My Love/Hate Relationship with the National Weight Control Registry

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on November 8, 2010 at 8:48 am

For me, and I’d love to know whether this goes for other maintainers, one of the things that keeps me from eating with abandon during the holiday season is the impending spring survey from the National Weight Control Registry.  Once a year, Aprilish, we know we’ll be called to account.   (Question:   Since accountability is a recognized precept of weight loss and maintenance, does the implied accountability of the NWCR process corrupt the organization’s own data?  Hmmmmm.  A ponderable for another day.)

Most years it’s the short form:  Have you gained?  Have you lost?  Have you maintained?  How do you feel about that on a scale of one to five (or is it ten)?  The scientists define “maintaining” as not gaining more than five pounds in a single year.  I have ranked their highest success category for all the five years I have participated.  I have been “maintaining” loss for more than seven years and regained ten pounds in that time, but never a full five in one year.   So, with mixed feelings, I accept their mantle and call myself a “success,” though some days I question that.

Some years, it’s the long form where we fill in pages of ovals with a number two pencil and try to break down our weekly food intake into the scientists’ categories.  We try our best to parse the soups and stir fries we’ve eaten into their component parts.  The scientists don’t ask us about the quality of our food – how much is organic, etc.  – just the quantity.  We also quantify and categorize our exercise routines.  We tell them how often we weigh ourselves and that, yes, we still eat breakfast, and at what time.  Then we answer true/false to an array of confusing “psychological” questions.  This section makes me feel horribly guilty, because I find I must answer “false” to questions that are half true and “true” to questions that are half false.  Most just don’t lend themselves to simple true or false answers, so I resign myself to how I think I think “mostly.”  Mostly?  Depends on the day.  They appear to be trying to figure out whether we’re disordered.  If they’d just ask, “Are you disordered?” – I’d  tell them:  probably, some days.

The scientists do NOT ask our input as to what WE think they should be studying, so I take it upon myself to be, er, helpful.  Sometimes I include my suggestions in hand-written notes with the survey.  Other times, I believe three times now, I have been possessed to write letters.  If you were to hand an NWCR scientist a #2 pencil, no doubt he or she would burn a hole in the “true” oval next to “Debra Sapp-Yarwood is a flaming, fuming crackpot.”  (Then I hope he or she would feel a bit guilty, since those adjectives may only be half true.)

Well, I missed the one year anniversary of last year’s letter to the NWCR.  It was dated November 5th, 2009, and it is the only letter I’ve sent that was summarily ignored.  In one letter I’d requested a blog where NWCR participants might support one another.  Paraphrased answer:  We cannot provide you a blog; that would corrupt our data.  Why don’t you start one of your own.  (Good idea!)  In another I asked for more precise data regarding the long-term success rate of diets, something that spans outward more than five years and is empirical in nature.  Those of us past the five-year point could benefit from that data.  Answer:  That would be good information to have.  Our work supports that.   (No commitments.)  Last year, I got a little more wordy, but every word was heart-felt. 

Maybe you can tell me why they didn’t respond.  I addressed the letter to a scientist by name, it got passed to another (I was told in a nonresponse type response), then it died.  I followed up by phone a few months later.  Still no response.  I followed up recently by email, and after some exchange, the scientist abruptly cut off email replies to me.  I will protect that scientist’s identity.  I suspect he was instructed by a supervisor NOT to respond.  But why?  What do you think?

Dear Specific Scientist at the National Weight Control Registry:

The developed world owes the NWCR a debt.  It has been no mean feat to describe, quantitatively, the behavior of the winners in our society’s most poignant struggle. Thank you.  However, I suspect the most significant fact about me as a weight-loss maintainer is not that I eat breakfast or weigh myself daily.  Recently you have started using an MRI machine to look at the brains of maintainers, and I think that’s a step in the right direction.  My plea, this year, is that you explore other empirical measurements, and consider asking us more pressing questions.  Hire additional scientists, if necessary. 

