The Weight Loss Industry Has Absolutely Nothing to do with Health
By Daisy Luther
The diet industry reached 61 BILLION dollars in 2013 in the United States alone, but people are fatter than ever. Between magic pills, diet food, and commercial weight loss plans, the obesity epidemic is a HUGE business.
Despite all of the do-good advertising and the inspiring slogans, the secret is, the diet industry doesn’t actually want you to lose weight, at least not for the long term. A customer who fails to maintain weight loss ends up being a long-term customer, contributing to the business’s bottom line. Richard Samber, the former Finance Director for Weight Watchers, was questioned about the company’s 16 percent success rate after five years. Get ready….he explained “that the business is successful ‘because the other 84 percent have to come back and do it again. That’s where your business comes from.’” (source)
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So basically, your failure means their success.
If you lose weight and keep it off, they don’t make any more money off of you. They have a vested financial interest in keeping you fat and unhealthy. Despite the false advertising facade of fit-looking people, nutritious looking food, and promises of boundless energy and vigor, the commercial weight loss industry has absolutely nothing to do with health.
The thing is, it’s simple. If you eat actual food and you move your body more, you will lose weight. But there isn’t any money in that formula, so the “experts” don’t tell you this.
I’m not coming at this from the perspective of someone who has always been lean. I had on and off weight issues for the greater part of my adult life. I’ve had babies, I’ve yo-yo dieted, I’ve gained and lost and gained again. I tried pretty much every diet out there. It wasn’t until I learned to eat REAL FOOD and became well nourished that I began to feel good in my body. Am I perfect by supermodel standards? No way. But I’m strong, I’m healthy, and seem to be in a lot better condition than a lot of the other moms I see picking up their teenagers at the school. I eat carefully and I exercise and I am, and always will be, a work in progress.
Because I have had long-term struggles with my weight, I can relate to the rest of the folks out there who are going through the same cycles. I tried many of the commercial programs too, back in the day, and here is what I learned: Although they talk about “healthy” weight loss, the products they promote have absolutely NOTHING to do with health.
They are pimping artificial foods, loaded with chemicals and with very little nutritional value. Instead of learning about balancing your macro-nutrients, you are learning about how to fill your belly with items that have all the nutritional value of a bag full of Styrofoam packing peanuts. Instead of learning the simplest concept in the world, balancing your calories in against your calories out, you learn that drinking things loaded with aspartame might kill a few brain cells but it keeps the hunger at bay. You learn that the only way to stay hydrated is to add little tubes of alleged vitamins and artificial sweeteners to your water.
The last weight loss event I attended was what really opened my eyes to this. They were discussing breakfast. The instructor was showing the audience how to scrape all but the barest amount of peanut butter off of your piece of toast in order to get a lower points value. I politely pointed out that it was very important to have enough “good fats” in your diet and that I used the whole darned two tablespoon serving every single time. I said that we’d be much better off to cut out the toast that the peanut butter was being scraped off of if we really wanted to be healthy. Let’s just say that the comment was not well-received.
Here’s the thing, and it is very very simple. There is one major reason that people overeat.
They aren’t eating real food.
They are eating these puffs of air with no vitamins and minerals. They are eating artificial concoctions that do absolutely nothing to nourish the body. They are hungry five minutes later because their bodies are crying out, “FEED ME! I need some nutrients! PLEASE! I’m hungry!”
It isn’t because they have not eaten enough calories that they are hungry. It is because they have not eaten enough FOOD.
Let me prove it. Let’s look at the ingredients lists of a few popular “diet” foods.
First, I’m going to pick on Jenny Craig. The diet encourages you to eat 3 frozen processed meals per day. The first thing I came across on my search was the “Breakfast Scramble” – how bad could that be?
I’ll show you EXACTLY how bad it could be. Following, please find theingredients list taken directly from Jenny’s website.
