30/04/2020 | 01:09:53
The 2019 Crappy Awards
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It’s WAY overdue, but the 2019 Crappy Awards are finally here! 2019 was a SH*TTY year of diet culture BS, with countless examples of gaslighting opportunism from profit hungry snake oil salesman. From fashion brands and Big “O” stealing body positivity, to medical negligence and library invasions, NOTHING is sacred to the weight loss wolves hungry to make a buck off body misery! Our listeners have gathered together the MOST loathsome examples of these bottom feeding b*stards in a magnificent rant-fest of epic proportions! If you’ve had a gutful of COVID19, tune in for some truly furious take downs of the weight loss industry! I strongly advise a large quarantini and headphones for this ep as the swear-o-meter is set to high! Featuring guest judge Alyssa, our carry over champ from the 2018 awards ceremony. Who will win???
Goodness me, we’re dealing with multiple layers of fear and uncertainty at this time. We’re going to get through this but bloody hell, what an absolute shit-fight. I hope you’re all staying safe, and that this episode and The Crappys give you a needed belly laugh.
Announcement! Why should we wait until the end of the year for The Crappys? For the rest of 2020, we’re going to ‘rant as you go’. If you hear something from diet culture that really gets your goat and gets your blood boiling, you can submit a rant to me anytime. While it’s fresh, do a quick recording - around two to three minutes – introduce yourself, rant about the thing that’s pissing you off, and send it to me as an .mp3 or .mp4 to email@example.com. I’ll save them up until the next Crappy Awards.
A warning for this episode – plenty of swearing!
And without further ado, I’m going to introduce the 2019 Crappy Awards! Grab a ‘quarantini’ and let’s rant about diet culture.
Alyssa won our previous Crappy Awards in 2018 with a brilliant rant about the ‘cookie diet’ and so joins us as a guest judge this year.
2019 was a huge year for crappy diet culture crap. Huge. And it’s seeped into 2020 – just a quagmire of shit to rake through to pick the crappiest of 2019.
Even as a non-competing judge, Alyssa couldn’t help but submit a rant herself. Alyssa nominates the book ‘How Not to Diet’ by Dr Michael Greger. It mentioned weight loss multiple times on just the cover blurbs, and the kicker – this book is about the “ideal weight-loss diet”. IDEAL WEIGHT-LOSS DIET. In a book called ‘how not to diet’. SERIOUSLY! “A timeless proactive approach that can stand up to any new trend” … even his own new trend? There’s too many of them! “Chock full of actionable advice and groundbreaking dietary research. ‘How Not to Diet’ will put an end to dieting and replace those constant weight-loss struggles with a simple, healthy, sustainable lifestyle”. We’ve got weight-loss, weight-loss, weight-loss, then ‘lifestyle’, hence a nomination for The Crappys.
Some consistency here with her 2018 winning rant objecting to being mansplained at with the ‘cookie diet’! Dr Michael Greger is another thin white male entering the ‘how not to diet’ space. Is this a joke? A how-not-to-diet-step-by-step-diet?
Alyssa has some judging criteria for the official 2019 entries – laugh factor, sarcasm factor, and WTF or ‘mind blown’ factor.
Entry #1 – from Anna Hearn, founder of Haven Wellness. It’s a unique fat-positive fitness and yoga studio in Sydney, Australia. Haven focuses on helping members build a compassionate relationship with their bodies which is very different to typical gym culture, and to build a resilience against diet culture out in the ‘real world’. Anna wants to rant about body positivity being co-opted for marketing purposes. Anna had a conversation with a friend who reiterated the idea that fashion brands use thin bodies because ‘that’s what sells’. But, remember campaigns like the Calvin Klein underwear ads that featured some bigger bodies, like rapper Chika? You might then think that you could go and buy Calvin Klein underwear in larger sizes – nope! Anna learned from clients that brands like Everlane and Urban Outfitters also use larger-bodied people in their advertising campaigns but then don’t carry those sizes for customers. So, they’ll use larger bodies in their campaigns but then won’t even let you buy those sizes. Profiting off body positivity while not taking care of larger bodies.
Brands want to jump on the bandwagon and profit from the body positivity movement without actually doing the work to create products for larger bodies.
Remember when Lorna Jane got in trouble for advertising for a receptionist who had to be a size zero? They then tried to use body positivity in their marketing campaigns, but then quickly went straight back to their regular marketing of tiny women.
Entry #2 – Belinda is here to talk about libraries. Belinda loves libraries! Sauntering into the 2020 display to find some new reads for herself, she was slapped in the face with a range of new-fangled diet books and health garbage. Why does this have to invade some of the safest spaces on the planet? Belinda used to live and breathe libraries as a child. Here’s an idea – put all of these lifestyle authors on ‘Diet Island’ where they can live out the Paleo dream! It’s hard to have all this rantiness and no power, but still we do our best. Belinda urges everyone to vote out these books and instead borrow Christy Harrison’s book ‘Anti-Diet’ – ask your library to get it in! Keep the booky places happy and booky. Libraries are where we play, read, learn, expand our minds – not contract our lives!