For example, ascertain what KIND of fat loss we are maintaining.  Ask about the shape of our bodies before we lost the weight.  I’m willing to bet that apple, pear, cello-shaped and inverted triangle people are on unequal footing.  I, by the way, was a cello, evenly fatted.   Ask about the quality of the food we now eat – ask about which processed foods we have eliminated, whether we avoid hormones in our milk and meat, whether we have eliminated other common toxins that have increased in our society in the three-decade period that so ominously corresponds with the increase in our society’s average weight.  In addition to “would you please put your head in this MRI machine,” consider asking other important questions:

  •  “Would you mind submitting a tube of your blood?”
  • “Would you kindly pee in a cup?”
  • “May we analyze a strand of your hair?”
  • “May we swab the inside of your mouth?”
  • “Would you mind submitting to a series of metabolic breath tests?”
  • “Would you consider donating your body to the NWCR upon your death?”

I know I have cleaned up my diet a lot, but I also know it isn’t perfect.  I’m curious whether I have created a chemical profile that helps me maintain a 27% loss from my all-time high. On the other hand, I wonder whether something I have done differently from other maintainers may have contributed to my weight’s upward creep of ten pounds in six-and-a-half years?  Is it strictly quantitative:  I haven’t increased my exercise to match the slowing of my metabolism from aging?  Or is it qualitative:  I’ve consumed too much of a particular endocrine disruptor? 

If growing your program is a matter of fundraising, I would be happy to help you to the best of my abilities.  In fifteen years of not-for-profit development, I became a competent proposal writer and fundraising strategist.  And there is NO cause that interests me more than that of weight-loss maintenance.  (I bet you’ve figured that out.)   There is nothing I want more than a sense of sanity in this field that may spring from scientific disinterest, which, sadly, is sorely lacking.  It seems this is the only area of inquiry where scientists, medical doctors and other intelligent people may refer to a theory as a “revolution,” “breakthrough,” “the ultimate solution” or “the end of overeating.”* 

This insanity among the intelligentsia begets crazy policies and behavior in the lay world.  Employers, including whole state-sized systems, and insurance companies, charge fat people more money, then assess additional fees, with the rationale that they are encouraging them to lose weight, which is assumed to be routinely permanent.  In January, the Boy Scouts will begin requiring their boys and leaders to attain a particular BMI before they are allowed to participate in the organization’s most treasured camping and hiking experiences.  I wait in fear:  will my son, when he comes of age, use dangerous fasting and sweat-room techniques to “make weight” for Philmont?  We live in crazy times:  doctors perform risky and invasive weight-loss surgery on increasingly thinner overweight people, fat people beg their doctors for diet drugs and buy unregulated supplements, they crash diet, smoke, engage in diabulimia, other eating disorders and other extreme weight-control measures. Weight cycling increases, year after year, and with it gall bladder failure, lowered immune function, compromised heart health and clinical depression triggered by failure. Our society grows less healthy and ever fatter, despite a zeitgeist of weight-loss desperation. 

I have tried to use my status as a maintainer to educate my own physicians and others I see in social situations to the complexity of the problem, to little avail.  They think they know how complex it is, because they know it entails diet, exercise and overcoming psychological obstacles.  I roll my eyes at how they’ve oversimplified it, and they roll their eyes at me – obviously an egotist, since I think I’m so extraordinary.  Good Lord.  You people know, I am.  But I’m not bragging; I’m struggling.  And I certainly don’t want to be held up as some kind of example that “it can be done” if you “just get serious” (my internist’s words).   Some days I feel like the title character from the movie Charly (the book Flowers for Algernon) in the scene where he watches with despair as a mentally disabled man takes abuse.  I see fat people taking abuse – the butt of jokes, headless bodies in the daily news – and I know, that’s where I come from, and someday, for whatever reason, that’s where I’ll end up, though I keep postponing with my mostly meticulous diet, my long, hard daily exercise and my attention to my body’s signals.

