting, being accepting of middle age spread.

    “Trainers, get that fat ass woman in line!
    NO MERCY !!!!!!!!!”

  56. Bob Greene is such a sexist douchebag. I guess next to real estate guru and diet king extraordinaire he thinks he has a PhD in psychology, for “weight [in women] is a reflection of deeper problems.” So now he’s Sigmumd fucking Freud?

  57. Ok, so this has nothing to do with the last post but I just wanted to let Kate know that…
    I’m from Australia and I work in a bookshop, where I have already sold out of your book! ( which I bought and read and its awesome and thank you for it!)
    When I get some more in I’ll send you a photo of its pretty pretty cover and its spot right up the front!

  58. Bob Greene forgot to discuss the psychological benefits of yo-yo dieting. The thrill of victory over your body as it tries to do what’s it supposed to in order to stay alive! Smug self-satisfaction! (Truly, one of the wholesomest feelings there is.) The sting of despair and defeat and self-loathing when you fail! Repeat! Repeat! Repeat!

    Yes, much better than the steady, quiet sense of contentment you get from HAES and body acceptance. That’s when you experience the most excessive mental health ramifications from not torturing yourself.

  59. “yo ho ho and a bottle of rum…” With plenty of limes to couteract the scurvy, I think the Pirate Diet could be a lot of fun… Anybody have any good grog recipes?

  60. On a more serious note, I remember in high school I briefly joined weight watchers, even though I was in the recommended weight range for my height. Get this: as long as you’re not under weight (at least according to them), you’re still allowed in. Since I wasn’t at the lowest number in the range, the reasoning was, “Why be satisfied, when you can lose more?” Ugh. I had gone with my mother and I know that I secretly wanted them to tell that I didn’t belong, but they were all too willing to take my money in exchange for shame. Thankfully, I didn’t lose more than a couple of pounds, so I just sat there week after week watching other people get awards. I didn’t last too long in the program…

  61. sorry, couldn’t read through everything so someone’s probably already covered this. . . BUT, doesn’t yo-yo dieting also signify a constant dissatisfaction with one’s body and, thus, a chronic lack of comfort within one’s own skin? In other words, beyond putting a strain on your internal organs, doesn’t the yo-yo diet also put a huge strain on your own self-concept? Hey, girl, you got yourself down to 135 for two entire weeks – 6 months ago, you’re a total P.O.S. if you can’t do that again! Not happy at 150? Well, of course, not – you were 115 when you were subsisting on PowerBars and Red Bull last September, so you MUST have been a better person THEN!

  62. @mama d

    That’s awful! I hope she isn’t getting that crap from school too. My 8 year old niece is a straight A student, but last year she was very upset about getting one B. When I asked her what class she got a B in and why, she told me it was health class. “Health” is not an actual school subject like math or science, they were simply graded on the contents of their lunches. I guess my niece, fatty-in-training that she must be, dared to bring a bag of chips in her lunch some days (in addition to a health sandwich, a drink, and a piece of fruit) and she was marked down for bringing a bad food for lunch. “We’re not supposed to bring high calorie snacks,” she explained. How the hell does my 8 year old niece know about “high calorie snacks” and why does she care?!?!

    Ahem. Sorry. That was kind of off topic. I just saw an in and I had to rant.

  63. @annie–
    OMG grading what is in a child’s lunch?????? How privileged is THAT. So kids who cannot afford to bring a healthy lunch are Failed???? I guess I would have aced it because my mom packed me rice cakes. And look what that got me–a nice healthy eating disorder.

  64. OMG, Annie! I have read a whole lot of fucked up shit today, and that is another. That would have KILLED me as a perfectionist overachieving kid. Fuck, I still have trauma over incorrect verb tenses in writing projects from first grade, as I discovered on a recent weekend visit to my parents’ house. Ahem. I cannot imagine being given a grade over something I was incapable of controlling! I really didn’t get a whole lot of say over what my mom gave me in a given week. What absolute fuckers.

