Cartoon: Our Loss, Your Gain

This cartoon is by Becky Hawkins and I.

The book Diets Don’t Fail, by Jascha Fishburn, says (in its jacket copy):

A diet has never failed anyone; however, many people fail diets, again and again every day.

This attitude is extremely common among diet advocates, although they don’t always say it so baldly. It’s also pretty common among health care professionals.

Dieticians in Stone and Werner (2012) research expressed feelings of frustrations with their fat clients; “and this situation repeats itself, this frustration of people coming and not losing any weight. This frustration of knowing that I did my best, and I kept my end of the deal, and now it’s your turn [the patient’s]”

The evidence is overwhelming that for the vast majority of people, deliberate weight loss – especially the huge weight loss required to turn a fat person into a non-fat person – is not sustainable. All diet plans (including “lifestyle change” plans) seem to work for a while, but in the long run nearly everyone gains the weight back, and often wind up weighing more than before their diet began.

Legitimate research has consistently found this result since before most of us were born. A 2015 British study found that fat people had a less than 1 in 100 chance of becoming “normal” weight: “In simple obesity (body mass index = 30.0–34.9 kg/m2), the annual probability of attaining normal weight was 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for women, increasing to 1 in 1290 for men and 1 in 677 for women” who were fatter.

But people simply refuse to believe what studies have found for decades. In many cases, this is because of ideology or just the difficulty of unlearning what we’ve been told all our lives. But for diet companies, there’s the additional barrier that they make money out of believing the lie and convincing others of the lie.

It’s been improving – compared to a decade ago, more healthcare professionals and mainstream journalists seem willing to admit that dieting fails – but it’s a long, slow slog.

In the original script for this, the weight loss program was called “Slenderiffic,” which was the first thing I thought of. But when Becky was drawing the box in panel two she asked if we could use something at least a little shorter, to better fit on the box.

We bounced ideas back and forth. I suggested a whole bunch of shorter possible names, including “Willoow.” Becky suggested “Willow,” and then I suggested making it “Willo-We,” and Becky thought of the crowning touch of a macron over the O.

As Becky pointed out, “Willō-We” feels much more contemporary; “Slenderiffic” sounds like it’s making fun of a weight loss snake oil from the 1960s.

And because we had that process, that back and forth, the brand name “Willō-We”™ is now my favorite thing in this cartoon. I’ve come to realize that I really, REALLY love doing collaborations. Becky’s especially great to work with, because we seriously share a wavelength, but I enjoy working with all the other Leftycartoons folks as well.

When Frank Young first came on and colored some of my cartoons, I told him to imitate my coloring style (extremely limited palette, often non-naturalistic colors). But over time, he evolved back to using something closer to his natural style, and I’ve come to really love the way it looks (and accept that it’s okay that it doesn’t look as if I’d done it).

For your enjoyment and edification, Becky’s reference selfie for panel two:


This four-panel cartoon shows a conversation between a casually-dressed woman – tank top, casual pants, sneakers, ponytail – and a woman who either is a doctor or is trying to be mistaken for one, with a white lab coat with a name plate, and slim pants and high heels. We’ll call them SUSAN and FAUXDOC.


Susan is smiling happily, and pulling the waistband of her pants forward to show a gap – i.e., that she’s lost weight. Fauxdoc is grinning even bigger as she talks to Ponytail.

SUSAN: Wow! I’ve lost twenty pounds!

FAUXDOC: Congratulations, Susan! And all thanks to the Willōw-We™ Lifestyle Change™ Program System!


A close-up of Fauxdoc shows her grinning as she holds up a box with “Willōw-We™ Lifestyle Change™ Program System” written on it in large letters.

FAUXDOC: Because you couldn’t have done it without us, right?


Susan’s smile has dimmed a bit, but she’s still smiling. Fauxdoc has produced a huge professional-looking camera and is preparing to take Susan’s photo.

SUSAN: Um… I guess?

FAUXDOC: I’m taking your picture! Everyone will see how Willōw-We™ made you lose weight!

FAUXDOC: All credit to Willōw-We™!

FAUXDOC: Do the waistband thing again.


Time has passed, and Susan has definitely gained weight. Susan looks sad and a little bewildered; Fauxdoc is glaring at Susan and pointing at her accusingly.


SUSAN: The weight came back…

FAUXDOC: DAMMIT, SUSAN! You failed and it’s all YOUR fault!

Our Loss, Your Gain | Patreon

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