There are a few of us who beat the odds, and only you know our names.  Please ramp up your efforts, or consider sharing your precious database with scientists whose mission will allow them to look beyond our behavior and analyze us chemically, physically, empirically.  Please lose some sleep.  I know I am.  Feel free to call me if I can be of help.


Debra Sapp-Yarwood

(Phone number provided here)

*Can you believe David Kessler?  An unimpeachable résumé, and yet he proposes “the end of overeating,” which, it turns out, is anorexic and orthorexic ideation with a few tired old “tips and tricks” thrown in.  Yeesh.  But of course, it will work this time because we’re more knowledgeable about the restaurant industry and its addictive foods.  Yeesh, again.

So, folks:  what do you think?  Why didn’t they respond?  I extend a special invitation to any NWCR scientists to respond at this time.

  1. What an amazing letter! My admiration for you knows no bounds.

    So why is there no response? I think basically for the same reason that ordinary working stiffs vote for a party that wants to make sure the rich only have to pay a pittance in taxes; or a party that wants to make sure that one of the most sensible, sane things a society can do for its population is to provide universal health care remains a pipe dream (and here endeth the rant):

    People want easily digestible answers (pardon the pun). Even the scientists. They just want to be able to say “eat less, exercise more” and you will be slim and stay slim like Debra. They would rather perpetuate lies (or at very least faulty analyses of the data) to keep the myth of easy weight loss alive or the myth that the government is going to set up death panels if universal health care is instituted.

    Life is messy. Science is messy. Nothing is simple, be it when to identify the moment at which life begins, or why it seems like your metabolism does X while mine does Y under seemingly exactly the same circumstances. People have no patience with the complexity of the world we inhabit.

    Once again, here endeth the rant.

    Please keep writing (to the NWCR and for your readers). Your voice is worth its weight in gold. Again, pardon the pun…and have a good day!

  2. I wish I had thought to write them letters. I’ve always just sent in the numbers (although, for me, it’s October).

    One thing I always wish I could point out to them is this…

    “Since accountability is a recognized precept of weight loss and maintenance, does the implied accountability of the NWCR process corrupt the organization’s own data?”

    YES!! Yes it does!

    I KNOW I have to report my weight to them. Therefore, it impacts how I maintain my weight all year.

    I think that they lost a lot of funding a couple years back, though… when they stopped sending out the “long” form.

    That might be why you got no answer.

    • I think we get the short form most years and the long form on significant “anniversaries.” I got the long form my first year and fifth. May have gotten it the second also. Hmmmm.

      Now, when you do decide to send them a letter, let me know. I’ll be happy to add you to the crackpot club. Let me know whether they respond.

  3. In general, I think groups/people/institutions are not looking for more ‘work’ in these times of less $$$. And the gracious (to them) way of dealing with people who are sort of wanting more or are against the ‘rub’ is to just quietly ignore.

    We have a nun at school who does this (not answering). So I recognize it. She loves me – because I do the job at hand in the simplest way possible. She does not care for my friend Sharon because Sharon is always looking for more/bigger/better way of doing everything including adding more ‘jobs’. Sharon is always ‘right’ in what she wants to do. But our nun is overworked and understaffed and under funded and just plain tired. Sharon wears her out even more.

    All your ideas are great. You are probably also way ahead of your time. It is not to say that all you mentioned should not be done. It absolutely should. But it is not going to be. Unless you happen to befriend a Bill Gates type person who says – have at it.

    I too have the hardest time figuring out how to answer true false when neither is correct. And my food does not fit at all within the guidelines they give us. After I have completed that section, my answers do not at all convey what I actually eat. In fact I am not sure the entire survey reflects me at all.

    One year I did not fill out the form for this reason. When they sent me a second, and maybe even a third, I finally filled it out and sent it back so they would at least have something, even if it did not seem to really represent me.

    I enjoyed this post very much.

    • Wow, Vickie. I did the same thing one year. I thought, this just isn’t accurate. I don’t know what to do with it. So I postponed until they harrassed it out me — did the best I could.

