The destruction of the “health-industrial complex”, episode at a time



Aubrey Gordon collects vintage diet books. It has garnered nearly 100 titles, including the 1973 volume “Weight Loss,” written by Johnny Carson’s associate Ed McMahon. “Weight Loss” – which included chapters such as “The Conspiracy of Bread Bread” and “Two Martinis in Connecticut” – is the book that marked the beginning of Mrs. Gordon’s collection.

And while today the idea of ​​mixology as a nutrition strategy may seem absurd to the reader, Ms. Gordon said that so much of the current thinking about what is now known as recovery is just as “fun and silly”.

In the “Maintenance Phase” podcast, named after the concept of sustainable post-diet weight loss, Ms. Gordon and journalist Michael Hobbs each episode explore what they call “health and industrial complex”, Debunking whims of health and nutrition tips.

While health, weight, and well-being are important issues, much of what Americans understand about them is actually hollow marketing, Mr. Hobbes said.

“Most of us are sure we understand these health issues, but don’t realize that we are literally just belching what we saw in a Nike commercial,” Mr. Hobbes added. “Wellness is the perfect conclusion to that. Many things related to recovery are just rebranding or incorrectly generated data sent to us by the company. “

Ms Gordon said recovery has two definitions: one is a new language used by weight loss companies who have realized that “diet is less popular than it used to be,” and the other lives on as a very amorphous term that we attach to everything different. “

“Vitamin companies sell wellness products,” Ms. Gordon said. “Mattress companies sell wellness. Now your work has a wellness program. It’s kind of seen as this indisputable way to talk about health. “

The show is number 1 in the health and fitness category in Apple podcasts. Episodes of the investigation obesity epidemic and problematic body mass index history led the podcast to the first million downloads in the app for listening last month.

Since the podcast began in October 2020, hosts have explored popular diet products, for example SnackWell cookies,, Moon juice and Halo Top Ice Cream (this is the 2010 response to SnackWell, Ms. Gordon said in this episode). They are deeply immersed in the prevention of fat, eating disorders and the role played by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Oprah Winfrey in the weight loss industry. They also researched popular diets, for example keto,, Weight watchers,, celery juice and a master of purification (“You mostly drink very tart, very spicy sugar water,” Ms. Gordon said). One episode even explored how the search for good health can lead people to QAnon and other conspiracy theories.

In the introductory episode of the show, the hosts talk about how few podcasts aimed at health are skeptical of well-being. For Ms. Gordon’s 37th her skepticism grew out of her personal experience of “more than 20 years of direct dieting and basically staying the same size”.

“Being a fat lady and striving to do all that a full woman should do led me,” Ms. Gordon said. “I did everything and it didn’t give the result I was promised, you know, most of my life. And I also see how other people who have spent most of their lives looking for this promise also don’t understand what will happen. At some point you have to go, well, maybe it just doesn’t work. “

For Mr. Hobbes, 39, who did extensive reports of obesity, observation of the mother’s struggle led to an interest in weight fixation.

“It was like it’s defining in my childhood that she was always on some sort of completely nutty, unstable diet,” Mr. Hobbes said. “She always tried very hard, for example, swimming five times a week and eating a bowl of carrots. The discourse around obesity has always been similar to the fact that they don’t put in enough effort. I know other people who try very hard and they don’t succeed. “

The program presents “relatively radical ideas on the issue,” Mr. Hobbes said, but still tries to avoid alienating listeners. One way to do this is for the hosts to turn the story over on themselves, to adopt the themes and ideas with which they have personal experience.

“At some point we will make the CBD,” Ms. Gordon said. “I was a CBD person, and my own research will make me feel uncomfortable. It feels important to the show and it’s important to me as a person to be like we’re really over no one. We are no smarter than that. We are not better than that. “

Ms. Gordon and Mr. Hobbes said they have received many positive reviews, but the emails they receive from researchers and doctors are some of the most significant.

Lisa DuBray, a clinical social worker at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, also runs a private practice in Salem, Massachusetts. It uses weight based on weight Health of any size approach with its clients, which include people with substance use disorders, eating disorders, mental health problems and those who have had problems after weight loss surgeries and chronic diet.

She heard about the “Service Phase” on social media and became a regular listener. She doesn’t hear anything she doesn’t know yet, but said she likes how the show makes these topics more accessible and “very enjoyable to listen to”.

“The opportunity to own such resources and receive information in a fascinating, interesting, but also very factual way is great,” said Ms. DuBray, who is being cured of an eating disorder.

Ms. DuBreuil added that the ideas and research on the “Maintenance Phase” are concepts that many women, people of color and LGBTQ groups have been talking about for over 20 years, but “it’s nice to see new people discovering this.”

Caitlin MacDonald, administrator of a nonprofit organization in Salt Lake City, said that when she started listening to the show, it felt like she was being seen for the first time.

“It was just a kind of revelation,” she said. “It was such a relief to be in a space where I was talked about as a person and not as a figure or a statistic.”

Scott Cave, who lives with his wife and baby in the Appalachian Mountains area of ​​Virginia, is a history researcher and father who stays at home. He started listening to “The Maintenance Phase” after learning about it in another podcast by Mr. Hobbes, “You are wrong. As a person with a doctorate in history, Mr Cave said he appreciated the way the podcast explored and evaluated the original sources so that it was fun.

In an episode about the obesity epidemic, the show outlined some of the consequences of weight stigma, including delayed medical care due to doctors ’fears. This caused a resonance in Mr. Cave: one day, after injuring his finger, he went to the emergency room clinic where he said he was told, “We don’t think your finger is broken. Maybe, but you are very fat, so you should probably deal with it. “

As a result, Mr. Cave said he has been ignoring the symptoms of his autoimmune disease for years, just to avoid another visit to the doctor. “So I left with a big swollen finger and a real blow to my self-esteem and relationship with the medical profession,” he said. “When they brought it up in the podcast, I realized, ‘Oh, yeah, I haven’t complained about my symptoms in a long time because they were wrapped in the shape of my body, in fat.’

The pandemic has only heightened America’s moral panic that has lasted for decades over obesity, Ms. Gordon said. But it also strengthened counter-narrative. She noticed more conversations about body positivity, and more health professionals spreading the message that “it’s actually okay when you gain weight while experiencing a pandemic.”

“It was a really fascinating moment when everyone was treating their own body image and their amazing beliefs about fat and health in such a public way.”

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