When I began my research, I was astounded. I can add up how much I’ve spent on the diet industry since age 16. And it’s a lot. First, it was over-the-counter diet pills. If I could just get my appetite under control, I’d be golden. At 16, I was buying Dexatrim, hoping it would help me shed the 10-15 pounds and get a bikini body.
In college, I put on more pounds, the Freshman 15. I decided I wasn’t disclipined. I counted calories. I counted points. I counted carbs. I went to dance class, I did Jane Fonda. My personal journals were like Bridget Jones’ Diary. Counting cigarettes smoked, calories eaten, and daily weight. I would get close to the goal, lose hope, and chuck it all. And when I wasn’t successful doing it alone, the diet industry was there to help me. Right? Weren’t they?
The $61 billion weight loss industry does not want me to peek behind the curtain. It doesn’t share its dirty little secret: 97% of its followers regain weight lost within 3 years. It gets even worse when looking further out. The remaining 3% rarely sustain the loss longer than 5 years. And when you get to 10 years, the figure plummets even more. And exercise has little to do with the outcome.
With close to 70% of the population overweight, and half of that population obese, the weight loss industry has no shortage of buyers. The number increases every year. In 2016, 45 million Americans will join one of the many big commercial diet plans. And they will lose. In the beginning, they will lose weight. But in the long run, the only real loss will be more self-esteem.
I’ve tried almost every one of them. Weight Watchers was my go to on and off over a 15 year period. I would buy their products, eat their desserts, still have my “cheat” days and managed to shed an average of 20 pounds each time. And at that point, something would derail me–usually it was hitting a plateau, or feeling frustrated about how long it was taking just to get one pound down, or feeling ridiculously deprived. It really didn’t matter what the reason was. I always made it about me and my lack of discipline and willpower.
When I started my fact finding mission a few months ago, Oprah was in the news, announcing her purchase of a 10% stake in Weight Watchers. Oprah, who has built a media empire, has a huge influence globally, she who has sampled just about every truth and soulful emanation out there….Oprah bought into Weight Watchers, and overnight, its stockholders, including Oprah, made millions. And yet, Oprah, a woman who has achieved so much, was no further along in tackling her own weight issues. By her own admission, losing and maintaining a healthy weight was kicking her ass.
At first, I felt a big let down. I adore Oprah. I think she’s a beautiful BadAss, no matter how much she weighs. But Weight Watchers? I couldn’t believe she’d bought into an organization peddling processed foods along with their diet plans that ultimately do not lead to permanent weight loss. Couldn’t she see the statistics I was seeing??
No offense Oprah, but I knew I couldn’t do it again. How could I buy into a plan that several times now, simply hasn’t worked? I couldn’t. Perhaps for Oprah, it was simply a business decision. I don’t know. But thanks to Oprah, enrollment is way up, and is expected to hit an all time high in the New Year.
As I dig deeper, I can’t look the other way. The odds are terrible. We are talking about millions of people who experience the same result. I can’t keep blaming myself for not being disciplined enough. There was something else at work here. Why isn’t there a better solution? Why are so few talking about these statistics? Why are millions still taking the road too often traveled, only to get the same terrible result long term?
Diving deeper, I found a few who ARE talking about it. The information is out there. It’s just not as sexy. They don’t have celebrities touting their wisdom or celebrating their discovery. And they aren’t peddling packaged foods and shakes. In fact, I liken it to the tobacco industry. For years, they denied what scientists were saying. They covered up the facts; they hid those corporate memos. They buried their dirty little secret. I liken it to climate change and its link to the burning of fossil fuels. For years, it was under reported, became a hotbed political issue and as a result we are now way behind in fixing it.
All I know is, I’m way behind in fixing my own weight issue.
So, what do the weight loss industry, big tobacco and climate change have in common? Are you ready? Here it is:
If the truth came out in a big way, if the population really got it, it would lead to a radical change and some big corporations stand to lose a ton of money. Am I just a paranoid conspiracy theorist? I don’t think so. I just can’t personally afford to ignore the facts any longer.
The food industry as a whole is built on making cheap food. Fresh produce and whole organic foods have become more expensive while processed and fast foods are cheaper. Cheap processed food and beverages have big profit margins and only a handful of large corporations control it. Just walk into a grocery store. Over 80% is processed, pre-packaged food and drinks. Longer shelf life + easy distribution + monopoly = bigger profits.
Sure, I know that preservatives and food additives aren’t great, and I eat healthier. But looking at the food supply, organic or not, there are two components that have become more present in almost all prepared and processed foods over the last 30 years and their rise just happens to coincide with the 30 year rise in obesity rates.
Sugar and Flour.
In order to fix the damage done, I had to completely eliminate flour and sugar.
I got my answer. And it pissed me off. It felt too extreme, too crazy. It pissed me off that the food I was raised on was actually wreaking havoc in my body. It pissed me off that bread and pasta and juices and cakes were something I might have to give up completely if I wanted consistent results. It pissed me off that, like tobacco, the effects of sugar and flour were causing addictive behaviors, messing with my hormones, and my metabolism in ways I never imagined. It pissed me off that I never really understood how all of this worked until now or that big food corporations, like big tobacco, are aware of the addictive qualities inherent in sugar and flour. Why was this the first time I was hearing this? Sure, I knew that too much sugar and flour weren’t good. Yes, duh, I knew that. But what I didn’t know, nor did I want to accept, was in order for me to reverse the effects and permanently fix it, I would have to completely remove it, at least until I got to goal. And even then, some things might have to remain off the list in order to sustain it.
The next day, I cut flour and sugar. But not fully. I still held onto one spoonful of Agave syrup in my morning cappuccino. I still thought I could beat the system. I couldn’t fully accept this new road. And yet, I couldn’t accept the state I was currently in–never would I have imagined I could end up 100 lbs overweight. I could choose more months, maybe even years of messing with it, or ignoring it, or trying quick fix workouts and low cal diets and deprivation or I could surrender to this new path. This hardcore, radical, tough road. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to go the distance. The only thing this new plan had going for it was one indisputable truth: This was one road I hadn’t taken before, and therefore it was possible to expect a different outcome.
What if this was the key to changing it all? What if this was the answer to my lifelong struggle? What if? So, I cut the Agave and decided to commit to 7 days going hardcore. I would test the waters. And then, 7 more days. And 7 more….
I still have days when it pisses me off. I still have days when I wish I could be that person who could take or leave a little sugar or flour. Or have a cigarette once in awhile. I can be pissed off about it or I can surrender and stay on the road. After the first few days it got much easier. What’s more there are very real statistics pointing to this being a permanent change on several levels, because it’s not just about the diet, it has to do with a whole lot more than that. So, no more dirty little secrets. I am finally telling myself the truth and it’s setting me free.
As of today, I am 34 lbs free in 78 days.