An open apology to all my weight loss clients

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I worked at a popular weight loss company for three years. I loved my job there. I loved my clients. I loved making a connection and sharing my knowledge.

My job was to be a weight loss consultant, and I learned that job very well. I can design a 1200-calorie meal plan, tell you which activities are most likely to make the number on the scale go down, and how many carbs are in a cup of rice.  I can talk the diet game like it's my business – because it was.

This is not an anti-weight loss company story (although I could write that too). Rather, it's a letter to each and every woman that I unknowingly wronged.

 

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Dear Former Weight Loss Clients,

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry because I put you on a 1200-calorie diet and told you that was healthy. I'm sorry because when you were running five times a week, I encouraged you to switch from a 1200-calorie diet to a 1500-calorie diet, instead of telling you that you should be eating a hell of a lot more than that.

I'm sorry because you were breastfeeding and there's no way eating those 1700 calories a day could have been enough for both you and your baby. I'm sorry because you were gluten-intolerant and so desperate to lose weight that you didn't put that on your intake form. But you mentioned it to me later, and I had no idea the damage you were doing to your body.

I'm sorry because I made you feel like a failure and so you deliberately left a message after the center had closed, telling me you were quitting. I thought you were awesome and gorgeous, and I'm sorry because I never told you that. I'm sorry because many of you had thyroid issues and the last thing you should have been doing was eating a gluten-filled, chemically-laden starvation diet. I'm sorry because by the time I stopped working there, I wouldn't touch that food, yet I still sold it to you.

I'm sorry because it's only years later that I realise just how unhealthy a 1200-calorie diet was. I stayed on a 1200-1500 calorie diet for years, so I have the proof in myself. Thyroid issues, mood swings, depression, headaches...oh and gluten-intolerance that seemed to "kick in" after about a month of eating the pre-packaged food. Was it a coincidence? Maybe.

I'm sorry because you had body dysmorphic disorder, and it was so painful to hear the things you said about yourself. You looked like a model, and all of my other clients were intimidated by you, asked me why you were there because clearly you didn't need to lose weight. And yet you would sit in my office and cry, appalled that a man might see you naked and be disturbed by the fat that didn't actually exist. I'm sorry because you should have been seeing a therapist, not a weight loss consultant.

I'm sorry because you were young and so beautiful and only there because your mother thought you needed to lose weight. And because there were too many of you like that. Girls who knew you were fine, but whose mothers pushed that belief out of you until you thought like she did. Until you thought there was something wrong with you. And the one time I confronted your mother, you simply got switched to a different consultant. I think I should have made more of a stink, but I didn't.

I'm sorry because every time you ate something you "shouldn't" or ate more than you "should," I talked about "getting back on the bandwagon." I cringe now every time someone uses that phrase. When did the way we eat become a bandwagon? When did everyone stop eating and become professional dieters? I'm sorry because I get it now. If you're trying to starve your body by eating fewer calories than it needs, of course it's going to fight back.

And it wasn't just the company feeding them to me. It was the doctors and registered dietitians on the medical advisory board. It was the media and magazines confirming what I was telling my clients. A palm-sized portion of lean chicken with half a sweet potato and a salad was plenty. No matter that you had "cravings" afterward.

Cravings are a sign of underlying emotional issues. Yeah, sure they are. I'm a hypnotherapist with a past history of binge eating disorder. I know cravings are a sign of underlying emotional issues. Except when they're not. Except when they're a sign that your body needs more food and you're ignoring it. Then they're a sign that your 1200-calorie diet is horseshit. Then they're a sign that you've been played.

And that's mostly why I'm sorry. Because I've been played for years, and so have you, and inadvertently, I fed into the lies you've been told your whole life. The lies that say that being healthy means nothing unless you are also thin. The lies that say that you are never enough, that your body is not a beautiful work of art, but rather a piece of clay to be molded by society's norms until it becomes a certain type of sculpture. And even then, it is still a work in progress.

