Silence The Health Fad Noise With 'Maintenance Phase'

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For years, I followed health fads just like much of the world. When I was in high school, I did the South Beach Diet with my mom. I don’t remember much about it except that I was very hungry and we put lemon peels in low-fat ricotta cheese and convinced ourselves it was dessert. In my 20s, I did Weight Watchers. I did it again in my 30s. I lost weight. I gained it back. I worried that someday I’d decide to do it again. These diets never made me feel good. They just made me feel programmed. And there can be a certain calm in having a program to follow. But, it was always wrapped up in the promise that it was going to unlock some kind of “new me.” And then I’d just end up eventually back to the old me. What a cycle.

Then, last year, a friend who’d done Weight Watchers alongside me that last time sent me a text. “Have you listened to Maintenance Phase?” I hadn’t. But once I did, oh, my, it freed me.

Maintenance Phase is a podcast that describes itself as “Wellness and weight loss, debunked and decoded.” The first episode I listened to was about Weight Watchers, which is why my friend recommended it. I was immediately drawn to the chemistry between the hosts, Michael Hobbes (You're Wrong About) and Aubrey Gordon (Your Fat Friend), who basically spend the episode shocking each other with research about a topic. Their banter is top-notch. But it’s more than that. With each topic they take on — not all weight loss-related — they peel back more and more layers with a piercing strength. The picture this particular unpeeling paints? In all its forms, wellness and weight loss culture serves to:

  1. Convince us we’re doing things wrong.

  2. Sell us things. 

For me, listening to the podcast has opened my eyes. I’m seeing this pattern illustrated again and again, whether Michael and Audrey are talking about celery juice (OMG, it’s the best episode), olestra (hello, throwback), or Halo Top “ice cream.” The kernel of truth these things all have in common is being a fad that tried to convince people they could solve all their problems. Drink celery juice and your ills will melt away; olestra will let you eat as much junk food as you want and not gain weight — same for Halo Top. All you had to do was buy something and give it an outsized importance in your life. Easy peasy.

Seeing that pattern laid out over and over has made it a lot easier for me to tell when I’m being sold something that fits that criteria. Maintenance Phase, therefore, has helped me see weight loss and wellness advice for what it is. Diving headfirst into weight loss programs is just like believing olestra will save the day and let me eat even more potato chips than I can handle. All of these things are quick fixes or not fixes at all. And like how the guy at the carnival doesn’t really want me to win a stuffed animal, none of these programs actually wants to help me long term. They want me to give them money. And I don’t need to.

If you want to check out Maintenance Phase, you can find it on your usual podcasts services. Or, you can check out their website: Among my favorite episodes are: Weight Watchers, Dr. Oz, Celery Juice, and The President’s Physical Fitness Test — an episode that made the inner 8-year-old me cry out with glee and vindication for not doing great at sit-and-reach. It’s the kind of podcast you can bounce around with, so I think it’s fine to start with ones that pique your interest. Once you get into the groove of the energy of the show, you’ll find yourself clicking episodes with topics you know nothing about. After all, learning about new things is a lot of the fun of listening.

New episodes are released every other Tuesday. 

Tags: Healthy Eating, wellness, podcast, healthy living

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Written By

Lauren Harkawik

Lauren Harkawik is an essayist, journalist, and fiction writer in Vermont, where she and her husband are raising their daughters. See Full Bio

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