      And it, truly, doesn’t represent us, I think. Once I saw that they reported that we average 1,300 calories a day. I was stunned. On the form they don’t even ask how many calories we eat. They must assume our calories based on our answers, but their questions are not in keeping with how we think about food. Particularly with regard to salads, the NWCR is in left field. They don’t distinguish between side salads and meal-sized salads. If they’d just ask me how many calories I eat, I’d tell them — 1800ish. That’d drive up their average.

      In terms of wanting them to do more work, I’d settle for them just changing their work and doing the same amount. We know already that most of us eat breakfast, for example. Move on, now.

      • Okay.

        “Once I saw that they reported that we average 1,300 calories a day.”

        “On the form they don’t even ask how many calories we eat.”


        Dare I inquire, if they don’t ask how many calories a day you all eat, where they’re getting their data on, you know, how many calories a day you all eat …??

      • I imagine they count them based on our responses. They give us lists of a variety of foods and pictures that show us what various portion sizes we might be eating, then we’re supposed to fill in dots according to how much of these foods we eat in a particular period of time and in what portion sizes, according to their examples. Unfortunately, the food list is not exhaustive, and they don’t provide a place to list additional foods that aren’t on their list. Moreover, the portion sizes are limited to their imaginations. I have often chosen the largest portion size because it was closest to my experience, but I truthfully eat more than that.

    • Vickie, I tried to comment on your blog, but it told me I needed to register, which I tried to do, but was given an error message. I wanted to thank you for sending me thoughtful readers (like yourself) and to ask whether I may add you to my blogroll.

  4. Aside from the individual persons, who work for the NWCR, the registry as a whole has one primary purpose, to *show* that “weight control” happens: to socially construct and reconstruct and repair and tweak the capitalist myth that *the people* have free will to control their weight. Because, see, all THESE people do it. And of course if they can do it, ANY ONE can. *breathe*
    It matters not if the above is not the stated agenda. The data is cited (and torqued), from the Today Show to medical textbooks, to suggest that weight loss and maintaining goes on matter-of-factly everyday across this land. The cultural myth: Some people who accomplish this patriotic duty (weight CONTROL), simply do it without fanfare or drama. The rest…well you draw your own conclusions.

  5. You are right RN — they are agenda driven, but I don’t think they acknowledge it, even to themselves. They are affiliated with a hospital weight-loss program, and do not see any conflict of interest in that. Rena Wing has direct ties to Slimfast. Note the top study she references in her own biography.

    It really bothers me that I am held up as evidence that anyone can do this. I don’t think I’m a typical anyone.

    • “They are affiliated with a hospital weight-loss program, and do not see any conflict of interest in that.”

      Just because they don’t see it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

      DebraSY, do you think there’s any national publictaion that’d be willing to pick up that exposé? Or do so many of them, not just the womens’ magazines, get ad funding from the major food conglomerates that they’d be risking that revenue if they ran the (a) piece?

      • God, wouldn’t it be great if The Atlantic picked that up? You’re right that O won’t touch this. Too much ad revenue at stake. The problem is that to “important” journalism publications we are seen as a “trivial” issue. A bunch of whiners who just can’t push away from the table and a bunch of silly dieters who take ourselves too seriously. But this is a NATIONAL health concern. People are literally yo-yo weight cycling themselves to death, or putting themselves under surgeons’ knives to destroy their GI tracts with too little information and a lot of fuel from an anti-fat cultural zeitgeist. Meanwhile, so much of the research is underscored by the assumption that fat people are ignorant, weak willed or emotionally broken — that’s what’s happening at these think tanks that are affiliated with hospital weight-loss programs.

        That’s why we maintainers have to come out of the closet. While a positive attitude is generally a good thing, this whole process has been, in Barbara Ehrenreich parlance, “Brightsided“. (Boy, this feels like a blog post trying to happen).

      • “You’re right that O won’t touch this.”