So I'm sorry because when you walked in to get your meal plan, I should have told you that you were beautiful. I should have asked you how you felt. Were you happy? Did you feel physically fit? Were you able to play with your kids? There were so many of you who never needed to lose a pound, and some of you who could have gained some. And maybe sometimes I told you that. But not enough. Not emphatically. Because it was my job to let you believe that making the scale go down was your top priority. And I did my job well.

I am sorry because many of you walked in healthy and walked out with disordered eating, disordered body image, and the feeling that you were a "failure." None of you ever failed. Ever. I failed you. The weight loss company failed you. Our society is failing you.

Just eat food. Eat real food, be active, and live your life. Forget all the diet and weight loss nonsense. It's really just that. Nonsense.

And I can't stop it. But I can stop my part in it. I won't play the weight loss game anymore. I won't do it to my body, and I won't help you do it to yours. That's it. End game.

 

This is an edited extract of Iris Higgins' open letter to her former weight loss clients. The story originally appeared on yourfairyangel.com, republished with permission. Read the full story here

48 comments

  • I'm sorry that hunger, after eating inadequate portions on a 1220 calorie diet, was re-branded as "cravings". What a sad state of affairs. :(

    Commenter
    Red Pony
    Date and time
    October 28, 2013, 9:02AM
    • An excellent episode of Catalyst on ABC on Thurs 24th October exposes some of the science behind cholesterol, heart disease and the food pyramid. Worth watching if you have an interest in nutrition.

      Commenter
      Science is not always right
      Location
      Victoria
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 1:06PM
    • I'm sorry people get so obsessed they count calories or kilojoules as they should be called here.
      I'm sorry people get fat in the first place from eating junk food, guzzling on soft drink, eating continuously and wondering why they are obese.
      And then have a mountain of excuses. As for the old thyroid chestnut, if your medication is correct it won't make you fat. i know I have Hashimotos disease and lean.
      But then again I cook, eat healthy and in relation to how much exercise i do.
      look to your sugar, additive intake.
      And watch the latest series on Catlyst.

      Commenter
      Not fat
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 2:43PM
    • 2nd commenter,

      Thanks for that patronising little screed. I'll be sure to keep your advice in mind if I get end up overweight. I did enjoy your assumption that anyone who disagrees with the current body-shaming-is-a-means-to-weight-loss paradigm must be fat, though. I didn't realise that empathy was a function of BMI. But I guess in your case, both are on the slim side?

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 3:29PM
  • I quite enjoyed reading this. However, I think you are a bit hard on yourself and your (former) industry. For one thing, that skinny model-type could have gone to a therapist if she had wanted to. She came to a weight loss consultant instead. And providing psychological counselling was not your responsibility, nor were you qualified to offer it. Your job was making that non-existent fat even more non-existent.

    And, while I am sure you would have had some clients who genuinely had barriers to weight loss, or a deeply insecure body image, surely most of them were simply looking for a way to drop some kilos faster than they could by cutting out pastries and spendig more time at the gym? Isn't that what these sorts of programs are all about? I mean, I completely agree that it is unhealthy to eat low kilojpoule, pre-packed diet stodge indefinitely, but who does?

    In any event, I hope you find your next career more rewarding!

    Commenter
    AdamC
    Date and time
    October 28, 2013, 9:37AM
    • "The lies that say that being healthy means nothing unless you are also thin"
      "The lies that say that you are...a piece of clay to be molded by society's norms until it becomes a certain type of sculpture"

      What a beautiful piece of writing to start the week with! The 2 lines above, in particular, need to be shouted from the rooftops, over and over, until we drown out the haters responsible for these lies and for making so many women miserable for years of their lives.

      Commenter
      photondancer
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 9:58AM
      • A significant proportion of men too.

        Commenter
        trying low carb now...
        Date and time
        October 28, 2013, 12:55PM
      • " until we drown out the haters responsible "

        That would be the fashion and glamor so-called "industry", nothing has done more to make so many so miserable.

        Commenter
        JohnH
        Date and time
        October 28, 2013, 3:26PM
    • Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

      Commenter
      Bobo
      Date and time
      October 28, 2013, 10:01AM
      • +1 and preferably fresh and seasonal

        Commenter
        GAH
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        October 28, 2013, 1:58PM

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