What If It's True? What If All Diets Fail, Exercise Won't Save You and the Best Course is to Give Up?

Caveat emptor: This essay is intended only for an adult audience of critical thinkers fond of and disposed to applied reason. The author assumes no responsibility for the validity of his opinions, whether partially or completely baked, which may or may not reflect the views of the AWR, its headquarters staff and/or worldwide affiliates. Ask your doctor if this kind of material is right for you. Make no decisions to commence, terminate, increase or decrease your exercise level solely on account of the opinions expressed below. If appropriate, parental guidance is advised; keep away from small children. Safety goggles advised.


Wellness was always intended to be about living well in a whole person sense. Unfortunately, merchants and a wide variety of charlatans have misused the term to sell products that have little or nothing to do with positive wellness. Companies have adopted and twisted the concept of wellness to promote campaigns that only discourage worseness, like smoking and other forms of self-destruction that add to corporate medical insurance costs. However, these abuses do not change the fact that wellness was designed and promoted by Halbert Dunn and varied early advocates as a positive lifestyle. The wellness concept was founded on an unswerving commitment to environmental sensitivity, personal responsibility, meaning and purpose, happiness, supportive cultures, common decencies, peace and love. The fine print did mention the merits of what were thought healthy habits, such as managing stress, eating wisely (consistent with science-based dietary guidelines) and exercise.

The Harsh Reality: I Can't Do It!

A few decades ago, my Australian co-conspirator in wellness promotion, Grant Donovan and I discovered that, for dozens of reasons, most people were unable to succeed at living well in a whole person sense. (The basic idea was reviewed in the May 10 newsletter, that is, AWR 647.) This sad reality applies for those few who ever hear about, understand and attempt to pursue wellness. We called our research Icantdoit and explained the phenomenon at length in a series of essays, including the following:

  • I Can’t Do It!
  • I Can't Do It! - (#2)
  • I Can't Do It! - Give Up  
  • I Can't Do It! - Give Up Hoping and Praying
  • I Can't Do It! - Give Up And Become Successful
  • I Can't Do It! -How Things Really Are and What to Make of It
  • I Can't Do It! - God Bless You, Messrs. Rosewater and Vonnegut
  • I Can't Do It! - Not At All Gloom and Doom
  • I Can't Do It! - A Lazy Person's Approach to a Little Bit of a Wellness Lifestyle
  • I Can't Do It - You Want to Change Someone Else? Fagettaboutit!
  • I Can't Do It As a Wellness Mindset
  • Overweight Author Gets Philosophical, Makes a Lot Of Money and Discovers the "I Can't Do It" Mindset
  • Improve Your Chances of Doing It by Understanding Why the Reality for Most is "I Can't Do It" 
  • Give Up and Lose Weight
  • One Exception to the Rule of I Can't Do It -- You Can and Will Get Older. But, Maybe Not a Lot Older
  • Read This Essay and Eliminate a Half Dozen Common Ways of Being Fooled
  • An Icantdoit Wellness Perspective on Failure and Success
  •  Why Americans Are Not Likely to Become Fitter Any Time Soon
  • An I Can't Do It Perspective on Health Promotion in the Workplace 

Schopenhauer is credited with the observation that new thought and new truth most often go through three stages. First they are ridiculed. Next they are violently opposed. Then, finally, they are accepted as being self-evident.  

If our finding that people can't do it is ever accepted as being self-evident, our experience will represent an exception to Schopenhauer's observation, for our Icantdoit work has never been properly ridiculed or violently opposed, at least not to our knowledge. Unfortunately, since we are not major or even minor celebrities or high public officials, Icantdoit insights have simply been ignored. 

Until now.

It's Impossible to Lose Weight!

Something has happened that will being serious attention to our Icantdoit research and findings. A new study just released will stun the world while proving the obvious, namely, that it is impossible to lose weight. Furthermore, the study reveals that no one has ever done it. It also recommends that anyone trying to do so should just give up. Coincidentally, that's the title of the story broken found in The Onion on June 10, 2013: “New Study Finds It Impossible to Lose Weight. No One Has Ever Done It. And Those Who Are Trying Should Give Up.”

The research leading to this report was done by scientists at The National Weight Control Registry. The findings are described in JAMA (the Journal Of The American Medical Association), according to citations in The Onion. Among the remarkable findings is this: No one has ever lost a single pound of fat through diet or exercise. Furthermore, readers are advised to just try to enjoy life as best you can because it actually feels 'pretty nice' to just give up and realize that you're powerless to alter your body mass in any way, shape, or form.

Dr. Rena Wing, lead investigator, was quoted saying what my learned colleague Dr. Grant Donovan has been saying for decades, namely, You could work out every day and eat nothing, and you still wouldn't lose an ounce. And the sooner you throw up your hands and make peace with that fact, the better off you'll be. Not only are you stuck in your body but face facts: It's never going to look any better than it does right now. In fact, it will only get worse.

Swimming, biking, running, pumping iron, doing yoga, dieting - Ecclesiastes was right - everything is meaningless, peeing into the wind or, somewhat more elegantly, I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  Furthermore, while losing weight is impossible, gaining weight is not only well within the realm of what is physically achievable, but is remarkably easy and 100 percent inevitable.

model Bess Munster.jpg


So busting your buns to look slim and getting discouraged from failures is unrewarding and futile; better to focus your energies elsewhere. Where? On the important elements of REAL wellness. These are reason, exuberance and liberty. Consider the advice of Dr. Andrew Novak, University of California physiologist, who is quoted in The Onion report. He suggests that, instead of all that working out, we'd all be better off if we spent our time reading, being with our family, sleeping, watching television or eating. He adds, If you are exercising to prevent heart disease or cancer, well, new evidence has come to light that exercise actually doesn't help fend off any sort of debilitating illness. In fact, it never has, and the only thing that can help you avoid terminal diseases is pure, blind fate. Sorry.

So, what else to do besides read, enjoy the family, sleep a lot, watch TV, eat more and otherwise do what you like?

Well, how about living well in a whole person sense, worrying less or not at all about exercise, weight loss, risk factors, medical screenings and so on?

Design and fine-tune an enjoyable, always interesting REAL wellness philosophy focused on reason (effective decision skills or critical thinking), exuberance (joy, thriving, happiness, love, connections with others and the land) and liberty (carving out maximum personal freedoms for yourself and others).

Once you get your life on track along these paths, who knows? You might become a trend setter, able not only to actually enjoy being alive but, defying human history, achieve success in that other area of REAL wellness, namely, athleticism (exercise and sound dietary practices) and thereby lose weight, if you need to.

Probably not but if you can enjoy trying, why not give it a shot?

Full disclosure: Donovan and I did not arrive at our Icantdoit insights out of whole cloth, absent all manner of varied influences, little by little over time. Besides those mentioned above, a special shout out to Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. This situation is part of a greater absurdity of existence without purpose save for meanings and purposes embraced through experience. Recognizing Icandoit regarding weight management at least provides a dignity of honest clarity. In Camus famous words, Being aware of one's life, and to the maximum, is living, and to the maximum

Good luck and be well.