        I wasn’t even thinking of O specifically — more like any women’s mag, particularly any distributed by Conde Nast(y). Vogue, Glamour, Marie Claire (LOLOL — speaking of which, do you know if Maura Kelly has been quietly let go? I haven’t heard/read a thing off her blog page since the brouhaha) …

        “…and a bunch of silly dieters who take ourselves too seriously.”

        Excoriated for vanity if we try to stay thin(ner), lambasted for “sloth” and “laziness” if we put on an ounce. Particularly if we’re women.

        I can’t imagine that’s an accident.

        The psychological assault is particularly gendered.

        Now that you mention her name, I’m wondering if Ms. Ehrenreich might be willing to take a look at the patterns. I’m thinking she might be the only investigative journalist who might have the nerve (and, possibly alleviating the full brunt of financial pressure, the royalties already in the bank).

  6. I can tell you why they aren’t going to tell you the results of of their research on maintenance past 5 years. It’s probably because past 5 years, fewer people are maintaining their original weight loss, and every year past 5, especially as the maintainers are aging, more and more of them are ending up back at their original weights. That’s really not information that they want anyone to know. They are vested in keeping the myth alive that anyone can lose weight and keep it off forever, even though they know it’s not so. They think everyone has the time and ability to do what you do to maintain your weight loss, and don’t realize that for a lot of people, it’s just not do-able.

    • “They think everyone has the time and ability to do what you do to maintain your weight loss, and don’t realize that for a lot of people, it’s just not do-able.”

      I don’t think it’s that they don’t realize it, Vesta. They realize it, even if they’re not willing to acknowledge it. We’ree right there next to them, working in the same offices, working the same hours they do. Except so many of them are “naturally thin” and so have never experienced life at a reduced (for whatever reason) weight.

      The men, I find, are especially prone to this, since they have a muscle mass “advantage” that permits them to eat more from jump.

      They realize it. They just don’t want to admit it.

  7. I think all the reasons in the comments above are good ones. I would add one more. You’re not a scientist (are you?). So your oppinion doesn’t count.

    Love your blog, by the way. It’s so SANE. :o)

    • Galdora, thanks for hesitating. Hmmm. Maybe she IS a scientist?

      No, I’m not a scientist. But I could play one on TV, doncha think? Some days I think I missed my calling.

      Ah, Vesta, Cynicism embraced here.

  8. Can you believe I’ve never gotten around to registering or whatever for the NWCR. You brought up one thing that I am really interested in. Do the vast majority of successful maintainers eat very ‘clean?’ It seems like it from blogland. But is that representative?

    • I can only speak for myself with confidence, but I eat much cleaner than I used to, and thus far I haven’t run into anyone truly into maintenance who can still eat “whatever” he or she wants whenever she wants it. That was possible for me during the down-hill ski and the coast, but during the cross-country trek it’s different. I hypothesize that it’s our changed endocrine profile that fights us so hard. It’s different from when we were at our large homeostatic point, and even different from the loss time and the coast period that follows.

      I think all of us have coping mechanisms. We allow ourselves small treats that help us stay sane and connected with society. I’ve set up a framework for baked goods where I only eat “Good Karma” treats — homebaked by someone who cares about me, and in small servings — which I may split with others. I don’t bake myself, unless forced by a school project or some such. With regard to fats, I’m pretty liberal with olive oil, avacados, canola oil, etc., but they’re actually part of a “clean” (if more caloric) diet. And I’d rather eat a small piece of real, aged cheese than a larger portion of 2% “reduced fat” crud.

      I know you have a new cookbook you are just dying to try out, with all those dear recipes from a bygone era. Perhaps you have a friend who might like it for a gift and will bake and share?

  9. “The end of overeating?” They have this obsessive belief that fat people overeat, in spite of the lack of evidence. They need to admit to themselves that fat people (on average) eat normally, and that maintaining weight loss requires UNDEReating.

