Getting It: The Truth About Diet Pills

by Rachel on April 21, 2010

Since we’re talking about all things drug-related this week, it seemed as good a time as any to tackle the topic of…diet drugs!

I have gotten some e-mails regarding this topic. Do I recommend them? Do they work? I know that most people give a pretty stock answer to this (“Never! No!”) but, like I always tell guys…let’s go a little deeper, shall we?

First, do I recommend them? Of course not. I really don’t, and not in the way that health magazines don’t but advertise them anyway, or in the way that personal trainers don’t but then hawk them anyway (cough, Jillian Michaels, cough). I simply don’t.

Do they work? Well, that’s kind of an interesting story…

My junior spring of college, I was sad. I don’t even know if I knew how sad I was! In between all the good things life at MSU had to offer, I was a mess over a guy who, as Julia put it, made a career out of disrespecting me. I was certain that if I could just lose weight, he’d stop screwing other girls and realize we were meant to be together. I wasn’t overweight, I was just average, up a few pounds from spending the previous semester eating/drinking my feelings over said guy. I decided that in order to make him love me, I needed to lose 15 pounds before Formal in the spring. So I decided to try diet pills, which you can buy at pretty much any drug store.

Do they work? Yes, they work. You know what else works? Cocaine, meth, and parasites you get on trips to Mexico.

They work because the drugs completely kill your appetite. And this isn’t a little, “Oh, I’m not even hungry for an afternoon snack!” This is like, “Oh it’s 5 PM and all I ate today is a hard-boiled egg.”

First, the high doses of caffeine (even if they say they don’t have it, trust me, they’ve all got some form of speed in them) make your heart speed up so fast you shake. It’s like coffee jitters…times a thousand. I’d get on the treadmill and run for 10 minutes, but then I’d have to stop because my heart rate was out of control. Oh, and because I was truly running on empty.

Because they kill your appetite, they make you feel like shit. Of course you’re not going to want to eat when you feel like your head is splitting open, which is how you feel. I didn’t feel so much cloudy or foggy as I felt, like…shattered. My brain felt cramped, but then like it was breaking into a million pieces. And you know how you get HANGRY when you don’t eat? Um, yeah, there you go. But actually, I didn’t feel so much angry as I just got sad. Food is joyful. Not eating is depressing. And when you’re sad enough to take diet pills to improve your love life (Jesus, even writing that is disturbing), you don’t need to get even sadder by not eating.

So yes, I dropped weight pretty fast. I was at my goal by Formal…and the guy still didn’t love me like I wanted him to. (Of course he didn’t. OF COURSE HE FUCKING DIDN’T, Rachel.) Then I went to NYC a few days after the semester ended to intern at a fashion magazine, and, still sad about the guy, and now in an environment that wasn’t exactly pro-healthy body image, I kept on keepin’ on with my little dolls.

And then I realized…sometimes they don’t work! Sometimes I’d take them (and you take like ten a day) and I wouldn’t feel that jittery, frantic, painful feeling that made me fine with not eating. So then they were just a huge waste of money — because they cost like $30 a bottle, which lasts between two weeks and a month. So that always sucked, but, like, really, it’s not like you can call the Better Business Bureau on the shady ass makers of non-FDA approved diet pills.

But for the most part, they did work. I didn’t eat. I was so anemic that it took me 15 cups of coffee to get through a day without falling asleep at the copier. My skin faded to yellow, and then gray. And I lost more weight. And then you know what else I lost? MY HAIR.

The day I looked in the mirror and realized my hair had a big hole in it was the day I realized I needed to be done. I mean, my hair…NO. I’m half-black and half-Suburban, plus I’m a Leo with Leo rising, so I take the whole concept of having a mane pretty seriously. Like most women, my hair is important to my self-image. And when it comes to choosing between being skinny or having good hair, I’m going to choose having good hair, no questions asked.

So, my hair stylist cut off about four inches (thank goodness Katie Holmes and Rihanna had just done the same, otherwise I would have been bawling in the salon) and I realized it was time to stop my little Valley of the Dolls existence. I started feeding my body and hair, running, lifting weights, doing pilates, and eating healthier foods. (Although any foods at this point were an upgrade.) Even though I had lost all that weight after high school, I had forgotten what it was like to work out to feel good and to eat good, fresh food. I started practicing what I call “positive nutrition” — the idea that what you put in is more important than what you take out.

After a while, my skin got color again and I stopped having to go to bed wearing six layers, blankets, and keep the air shut off in July. I was so happy and so healthy. But it wasn’t always easy to choose the healthier route. When I returned to NYC post-grad, I did have a second go-round with diet pills. Still, that time, more than before, I found that they really didn’t work. I didn’t lose weight; I just got ripped off. In that case, poverty trumped vanity and I was just kind of over it.

So yes, I suppose they do work, sometimes, if your hair, health, and mental and physical well-being doesn’t matter to you.

