In it, she apologizes for her role in perpetuating myths about weight loss and nutrition. She writes:
I’m sorry because I put you on a 1,200 calorie diet and told you that was healthy. I’m sorry because when you were running 5x a week, I encouraged you to switch from a 1,200 calorie diet to a 1,500 calorie diet, instead of telling you that you should be eating a hell of a lot more than that. I’m sorry because you were breastfeeding and there’s no way eating those 1,700 calories a day could have been enough for both you and your baby.
I really do feel for this woman, because I’m pretty sure she went into her job with the best of intentions—to help overweight and obese clients lose weight, and live healthier lives.
I’m sorry because I know firsthand the damage that comes from believing that we should be able to white-knuckle our way through the hunger pangs, the cravings, the constant thoughts about food, that go along with trying to live on a starvation diet.
Back in the bad old days, when I first joined Weight Watchers in the early 1970s, it was “common knowledge” that women could only lose weight on a 1,200 calorie per day diet. And yes, if you go on that kind of diet, you will definitely lose weight…at least, as long as you’re able to stay on the diet.
But when the hunger gets to be too much—and it will, because that’s not enough food for any but the tiniest adults—you’ll fall off, and you’ll fall hard. You’ll start eating hand over fist, as your body tries to compensate for having been put in “starvation mode.”
The weight loss corporations have been aware of this for many years, but they willfully withhold the information from their clients, and their frontline staff, for one simple reason: dieting doesn’t work for anyone but the companies. It works just great for them, though. They’re raking in profits, and that’s what they’re all about. So hey, what if a few million fat people suffer?
And it wasn’t just the company feeding [the lies] to me. It was the doctors and registered dietitians on the medical advisory board. It was the media and magazines confirming what I was telling my clients. A palm-sized portion of lean chicken with half a sweet potato and a salad was PLENTY. No matter that you had “cravings” afterward. Cravings are a sign of underlying emotional issues. Yeah, sure they are. I’m a hypnotherapist with a past history of binge eating disorder. I KNOW cravings are a sign of underlying emotional issues. Except when they’re not. Except when they’re a sign that your body needs more food and you’re ignoring it. Then they’re a sign that your 1,200 calorie diet is horseshit. Then they’re a sign that you’ve been played.
I’m so glad someone has started saying this. Because yes, we’ve been played.
When we stand shame-faced on the scale while a thin woman lectures us on “making sure we don’t overlook even the tiniest mouthful” on our food journals. When we fork over our cash for pre-packaged “diet foods” or HCG shots or weekly dues so we can stay locked into a diet that is designed to fail, to keep us coming back over and over again as we lose and regain and lose and regain the same 50 pounds…we’re being played.
It’s not just the corporations, of course—I’ve talked about how doctors are taught little about the physiology and psychology of weight loss, and about how we live in a society that is both profoundly obesogenic, and yet also profoundly anti-fat.
But reading this apology was, for me, a healing experience. Even if just one person can admit her part in the massive hoax designed to make people like me feel bad about themselves, that’s a start. Maybe the apology will trigger some soul-searching among other frontline weight loss workers, and maybe it’ll enlighten some of their clients.
And that can only be a good thing.