Discover more from Sweary History with James Fell
It's Okay to Want to Lose Weight
When I first began writing about fitness a dozen years ago, that title wouldn’t have raised many eyebrows except for a “Well, duh.” Nowadays, however, it can be seen as controversial. And with good reason. Because the weight loss industry is corrupt as fuck.
That’s why I got into it in the first place, because it was corrupt as fuck. I wanted to offer an alternative to the corruption.
I’d watched my mother try and fail with every fad diet and weight loss gimmick there was. When I was 25 and made the decision to lose weight and get in shape, I had a solid idea of what not to do because of what she’d been through. I figured I would just begin exercising and eat better. And via eating better, I would restrict my calories and lose weight.
And that’s what happened. Eat less, move more. Simple, right?
No, not fucking right.
Back in 2016 I wrote a piece titled “Eat Less, Move More Is Bullshit”. An organization that hands out such accolades named it their #1 Fat Loss Article of the Year. It’s not a denial of calories in vs. calories out, or a denial that adding physical activity and improving one’s diet in order to lower calorie intake is a path to weight loss. Rather, it is calling out a bullshit soundbite that makes weight loss seem like a simple math equation.
Technically, it is simple math. Realistically, it’s anything but. The gist of the piece is that “eat less, move more” ignores the myriad complex lifestyle issues that allow an individual to consume fewer calories, as well the similarly complex lifestyle issues that permit them to burn more calories in a day via additional movement. Read the piece to get an idea of just how complicated those two supposedly simple things really are.
Losing weight and keeping it off is hard. It can be one of the most challenging things a person ever does. And because of that, the scammers thrive. The bestselling weight loss books are ones pushing some bullshit miracle method of a fad diet. Cookie cutter programs are also popular, working under the expectation that everyone is the same and what works for one person will work for all. But people are not a monolith.
Because the weight loss industry is so full of shit, there has been a growing backlash, with organizations such as Health at Every Size (HAES) rising in popularity. And while it had honest beginnings as a way to combat fat shaming and promote body acceptance, HAES has also been infiltrated by corrupting influences making anti-science proclamations that excess body fat is not at all harmful and that trying to lose weight isharmful.
But the problem is that excess body fat can be bad for one’s health. This is going to piss some people off, but it is an unfortunate reality. Read this piece I wrote for the Chicago Tribune about the issue of how certain types of body fat can be harmful to health. I intend to say the following with all due compassionate honesty: Body fat is kind of like radiation. To a certain point it’s fine, it does no harm. But then the more radiation you’re exposed to, and the longer you’re exposed to it, the more dangerous it can be in terms of your health. Note that this isn’t body weight, because plenty of people can have significant muscle mass making them heavy. Also, fitness is like a hall pass in a lot of ways. People who are fit and fat are usually healthier than those who are unfit and have lower body fat. But sometimes, health can be improved via fat loss. We see it with type 2 diabetes all the time. A person only restricts calories and loses 20 pounds and suddenly their metabolic markers show significant improvement. It’s not a popular thing to write, but the weight of scientific evidence says fat loss can often improve health.
Far more important is: Who gives a shit?
I wrote a piece titled “The Hypocrisy of Fat Shaming” explaining that only 2.7%of Americans live “healthfully”. That means fewer than 3% of adults in the U.S. don’t smoke, exercise at least 2.5 hours per week at a moderate or vigorous intensity, eat a healthy diet, and don’t have excess body fat. People smoke and drink and blob and do drugs and it’s nobody’s fucking business.
No one should ever pressure another person to lose weight. Likewise, you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself. Perhaps you’ve tried and failed and are ready to say fuck it and live your best life without ever worrying about weight again. That’s is 100% a fine option and fuck everyone else. The world doesn’t just need more compassion, but more self-compassion.
It’s hard when many in the medical profession are against you. The stories run rampant, but a recent one I heard was that a woman with obesity went to see her doctor complaining that she had no appetite. The doctor said, “That’s probably not a bad thing” and didn’t bother to run any tests. She got sicker and sicker and later learned she had stage 3 colon cancer. People, especially women, are sick of going to the doctor about an earache but having that ignored and instead told, “You need to lose weight.”
Because of all the bullshit, there is much backlash to the idea of intentional weight loss. It is an issue fraught with potential peril. But the journey toward losing weight can also be a positive influence on your life and health. It’s important to do it for the right reasons and the right way.
But what is the right way? How do you “Lose it Right”?
I wrote a book published by Random House Canada in 2014 titled Lose it Right. It was a pretty good seller in Canada, but we couldn’t sell it in the U.S. There were many rejection letters, but this one from Simon and Schuster gives both an explanation as to why it didn’t sell, while also being a thorough condemnation of the weight loss industry in America:
There’s so much I really like here, David. James has a brash and audacious voice, and a sensible and straightforward message. His column in the LA Times is great, and I like the way he approaches the material … But my main concern, I hate to admit, is the sensible, measured nature of his program. Despite his flashy prose, he actually writes like the informed journalist that he is … sane, levelheaded, with proven advice. And while that’s great journalism, I worry that it’s not as salable of a diet plan.
The reason it didn’t sell is because it put a lot of the onus on the reader to figure their own shit out. It wasn’t a gimmick or a cookie cutter. It was broad strategic guidance that the reader must meet halfway using an understanding of their own life and goals and psychology and capabilities to design a program that works for them under my general guidance. Many readers said it worked wonders for them. Some people said it saved their lives.
But due to the nature of my contract with Random House Canada, if you were outside of Canada, you were shit out of luck for reading Lose it Right. Until now. I’m putting it all online. I’m going to be publishing a chapter a day starting tomorrow.
Stay tuned. And if you haven’t already, please subscribe:
Oh, and if some of what I wrote here pissed you off, please note that I’m heading off to the mountains for a long bike ride so it may take me a while before I have the opportunity to ignore your comment.
About the image: This is comedian Eddie Large in London in 1979. His comedy partner Syd Little has his foot on the scale. Via Getty Images.