True Life: Weight Loss Is More Important Than Health

Last night I watched the new episode of True Life [I’m Addicted to Food] on MTV… and my mind was just blown in a very bad way. Alisha, the first woman featured on the show, sees a therapist who put her on DIET PILLS (the Alli Diet) while treating her for a food addiction.

Now, I totally get the logic behind the diet part since she needs to learn how to scale back her consumption as a part of getting control over her addiction… but diet pills? How the fuck is that healthy!? (Here’s a clue: its not. Its not healthy, nor is there a reason why it needs to be a part of her recovery.)

Here's some more information for you... that 50% claim? Not the least bit true according to actual studies. Keep reading to find out even more!

Alli: Health Risks

“In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received reports of serious liver injury in people using orlistat and began a safety review. At this time, no definite association has been established between orlistat and the risk of liver injury. However, if you take Alli be sure to contact your doctor if you experience signs and symptoms, such as weakness or fatigue, fever, jaundice, or brown urine, which could indicate liver injury.”

“Alli is taken with fat-containing meals, up to three times a day. Because of how Alli works, it’s recommended that you eat no more than 15 grams of fat with each meal. Eating greater amounts of fat can cause unwanted effects, such as urgent bowel movements, diarrhea and gas with oily spotting.”

“Alli can help you lose weight, but the weight loss likely won’t be great — perhaps just a few pounds more than you would lose with diet and exercise alone. […] Alli could conceivably result in an average of 3 to 5 pounds lost in a year in addition to the approximately 8 pounds you could expect to lose from diet and exercise alone.”

Source: Mayo Clinic

This directly contrasts with the second woman’s therapist, who tried to send her to Overeaters Anonymous and then eventually got her into an outpatient rehab program where they talked about her emotions and the reasons why she eats from both a mental standpoint and a physical standpoint (how the substances she takes in – mostly glucose – trigger her brain to crave more food.) They also gave this woman a diet plan, but it seemed to be one that focused on getting healthy rather than losing weight (as evidenced by the detailed explanations of why she needed to cut out certain foods and the lack of an unnecessary diet pill.)

Now I know we don’t see the whole picture for either of these women, so I don’t feel comfortable extrapolating more… maybe Alisha got a lot of emotional support as well and I just missed it, but I still wanted to put this up here as just another piece of evidence of America’s obsession with weight-loss above all else. In this scenario we see someone who is supposed to be looking after someone’s physical and mental health put her on a diet geared towards “easy” weight loss (that actually doesn’t work significantly better than a pill-less diet plan) as opposed to delving into the issues related to her food addiction… an addiction that she acknowledges and describes on her own.

Luckily Alisha seems to understand this, and has made it her focus instead of the diet…

“I’m not really on the Alli diet anymore but I take the lessons that the system taught me and continue to apply them to my decisions–any time I need help, it’s always there for me. I don’t keep up on my weight as much as I used to because it just adds stress, but when I have it checked it goes either way: no consistent weight loss or gain, and I’m okay with that. I still want so badly to kick my addiction and that will be my focus. So as long as I’m an addict, that will be the concern–not my weight.”

(Source: MTV Blog)

Even if Alli was a magic pill, and this woman wound up skinny in days (the wrap-up at the end lets us know that she lost two pants sizes!) unless she got mental health support, along with the magic-pill, she’d still be addicted to food and, thus, would still be needing help. The thought that thin = healthy is not foolproof and needs to be challenged in our cultures ASAP because this is what happens when it isn’t.

4 thoughts on “True Life: Weight Loss Is More Important Than Health

  1. I also watched this episode today and was initially taken aback at the statement that her therapist put her on Alli. As someone who has struggled both with food issues and alcohol addiction (9 months sober from alcohol, still working on the food part), I’m familiar with different approaches to recovery. I felt similarly as you do, at first…that this girl needs to address the issues and emotions that are causing her to overeat and binge, or the real problem will not be resolved, even if she does get thin.

    I got to thinking, though…quite a few people that I’ve met in 2+ years with my recovery group have used a drug called Antabuse to quit drinking and I think that may be how the therapist had intended Alli to be used in this case.

    Antabuse causes severe negative physical reactions if the person taking it consumes alcohol. It generally is meant to be used in addition to either behavioral therapy or a support group, something of that sort, because it doesn’t address any of the underlying reasons a person is drinking in the first place. For some people, it’s a very helpful form of aversion to help them stop drinking (though doesn’t seem to be successful in the long-term for people who don’t use some other form of support also.)

    I do wonder, though, if Alli could be used in a similar way for a binge-eater, and believe that may have been the intention of the therapist. After all, anal leakage is a pretty compelling side effect.

    Thought-provoking post!

  2. Thanks for your comment! I hadn’t though about it that way before, but your perspective is really interesting. I hope that was the therapists reasoning behind recommending Alli because, even though the potential damaging side effects still worry me, at least then it would have been about more than just weight loss. I wish MTV had allowed the therapist to elaborate on this more so we could know for sure!

  3. A friend of mine was on Alli for a little while. She was no where near overweight and was barely above the normal weight for a girl of her age and height, but her mother was obsessed with her being skinny and forced her to be on it. From what she told me, what the pill essentially does is take all of the fats and oils that you intake and passes them straight through your body before it has a chance to absorb them. So basically, any time you eat something fatty or oily, the pill forces you to immediately go through painful and embarrassing diarrhea to expel the fat, which I guess could be compared to the negative feedback that Antabuse has on alcohol drinkers.

  4. Thanks for the points shared using your blog. Yet another thing I would like to mention is that weight reduction is not supposed to be about going on a dietary fads and trying to get rid of as much weight as possible in a few days. The most effective way to lose weight is by using it slowly but surely and using some basic suggestions which can make it easier to make the most from a attempt to slim down. You may understand and already be following a few of these tips, although reinforcing expertise never damages.

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