ROASTED POTATOES (RED SKIN POTATOES, DEXTROSE, SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE), SCRAMBLED EGG WHITES (EGG WHITES, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, NONFAT MILK, WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE, SOYBEAN OIL, CARRAGEENAN, SALT, EGG FLAVOR [PROPYLENE GLYCOL, NATURAL FLAVORS] , GUAR GUM, XANTHAN GUM, ANNATTO COLOR), WATER, REDUCED FAT CHEDDAR CHEESE (LOW FAT MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES, ANNATTO COLOR, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE), MILK (WITH VITAMIN D), TURKEY HAM (TURKEY THIGH MEAT, WATER, LITE SALT [POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, SODIUM CHLORIDE], SUGAR, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, SALT, CARRAGEENAN, SODIUM ERYTHORBATE, NATURAL SMOKE FLAVORING, SODIUM NITRITE) , REDUCED FAT MOZZARELLA CHEESE (PART-SKIM MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, ENZYMES), AND LESS THAN 2% OF FAT FREE CREAM CHEESE (CULTURED SKIM MILK SOLIDS, CULTURED SKIM MILK, SALT, SUGAR, ARTIFICIAL COLOR, SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE, STABILIZERS [CAROB BEAN AND/OR XANTHAN AND/OR GUAR GUMS AND/OR CARRAGEENAN], POTASSIUM SORBATE AND CALCIUM PROPIONATE [AS PRESERVATIVES], ENZYMES, VITAMIN A PALMITATE), MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, MIREPOIX BASE (SAUTÉED VEGETABLES [CARROTS, CELERY, ONION], SUGAR, MALTODEXTRIN, CORN OIL, SALT, CORNSTARCH, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL FLAVORING), SALT, SOY LECITHIN, SPICES, CHILI PEPPER.
Are you kidding me??????
We have all sorts of GMO corn products, carrageenan (learn more), MSG (learn more), a crap-ton of stuff I can’t pronounce, and in all, 68 ingredients. If I wanted to make this myself, I could easily do it with less than 10 and it would taste better too. All this actually needs is potatoes, eggs, veggies, and some cheese. If I wanted to walk on the wild side, I could get a little bit of local natural ham or bacon and add that in too.
This is not food! This is artificial food. Why in the name of all that is holy do eggs need egg flavoring? I’ll tell you why – because there is far more chemical than actual egg in that dish, so they have to flavor it up to make it taste like what you think you’re eating!
Nutrisytem is Jenny Craig’s more expensive sibling – the uptown version. But the high price doesn’t make it better quality. The food is dreadful for you. Check out the ingredients in this breakfast burrito.
FILLING: EGGS (EGG WHITES, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, NONFAT DRY MILK, WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE, SOYBEAN OIL, CARRAGEENAN, SALT, NATURAL EGG FLAVOR, GUAR GUM, XANTHAN GUM, ANNATTO (COLOR)), WATER, REDUCED FAT MONTEREY JACK AND CHEDDAR CHEESES (CULTURED PASTEURIZED PART SKIM MILK, SALT, CHEESE COLOR, ENZYMES), BELL PEPPERS, ISOLATED OAT PRODUCT, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, GREEN CHILES, ONIONS, CHILI PEPPERS (CHILI PEPPERS, CITRIC ACID), FLAVORINGS, GUAR GUM, SALT, CRUSHED RED PEPPER, VINEGAR;BEANS: COOKED BEANS (WATER, PINTO BEANS), GREEN CHILES, CORN STARCH, JALAPEÑOS (JALAPEÑO PEPPERS, SALT, ACETIC ACID, CALCIUM CHLORIDE), SALT, CRUSHED RED PEPPER; TORTILLA: BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR ENRICHED (NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), WATER, VEGETABLE OIL (CANOLA AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL), SALT, DOUGH CONDITIONER (INVERTED SUGAR, PROPYLENE GLYCOL, WATER, CELLULOSE GUM), BAKING POWDER (CORN STARCH, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SODIUM ALUMINUM SULFATE, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE), GUAR GUM, CORN FLOUR (GROUND CORN, TRACE OF LIME), DEXTROSE, ISOLATED OAT PRODUCT, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, SUGAR, SODIUM METABISULFITE
Again, many of the same bad actors as we saw above. This is NOT food – this is a foodlike substance. When you consume this, you aren’t giving your body very much that it recognizes as nutrients.
Probably the most expensive of all of the commercial plans is Medifast. This “supervised” diet must be paid for up front (up to $2000, with some programs being even MORE) and that doesn’t even include the approximately $100 per week in alleged “food”. The caduceus symbol in the logo gives the impression that this is a healthy physician-recommended way to meet your goals.