High sarcasm levels on that rant! So many beautiful mic-drop phrases as well. It’s a rare gift to be able to simultaneously rile someone up and make them laugh, but that’s what just happened for Louise with Belinda’s rant.
Entry #3 – from Caroline White, the president of HAES Australia, nominating Big Pharma for co-opting the concept of weight stigma for their own purposes. In 2018 we ended on a bit of a high, with the senate committee into the ‘o’ epidemic in Australia recommending the need to eradicate weight stigma from public health campaigns, and for health professionals to understand weight stigma better. During the year, Carolynne had the opportunity to have a conversation with someone from ‘Obesity Inc’. They talked about weight stigma during that conversation, and they said that their reason for addressing weight stigma was that it was a BARRIER TO WEIGHT LOSS TREATMENTS OR WEIGHT MANAGEMENT. To that I say “no, no, no, Novo Nordisk!” You do not get to coopt the concept of weight stigma that fat activisms, fat studies and feminist scholars and other social science researchers have been studying over decades for your own financial gain. You do not get to fund expensive research studies that are weight-biased and partner with cash-strapped public health organizations to push an agenda to have a body size classified as a chronic disease. This contributes to weight stigma and reinforces the notion that weight is under an individual’s control, if not by diet and exercise but now through medication and surgery, which is fantastic for your profit margins but from a public health perspective is horrendous. It risks people receiving treatment that is expensive, unnecessary, and associated with harmful side-effects. Weight stigma is common in our society and studies suggest it is increasing. Part of the reason why it’s increasing is because of the studies that you’re funding. The solution to weight stigma is not to make people in larger bodies smaller. Weight stigma is a social justice problem that needs social solutions. That’s why in HAES Australia’s response to the national ‘O’ strategy consultation, we’ve called for weight inclusive policy that recognizes size diversity and supports the physical, mental and social health and wellbeing of all people across the weight spectrum. We also argued for including physical features as a protected characteristic under human rights legislation, and health promotion and disease prevention policy and guidelines to be free from influence from treatment industries that profit from framing body weight as a disease. Thank you to everyone who filled out the public surveys for this ‘o’ strategy in Australia – it must have come at a cost to many in a world of weight stigma.
Well done, Carolynne! Riled us up perfectly. The mention of Novo Nordisk prompted a HUGE wine sip from Louise. Louise calls Carolynne the ‘velvet hammer’ for sending out messages perfectly with calm and rationality. Big Pharma pretending to care about weight stigma, and brands pretending to care about larger bodies, is the theme of The Crappys for 2019 so far. It’s mind-blowing to think that there are humans out there who are actually behind that, who feel morally that there is nothing wrong with it.
Louise also wants to thank everyone who answered the HAES Australia call-out to take part in that Australian ‘o’ strategy survey. There was weight stigma hidden in every corner of it.
Entry #4 – Jo is an anti-diet Registered Dietitian in the UK doing their very best to spread this message with the blog and website antidietanswers.com and on Instagram. The diet culture demon that’s up Jo’s nose is January wellness challenges! The 30-day challenges that promise you will be a whole new person by the end of the month. You know – Veganuary, Whole30, burpee challenges, ‘grow a bum by the end of January’ challenges, you know the type. There’s two reasons Jo is so pissed by these, and the first is the word ‘challenge’. A challenge is defined as ‘a call to participate in a competitive situation to decide who is superior in terms of ability or strength’. So, by their nature, if you take on one of these challenges and you can’t handle it, you are by definition less able, weak. These challenges are dangerous for our mental health because they set up that dichotomous thinking – all or nothing. And you might not have even wanted to try being vegan, you just felt pressure from others on social media! It’s diet culture masquerading as wellness yet again.
There’s been lots of these challenges popping up on social media feeds, not even just January now! Seems like every charity is jumping on the bandwagon asking us to give up something or continue using something. Louise saw one where you’re not allowed to drink any water! ‘Report ad’, we’ve had enough. You could almost get a repetitive strain injury from pressing ‘block and report’ on Instagram these days.
Loved Jo’s point about a challenge meaning looking for someone superior. There was a beautiful pause for effect at the start there – she’s definitely nailing the delivery. And rage in an Irish accent is awesome! (Was it Irish? Sorry if we’re wrong, Jo!). It’s awesome to know that there’s people all over the world pushing back and not taking this bullshit anymore.
