The Worst Reason to Lose Weight?

Today’s fat rant brings us “the worst reason to lose weight”. It’s not weight loss for health; it’s not weight loss for vanity; no, according to Ragen, it’s weight loss to avoid emotional baggage and fat hate, as described in the “marketing literature” for a mysterious weight loss product Ragen refuses to identify.

Heavier people are often teased and taunted starting in childhood and continuing for the rest of their lives.  These insults can cause early emotional wounds that get ripped back open with every new jab and joke. [Insert Product Name] can give you a life free from this emotional baggage!

This “marketing literature” appears nowhere on the internet. We can only assume Ragen either received it as junk mail for a weight loss treatment scam, or more likely simply wrote it herself. Either way, Ragen is employing her standard alarmist straw man technique to misrepresent it as a typical example of weight loss marketing or reasoning for promoting weight loss; an issue so serious it deserves a long post. Is avoiding emotional baggage and fat hate a common weight loss marketing technique? Are GPs and other heath providers telling their patients to lose weight for this reason? A quick Google search shows a handful of fat acceptance bloggers who equate any kind of weight loss advice for children with legitimizing bullying and fat hate, but no real examples of companies marketing this way. Without even getting into Ragen’s ridiculous example of the progression of “bullying” (really, head in the toilet?), her line of reasoning here is about the same as complaining that this email picked from the author’s spam folder represents how medical treatment for erectile dysfunction is typically marketed to men.

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But Ragen has already laid the groundwork and “proven” weight loss is impossible and doesn’t improve health, so it’s necessary for her to dig deeper and find the true motivation for societal fat shaming to keep her endless stream of blog drivel going. Ragen’s entire persona and much of her writing and speaking about body weight issues hinge on these points. She expects the reader to take it as a matter of fact that weight loss is impossible and body weight is totally unrelated to health. There is no debate, no discussion, just Ragen’s “trained researcher” opinion that she is right and all the scientific literature is wrong other than a few papers she cherry picks and misrepresents. Everything stems from these simple concepts. If one truly believes body weight is an immutable physical characteristic that has no influence on health, then a lot of what Ragen writes starts to make sense. Why should doctors badger their patients over something they can’t control that doesn’t even matter? Why shouldn’t society accommodate people at any size no matter the cost? These questions are preposterous to most people, but completely serious to Ragen and her believers.

When it comes down to it, Ragen is a professional apologist: she makes a living selling denial and excuses to an eager audience desperate for validation of their poor lifestyle choices. She spreads lies and misinformation to eke out a living and allow her to further her own narcissism and self-denial. Ragen joined the “sixty billion dollar a year diet industry” in 2002, and Dances with Fat is just the latest embodiment of her continuing get rich quick scheme. This blog may be dismissed as a “hater blog”, but to paraphrase another blogger, we aren’t the ones asking for money at the bottom of every post.

20 thoughts on “The Worst Reason to Lose Weight?

  1. There is some literature out there that suggests real, lasting weight loss is extremely difficult. Now, granting that “extremely difficult” is not impossible but it can come real close to seeming like it. Also, not all weight gain can be relegated to “poor life choices” although I’d imagine a whole lot of it can be. All of which is just to point out that there isn’t just two completely contradictory sides to the issue. More research needs to be done into human metabolism and GMOs and processed foods. And, more of us need to make better choices about what we eat and our lack of movement.

    • There is also a lot of literature out there that suggests lasting weight loss is very possible when people get their act together and stop deluding theirselves with comfortable lies. Also, almost all weight gain can be relegated to “poor life choices”. The problem is people refuse to be strict with themselves and face reality. We don’t need to study the human metabolism more – eat less calories and you will lose weight.

      • As a former fat person that lost 100lbs and has kept it off for almost 10 years, I can attest to the challenge of losing and maintaining a healthy weight. That said, adopting daily rigorous exercise and logging every single calorie made the weight loss very simple – not easy, but simple. Portion control and regular exercise are just a part of my life now. Anyone that claims they don’t lose weight at a calorie deficit is unfortunately mistaken; the victim of bad math or self-delusion.

        What really upsets me is the willful ignorance of those who deny any and all scientific research that implicates obesity as a health risk. I don’t fat shame people, I agree with being accepting of all bodies and advocate improving your health no matter what shape you’re in. However, I refuse to participate in a mass delusion that fat is not unhealthy and weight loss is impossible.

