Medical Advocacy

The Council on Size & Weight Discrimination advocates for the principle that the goal of medical care should be overall health and well-being, rather than weight loss for its own sake. We scrutinize medical research, and uncover cultural anti-fat bias wherever it exists. Our testimony to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus panel on Weight Loss Technology in 1992 resulted in recognition, in the final report, of the effects of weight discrimination in this country.

In 1985, a consensus panel of the NIH proclaimed obesity a serious health hazard, and the ensuing media coverage called obesity a “killer disease”. The research behind this pronouncement was flawed, since it failed to account for the health damage caused by chronic dieting and weight regain. Even in 1985, researchers knew that weight lost by dieting was virtually always regained, and that many weight loss methods carried their own serious health risks. Nevertheless, for the last decade at least, the medical profession has been operating under the faulty assumption that the correct course of treatment for a large person is always diet, despite a long-term failure rate of 92% or more.

As a result of this faulty assumption, regulatory bodies, such as the FDA, use a skewed standard when comparing the risks to the benefits of a given treatment. Even if a drug has known, extremely serious side effects, the FDA may approve it on the grounds that these side effects are “acceptable” when compared to the supposed health risks of obesity.

One example of this was the FDA approval of dexfenfluramine as a weight-loss drug. Known side effects of this drug included permanent brain damage and a fatal condition known as primary pulmonary hypertension. The FDA considered these acceptable risks when weighed against the supposed dangers of obesity. The most alarming aspect of this approval was the fact that dexfenfluramine was only minimally effective for weight loss.

In addition to testifying at FDA hearings, the Council launched a letter-writing campaign against the drug. The FDA approved it despite our warnings, but did require strict warning labels on Redux (dexfenfluramine), to be read by pharmacists, physicians, and consumers. FDA approval was short-lived, however, and when cases of critical and sometimes fatal conditions started surfacing, the FDA asked the manufacturer to withdraw Redux from the market. The Council continues to monitor the pharmaceutical situation, and will fight other such diet drugs which do not meet the commonsense standards of safety and effectiveness.

We are concerned about the financial relationship between obesity researchers and the weight-loss industry, including manufacturers of weight-loss drugs. This relationship has created an atmosphere which hinders critical evaluation of new medicines. The focus on new (and highly profitable) diet drugs is also a disincentive to those researchers who are seeking new ways to improve the health of large-size health care patients.


Facts & Figures
Health At Every Size
Take Good Care of Yourself
Good Nutrition
Long Term Diet Failure
Thinness Obsession
Barriers to Treatment: A Patient’s View
Medical Advocacy (currently open)
Prescription Politics
Unbiased Research

Healthy Weight
Food & Exercise
Non-Diet Approaches
Feminism & Weight
Eating Disorders
Body Image
Men’s Weight

Eating & Exercise