    If you’re a fat person and you eat normally, you’re overeating. If you’re a fat person and you undereat, you’re still overeating. If you’re dangerously anorexic and still fat, you’re overeating. Only by undereating enough to keep your body from storing the fat it wants to – necessitating a constant struggle with appetite and energy levels – can your eating be defined as “normal.” And that is really, really f*cked up.

    • “Normal.” Hah. I gave up on “normal.” Though, can anyone be “normal” with food in a culture that juxtaposes airbrushed/photoshopped models with chocolate brownie recipes?

  10. Omygoodness, the discussion gets better and better. As I’ve mentioned before, I spend a lot of time researching anorexia (and recovery from anorexia) because…well, too many reasons to list, but, anyway, I always find it fascinating when a person recovering from anorexia, who has managed to achieve a “healthy” BMI (say, 20), shamefully confesses that she’s only been eating 2000 or 2200 calories a day (2400 on the days she exercises) and her clothes are getting too loose, and she realizes she is relapsing.

    Yeah. Also, there are bloggers (no names) who have had gastric band, for instance, and eat about 800 calories, and are maintaining, AND their doctors know.

    Note: all the above were self reported. They keep meticulous food lists. I believe them.

    • 2000 or 2200 calories a day (2400 on the days she exercises), a BMI of 20, and she’s relapsing into anorexia? That’s pretty much how I eat. I know, I’m always saying that there’s no universally dependable relationship between eating and size and that just confirms it. But, I gain weight if I eat more than that. Hell, to keep my weight under 200 pounds (which it isn’t at the moment), I have to eat less than that. My mom would run away screaming if she saw that much food.

  11. I clicked on the Brightsided article. Wow!

    Like many before me, I got sucked into the “think it and it will come mentality” after having major surgery. Something had gone wrong during the surgery, but I was expected to make a full recovery, albeit with a much longer recovery time.

    I papered my home office walls with affirmations like “I am getting better every day”. And guess what? I didn’t. In fact, after a few months, I was worse than before the surgery. I sank into a major depression, especially since the physiotherapists insisted I was doing just fine. Fortunately, I still had enough werewithal to raise hell and insist on seeing the surgeon earlier than scheduled. I was right. There was something wrong, he admitted it (yes, amazing, but I live in Canada where medical lawsuits are much rarer), re-operated and fixed the problem. He still beams when he sees me walk (I go for a yearly check-up).

    Long story short: brightsiding got me nowhere. Fighting did.

    • Ya gotta read the book, NewMe. I was worried that it might make me more cynical. Stupid fear. I can’t get more cynical. It comforted me and made me stronger and more willing to express my ideas. It gave me a sense of sanity and comraderie.

  12. RNegade, do you deal with anorexics who are genuinely fat? Or are they just not called anorexics because their bodies aren’t skinny enough for the 6 o’clock news?

    By the way, thank you, Debra, for your enlightening discussion on the NWCR. I must say that the organization’s name makes me cringe. They don’t even phrase it as a matter of weight loss; it’s assumed to be a matter of control, as if being fat means necessarily being “out of control”. One could just as well say that a sumo wrestler practices strict weight control, deliberately keeping their weight higher than their natural range.

    Is the NWCR strict about how their members should have lost the weight? That is, do they also accept people who have lost weight from WLS, a chronic illness, or having their hormone problems corrected? Is there a minimum of how long one has to have been fat?

    • Here’s the URL of their joining page: I don’t see any restriction against any kind of weight loss. You gotta be 18 or older, lost 30+ pounds and maintained that loss for a year. I recall getting additional forms in the mail after I signed on, along with the long-form survey, but I cannot recall the restrictions on it. I passed the test, so I just forgot about it. I’m pretty sure they do allow WLS people, and from time-to-time compare us to one another.

    • Well, Mulberry, I’m not sure how you are defining anorexic. Officially, the BMI is an indicator for that ED, and EDNOS covers most other EDs that involve eating very small amounts over long periods of time.