Oh and FYI that guy? Yeah, he never did love me like I wanted him to, no matter how thin I got. No surprise there — it was never about my weight, of course. However. He may have made a career out of disrespecting me; but, well, imma bout to make a career out of telling it like it is. Hope he likes my book.

The moral of the story: Don’t take diet pills and don’t chase guys who get a kick out of telling you about all the other girls they are screwing. Both are pure sources of fucking misery and you really deserve better.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Aisha April 21, 2010 at 8:53 am

I had that. His name was Alex, I would’ve done anything to make him like me, he was too busy screwing all my friends, every one of them and I always blamed them for it, never kicked him to the curb, until I got a guy who treated me with respect. I still have not lost the weight, Alex called me huge, James calls me beautiful. I hope everyone who reads this post gets inspired by you, because you are strong and they should use you as an example to kick that guy/friend/family member to the curb and admit that they deserve better, because we all do.

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2 Stephanie April 21, 2010 at 9:03 am

I’m glad you posted about this…diet pills are scary and awful. I used to use them and they led to other desperate measures to lose weight. I got so bad I had to be strapped to a heart rate monitor for 5 weeks because I was blacking out at random times of the day…the shower, by a bonfire…just bad.

My life changed when I embraced a healthy and wholesome approache to nutrition and excersise and I have never looked back. That’s why it’s so sad to see people of influence like big time celebrity trainers turn to endorsing diet pills. It’s just sad.
.-= Stephanie´s last blog ..P90X Week 1 Video Recap =-.

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3 Jennifer April 21, 2010 at 9:12 am

My freshman year at MSU I was addicted to a certain diet powdered drink mix. I did lose the weight that I wanted. However, once I ran out of money and could no longer fund my habbit, I gained back all the weight PLUS 10 pounds, which I am still trying to lose.

I will never use a diet supplement again.

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4 Samantha April 21, 2010 at 9:37 am

Thanks for this! I was on every diet when I was in college and def. have experience with the diet pills. All kinds of pills (prescription and drug store)–the sad thing is they would work for a while or so and then stop being effective—then you end up really dissapointed. It was so ridiculous, but that is why I firmly believe that all these dieting schemes don’t work.

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5 Heather April 21, 2010 at 9:51 am

I did the same thing, but I tried them because I had just gotten rid of a boy that DID want me, but I didn’t feel the same, so I got pretty bummed my second semester of junior year too. I went and bought Hydroxycut (pre-revamped version that supposedly doesn’t damage your liver) to lose like 5 pounds (that I actually didn’t need to lose anyway since I was at my happy weight). I knew I was doing something wrong, even then, because I took cash out of the ATM because I didn’t want GNC to show up on my bank statement and have to remind myself or tell my parents what I had bought there. Luckily, I caught myself pretty quickly and confessed to my roommate who promptly helped me get my head on straight and told me to go return what was left of them. But up until then, I was shaking all day and getting anxious over everything, and they were hardly working. Not worth my health– mental or physical.
.-= Heather´s last blog ..A Week Without: Luna Bars =-.

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6 Sara April 21, 2010 at 9:55 am

I’ve never resorted to supplements, I think that I was always too scared that they would kill me… Cough (anna nicole). My friends tell me they work for a while but then you have to switch brands or up the quantity to get the same ‘high’ because your body gets used to them. Sad.

I wish that someone had *screamed* the rest of this message to me 4 years ago. Only after I found the perfect guy did I realize how badly all of the rest had treated me.

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7 Nicci@NiftyEats April 21, 2010 at 10:32 am

Diet pills are dangerous. I have a co-worker who just announced yesterday, she is going to her doctor for some diet pills. She doesn’t like vegetables, rarely eats fruit, and goes to ”happy hour” 3-4 times a week…she won’t work out either. I’ve repeatedly told her you have to get moving, don’t starve yourself and slowly you will see a difference.

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8 Bridget@PavementandPlants April 21, 2010 at 11:12 am

Thanks for admitting that you really did try them. I’ve tried them too and the caffeine was so intense I felt like I was going to jump out of my own skin.

..and isn’t it always about a guy?

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9 Angela @ A Healthy Fit April 21, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I’ve never actually tried diet pills, but I’ve always wondered. I still wonder and then I bitch slap myself for thinking stupid things. Thank you!

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10 MelissaNibbles April 21, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Great post! I used Xenadrine in college for the same reason…a dumb guy. I always felt like I was going to pass out or have a heart attack. I kept taking them though determined to be “skinny”. One day I passed out at work and they had to call 911. It was so scary and not worth any guy. I haven’t even looked at diet pills since and never will.

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11 RhodeyGirl April 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Great post.

I once took a diet pill by mistake when a friend handing me an advil bottle for a headache (she kept diet pills in the bottle too- I didn’t know the difference!). Anyway, I was so shaky and sick I didn’t know what was going on! I can’t imagine feeling like that every day!!!
.-= RhodeyGirl´s last blog ..Philly Foodies @ Garces Trading Company =-.