Entry #5 from ‘Anonymous’. Three things. The first one is: qualified dietitians with a public profile who should know better - posting things like ‘detox soup’ recipes in the middle of January. It’s the same old recipe that my Grandmother would have cooked. Who wants soup in January? Give me a break. The second one is a real doozy from a Facebook mum’s group, where someone asked how to make a complaint about a doctor. She has a family history of breast cancer and went to the doctor to ask about the BRCA genetic test and instead got a lecture from the doctor about her weight and how she “needs to go and lose some weight to protect herself from cancer”. Are you fucking kidding me? So, that’s the second one – medical professionals who just blow my head off with their bullshit. And the third one is marketing themselves as a weight-loss thing in my area. For just under $800 you can go to a two-day hypnotherapy-for-weight-loss seminar where your weight troubles will be gone forever. I have a few acquaintances that have done this, and it comes with a ridiculously restrictive diet. On the website it has things like “what’s the cost of not attending?” – “the cost of not attending: nothing will change. You’ll continue down the same frustrating road that you’re on now. Are you sick and tired of that yet?”. It’s a bunch of infuriating gaslighting bullshit. So, that’s my trifecta of misery. Stuff diet culture!
Phew! It’s like we’ve gone past rage and into eye-of-the-hurricane-calm, because there was just so much crap in that entry. A fucking dietitian selling detox soup? They should know better. They should be reported to the DAA and not be able to do that with their public profile. Numbing is an interesting response, like we have to shut down because “what the actual fuck?”. Alyssa remembers once making a horrendous raw broccoli soup and doesn’t even know what was possessing her at the time, but it was one of those weird January things. It ended up being a turning point because it was so awful. Australia in January is too hot for soup!
It’s so important to get an early diagnosis for breast cancer, and the weight stigma observed here is a reason that people can end up dying of breast cancer (and other conditions and diseases). Absolutely awful.
Louise went in and found the hypnotherapy two-day rip-off event online and now has a special place in hell reserved for them. This might end up being a special episode of All Fired Up! Gosh, it must be so hard to have people in your life who are taking part in stuff like this. The person who did this rant is not alone – so many of us have people in our lives who are taking part in diet culture. We know there’s big power in groups (i.e. cults) and you’re more vulnerable when you’re starving – it’s deliberate.
Hypnotherapy for ‘weight loss’ doesn’t work. Don’t pay them any money, report them to the ACCC for this bullshit.
Entry #6 from Mandy-Lee Noble, Accredited Practicing Dietitian from Nourished Approach in Queensland. You might think Mandy-Lee would nominate a pharmaceutical group as she’s been investigating this with Louise, but instead wants to take this opportunity to talk about a different aspect of diet culture that’s got her fired up. It’s a fad diet called the hCG diet. HCG stands for ‘human chorionic gonadotropin’ hormone, that we produce during pregnancy to sustain a foetus. It mobilizes energy to provide energy to the foetus while someone’s pregnant. The diet was developed by Dr Albert Theodore William Simeons in his 1954 book ‘Pounds and Inches’ and he also published an article about it in The Lancet. So, what do you do? You inject the hCG hormone (or use an oral spray that doesn’t work at all) every day for eight weeks in conjunction with a really rigid 500 calorie diet, with claims that you’ll lose quite a lot of weight every week from areas such as the stomach where people often wish to lose weight. But, due to the hormone, the claim is that you won’t experience the irritability and hunger that you would generally experience with weight loss, and that the weight would stay off. But when you look at the protocol and see the recommendations for when you start to plateau or gain back weight, they’re so rigid. It also recommends going completely ‘oil free’ including any oils in your makeup products. Since the 50’s there have been a dozen studies that found that it absolutely doesn’t work, and the FDA had to put out a disclaimer in the 1970’s saying that it’s not tested for safety and doesn’t work. It regained popularity when good old Dr Oz promoted it on his television show. What really pissed me off about this diet is that I know some people who have followed it, because it was prescribed by an actual GP. An AHPRA registered GP. There are GP’s and pharmacists actually pushing this diet in Australia.
Another glass of wine for Louise! Bloody hell. Dr Oz?! GP’s?! Did they learn about this from Dr Oz, because that’s seriously concerning. Louise has also had clients whose doctors have recommended the hCG diet to them. Unbelievable. 500 calories a day is just so low, such a brutal level of calorie restriction. REPORT YOUR GP if they try to prescribe this extremely dangerous, ineffective, damaging diet. This could kill people. This is restriction on a whole new level, it’s very unsafe and totally unreasonable. AND it’s fuck-off expensive.