      However, I will say, I did cross paths with one woman who is “genuinely fat” by definition, I suppose, in terms of having a BMI in the upper overweight category but regularly consumes far too few calories to maintain good health and is not losing more weight. BTW, she was formerly “morbidly obese”. Of course, it is very upsetting to her to discover that, in order to maintain even her “overweight” body, she routinely eats fewer calories than her 4 year old (who weighs less than 40 lbs). Also, she exercises over 3 hours a day (minimum) and is a certified trainer at a gym. I suspect there are other sufferers like her that we don’t hear about very often. We just assume they are eating sufficiently for their nutritional needs.

      • I understand that the official definition of anorexia includes a BMI, but I would define it as a behavior. There are not that many bodies that adhere religiously to BMI standards (does one redefine anorexia every time the recommended weight range changes?). I would consider it first a behavior, no matter what size the sufferer might be.
        I feel bad for the woman you mentioned, who is getting the worst of both worlds. She must be starving, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if doctors told her to “eat less”, “exercise more”, and “stop lying about intake”.
        According to medical studies, the so-called overweight category is healthier than what they call the normal weight category. But that’s of little comfort in this society.

  13. Debra,

    I just noticed that you’ve listed me as a “fellow maintainer” blogger. Would that that were true! The best I can say about myself is that I seem to have (more or less) put the brakes on gaining weight, despite being physically unable to do much in the way of exercise and starting to enter menopause. That’s my only–tenuous–claim to fame.

    I’m pleased that you enjoy my blog. I certainly think yours is first rate. But I feel uncomfortable under the heading “fellow maintainers” since, honestly, it’s just not true. I’d love to lose a bit of weight, but I’ve just come to the conclusion that it’s not going to happen under the circumstances and that holding my weight at the level it’s at now is probably the best I can do.

    If you want to discuss this further, feel free to e-mail me. I’m a total fan of yours!

  14. Yup, you could definitly play a scientist on TV. No problem 🙂 You obviously are quite capable of ploughing through very technical stuff I wouldnt even attempt. Since I’m not a scientist, myself. I’ve just noticed this tendency of “real scientist” to look down their nose at people who´re not, but are still not ready to just accept their word on everything.

  15. I tend to forget that the questionnaire is even coming, personally. I find NWCR’s research and focus interesting, even though I think that they oftentimes ask the wrong questions, or don’t give me enough of a chance to explain what’s up with me. For example: I’m usually at the same weight every time the questionnaire comes. But that does not mean my weight has not fluxed a bit during the year.

    I tend to eat a bit more over the holidays, and then at the end of December/beginning of January, my husband and I make our annual 2 week trip to Florida. The bikes go with us, and we do a lot of riding.

    And, as I always do on vacation, I eat more. Sometimes I gain actual fat from this, rather than just fluid weight. 🙂 So when I come back home, I have 3 – 5 lbs of “something” to remove. Sometimes (as after our Rome trip) it was just fluid, and was gone in 2 days. Other times, it takes longer to remove.

    But I always get it off, sooner or later. And it just so happens that by the time my questionnaire comes, it’s off.

    So, it looks to NWCR like my weight holds steady year ’round. But it doesn’t. I do have to remove 3 to 5 lbs from time to time. (I consider this normal; even the “naturally thin” folks I know do this from time to time.) However, I’m not sure their data requests adequately capture this.

    ‘Course, I could be misremembering what I was asked. I answer what they ask me, and to my recollection, there’s no question about my yearly flux. But, given that I ain’t as young as I used to be, perhaps they do . . . !

  16. I think they do, in fact, ask about our fluctuations. Though I’m not the greatest at remembering what’s on them either, and I’m due for one soon. I think they ask if we fluctuate more than five pounds up or down from the number we record as our weight that particular year. Well, that’s actually a ten-pound range, which is pretty broad.

    I just sent in my five-year re-instatement contract. I’m not expecting the long form this year, since it’s year six, so I may not be able to shed any more light this time around.

