The “I Did It, So You Can Too!” Phenomenon

If there’s one meme that makes me particularly nuts about weight loss gurus, it’s this one:

“I lost weight, so you can too!”

This concept is so ludicrous, but we all believe it. In a weird way, it makes sense to us. We think, here is a fellow human who is thin and/or lost weight. I’m a human, so it should work for me too!

gwyneth paltrow quote about weight
Yes. I'm sure having two slim parents and millions of dollars has nothing to do with your physique. (Image from pinterest.)

But we forget that being human may be where the similarities end between us.

Here are some things to consider:

1) Genetics – About 70% of weight variation is based on genetics. [Linda Bacon, Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight (Dallas: Benbella Books, 2008) 137] In other words, fatness is incredibly hereditary. If no matter what you do, you still have your mom’s thighs or your dad’s double chin, that’s because genes have a huge effect on relative fatness, and where it shows up on our bodies.

2) Circumstances – This should be pretty obvious too, but people lead really different lives, with varying obligations, stress levels, health concerns, work schedules, access to food, access to workout equipment, access to sunlight, etc. And these circumstances all play a huge role in how one’s body might respond to whatever “plan” is being pushed on it.

3) Metabolism/Bodily Differences – People’s bodies are really different. The calories in/ calories out model that is so cheerfully touted is not based on reality. People’s metabolisms, their ability to lose weight, gain weight, gain muscle, etc. is all highly individualized.

4) All Weight Is Not Created Equal – People lose weight and gain weight for a lot of different reasons, and sometimes even they don’t know why. Some folks who obsess about losing their “baby weight” may have lost it anyway because they’re genetically predisposed to do so. A lot of us know that guy who lost a few pounds after he stopped drinking soda, but that doesn’t mean that will happen for someone else. And the “stopped drinking soda guy” may have drunk more soda in a day than you do in a month. Sometimes following Health At Every Size principles results in weight loss for some folks, and it may result in weight gain for others. And it’s hard to predict what will happen to whom.

5) The “I Did It” Folks Are Outliers – Only about 5% of folks who lose weight actually keep it off past the 5-year mark, and usually they didn’t lose all that much weight to start. The huge, vast majority of people who lose weight gain it all back, often plus more, within 3-5 years. So these “I did it!” folks usually fall into 1 of 4 categories (a) statistical anomaly, (b) still in the honeymoon phase before hitting the dreaded 3-year mark, (c) didn’t lose much to begin with, and (d) totally lying.

Basically, everyone is really different. Remember this the next time you start to fall for the “I Did It, So You Can Too” Phenomenon!

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Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Go to to get her NEW free gift – Golda’s Top 5 Tips For Loving The Body You Have Right Now!


5 thoughts on “The “I Did It, So You Can Too!” Phenomenon”

  1. Very true.  Keep in mind that also, a lot of celebrities (like Jennifer Hudson, who has been flaunting her weight loss “achievement”) have not only personal trainers, but people who cook and plan their meals for them according to what is appropriate for them.  And most of them can afford the better food ingredients that normal people can’t.

  2. My one tiny issue with this article is your contention that some people who claim to have lost weight and kept it off are “totally lying.”  As far as arguments go, you could turn around and say that bigger people who claim to have slow metabolisms are totally lying.  It just doesn’t stand as a rebuttal when it can be used equally as effectively (either legitimately or not at all) by both sides.  Either the liars in every group completely negate that group’s more reasonable talking points, or we decide to ignore them, you know?  There are morons and liars and dipshits in every otherwise well-intentioned interest group.

  3. [TW: similar to discussion of eating disorders]

    I’m so definitely one of #5. I lost a lot of weight through a stint of depression, and I continuously lost more body fat because, thanks to my mother, I had gotten it into my head that it was healthy for me to eat less than 1000 calories a day. So I was eating less than 1000 calories a day for 2 years after I first went to college.

    Thankfully I realized that wasn’t true, and I slowly began to regain the weight. And now my body’s settled at what I’m guessing is probably around 150-160 lbs (I don’t weigh myself cause I don’t care), when I had been around 140 lbs before.

    It’s not that I’m eating unhealthier than I was when I was around 140 lbs. My body just seemed to decide it needed to put on a bigger buffer in case I ever went into a “hunger mode” again for an extended period of time.

  4. I am leery of any celebrity who says, “Look at what I’ve done with my body!” First of all, they don’t have normal day jobs. Secondly, many of them are paid to lose weight (they sponsor weight loss products and programs). And thirdly, they can afford the time and money that it takes to eat perfectly crafted meals and to hire personal trainers.

    1. Trigger Warning: descriptions of ED.

      And of course there are a bunch of celebrities that are routinely ridiculed for yo yo-ing; even with their money, dietitians, endorsements, chefs, and fitness gurus to help them.  If these well-paid celebrities with ample time and tons of professionals to keep them on track fail, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of us.

      It’s hard to convince people who don’t have weight problems that it’s difficult if not impossible for most people to lose it and keep it off.  I spent my senior year of high school eating 500 calories a day, which is what it took for me to get onto the lower end of my acceptable ‘healthy’ BMI range.  When I started my new job I was so stressed I drank nothing but diet soda during the day and made it into the middle of my ‘healthy’ BMI range.  At some point I got straight with myself and realized that I can’t maintain ‘healthy’ weight without engaging in really unhealthy behaviors.  I can’t diet in a way that’s good for me.  My relationship with food is too messed up when I’m restricting and it’s only a matter of time before I go on a multi day depression and deprivation fueled binge.  My body has a point that it’s happy with (140lbs ish at 5’3.5″).  I don’t love myself every day for it, but at least I’m not so hungry I can’t think .

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