Entry #7 – from Martina Zangger, a 58-year old lecturer at the University of Newcastle in health behaviour sciences. Martina is very pissed off and wants to rant about a diet called Bright Line Eating™ (BLE). It’s run by a woman called Susan Pearce Thompson who has almost become a guru and has tens of thousands of followers – mostly women in their just-pre- and post- menopausal years. The program is an eight-week bootcamp that costs $900 USD, which is probably about 13-1400 Australian dollars. It’s a diet based on no sugar, no flour, measuring meals, no snacks, and weighing everything. You become extremely hangry and Martina developed orthorexia and almost developed Anorexia when she was on it. Martina is fired up about paying a lot of money to this woman Susan Pearce Thompson who is a neuropsychologist and should have known better. The idea is that flour and sugar are addicting and you can’t have anything with those ingredients in it. Being on the diet made Martina a not-very-nice person who thought she was superior to other people. She was supported by the BLE community in thinking she WAS special and that she had found ‘the answer’. The weight regain that happened afterwards was quite disheartening, however she’s now two years out of that diet and feels so much happier. She does accept her larger body and enjoys all foods, enjoys sharing foods with friends and family, and is SO ANGRY at Susan Pearce Thompson and that stupid Bright Line Eating movement. Susan must be making about three million American dollars per year with all of her programs. So that’s the rant – sending everyone love and the hope that they can walk away from diet culture and embrace their natural bodies.
No one is taking our Tim Tams! No one is taking our flour or our sugar. That was heartbreaking. We’re feeling for Martina. This flour-sugar bullshit is based on the food addiction models. There’s no such thing as food addiction! There IS such thing as an increased response to restraint, which is what happens when people try to restrict certain things – you will develop an unnatural drive relationship with that substance not because of restriction but because of restraint.
How do these people sleep at night? They must be in this little bubble, either a numbing bubble or one where they have no freaking idea. Or … one full of cash? And surrounded by people who worship them because of that money and say positive stuff to them. We’re in a place in diet culture where weight loss at all costs is worshiped. Poor Martina ended up with an eating disorder that she paid dearly for, financially and psychologically. We’re in a new decade now and no one should have to fall for this bullshit, no matter how it’s packaged and sold. It’s dangerous stuff.
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time out of their day to record a rant and send it in here to push back. These are really meaningful acts of rebellion, and we’re loving it. We’re riding a big wave of emotion – mostly rage, and a bit of heartbreak.
Judging time! Let’s run back briefly through the candidates. First, we had Anna from Haven, who was fired up about body positivity being co-opted by marketing and was talking about Calvin Klein. Then we had Belinda, and she was talking about our libraries being infiltrated by diet and wellness books, and she was going to bring forth all the rage of Harry Potter (which Louise loved). Then we had Carolynne White, president of HAES Australia, ranting about how Big Pharma are pushing to get ‘largeness’ classified as a disease so they can sell drugs for weight loss. We have no words. And then we had the lovely Joanne and her beautiful rage and rant about 30-day challenges like Veganuary. Then we had our anonymous trifecta of misery, about dietitians and their detox teas, doctors prescribing weight loss instead of providing responsible medical care, and the hypnotherapist with the completely rip-off seminar on extremely low calorie diets. Again, no words. Then we had Mandy-Lee Noble with the hCG diet, and then Martina ending us on a real low point with the Bright Lines Eating evilness. What a totally Crappy line-up.
OH my goodness, what is wrong with health professionals? This is gut-wrenching. We know from weight research that the vast majority of weight stigmatizing messaging comes from health professionals.
We have shitty themes from health professionals, bullshit co-opting of body positive trends by the weight loss industry, and then we have just the real evil fuckery.
Alyssa wants to give a special mention to Belinda for making her laugh-cry.
Alyssa’s shortlist is Carolynne, the Anonymous submission, and Mandy (can’t get past those bloody injections!). And she’s kind of changed her criteria – how much rage came up in her while listening to the rant, and how much rage came through from the entrant. And there’s a kind of ‘mind-blown’ factor. Louise recalls learning about the ‘dry fast’ on Instagram (because ‘drinking water is an addiction’), and then finding a dude-bro drinking his own urine, and how those moments are a real ‘lowering the bar’, ‘going down another level’ experience. Never say never in diet culture.
And the winner is (drumroll please) … Mandy-Lee Noble with the hCG diet! Bloody GP’s that are promoting it despite the FDA saying it’s a waste of freaking time. And the oil-free makeup thing! Jeez. Congratulations, Mandy-Lee!
There’s a $100 cash prize this year, which seems like nothing after everything we’ve been talking about! Someone as awesome as Mandy-Lee will put it to good use.
Alyssa is excited to pass on the crown to Mandy-Lee and move forward to ‘rage on’ in 2020. The mantle has been passed to someone of extreme strength of character, rage and sarcasm. Thank you, Alyssa, for holding us steady through the bullshit of 2019.
And thank you to everybody who sent in these rants! It’s a beautiful thing to hear the rage, the push-back, the ferocity that everyone has displayed. Louise would give everyone first-place.
Who would have thought ranting about diet culture would be a pleasant diversion from the rest of our lives during COVID-19? Please look after yourself and your families and loved ones, even if that has to be virtual for now.