Thoughts on "Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age"

Thursday, August 10, 2017. Author Martin Cheifetz

Martin Cheifetz-Kayaking in Queenstown

Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age is a fabulously written article, from one of my all-time favorite publications, The New York Times Magazine. It offers an insightful historical overview of the diet industry, features one of the people I most admire (Oprah Winfrey), and even covers one of my favorite time-capsule curios…..looking at old magazine advertisements.

Despite hitting all the right notes, the article makes me rather sad. Clearly writing from the heart and with a lifetime of direct experience, the author poignantly portrays her struggles with body image, her difficult relationship with food, and her weight loss failures.  Based on the size of the diet industry and the abundance of reader’s comments on her article, the author is clearly not alone in her suffering.

One of the many notable points she makes in her story is that the new Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of Weight Watchers is a psychologist.  Sadness, struggle, and torment are unfortunate and recurring themes among people with long-term weight or body image issues, so it’s interesting to see how the largest player in the weight loss industry is positioning itself, especially since:  “In Weight Watchers’ own research, the average weight loss in any behavior-modification program is about a 5 percent reduction of body weight after six months, with a return of a third of the weight lost at two years.  Weight Watchers may be a tremendously successful business, but their customers don’t seem to be getting much joy.

One surprising omission in this otherwise very thorough article is the role genetics plays in appetite, weight management, and body composition. In a stark contrast to the Weight Watchers model, our CSO and co-founder, Dr. Samantha Decombel is a Ph.D. geneticist.  One of the many genes she and her team analyze is FTO, aka, “The Fat Gene”.  In a recently published interview in Functional Sports Nutrition magazine, Dr. Decombel states:

We’ve been conducting our own research on the effect of the FTO ‘fat’ gene in our customer population, which has yielded some surprising and very interesting results. FTO is a gene that has proven in numerous studies to have a significant effect on weight gain, yet in our cohort its effects were completely absent. In our group, it appears that higher physical activity (especially HIIT) and improved cognitive restraint in FTO ‘high risk’ individuals may reduce, and even eliminate genetic predisposition to weight gain. We are using this novel research to make even better recommendations for our customers. It is possible to fight back against your genes!

As a company, we are working hard every day to combat the obesity epidemic with data driven science, groundbreaking research, and peer-reviewed analysis from leading universities. We have received a UK government grant to continue our research into genetics and obesity and are completely committed to helping people achieve their body composition goals.

So what’s next?

Firstly, I have written to the author of this excellent New York Times Magazine article in the hope that she will allow us to help her.  As it has happened so many times before, we have helped people succeed where every other diet has failed them.  

Secondly, going back to Oprah….according to the author of this story, She (Oprah) told me she doesn’t care if she’s never skinny again. She cares that she feels as if she has control As one final thought in this blog post, I’ll quote another of our co-founders, Dr. Dan Reardon in a recent radio interview:

Never Too Late for Fitness Radio:  There are countless stories of women having multiple diet failures and then blaming themselves even though it's not really their fault...they were trying the wrong plan and it wasn't a matter of effort or motivation, it was a matter of following the wrong road map.  

Dr. Dan:  Absolutely, and the general consensus is that 95% of people who are on diets fail.  However, what is actually true is that 95% diets fail the people following them.

They fail because they're not following a diet based on their needs; they're following a diet based on some random hype that they found in the media or that a friend of theirs is following.  

When people commit to personalized diet, they’ll understand that certain things that happened in the past are out of their control, but now that they understand their genetics, they can actually take control, and it's incredibly empowering.

Thirdly, based on the similarity between these two statements, I shall now do my best to get in touch with Oprah!

P.S.  In case you’re wondering “what’s up” with the photo selection for this story: a)  I couldn’t reuse any of the images/illustrations from the NY Times Magazine article.  b) I then spent >2 hours sifting through numerous image banks trying to find a "situationally appropriate" image of a human that wasn’t too big, too fit, too happy, too sad; too good looking, too unpleasant or a representation of a dietary struggle that wasn’t too staged or cheesy. c) I then spent another hour looking for “fit couples exercising outside” as a general “feel good” pic and then repeated the whole spiral of this person is too big, too fit, too good looking, too staged etc.  d) Ultimately, I ended up with a picture of myself, exercising outdoors, portraying my aggressive battle against the aging process and my genetics.  For the record….I have the AA variation of the FTO gene (i.e. I’m genetically predisposed to be fat). Like so many people in our FitnessGenes ecosystem, I’ve overcome the fat gene using the methods that Drs. Decombel and Reardon describe above.

P.P.S:  I am going to repost this blog on our Facebook page (dated August 9th).  Feel free to comment there, or get in touch with me directly at or at

If you enjoyed this article, please check out my other FitnessGenes blogs:

Media commentary:

Lifting the psychological burden of weight loss

What do you have in common with pro-athletes and their coaches

Caffeine sensitivity, appetite control and succeeding on a diet

Weight loss by the numbers

How to beat the fat gene and combat the worldwide obesity epidemic

Savings, Longevity, and the Year in Fitness


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