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12 Mella April 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm

This is such an important topic. So many girls are looking for a quick fix. I learned about alli in one of my classes in college and my professor telling us about how it makes you leak oily, shit uncontrollably. Weeks later I actually overheard girls talking about how they use alli and I’m like… ok… is fitting into a size two really worth you ruining your favorite pair of searsuckers? And as far as boys, pretty sure that’s not a turn on regardless of the fact he’s a dbag.

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13 Bess April 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I had a tryst with DP’s myself and never looked back or felt better once I made a clean break.

And I find it really troubling that so many celebs are now hawking those awful little mongers.

Okay, skin treatments, I get that (even though the commercials could not be more “8th grade media project”).

Indoor grills, on board with that (you totally got me cooking in college) and hey I’ve never been one to knock vodka or tequila (just not for breakfast).

But diet pills is a whole nother story….

Think about how many 16 year olds are gonna go pick up a bottle and start poppin’ because they want a body like the stars on their favorite “reality” show.

My favorite part of all the diet pill ads is “these results are not typical”. If only the print wasn’t so fine on that.
.-= Bess´s last blog ..How Do YOU Fit In Workouts? =-.

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14 Triz April 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

“However. He may have made a career out of disrespecting me; but, well, imma bout to make a career out of telling it like it is. Hope he likes my book.”

So deliciously vengeful! Oh, wouldn’t you LOVE to be there invisibly when he finds out about it? LOL!

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15 Shawn April 21, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I totally tried the diet supplement route – it was Slim Quick. Yeah, it was great when the pounds were coming off, but if I didn’t take it for a day, I got SOOO dizzy I was practically passing out. Everyday, if I even touched caffeine, I would be dizzy and sit down for like 30 minutes. To this day, no caffeine for me because the effect is still on me – take a sip, you’ll be dizzy, because the amount of caffeine in the magic diet supplement was SO high!!

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16 Melissa (It's a Veggieful Life) April 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Great post, Rachel! That sounds like a super scary experience with diet pills. Can you imagine what your mom was thinking, if she could see the way you were wasting away? And how many girls out there are going through the same thing, asshat guy or not…sad & scary. So glad you’re healthy & back to normal. Well, as normal as you can be I guess. ;)
.-= Melissa (It’s a Veggieful Life)´s last blog ..Breakfast Yum-O! =-.

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17 Keri @ Iron Mountain Movement April 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Never tried diet pills myself, but did run with someone who was pretty into them. The last time that he took them (I hope) was before a hilly training session a few summers ago, anyway half way through the session he thought that he was having a heart attack. Scared the crap out of both of us!

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18 Julia April 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm

I am so proud of you for writing this. I finished reading it and just felt this sense of triumph for you. You’ve come a long way from that dark, diet-pill place and everything that went along with it. I’m so glad you are in the place you are now (er, figuratively, not literally….sorry Grand Blanc) – happy, healthy, and loving life!

This post, in my mind, was about more than just diet pills – look at how many commenters above me have made decisions that hurt themselves physically, emotionally, and/or mentally! We’ve all done it, and for what? For a boy or for an image or for a career? Perhaps I’m still riding the high from the great Madonna/Glee episode last night (soo good! loved the message!), but I really hope we are moving to a place where young women are able to love themselves and demand they are treated the way they deserve to be treated, without the ‘help’ of diet pills, without seeking approval from men, the media, or peers, and without compromising their physical or mental health.

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19 cassie April 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm

this post was so timely for me.. as i was having an argument with a co-worker of mine who told me thats she’s taking diet pills.. she’s as petite as they come and a former dancer (professional not stripper)… and i was so annoyed with her that’s she’s taking them.. i sent her a link to this post.. i hope it inspired her to stop taking the pills.. she takes like 3 a day…

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20 Dori April 21, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Thank you for writing this. Really great post.

I had a very bad experience with diet pills about 4 years ago. I bought the green tea kind and ended up with tachycardia. When I walked up the subway stairs my heart would beat insanely fast and I would get so weak. By the time I got to the top of the stairs I’d be so weak I had to sit down right on the sidewalk. It was very scary — and this was after only a day or two of taking the pills.

I went to the doctor and had to wear a holter monitor to work for two days. Needless to say, I was fine after stopping the pills. Obviously they were NOT worth it.

It is ridiculous how diet pills are legal when they cause such intense heart problems after taking just a few of them!!! Yet marijuana is illegal. Sigh.
.-= Dori´s last blog ..Run for the Parks Playlist =-.

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21 Ziggy April 21, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Thank you for this, Rachel. I never cease to be amazed at how inspiring you can be just by telling it like it really is. *hugs!*

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22 Sophie @ yumventures April 21, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Thank you for this amazing post! I have never read anything so candid and hilarious! I had a friend once who used to joke that, since diet pills suck, maybe she should just get a tape worm. Its pretty much the same thing.

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