As I was grabbing coffee in the office breakroom this morning, I was subjected to a few minutes of the Dr Oz Show. Unsurprisingly, he was discussing weight loss. Oz had two women on stage with him, at some sort of mock-up restaurant table, and they were discussing weight-loss “rules” for eating out. (Keep in mind that this is a man who has been exposed as a liar and scolded by senators for promoting “miracle” weight-loss scams.) Of course the women on stage (and presumably his entire audience, both in-studio and at home) were hanging on his every word as if he was some sort of prophetic weight-loss savior.
The 3 “rules” I caught before I got my coffee and ran out of the room were as follows”
-Order first – Presumably this is so you will order a ‘healthy’ option, and not be swayed by the orders of your dining companions.
-Grab the “healthy” stuff when it is passed around – I’m all for choosing options like fresh fruit or veggies, but you should make that choice because you enjoy eating them and/or you like the way they make you feel when you eat them. Oz is pushing this as a “rule” because he is teaching his viewers that if they fill up on the “healthy” stuff, then they won’t be “tempted” by the “unhealthy” options. I take issue with the pervasive need to label foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’. Food is food. We need to stop demonizing certain foods. Demonizing and labeling foods only leads to guilt when we choose to enjoy the “unhealthy” options. The only “rules” anyone needs to follow are: 1) Eat when you are hungry. 2) Stop when you are full. 3) Eat what you want/what makes you feel good. 4) Avoid foods that make you feel yucky. There ya go.
-Take 3 bite of dessert and set it aside (then drink a full glass of water so you will be full and not tempted to eat any more) – Seriously?! This is the last one I heard, and it pissed me off so much that I almost ran (fast walking, I was carrying a hot cup of coffee, remember?) out of the room and back to my computer to start a draft of this post. This makes me angry and sad for so many reasons. It makes me angry because it is again demonizing a particular food, and basically telling women that they can’t listen to their own bodies’ hunger signals and must therefore set the ‘bad’ food out of reach so that they will not be ‘tempted’ to eat more. If all you’re going to eat is three measly bites, then why the hell are you even bothering to order the dessert?! Now, if you order the dessert and decide you are full/satisfied after just 3 bites, that’s fine. Pack that yumminess up ant take it home for later. But I don’t want women to feel like they must stop after 3 bites, if they still want more. Stop because you are satisfied, not because you think that eating more will turn you into some sort of fat monster overnight.
It makes me sad because I know that so many women who hang on his every word and believe what he says, simply because he is a doctor and because they really believe that fat is the worst thing you can be.
It is things like this that lead to the widely-held belief that fat is bad and it is ok to bully, harass, and tease people about their weight, and this impacts our children as well. Statistics from the National Eating Disorder Information Center show that,
“Overweight and obese children are more likely to be bullied than their normal-weight peers. For example:
– In a survey of 11–16 year-olds, 10% of normal-weight children reported being bullied, compared to 15% of overweight and 23% of obese children
– Obese girls were 2.7 times more likely than normal weight girls to be verbally bullied on a regular basis and 3.4 times more likely to be excluded from group activities
Janssen, I., Craig, W. M., Boyce, W. F. & Pickett, W. (2004). Associations Between Overweight and Obesity With Bullying Behaviours in School-Age Children. Pediatrics, 113(5), 1187-1194.” (NEDIC)
The other big problem I have with Dr Oz is that he continues to shill his weight-loss snake oil, without having any proof that it is either safe or effective. Guess he forgot about the “Do no harm” part of the Hippocratic Oath, huh?
“Katherine M. Flegal, PhD, Senior Research Scientist at the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, explains, “Although people think there’s all this evidence out there showing a high mortality risk associated with overweight, in fact the literature doesn’t show it.” Far from it. Flegal’s research, analyzing 30 years of actual deaths in the US, corrected an earlier CDC report that indicated severe risks related to overweight. She showed instead that being clinically ‘overweight’ is associated with a lower death rate than so-called ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ weight2. It confirmed much earlier research that had been studiously ignored.” (emphasis mine)
So despite the fact that earlier research has shown little to no connection between being overweight and a higher risk of mortality, and despite Flegal’s study being published in 2005, those in the medical field are still prescribing weight loss to their patients.
“Further, despite nearly three decades of intense research, obesity specialists fail to show success for any of the current weight loss methods, whether diet, drugs or surgery. All are considered experimental. None are proven safe and effective.
- Dieting causes short-term weight loss lasting no longer than six months, followed by regain, known as weight cycling, which carries its own risks, and can lead to food preoccupation, bingeing, dysfunctional eating and sometimes eating disorders.
- Drugs offer only minimal weight loss of about 5-11 pounds, regained when the drug is stopped, so must be taken long term with increased risk. Of 6 million U.S. adults treated with fen-phen/Redux, the FDA reports that one-third developed leaky heart valves, fatal to some, and others died of primary pulmonary disease.
- Gastric surgery for weight loss carries risk of nearly 5 percent death rate (nearly 50 percent for patients age 75 and over) according to Medicare studies3, and more than 60 complications.
The 1990 Congressional hearings exposed much deception and fraud in the weight loss industry. In 1992 the National Institutes of Health reported not one diet company could produce research showing safety and success for any program.
In their 1998 New Year’s Day editorial, Marcia Angell, MD, and Jerome P. Kassirer, MD, editors of theNew England Journal of Medicine, warned, “Until we have better data about the risks of being overweight and the benefits and risks of trying to lose weight, we should remember that the cure for obesity may be worse than the condition.” (all emphasis mine)
So why do so many doctors still prescribe weight loss, despite lacking any good science to back it up? Why do so many women continue to fight their bodies and jump on and off of the dieting, weight cycling, self-hatred bandwagon? Because the diet industry tells them to. Remember, the diet industry is now a $60.9 BILLION dollar business. 60 billion dollars is a whole lot of money that they can spend to fund studies that turn out favorable (for them) results, launch body-shaming ad campaigns, lobbying congress, and promoting their products to doctors and other health professionals and organizations.
Unfortunately in the mythic ‘war on obesity’, the diet industry (and it’s cohorts like Dr Oz) are far better armed than those they are waging war against. Unlike an actual war, where the casualties are fairly obvious, the casualties of this war are rarely known.
This is why I write. This is why fat activism is my activism. Because I am sick of seeing the women and girls who have become casualties of this war littering the halls of our hearts and minds. I am tired of seeing more and more young girls losing their spirits and even their lives to eating disorders. I am tired of seeing how preoccupied we are with our weights and with our diets.
It is time for us to stand up and speak out. It is time for us to speak with no only our voices but our wallets. It’s time to stop buying into the crap that the diet industry (and it’s snake oil salesmen like Dr Oz) are selling. The revolution is beginning.
Are you in?