The most popular program is called “5&1″. That means the dieter consumes 5 Medifast processed meals and one “lean and green” meal – so one meal per day that is actual food. Here is one of the Medifast snacks, accurately named a “puff”. This counts as a “meal” on Medifast, and they tout, “You get a whopping 11 grams of protein in each pack. A healthy meal for anytime or anywhere!”
Soy protein isolate, tapioca starch, corn flour, pea fiber, soybean oil, whey, dextrin, cheddar cheese (cultured milk, salt, enzymes), salt, maltodextrin, onion powder, chili pepper, garlic powder, buttermilk solids, spice, torula yeast, natural flavor, lactic acid, jalapeno pepper, yeast extract, paprika extract (flavor and color), turmeric extractives (spice and color), potato starch, corn starch, guar gum.
That is horrible. That is NOT a meal. It’s chock full of GMO ingredients (remember that more than 85% of soy and corn grown in the US are genetically modified.) How can people actually expect to live on this? And what if they DO successfully stay on this program and lose the weight that they need to? How on earth can you transition from that to food? Despite the one year maintenance plan, the outlook for longterm success is grim. A former Medifast insider who prefers to remain anonymous says, “The failure rate is very high – they refuse to publish the stats.”
Weight Watchers is better than other choices because you can opt to eat your own food instead of their nasty chemical concoctions. However, many of the recipes rely on sugar free, fat free fake foods, touting them as great substitutes for what you really want, when , again, you are just eating artificial food laden with chemicals. If I had to recommend a commercial diet plan, it would be Weight Watchers, but you must beware of the products they sell and the recipes they push. They teach you about portion sizes and caloric reduction, but not a whole lot about actual nutrition. The meetings and group setting are really motivating – there’s a lot of support. However, if you are athletic or if you have a physical job, you’re going to be left hungry if you follow their plan.
The best way to lose weight is…
The best way to lose weight is to nourish your body. It might sound counterintuitive when compared to all of these plans that restrict you, but you will find that when you eat good food, real food, with real nutrients, a reset occurs. It doesn’t happen on day one, or even necessarily on day 5 or 6. But one day you will wake up and realize you just aren’t that hungry. You will not crave a bag of Cheetos. You won’t want to consume stuff that makes you feel like crap afterwards.
Many people will lose weight simply by switching from a typical North American diet to a whole foods diet. Your body will naturally settle into a comfort zone as it becomes accustomed to receiving actual nourishment. At some point, many find it necessary to get a little bit more strict in order to continue losing weight. At that point, tracking your caloric intake and balancing your calories in/calories out should help the weight loss continue.
Not only did our ancestors eat things that their bodies recognized as food, but they also had to provide the food for themselves. They couldn’t just run to the grocery store and load up a cart. They farmed, they hunted, and they preserved. Therefore, they got a lot more exercise than most of us do today, and that also helped keep their weight under control.
The obesity epidemic in America is not, as First Lady Michelle Obama would like to convince us, because of our inability to decipher nutrition labels. It is because of our lifestyles. We have it too easy, grabbing a storebought package and microwaving it and calling it dinner. Furthermore, our food isn’t food and our bodies are crying out for nutrients, leading us to eat more and more empty calories in a desire to satiate our need for nourishment.
Unlike the commercial weight loss industry, I’m not selling you anything. If you quit buying Diet Coke and Lean Cuisine meals and switch to organic veggies and lean meat, I won’t make a dime. But I hope that what I’m saying empowers you to take your health into your own hands.
You want a magic pill? Here it is:
Eat real food. Move more. Lose weight. It really IS that simple.
Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor with a passionate interest in food freedom and activism. She regularly commits acts of Nutritional Anarchy where this article first appeared, by growing and preserving food on her small organic farm in the Pacific Northwestern United States. She is the author of The Pantry Primer: How to Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months. Daisy is the founder of The Organic Prepper, where she writes about healthy prepping liberty, and survival issues. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and you can email her at [email protected]
[Editor’s note]: First image comes from Furious Pete who exposed weight loss imagery on YouTube