  65. I want to get in on this rant, because I went to the hairdresser yesterday and made the mistake of picking up ‘Health’ magazine that was lying around their waiting room… I’m too tired right now to describe the fuckery within, but the magazine should NOT be called ‘Health.’ This Bob Greene shit reminds me of it — basically the whole publication was absolute, flat-out denial of reality, right there in print. It just blows my mind.


  66. Nutrimetry, on May 5th, 2009 at 10:15 pm Said:

    “Bob Greene’s most famous patient, Oprah, has never gotten her weight under control.”


    It’s because ‘getting her weight under control’ is a totally crap concept. I fervently hope she NEVER ‘gets her weight under control.’ We should send her a god-damned mountain of congratulations cards.

    Sorry. I’m feeling ranty today.

  67. Also, I can’t believe this human-shaped weasel, whose profession supposedly requires him to have a basic understanding of human anatomy does not realize that every time you lose weight, you lose muscle. And every time you gain it back, you gain fat immediately, but muscle takes time (years, really) to rebuild, and some muscles (such as in the heart) can never be rebuilt (except surgically). So now, after the yoyo has rewound, you have the same amount of weight as before, assuming you didn’t regain to a higher amount, but more fat than you did before, plus a weakened vascular system and less muscle power to support it. I can’t see how that’s a benefit to anyone’s heart. Especially repeated multiple times over decades. Shudder.

  68. I honestly had no idea that yo-yo dieting was that bad for you. Another reason to never diet again, because, as Thalia noted, every diet is a yo-yo diet. I’m actually pretty concerned about what I’ve done to my body over the years (even though I “only” dieted from ages 10 to 25). And I, too, was immediately struck by the fact that the adverse health effects of yo-yo dieting are so similar to the supposed adverse health effects of being fat. I would also really like to see a study comparing the health of fat people who have never dieted to that of fat people who have been through a lot of weight cycling. But indeed – chances of finding enough people in the former category to make up a representative sample are pretty slim.

  69. Also, ditto what A Sarah said way upthread: it’s absolutely fucking disgusting how those men were discussing – verbally dissecting, if you will – Kirstie Alley’s body. I can’t believe that her regain and her vow to lose weight again has been making headlines for days now.

  70. That makes me sad, because I actually own the Best Life Diet – I’m not really “on” it, but because I’m a vegetarian and I have some trouble getting protein, I find diet books pretty helpful for recommending good sources of food and healthy, balanced recipes. I don’t do the restricted calories or watch my sugar intake the way he recommends (because limiting yourself to 40g added sugar a day? that is more work than I’m willing to put in). But for the most part, BLD reinforces everything I learned in health class – that you should drink water, eat fruits and vegetables, snack regularly and exercise. He also has a section where he talks about how if you’ve been following the plan and you aren’t losing weight, you need to decide whether you want to quit your job and dedicate your entire life to working out and getting skinny, or whether you want to accept the size that you are. I’d never read that in a diet book before, and I appreciated it.
    But now I’m like, man, what a jackass. Yo-yo dieting is bad for a lot of reasons, and he should at least know that weight loss that results in regain usually results in a regain of abdominal fat ( which health researchers always call the “bad” kind, versus being pear shaped). It makes me wonder who actually wrote his books, because it is now absolutely clear that he has no understanding of the way the human body works. Or of science.

  71. @lilpeadot State-level for the State Health Plan for state employees. Quoting from an article I just found: “Benefits would decrease for people who smoke or considered significantly obese.” (Sorry for the delay in responding!)

  72. @Annie… That’s one of the worst, most depressing things I’ve heard in a while. I… just… there are no words.

  73. Annie, I cannot freaking believe that. I just keep getting more reasons to consider homeschooling my son.

    I am so tired of this “weight is a sign of larger issues” line. Has there ever been a single valid study done that indicated that overweight people have more emotional problems than thin people? And, how does it even work, in theory? Is it just that, once your BMI hits 25 (or 30) that people just automatically become emotional disturbed, or that every single “extra” pound a person carries means they are more emotionally troubled, so that a woman who weighs 140 pounds is more emotionally disturbed, even if she’s not officially overweight, than a woman of her height who weighs 130 pounds?