    • I agree with your comments re GMOs and processed foods. When I went on a successful diet (and have kept the weight off), I cut out processed foods (along with most alcohol). It is very doable. I would support more labeling of GMOs,

      • Agreed. The processed foods and sugary drinks were the first to go and good riddance. I use lemon and lime juice in water and tea.

  2. Nowhere in my original comment did I indicate I believed it was impossible. And not to beat a dead horse but those with metabolic disorders or taking certain required medications did not make bad choices but may still be over weight. Note I’m not claiming I fall into those two categories but avoiding one set of research because it doesn’t agree with your viewpoint is part of why Reagan makes headway.

    Counting calories, a rigerous exercise regime and constant portion control is, in fact, rather difficult. Refusing to acknowledge exactly how hard it can be is another reason people like Raegan make headway

      • I don’t think anyone here has ever said weight loss is easy. Like the other commenter, I am a formerly fat person who lost 185 lbs several years ago, and I have maintained most of the loss since then. I am quite aware of what is involved in successful weight loss, and how much of an improvement it made to my health and mental well-being.

        The CBC article you linked is quite misleading. The “new” study they refer to was actually a review of rising obesity rates, not weight loss success. Dr. Mann’s paper “proving” weight loss is impossible is from 2007. You can read it here if you like. You can also buy her book about why diets don’t work and how she has discovered the one true path to weight loss here.

        The “5% success” myth dates back to the 1950s and continues to be confirmed with short-term weight loss studies. There is a big problem with the way “success” is defined on the basis of an individual attempt in a study population limited to people who want to participate in weight loss tudies. Many people take several attempts to lose weight successfully, as shown in this 2005 analysis of long-term weight loss studies showing around 20% of subjects were successful. I note Dr. Mann did not mention the paper in her literature review, and Ragen will no acknowledge its existence.

    • Counting calories, in this time and with the technology we have available to us, is not that difficult and there is very little effort involved. It’s the will to make the effort that is missing and that seems to be a cultural problem.

      • I guess I eat too much. Or maybe I cook too much. I find counting calories, especially for home-cooked meals, to be a colossal pain in the ass.

      • Dear 42 BMI — have you tried It is free, and IMHO, very user friendly. You can search for foods electronically, you can copy previous days (I think going back more than a week). I have found it very helpful.

      • Yes, that’s what I used most recently. I still have it on my phone, but I find it encouraged me to either eat all packaged food or eat the same thing every day. More importantly, using it ground my weight loss to a halt. Go figure.

  3. I’ve seen the number as high as 20% as well. And I’m sure you’re correct. She didn’t even acknowledge the five percent in the study she liked. She’s not going to acknowledge twenty percent in the studies she doesn’t like. And yes, I’m aware where the five percent came from which is why I never bother to argue it.

    I think as long as they acknowledge it’s difficult and at times complicated, it’s fine. It’s the times when people refuse to give any credence to opposing viewpoints that bug me. Refusing to even see any research that doesn’t directly support your own bias is a very Regean move.

    I’ve never been a fan of demanding doctors don’t mention weight. Nor that everyone mutually agree it’s beyond our control. Neither of those strategies seem to be great for long term success.

  4. Also, looking at that study you referenced, it’s only 20% at a year or so. It does decrease for longer periods of time. And the average weight loss looked go be at about 16 lbs for some of those studies. While I can agree that’s seriously more than “0” it’s still not exactly a ringing endorsement of the whole issue.

    But yes, I defy Regean to find a mathematics professional anywhere that will say whatever it is (10% or 16 lbs or more) is equal to or less than zero

  5. What I realized, a couple of years after falling for everything Ragen said, is that most of the research she mentions is very cherry-picked. At this point, I’ve read Mann’s book referenced above, Harriet Brown’s book, “Health at Every Size” and its follow up, etc. etc. But even though these books seem “well-researched” — and I sure thought they were at the time — even finding 200 studies that demonstrate the problem with these points doesn’t negate the fact that there are 100,000 studies in total.

    Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: Wow, almost 200 studies showing the dangers of soy! And yet, if you search the term “soy” at, there are 14,000 studies that mention soy, 4400 that have it in the title. And they could only pull 200 out of that that showed soy was dangerous? I’m not saying we should completely ignore the minority in the scientific literature, because you never know what you’ll find… but a lot of the studies referenced by the aforementioned books are epidemiological and rely on self-reported information. They also don’t account for things like lifetime highest weight, but simply ask “What is your current weight?” What if everyone in the study lost 50 pounds but was still overweight? That really confounds things.

