The Weight Loss Industry Loves Your Shame

Tiffany Haug
Tiffany giving her awesome talk to a curious audience.

I keep trying to write a blog post about how I ended up going to the Obesity Help National Conference to watch my new friend Tiffany Haug’s presentation on sugar addiction (and how that’s not really a thing)…

And I can’t get it to come out right, because it was such a strange experience of many mixed emotions.

So here’s the raw stuff:

It was weird being there. I thought it would be mostly doctors and other health professionals trying to figure out how to make people lose weight. That seemed bad enough.

I didn’t know that, instead, it would be a lot of lay people – non-health professionals who just wanted information on how to lose weight forever, and especially a lot of higher weight people who were interested in bariatric surgery information (because this was, at its essence, a bariatric surgery conference. Many of the sponsors were bariatric surgery companies).

And it was such a strange experience to be there, because most of the time, both in person and online, I am with people who don’t talk about weight loss, who have rejected dieting as a way of life, or who have never dieted and never will diet. I hear the other voices at a distance, and can tune them out easily.

But that world is a bubble.

When I stepped out of my bubble and into the belly of the beast, as Tiffany so adroitly termed it, I saw how I and all the other attendees were viewed as prey. Prey for the protein drink and air-food sellers, prey for weight loss surgery companies. There was a palpable sadness in the air, like everyone there looking for the latest news in sustainable weight loss knew that, in fact, no such thing exists for most people. But they were going to keep tyring anyway.

It was reminiscent of my years in Weight Watchers meetings, all filled with hope and despair in equal measure.

I wanted to reach out to every person there and say, “You’re fine just the way you are. You don’t need these companies. They only want to profit from the shame they hope you never lose. Let’s run away from this place now.

But they weren’t there to hear me say that, and I wasn’t there to “save” everyone (something I have to remind myself of regularly). Most of these people would probably be shocked and horrified of my blithe use of the word “fat” as a non-judgmental body size descriptor. Fat, in this space, was something bad…something to be cured, no matter what the cost.

Instead I listened to Tiffany’s excellent talk, very excited to hear a HAES dietitian present anti-diet ideas to this group that were probably quite novel for them. One person even thanked her for not giving the usual food-fear talk.

This is how seeds get planted – one stealth anti-diet talk at a time. I left with more hope than despair for the future.

PS – Thank you to Tiffany for getting me a complimentary ticket to her talk – I could not, in good conscience, have paid any money to this diet industry debacle. (and she didn’t get paid by them, either)

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