Review: The Men Who Made Us Thin – Episode One

The video series was produced by the BBC on dieting. Interesting stuff. While I enjoyed the first episode, I do have some observations:

First, it seems to me that before the first scene was ever filmed the conclusion was drawn: diets don’t work and we’ve been tricked into dieting by evil people who just want to get our money. While this might be true ofttimes than not, it is not 100% true. There are people who might make money off weight loss that truly believe in their products. There was an interview with the chief science officer at Weight Watchers that I thought was a bit of a trap – and I thought that she was genuinely insulted by the interviewers’ approach and defended herself and her product splendidly.

There was also a little mathematical magic in a scene where a gentleman reviewed the results of a British healthcare initiative to offer weight loss counseling. If you weren’t paying attention it seemed like out of 1,000 people, only a dozen or so would lose weight. What might have gotten lost in the fuzzy logic was that the VAST majority of the 1,000 people rejected the offer outright. The numbers shouldn’t have counted them – they should have only counted the people undergoing the intervention. When you looked at the numbers that way, the results were still discouraging but much better: something like 15%.

Similarly, when they analyzed the Weight Watchers data they found a similar 5 year success rate – which they tried to bury the chief science officer of Weight Watchers with. She defended this by saying something to the effect that weight is a chronic problem  and you can’t expect the problem to go away without a long-term view.

I have to agree with her.

There is much to recommend in watching this, but I was left with the message that there is nothing you can do if you are fat. Nothing. And there are people lined up to take your money who know you will fail.

I would believe that in its entirety watching the first episode too – except I’ve kept 60 pounds off for close to 9 years as I write this.

So – if it is so impossible – how did *I* do it? And how did that 16% on Weight Watchers do it?

THAT is the question that remained unanswered. It is the question that plagues me personally.

I am an awful dieter. Erratic. Non-compliant. Yet I’ve kept off 3/4 of the weight I originally lost – I didn’t ‘gain it all back – and then some’ within 5 years which was repeated numerous times.

Instead of focusing on the failures, why was there nothing on the successes and why they might be?

The episode is entirely correct in stating: statistically, there is little chance that you will lose weight. But individuals are not statistics, not all diets are the same, and different diets might be a better match for individuals than other diets due to genetics, cultural differences and personal preferences.

I lost huge amounts of weight twice before I went on my low carb diet 10 years ago. I used the medically backed caloric restriction and exercise to do it and both times it worked as the show would have predicted: I gained all the weight back – and then some – after about a year each time.

Low carb worked for me, and I am not even particularly good at it.

While I found this show highly interesting with a large number of interesting facts, i see it as a bit of a whitewash. This take-down of diets is as simplistic as some of the diets he deliciously attacks.

I recommend you watch it, but don’t be completely disheartened by his message. There’s more to it than he describes. There are exceptions that are not explored, and opinions expressed that sound definitive that might not be.

If that wasn’t the case I wouldn’t exist, and if that was true: who wrote this lousy review?

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One thought on “Review: The Men Who Made Us Thin – Episode One

  1. Fascinating documentary. I agree with what you said. The diet that works is the one you can stick closest to for the rest of your life. For you, and me, its carb restriction. Most people are just too hungry on low fat or calorie restricting diets. Low carb is the most satieting and the most effective, its just the hardest socially. As far as WW, there is a reason you become a “lifetime” member, if you stay on it your whole life it can be successful. My grandma,who was obese most of her life, and who only lost weight in her last decade( she was 90 when she died last month) told me “to get as small as you can and stay that way”. I can only stay small when I cut the carbs. Off to watch episode two. Also you should be proud of your success, 60lbs kept off is great. I don’t consider that “terrible” dieting. It seems to me that you are diligent about your carb intake, and that is a big part of why you have been successful. Even if you aren’t as slim as you would like.

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