    But, seriously, I’m sure we have data on incidence of mental illness, and I’m sure we have lots of data on the weight of people diagnosed with mental illness. If there were actually some link between body weight and emotional problems/mental illness, wouldn’t some researcher have found it? I’m kind of guessing that fat people are no more or less prone to emotional problems then thin people, and that if a study were actually done, that’s what it would find.

  74. Annie, I am so sorry for the shit your niece has to deal with in school. I know grade school yearly weigh-ins were what made me start lying about my weight and obsessing about numbers; I can’t imagine how much more ashamed I would have felt if I were graded on my fucking lunch. Which is not even to START discussing how classist it is to grade what food kids bring to school. My god.

  75. Annie: I’m sure the recent concern over CHILDHOOD OBESITY BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA has changed a lot of cafeteria menus, but when I was that age, I bought my lunch. The cafeteria offerings were ATROCIOUS– greasy pizza, hamburgers, lasagna with a massive amount of cheese on top, “tuna salad” sandwiches that were mostly mayonnaise, and so on. For “fruits and vegetables”, you’d get, like, overcooked, over-salted corn or green beans and a teeny heavy syrup fruit cup or Jell-o with a few pieces of pear in it or something. If you were allergic to milk, you didn’t get juice or water with your lunch, you got a little carton of Sunny Delight. Oh, and they served fries with EVERY SINGLE LUNCH.

    If the kids who bought their lunches had been graded, a typical lunch would contain more than the RDA of fail. Does your niece’s school have reasonably nutritious stuff for sale in the cafeteria, or are kids who buy their lunch held to a different standard?

  76. I’m sorry, but having a body is a sign of larger issues. If you’re alive, you’ve got issues. Bigger body does not correlate to more serious issues – except in certain categories of the “dealing with asshats” issue.

  77. It makes me wonder who actually wrote his books, because it is now absolutely clear that he has no understanding of the way the human body works.

    Ellie for the win!

  78. But, seriously, I’m sure we have data on incidence of mental illness, and I’m sure we have lots of data on the weight of people diagnosed with mental illness. If there were actually some link between body weight and emotional problems/mental illness, wouldn’t some researcher have found it?

    Lori, Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata has a chapter addressing this – and the short answer is that fat people are no more likely to have mental illness than thin people.

  79. Agreed, Bob Greene should STFU, but it also strikes me that Larry King of the quintuple bypass surgery needs to emphasize that thin people have heart attacks too.

  80. KC Jones: “Get this: as long as you’re not under weight (at least according to them), you’re still allowed in. ”

    Dude, yes! Back when I went to WW I finally finally finally pointsed my way down to my goal weight, which was the highest “acceptable” weight for my height (which for me was VERY THIN and I was hungry always) and I was sort of expecting a party and permission to go on the maintenance plan (three extra points! so hungry!) Instead, the leader was like well, maybe you should consider lowering your goal, then. I mean you don’t want to be the on the high end of acceptable, right? You’re in the acceptable range, but on the fat end of acceptable, ew.

    So we revised my goal down to the lowest weight allowed for my height and I thought I was going to cry thinking about trying to shave off another 15 lbs. I starved for another few months before my poor, nutrition-impaired brain was like, “Wait, this is a total scam! Why am I paying for this?” I mean now it’s like duh, but at the time I was just so vulnerable and easy to manipulate. It’s gross what they do.

  81. So I guess I could register for that weight control registry, since I’ve gone from 138 lbs (slightly high for my height and build) to 95 lbs, and “kept it off” for 4 years now?

    I probably shouldn’t mention to them that I’m bulimic and anorexic, should I? That might burst their bubble or something.

