Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fat (part 2)

The problem is, I have yet to see a piece of science that suggests diets work. I'm not even slightly interested in loosing ten pounds for a year, and I think most fat people aren't; the fantasy is thin, or at least average weight, and it must last forever. . . to satisfy the fantasy, anyway.

Not that ten pounds lighter wouldn't be welcome, but I'm not willing to make dieting an obsession for the rest of my life for ten pounds. Honestly, I'm not sure I'd be willing even to be seventy-five pounds lighter, though it's definitely a more attractive possibility.

But the chances of that, not to pun, are incredibly slim. Take this analysis of success rates at weight watchers:

"38,000 people who reached goal weight per year sounds like a lot. But actually it turns out to be a really small number. I found a business article from back then that stated that Weight Watchers had 600,000 attendees in the U.S. in 1993. Divide 38,000 lifetime members per year into 600,000 and my calculator says that each year only about 6% of Weight Watchers members (give or take) reached their goal weight (presumably 94% failed).

Now before you get all impressed with Weight Watcher’s 6% success rate, let’s step back. For one thing, the successful 6% weren’t so fat in the first place. The 2001 study says that most were between a BMI of 25-30 (i.e. “overweight” but not “obese” – to use definitions I find silly). The 2007 abstract says the average starting BMI for that study was 27 – which is well below the average Weight Watchers participant. So in order to achieve goal weight the average lifetime member probably had to lose less than 10 lbs and would have to include a lot of people who had even less to lose. [...]

And what about the number we’re really looking for – how many people actually become “normal” weight long-term using Weight Watchers? It turns out only 3.9% of the golden 6% were still at or below goal weight after 5 years. By my calculations that means 3.9%*6.3% = 0.24% or about two out of a thousand Weight Watchers participants who reached goal weight stayed there for more than five years."


Frustrating, because there's no indication what percentage of weight watchers attendees are there to maintain, or have an initial goal that would reasonably take them more than a year to reach. Still, all the evidence I've ever seen suggests that most dieters move from one diet to the next, and if most fall within that pattern, she should at least be in the right order of magnitude.

Then there are these excerpts from the same blog:

"Even in the studies with the longest follow-up times (of four or five years postdiet), the weight regain trajectories did not typically appear to level off (e.g., Hensrud, Weinsier, Darnell, & Hunter, 1994; Kramer, Jeffery, Forster, & Snell, 1989), suggesting that if participants were followed for even longer, their weight would continue to increase. It is important for policymakers to remember that weight regain does not necessarily end when researchers stop following study participants."

"Here’s something doctors don’t tell their patients: 41% of people who go on diets weigh more a few years after the diet, then they did before they began dieting.1 Since I’m a blogger, not a scientist, I’ll go ahead and make the irresponsible comparison: Dieting is significantly more likely to cause long-term weight gain than weight loss. That’s a Surgeon General’s warning that should appear on every diet program and product on the market."

Again with the frustrating; most people naturally gain some weight as they age, and arguably, Americans just gain weight over time in general, so the follow-up weight gain of dieters is meaningless unless one is comparing it to a control group.

There's so much bad science, and so much financially motivated science, in this field--it can be hard to wade through. Pro-diet sources define "success" at dieting in a way no human being does (like ten pounds for a year), and fat acceptance writers publish things like. . . well, like what I just quoted. It's not at all solid, but it is enough to give me pause about dieting. Supposing that dieting gives me only a 10% chance of reaching my goal weight, and a 20% chance of regaining more (above the curve or normal weight gain) than I've lost within five years, it would still a stupid move on my part.

5 comments:

___________________________ said...

Eh, just self-surgically remove it all with a knife. I am sure that is reliable. You'll just need a knife, a mirror, and a *LOT* of alcohol.

Day said...

this is where your humor moves into the un-funny and creepy zone.

___________________________ said...

Fine.... ok, instead of taking the effective method, utterly give up on all pretenses, and enjoy the rest of your life eating sugar-covered fried lard.

There are you happy?

In any case, I still think that having sex with a person's skull is creepier than removing one's own body fat with a knife. Just sayin'... :P

misssrobin said...

Again, I agree. I have no desire to change my eating habits to become thin.

I want to eat better so that I feel better. I want to exercise more for the same reason.

Apparently I don't want them enough to sacrifice the now. The immediate benefit of lying down when I'm tired is too hard to fight. Maybe someday.

Snow said...

It is when I gave up and just decided to eat when I was hungry and stop when I felt full (no--I mean REALLY felt full, not just ate how much some other person says should make me feel full) that things got better for me. I felt great, and my weight stopped yo-yo-ing. I had been vacillating within about a 20 pound range, and when that stopped, my average settled on a weight that was actually closer to the lower end of that 20 pounds, amazingly enough.

Learning to accept my body the way it is has been a much more rewarding experience than trying to make it into something it isn't. I still have a ways to go, but I'm not obsessed with calories anymore, which is a lot less stressful.