I was watching TV this morning and there was an infomercial on for this “rapid loss” weight loss system. It’s the usual sort of thing with meal replacements, shakes, protein bars and so on… all designed to keep you down to that apparently magical 1200 calorie target to starve yourself thin.
I looked into the shakes a little bit and it’s a lot like when I reviewed the “new atkins” products a while back, you’re paying close enough to twice as much money for half as much powder as I might buy from the gym or local supplement store. Of course, what I’m buying is going to be a Whey Protein Isolate which means it is all protein (plus a little flavouring), or even a Whey Protein Concentrate which isn’t quite as high a percentage of protein per serve, but still pretty good. Ironically enough though, these over priced so called “weight loss” shakes all have a tremendous amount of sugar in them.
Now… I’m the first to point out that sugar (added or naturally occurring) in foods isn’t a bad thing within the context of a balanced diet of appropriate calorific intake. So, the sugar in these shakes isn’t a problem per se, it just makes them even poorer value. The purpose of a protein shake is to supplement your protein intake and ensure you hit some appropriate targets… if your shake is only a low percentage of protein… why wouldn’t you just eat a meal of an appropriate amount of calories? And if the shake is a more convenient option, fine but why not spend less money on a decent WPI instead?
Poor value for money is the least of my concerns though. The kicker with this product line, the part that got my attention (as in, it pissed me off) was something described as a “jelly ball that swells up in your stomach, so that you don’t feel hungry”.
What a concept. Something to fill up your stomach so that you don’t feel like eating, even though you are starving.
I thought to myself… how is that really any different to “the cotton ball diet” everyone was so horrified to learn about recently? From newsfeed.com:
And no, the cotton ball diet’s name is not a euphemism. According to a recent Good Morning America report, people dip cotton balls in orange juice or smoothies to absorb the liquid and then eat up to five in a sitting in order to feel full without actually consuming real food. National Eating Disorder Association president and CEO Lynn Grefe says models have been suspected of doing the diet to stay skinny for years, but now it has gone mainstream with videos of young girls partaking on YouTube.
How terrible is that? Absolutely horrifying, that we’re in a situation where people would think this sort of measure is required to stay lean. And yet… we have a supposedly legitimate product on our television screens every morning that serves the same purpose, and sends the same destructive and untrue message to exploit vulnerable people; “don’t eat food, you’ll get fat”.
Note that I did say “supposedly legitimate” just then. You can have a look at all of these Rapid Loss Shake Horror Stories on productreview.com.au and make up your own mind about how legitimate this organisation really is.
This set me off into rant and rage mode, the more I thought about it. Once again we have a product aimed at over weight and obese people, which closely resembles the ideas and behaviours of people with eating disorders. And really, isn’t that true for everything that we expect of the over weight and obese? If an underweight, slim or just “normal sized” person was doing it, you’d be concerned. You’d consider it an eating disorder. But if it is an over weight or an obese person, we tell them “that’s what it takes, you just don’t have enough discipline and will power to tough it out”.
We know by the way that these restrictive, starvation approaches do not work for long term weight loss anyway. We know from our own experiences, or from observation of others who have yo yo dieted on and off for years and only gotten bigger and bigger. We also know this from studies such as the Minnesota Starvation Experiment which show that of any weight lost due to extreme calorie restriction, 145% will be regained, as referenced in this article.
So, there are a number of problems here. Firstly we seem to think the answer to the obesity problem is to create a new and arguably far worse problem, of encouraging eating disorders. I’m including any “very low calorie” plan, any “never eat these foods that make you fat” plan, and especially any moron who thinks the sugar in fruit is something to worry about. All of those are tantamount to the promotion of a disordered relationship with food. Secondly in doing so we are proscribing damaging, harmful methods that don’t even work, and when these methods inevitably fail we tell people it is because they weren’t disciplined enough to gut it out. They didn’t have the will power. They’re weak and unworthy.
These messages come not just from random, bigoted and judgmental fucks on the internet, but from celebrity trainers and self appointed “health and fitness experts” and the like. Even if they themselves have maintained weight on far less restrictive methods.
So the overweight and obese people get screwed over financially as well as in terms of their physical and mental health. At the same time though, we’re propagating and promoting these disordered ideas about food avoidance to vulnerable people who aren’t even over weight to begin with… but just like the larger people, they are equally effected by these messages that a human being’s worth is determined by their size, enjoying food is bad, restricting intake and inflicting suffering upon yourself is good.
People can’t see it though. I’ve had this argument with a few self appointed (but completely unqualified) nutrition experts in the past, and… well I’ll just show you the screen shot.
So again you have it. What’s an eating disorder if a skinny person does it, is apparently “what’s required to lose weight” if you over weight or obese.