    Weight=! health

  82. Holy crap, Annie. That’s terrible. (Not to mention classist — gods help us if there were any poor kids in the school whose parents couldn’t afford to give them a “perfectly nutritious” lunch.)

    I was the ONLY kid in my elementary school who got sandwiches on whole wheat bread (other than my brother). And the whole wheat bread then (1970s) was disgusting. (Eventually even my mom agreed that it was inedible and bought “unbleached white” bread instead, which was a little better.) The other kids in school got Wonder Bread with bologna and yellow American cheese on it, Fritos, Twinkies…EVERYONE had Twinkies. But not me. If you actually had anything in your lunch sack resembling vegetables, other than a piece of wilted iceberg lettuce on your sandwich, you’d never hear the end of it. I bet they’re all thinner than me now, too.

    As for weight and mental health, it’s doubly cruel to pile that on fat people, given that most psychotropic medications have weight gain (often lots of it) as a side effect. I was a lot thinner before I ever took the drugs. So if I have to “prove” I don’t have “mental health issues” by maintaining a thin body…yeah, okay.

    Yes, it was Mickey Stunkard, I’m pretty sure, who said in Rethinking Thin that if you listed some anonymous people of different sizes at random just by personality traits, you would not be able to tell from that list who was fat and who was thin. That pretty much sums it up.

  83. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the crazy person here. I just thank God that I never had to deal with that crap (or weekly weigh-ins – holy crap, that is such a sick thing to do to a kid!) when I was in school.

    My niece goes to a smaller school that does not have a cafeteria (or vending machines of any sort), so ALL of the kids have to bring lunch from home. And you guys are right, that’s also totally classist – I hadn’t even thought of that. :(

    I just hope my niece will survive high school without an eating disorder of some sort, although with this sort of training it seems unlikely that she WON’T follow in her mom and aunt’s footsteps.

  84. Commenting for the very first time, and very OT at that… But to Kate et al, I love this blog, and through finding it, have recently started changing my attitude towards my body. Thank you!

    I’m not in the US, where I imagine things are worse, but this just came to me reading these comments about children in school. This was a good fifteen years ago, when I was around ten or so: we were measured and weighed something like yearly by the school nurse. I don’t remember the nurse ever saying I was overweight, but remember always thinking of myself as fat. I distinctly remember that it was “cooler” the lighter you were (being a girl, not so much for boys). Nevermind that I grew to my current height (168 cm) mostly before my 13th birthday, and was always the tallest girl in my class before then (with a good margin to the average height). To me, I was fat, and fat=bad. Looking at pictures of myself back then, I’m thinking wtf, I wouldn’t even say I was chubby. And even if I had been chubby, still wtf, I was ten!

  85. @Sparklepants – Sorry to keep continuing this conversation in the midst of a TOTALLY different thread but what state do you work for? I am really interested in learning more about this f-d up insurance development…my understanding is that on a federal level that is actually not legal..that’s why I am interested to learn more…


  86. Well apparently there is some Canadian Study that claims yo-yo dieting is not harmful…

    I caught Dr. Nancy Sniderman (sp?) hawking her new “anti-diet” book on the View this morning… she claimed that the premise of yo-yo dieting being harmful is a MYTH.. !! I couldn’t hear the exact info on the study since there was a lot of cross-talk going on (!), but i’m wondering about this study since all searches I do on yo-yo dieting and canadian study come up with articles on how to stop it as it’s bad for you. Go figure.

    BTW: I just got Kate and Marianne’s book delivered from Amazon today, so will be reading it soon!! :)

  87. Every time an actor gains and/or loses significant weight for a movie, we hear about how dangerous this process is, particularly for his heart, and how he requires medical supervision to do it at all. Question to Greene: How is that different from the weight cycling you advocate?

    (I’m intentionally not addressing the sex/gender aspect here, just working with Greene’s words at face value.)

    I’m too tired, yet sleepless, to read the whole comment string, so apologies if this has already been covered. A quick word search didn’t turn up anything, and I’m going with that as due diligence. ; )

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