    I am honestly a little annoyed with myself for falling for all of it. It didn’t help that while I was reading all this literature, I was on a medication that made me tired and hungry all the time, and resulted in weight gain. Because I thought I had no control over it, like all this literature seems to imply — after all, I was on a med known to cause weight gain — I didn’t even bother trying to prevent it. But in retrospect, the drug made me tired and hungry, which of course resulted in consuming more calories and burning fewer calories, which is why I gained weight. It wasn’t some magical metabolic change. I suppose technically my metabolism slowed, but it was because the medication changed my behavior.. my behavior was ultimately what affected my metabolism.

    • It’s amazing how easily you can misrepresent research to prove a point. One recent example that bothered me was the study that “proved” only 1% of obese people are able to reach a healthy weight, with the dire implication in the media that again significant weight loss is impossible.

      To start, the study makes no attempt to categorize participants by whether they are engaging in intentional weight loss. I think it’s safe to say most obese people are not making a concerted effort to lose weight the vast majority of the time, and I would feel comfortable including all the special snowflakes who are “starving” themselves and maintaining 300+ lbs and so on in that category. Left to their own devices, obese people will generally not lose weight, and only a tiny fraction will ever reach a healthy body weight.

      However, the goal of a “normal” BMI is also very strict. The study data shows 18% of obese men and women dropped ≥ 1 BMI category with no measured increase in BMI over the observation period (up to 9 years). Also, 50% of obese men and 53% of obese women dropped at least 5% body weight, and only half of them regained the weight within two years. Both of these observations are totally at odds with the HAES figure of only 5% of people maintaining any weight loss for more than a couple years, and it’s not even in a population where most of the participants are engaging in serious intentional weight loss.

  6. And on a completely different topic, what makes me angry is that the primary reason I DID NOT want to lose weight in the first place is because I felt intimidated by the body positivity/fat acceptance movement, who said repeatedly that under no circumstances is it acceptable to lose weight. You wrote a great blog on this topic; . I felt like gaining 45 pounds in a year was a legit reason to want to lose weight, but the whole time felt a nagging feeling that I was just succumbing to societal norms of beauty or BLAH BLAH WHATEVER. I have only lost half the weight so far, but I already feel better. My resting heart is lower. My body fat is lower. I can lift more. I sleep better. I wasn’t even to obese before, and even now I believe I was relatively “healthy” at that weight, but I’m healthiER now.

    So it makes me angry to see her saying that this is a terrible reason to want to lose weight, when her community frankly makes people feel like NOT losing weight is the only option to continue to be accepted. She claims “underpants rule” but when she even advises someone to go against medical advice, couching it in “But of course your body is yours to do what you want!” .. ugh, give me a break.

    • Good for you dropping the weight. Losing 185 lbs made such an enormous difference to my life. I used to snore like a chainsaw and was developing sleep apnea and was tired all the time. All of that cleared up. My blood pressure is normal, my resting heart rate is in the 50s, my blood sugar is perfect. I took up running and enjoy it so much. I have no trouble finding clothes that fit (except I am still tall). Above all I just feel way more comfortable in my skin when I don’t have all that extra weight pulling me down.

      Ragen likes to go on about how happy she is being grossly obese, but when you are that size for decades you completely lose your frame of reference for what is “normal”. As a runner, even 10-20 lbs makes a huge difference to the amount of effort required to move. Ragen claims she is just “bad” at running, but the truth is she’s so heavy she physically can’t run. If you look back on her old Livejournal posts, it’s obvious her weight also robbed her of her dream of becoming a top flight dancer by making it impossible for her to advance to a meaningful level of competition. Instead she did what she always does and gave up and made up some meaningless and misleading credentials.

      I’ve seen how members of the FA/HAES community are treated if they attempt to lose weight. I’ll give Ragen points for always making an effort to be inclusive to the extreme with her disclaimers and underpants babbling, but she will never, ever admit weight loss is possible or could improve health in any way.

      One thing that really stood out to me reading her Livejournal was that despite all her bullshit about the magic eating disorder, how her body “laughs” at calorie deficits, and she was able to gain weight during VLCD treatment and all that, she KNEW why she never lost weight.

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