Tag Archives: results not typical

Don’t Exercise

Last night I gave a speech at Kaiser provocatively entitled, “Don’t Exercise”.  It was a big hit, so I thought I would share some of the highlights with you today.  The whole idea of the speech is that so often people begin to exercise because they believe that if they do so, their body will look a certain way, as if we could change our body as easily as changing our hairstyle and we could match our new body to a picture in a magazine.  Except this hardly ever works.  Most people are simply not genetically blessed in a way that makes huge biceps or six pack abs realistic or sustainable for them.  Sure there is a very small group of people–like 5 percent or even 1 percent who are genetically blessed in a way that makes big biceps or 6-pack abs reasonably likely.  That is not to say these folks don’t work hard to maintain those traits.  They do.  But there is no question that genetics makes big biceps and six-pack abs a lot more difficult for some people than others.  And sure there is an even smaller group of people who are not genetically blessed but still manage to sport big biceps and six-pack abs for a time.  They do this by being obsessed with big biceps and six pack abs.  And I’m cool with that.  Following Ragen Chastain’s famous underpants rule, they are allowed to spend whatever free time they are privileged to have in any way that makes them happy.  They are the boss of their own underpants.

Where we get into trouble is when we insist that most people can expect big biceps and six-pack abs as a likely outcome from their fitness efforts.  Because frankly, that’s a lie.  In fact it’s so much of a lie, that when you look at many modern ads for fitness equipment and weight loss schemes, following any of their more outlandish claims you may find an asterisk.  This asterisk typically refers to a tiny line of script at the bottom of the ad with three words: results not typical.  This disclaimer is there for an important reason.  The FTC and other governing bodies have sued so many of these companies for insisting that huge permanent weight loss and bodybuilder-sized biceps and butts upon which you may bounce a quarter are typical and even expected results that these companies are adding the disclaimer to A) avoid lawsuits and B) stay in business.  Because while these results are certainly, technically possible with any of these schemes.  These results are anything BUT typical.

So at this point a lot of people ask me what is wrong with those aspirational pictures?  If it gets people to go to the gym it’s a good thing, right?  Well, there’s a problem–which I like to illustrate with this picture:

Quite often I see this image held up as a great example of motivation.  To which I reply–“ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?”  This is a terrible example of motivation.  Here we have a rhino running on a treadmill looking at a picture of a unicorn.  If that rhino runs really hard and really fast and really long, is he going to become a unicorn?  Anybody?  Anybody?  OF COURSE NOT–and for two really good reasons.  1)Unicorns and rhinoceroses are two completely different animals.  There is no documented case of a rhinoceros EVER turning into a unicorn because 2)Unicorns don’t exist.  So, my friends, what happens after that rhinoceros spends several weeks or months at the gym and doesn’t look anything like a unicorn?

Yup, the rhino quits–usually just 4-6 weeks into their workout program (on average).  So DON’T EXERCISE in order to change your rhino body into a unicorn.  If you do that, your exercise program is most likely, statistically and in all probability doomed.  Because unicorn bodies are “*results not typical” for most fitness programs.

There are thousands of good reasons to exercise–many of which I have talked about extensively on this blog.  Exercise because it helps you feel better.  Exercise because it improves your mood or improves symptoms of depression or helps you avoid getting sick.  Exercise because it feels great and is fun and allows you to socialize with awesome people.  Exercise because it improves your quality of life in so many important ways.   Exercise for all of these reasons and so many more that are typical.

And if you want a picture to get you going, might I recommend the Flying Rhinos?  We have a brand spankin’ new store where you can get hats and mugs and posters and stickers and stationery and stuff to inspire you.  Get out there with your rhino body and just get rock ON with your rad rhino self.


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come talk to your group?  Click HERE to learn more.

