It seems like America has gone out of its way to “cure” the obesity epidemic (so-called by the media and, following suit, the medical world). In fat, we have gone so far as to offer a seemingly unending list of pills to pop in order to make each and every individual a weight loss success story.
Enter the diet pill. It comes in many forms, promises miracles, urges normalization, and guarantees success (except in the fine print). Of course, it rarely succeeds, but that doesn’t seem to stop the weight loss industry, which grosses around $61 billion yearly. This attitude makes fat people commodities for transformation, a flawed but otherwise blank slate “onto which can be projected the transformations of the culture at large”2. With the recidivism rate for dieters teetering around 98%, it only seems natural that we as a culture actually do have a sense that, in many ways, fat is out of everybody’s control. This release of control, however, would be an admittance of failure, so instead, as a culture, we cling to the belief that fat people could change, but have chosen not to. With this explanation, it’s easier to be accusatory, derogatory, and defensive of a hegemonic thinness. It is also easier to shove diet pills down people’s throats – proverbially, of course.
In the past decade or so, there’s been some diet pill doozies: Hydroxycut; Fen-Phen; ProSlim Plus; and many, many more. One of the more monetarily successful diet remedies of recent years is alli, the non-prescription version of the prescription pill Xenical. alli (note the trendy lowercase letters) offers a clean, friendly website, albeit with some scary “possibilities” about what can happen when you take the pill. Since alli is a fat blocker, not a metabolism enhancer, it simply blocks your body’s intake of calories, passing it through the body instead of it storing in fatty cells. Passing to where, one might ask? Passing straight to the pooper: “In fact, you may recognize it in the toilet as something that looks like the oil on top of a pizza.”3 Alright, alright, everything has some adverse side effects, but does it outweigh the results? The majority of alli users experienced this oil phenomena for several weeks after starting alli as well as difficulty controlling their bowels, but alli is FDA approved and is proven to help people lose up to 50% more weight than diet and exercise alone, so I suppose it’s kind of a toss up if being thinner is your ultimate purpose.
alli's website states that the drug may cause “gas with oily spotting; loose stools; more frequent stools that may be hard to control.”4 Let’s cut the bullshit. alli makes you shit your pants. And yet, surprisingly, alli’s website also states that the majority of users were so pleased with the weight loss that the side effects were just a necessary evil.
WHAT?! I’m stunned, absolutely stunned that the American obsession with losing weight is more important to alli users than than the American pastime of not shitting your pants. In my opinion, this fact sums up a bizarre quandary in American culture: people would rather shit their pants than be fat. There’s no way to make that polite or in any way make it appear better than it sounds. Fat is BELOW self-defecation in the social hierarchy. Not only that, millions of people – men and women – are willing to subject themselves to countless drugs, sometimes dangerous ones, in order to speed up their metabolism, block incoming calories, hype up their energy levels, make them look good for swimsuit season, etc. Many avid users of diet pills are hypocritically anti ingredients like high fructose corn syrup because it’s “bad for you” and “unnatural.” Read: it’s bad for you and unnatural because it could make you fat.
IbisWorld. “IbisWorld Industry Reports: the Weight Debate Expands Industry,” (18 August 2010), www.ibisworld.com/industry.
2Laura Kipnis, “Life in the Fat Lane,” Bound and Gagged, (New York, NY: Grove Press, 1996), p. 103.
3 alli. GlaxoSmithKline (2010). www.myalli.com/faq.aspx