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Extreme Measures

I know that many diets have been popular over the years, but looking at some of the examples in a recent article on, I was astonished all over again at the extreme measures some people are willing to take in an attempt to lose weight.

For instance, I didn’t know that Lucky Strike created an ad campaign in 1925 to leverage the fact that cigarettes are an appetite suppressant. The ad suggested, “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”. Admittedly the company may not have realized the long-term implications of cigarettes at that time, but even now, some people don’t want to give up smoking because they might gain weight. In other words, the stigma associated with smoking, plus the significant health concerns, is still somehow better than putting on a few pounds.

A new one to me was the Sleeping Beauty approach, perhaps because I’m not an Elvis fan. The idea is that if you go under sedation for days at time, you’ll lose weight simply because you won’t be consuming any calories. Which is true, although what happens when you wake up? Certainly you’ll start eating again, and are likely to gain the weight back. And is it really worth giving up whole periods of your life to lose a few pounds?

Even more disturbing (to me, anyway) are attempts to use a tapeworm to lose weight. According to one article, it is possible that you’d lose weight. But you’ll also lose health, and possibly brain functioning, sight, and your life. So probably not the best approach, since even if you lose weight, you clearly won’t be able to enjoy that fact.

Admittedly most diets aren’t quite this extreme, but the fact that these even exist is a painful reminder of how we regard obesity. Is this really the message we want to send, especially to our young people, that our health and our lives are worth risking in order to achieve some ideal weight?

It certainly wouldn’t be my choice. Rather, I would advocate for something like weight-blindness, so that people could see each other for who they are, not what they weigh. I know we’re a long ways from such a world, nor do I know if we’ll ever achieve it, but it seems like a better direction to go than these various efforts that, ultimately, only result in more pain.

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