  17. I can’t remember what I’ll be getting. It’ll be my 6th or 7th. They’ve all blurred together at this point . . . guess I’ll find out when I get it. Maybe because they define the flux as being as big as 10 lbs, is why I just don’t remember.

  18. I have had an envelope from the NWCR at my desk for a couple of years now. When it came I was in a bad spot and didn’t want to think about it. And I find myself reluctant to commit to declaring it, or shy of claiming it, for fear of failing again. But I think I’ll dig it out and fill it out, having lost 50-odd pounds over the last five years, in a roller-coaster-ish fashion.

    I’ve been eating “disorderedly” the last couple of weeks, gearing up for another run at this thing, thinking through a lot of stuff.

  19. I realize I’m a little late to the game here — I just found your blog, which is excellent; I appreciate your writing style. Though I’m not a weight loss maintainer myself, I am someone who used to diet-regain in my younger years (ages 9-23) and caused myself a lot of psychological issues around food because of it. I ended the craziness by finding the size acceptance movement online, and while in the 5-10 years following, I gave myself too much leeway eating-wise (and not exercising), I’m back to aiming daily for a healthy lifestyle (good eating, exercise) for long-term health reasons, not weight loss per se. I’m not always successful, but it’s a goal and I have made progress slowly over time without having to obsess about it.


    I just wanted to note that, as a science geek myself (Cdn government public health lab, unrelated to bariatrics), it may not be that the scientists are dismissing you malevolently. Some, true, probably believe the tripe of our society’s “common knowledge” regarding weight loss & maintenance, but given that your letter (rightfully) targets the problems with our corporate-influenced food system (both food & diet industries), they may be reluctant to pursue the topic with you for fear of losing the funding they have. I just know up here that while we scientists may know the truth, there is a bit of a gag order (esp. government labs) when it comes to commenting on policies and whatnot. We literally cannot speak to the public directly, other than personal opinion (i.e. not research, nor even using our job as a credence-enhancing factor). At best we can strictly state study findings with no real interpretation (that goes against current polcies), lest we lose our jobs (or funding, if not in direct gov’t employ).

    This only came to mind because you said you had a bit of an exchange with the researchers, and then that ended in silence. I suspect they were told to knock it off by a supervisor or bureaucrat at some higher level.

    We live in a crappy society that way — on the one hand, we want to embrace science & technology for practical reasons, but on the other, the politicians and policy makers have an ideologically-based agenda, and they’re in ultimate control. Even university labs (the most “free”, as far as research is concerned) get their funding from corporate interests or the government. So until they find funding from pro-truth sources (few and far between), they will be limited in what they can say/share.

    I felt the need to post because recently I’ve run into too much anti-scientist sentiment (in other areas), and I feel that the blame for people’s irritation should be directed at the proper people — that is, the higher level bureaucrats/executives/politicians — and not just those of us on the ground doing the work.

  20. (credibility-enhancing, not credence… d’oh…)

    • Hi, April. No one is ever too late to the game. Thanks for your rare insight and honesty.

      I also suspect the influence of money. Also, what I have found is that some of the rank and file scientists associated with the NWCR are wiser than the brass there. Rene Wing and James O. Hill founded the registry in 1993/94 on an agenda, not a hypothesis, and that kind of conviction will die hard. Recall that in 2001, Wing was on contract with SlimFast. How can she be so blind to the conflict of interest? The answer is that she has been so convicted in her opinions, from the time she founded the registry, that she’s just got stuck. But, like I said, I sense that some of her underlings know the bigger story. My prayer is that, with the help of those underlings, Rena Wing will have an epiphany and come out publicly in a dramatic turn around. There would be NO bigger advance to health than if the Registry were to say “we’ve been doing this for 20 years, and we have proved a null hypothesis. The people who maintain radical losses, defined fairly (not merely 10% losses for one year), are statistically insignificant. Let us now turn our attention to health and weight maintenance, not weight loss.” What a dream, eh?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: