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Rilke off the Diet: You Must Change Your Life

America has faced an obesity epidemic for some time, leading to a thriving diet business.  But it turns out that dieting may be counterproductive.  More on this finding, and liposuction as a technology for the compression of discomfort into pain, below.

UCLA researchers have produced a meta-study to come to the following conclusions:

In 10 studies in which nutritional scientists tracked the weight of people who put themselves on any diet of their choosing . . . only one described lasting weight loss, two showed no long-term effect, and the remaining seven studies found that dieting led to weight gain in the long run.

In th[e best] study, the experimental subjects were kept on their low-calorie diets for 18 months without other weight-loss interventions (like medications, exercise, or even pep talks) and their weight was measured again a year after the diet ended. A comparison of the dieting subjects with the control group (who were, instead, placed on a waiting list for a diet) showed some weight loss a year post-diet, but it was disappointingly small: an average decrease of 3.75 pounds. The other six long-term studies (which were muddier because they included other interventions besides diet) showed similarly unimpressive results.

Slate writer Spiesel concludes that the “the hard fact is that [the overweight] should never stop dieting.”  In other words, as it stands, one must change one’s life in order to lose weight.

But there is a technological fix: the increasingly popular option of liposuction. On the policy side here, I’m pretty much with Naomi Wolf–it’s a terrible choice due to the pain and risks involved.  But as technology improves, it’s probable that those risks will subside.  Lipo may then accelerate as a technology for compressing the routine discomfort of diet-and-exercise into the intense pain of a single procedure and its aftermath.  And if the pain goes away, it just involves trading that diet-discomfort for money.

I’ve examined technology as a force for this new frontier commodification in a piece that will soon come out in the Minn. J. L. Sci. & Tech.; I’ll have it on SSRN soon. . . but I’m happy to email it to anyone interested in it now.