From Jordan Rubin's Desk:
I haven’t met a heavyset person who wouldn’t want to lose weight, but from my vantage point, many obese individuals harbor attitudes similar to the classic “five stages of grief,” as articulated by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her seminal book, On Death and Dying (Scribner, 1997).
The five stages are:
I’m willing to wager that if you’re battling your weight, you could place yourself among one of those five descriptions. You could be denying that you’re really overweight, that all you have to do is set your mind one day to taking off those “extra” pounds on your waist and hips. You could be angry about your lackluster physical condition and appearance, harboring resentment that you’ve always been heavy or were born into a family that fed you crummy foods growing up. You could be at the bargaining stage where you’d do anything to lose weight—like undergo expensive gastric bypass surgery or take a pharmaceutical with dangerous and embarrassing side effects. You could be depressed and feel like you have no future . . . and no hope of reaching your perfect weight. Or you could be at the final and most dangerous stage—acceptance, a feeling that you’ll always be obese and there’s nothing you can do about it.
I’m seeing more evidence that being overweight is a societal norm among the cultural elite. Weight and body image issues are squeezing into college course catalogs as “fat studies” emerges into a growing interdisciplinary field in universities around the country. At Harvard, students can sign up for “Body Sculpting in America,” which examines the social and political consequences of being overweight. The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee offers a course called “The Social Construction of Obesity,” which is taught by Margaret Carlisle Duncan, a human movement sciences professor who challenges the alarmist message about the obesity epidemic in America.
Elsewhere, students on a dozen campuses are organizing groups that focus on promoting “fat acceptance.” One of those, Sheana Director, a San Diego State University graduate student, co-founded Size Matters to fight the prevailing attitude that being fat is a moral failing rather than the result of complicated factors. Ms. Director wants the freedom to say “I’m fat” with a sense of defiance and pride. I’m all for feeling good about yourself, but I’ve met far too many people who tell me they don’t feel much vitality when they’re so heavy that they can’t see their shoelaces. They are eating their way to an early grave in more ways than they realize.
For many with waistlines in the beer belly range, a sizable weight-loss industry has stepped into the vacuum, thanks to the insatiable appetite of more than 70 million Americans claiming to be on a diet at any one time. The U.S. weight-loss and diet control market tops $50 billion annually, according to Marketdata, a market research firm that has tracked diet products and programs since 1989. That works out to $136 million a day spent on the following:
• calorie-free soft drinks like Coke Zero allow dieters to continue sipping their favorite fizzy drinks without guilt. (I’ll have a lot to say about how unhealthy diet soft drinks are in Chapter 4, “Drink for Your Perfect Weight.”)
• books promising the “newest” approach to weight loss, plus a handful of perennial bestsellers: Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, The South Beach Diet, and Dr. Phil’s Ultimate Weight Solution: The Seven Keys to Weight Loss Freedom. Harvard Law School researcher Ethan Zuckerman, using sales rank data found on Amazon.com, estimates that nearly 11,000 books on dieting—with a value of $150,967.19—are purchased just on Amazon.com every day.
• medications like rimonabant (also known by its brand name Accomplia), which works on a newly discovered system in the brain that is involved in the motivation and control of the appetite. Other “fat-blocking” drugs for long-term obesity therapy—Xenical (orlistat) and Meridia (sibutramine)—inhibit the absorption of about 25 percent of fat that is consumed. A non-prescription version of Xenical called Alli hit the market in the summer of 2007, setting off a feeding frenzy in Southern California pharmacies, where it flew off the shelves in spite of a price tag of around $60 for a bottle of ninety capsules. You’re not going to like Alli’s notorious side effects, which include fecal urgency, loose stools, and gas with an oily discharge. Alli’s official website carries this ominous warning: “It’s probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work.”
• gastric bypass surgery, in which surgeons staple or bind the stomach with an adjustable band. This creates a small pouch able to hold only a few ounces of food. Celebrities such as singer Carnie Wilson, Today Show weatherman Al Roker, reality show star Sharon Osbourne, talk show host Star Jones Reynolds have sung the praises of this potentially dangerous surgery after shedding hundreds of pounds. “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson, who has advised less-than-svelte contestants that they might want to lose some weight, underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2003.
• commercial chains such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and NutriSystem, where dieters commit to “customized” diet plans. More than 7 million have signed up for these structured programs, which include “phone meetings” with a trained consultant as well as the consumption of diet meals purchased directly from the company.
• over-the-counter diet pills such as Xenadrine EFA, CortiSlim, One-A-Day WeightSmart, and TrimSpa, which are heavily advertised on television and radio and alluring ads in supermarket tabloids. They target the lose-weight-quick crowd with breathtaking copy describing how their “miracle ingredients” and “breakthrough formulas” are “clinically proven” and “guaranteed to work.” Anna Nicole Smith, before her untimely death, was a TrimSpa endorser who claimed that she was “hotter than ever” after “just twelve weeks” of taking the diet pill.
• diet food home delivery, where affluent dieters pay as much as $1,200 a month (per person!) for healthy meals to be delivered daily to their doorstep. A handful of companies such as ZoneChefs, Seed Live Cuisine, and Jenny Direct (part of Jenny Craig) are cashing in on this booming market.
• weight-loss summer camps for heavy teens, which are a predictable outgrowth of the childhood obesity problem in this country. These types of camps didn’t exist in my parents’ time because the demand wasn’t there. Today plump teens seek to turn their lives around at places like Camp La Jolla and Camp Shane.
Adults don’t have summer camps, although there are a number of discreet but expensive “fitness spas” (a description that sure sounds better than “fat farm”) that you can check yourself into if you have the time and the dinaro. In the world of weight loss, anything is possible if you have the money and the time.
Copyright ©2008 Jordan Rubin
9 years ago