The National Weight Control Registry: Oh look, a Unicorn

Results not typical…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard several people advance the National Weight Control Registry as evidence that people can permanently lose weight.  To take just two cases, It is currently prominently featured on the Weight of the Nation website and it was thrown at Julianne Wotasik and I during our interview on Dr. Drew’s show earlier this week.  Add to that, my new friend Angela sending her amazing slides for a new UK lecture on the NWCR and a blog post seemed kind of inevitable…

The National Weight Control Registry is a list of about 10,000 people who are at or above age eighteen who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year.  There are follow up studies done on subsets of the group over time.  But in order to initially qualify for this group you must only meet three criteria: be 18 or older, show an initial weight loss of over 30 pounds, and maintain at least 30 lbs of your initial weight loss for one year.  As I mentioned on Dr. Drew’s show, I would have qualified for the NWCR at least two different times in my life.  But alas, after the one or two year point, I regained my weight plus a little.  (It was only when I stopped weight cycling that I have been able to maintain a steady, albeit higher weight.)

There’s lots of argument back and forth about the level of regain among participants.  One follow up study from 2003 indicated that among the subset self selected for the review, over 70 percent had regained some weight over the two years of the study.  Granted, most of them had retained a significant percentage of their weight loss at this point, but “recovery from even minor weight gain was uncommon”.

But here’s the main thing folks.  The National Weight Control Registry is a study of a very, very small, self-selected sample of people who have lost some weight and kept some of it off.  The study was never designed to apply to a general population– “Because this is not a random sample of those who attempt weight loss, the results have limited generalizability to the entire population of overweight and obese individuals.”  So this is a study of what a very small percentage of people in the United States did in order to lose weight (lots of different things) and keep some of it off.  Sure there have been glowing reports of what these folks have in common in maintaining some weight loss.  Most severely restrict calories, exercise daily and weigh weekly.  And many media outlets have shouted about the fact that most of these folks eat breakfast every day!  (Since I’ve eaten breakfast every day for my entire life, and I’m still waiting for the magic weight loss to appear, I kinda wonder if this breakfast thing has a causal relationship with weight loss.  But I digress…)

When I say the NWCR is a small sample, I mean it.  At any given time, over 70 million Americans are trying to lose weight for good.  The NWCR lists 10,000 who have managed to log some success in that regard.  We’re talking about a .00014 percent success rate here.  As a point of comparison, over 500,000 people completed a marathon last year.  And when it comes to an Ironman race (that’s a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike ride followed by a 26.2 mile run all completed in less than 17 hours with no break) estimates run as high as 25,000 projected participants for this year.  So why aren’t we suggesting that all Americans compete in marathons or even Ironman competitions to be healthy?  After all, our sample sizes for successful people are 2.5 to 50 TIMES HIGHER than those listed in the NWCR.  And since 25,000 people have managed to complete an Ironman, it’s clearly possible, right?  Maybe those half million marathoners need to learn from the techniques of the Ironmen and just suck it up and do it.  Anybody who doesn’t want to exercise for 17 hours straight is clearly a slacker.

We don’t suggest everyone compete in marathons and triathlons and Ironmans because it’s ridiculous.  We know that not everyone has the time, health, money or inclination to train the average 40 miles per week clocked by mere marathoners not to mention the hundreds of miles clocked by Ironmen.  While I adored my marathon training and am extremely glad I did it, I just don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to marathon training on top of all of the other fitness classes I’m teaching right now.  And with plenty of research indicating that a mere 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week is all that is necessary to achieve extremely significant health goals, I’m happy too treasure my medals and move on.  And since there is also plenty of research indicating that I can be happy and healthy by engaging in moderate healthy behaviors without significant weight loss, I’m happy to do that too and just get on with my life.

So my dear little chicklettes, I no longer qualify for the NWCR.  Maybe you don’t qualify either, but that’s okay.  Why not join my extremely exclusive Fat Chick Clique instead?  It’s totally free, you get to get free stuff, and you can live your life however you want.  Cuz’ that’s just how I roll.


The Fat Chick