top of page

“Maintenance Phase”: The Podcast That Does Not Progressively Get Harder and Harder as It Continues

Hosted by author Aubrey Gordon and journalist Michael Hobbes, this well-researched and always good-humored podcast dispels the many myths, debunks junk science, and pokes fun at health and wellness fads with a healthy (but still flavorful) serving of pop culture references. If you’re looking for a new, informative podcast to listen to, or you’re in the mood to hear about some absolutely ridiculous quotes from celebrity diet books, here are some of my favorite episode recommendations to get you started!

  1. “The President’s Physical Fitness Test”

Also known as the Bleep Test or the Fitnessgram Test, but no matter what you call it, this is most likely the basis of everyone’s most embarrassing childhood memory. As you may remember, this fitness test was a series of physical tests given out to schoolchildren in the U.S. to measure the children's health and physical fitness levels. This was typically done with a checkpoint the children had to reach to be considered in the “healthy fitness zone.” The best part was that all these tests were performed just as you were going through puberty and in front of all of your peers. Hobbes and Gordon dive into the origins of the fitness test which began with doctors Hans Kraus and Sonja Weber who were then known as “posture physicians.” Later, Kraus and Weber would be convinced that part of this problem arose from children not practicing these exercises enough in their youth. This led to the creation of the Kraus Weber test– a six-part test that measures “basic fitness”-but it is different from the fitness test in that it simply measures minimum fitness, requiring each exercise to be done only once. Kraus and Weber would later be joined by Bonnie Prudden and the three of them would administer this test to children in Switzerland, Italy, and Austria. Once the test moves to America, it is found “that 58% of U.S. kids fail at least one of these tests and only 8% of the European kids fail these tests, " leading to panic surrounding the physical fitness of America’s youth. If you’re someone with a personal vendetta against any and all fitness tests, or you were the random goth kid who destroyed all the exercises, then this is a great place to begin your “Maintenance Phase” journey.

  1. “Diet Book Deep Dive: Ed McMahon’s ‘Slimming Down’”

For those of you who don’t know, Ed McMahon was the sidekick to Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” long before Jimmy Fallon. McMahon was a comedian in more ways than one if his diet book that unironically suggests eating half a grapefruit for breakfast is anything to go by. Apparently, this is the diet book that started Aubrey Gordon’s diet book collection (which includes Elizabeth Taylor’s book with a recipe for a very sad chocolate mousse). According to Gordon, she would categorize this as a “low carb diet book,” meaning it is based on counting calories from carbs and lists ways of reducing carbs in one’s diet. Although, it should be noted that the book does not count what McMahon calls “carbo cals” in hard liquor (shocking). Gordon does point out how McMahon’s book acknowledges that carbohydrates are necessary in one’s diet, making it slightly “better” than contemporary “low carb” diets, which usually vilify carbs and attempt to persuade readers to cut carbs out of their diets completely. Personally, I love their diet book deep-dives because of how much humor the hosts inject into each book while poking holes in some of these celebrities’ dietary logic. Of course, at the end of the day, what Hobbes and Gordon are doing is once again dispelling the health myths that are perpetuated in these books, often accompanied by unhealthy eating habits that do more harm than good. Sadly, no diet book from the 70s is complete without a generous helping of misogyny. One quote from McMahon is, “Hold on a second, ladies. Let me list some of my qualifications before I try to pass myself off here as a semi-authority on your particular weight problems.” Spoiler alert: he has none except that he is married to a woman and had children with her. If you’re in the mood for something funny, informative, and defensive of potatoes, check out this episode.

  1. “The Biggest Loser”

While I recommend this episode, there is a content warning as it frequently discusses body shaming and includes some reasonably intense quotes. Imagine going from the kids in your high school class to national TV. Also, imagine that instead of the PACER test beeping to let you know your test is over, it goes on forever until you either throw up or pass out. Oh, and you’re being yelled at by horribly mean, hot people too! Well, this formula was made for great reality TV long before the creation of “Love Is Blind” and has aged like milk. The show's premise was to recruit fat people to compete in different challenges and see who lost the most weight at the end of each week. Real-life supervillain Jillian Michaels would “motivate” contestants by screaming inspirational words of wisdom such as “I don’t care if people die on this floor, you better die looking good” and “I don’t care if one of your legs falls off or if one of your lungs explodes.”

As you can see, she was a nurturing, compassionate trainer. Of course, the real issue is the fact that people were being publicly humiliated and, to some extent, tortured for the sake of “entertainment.” All this show has ever achieved is adding to society’s already existing fatphobia and having the audacity to capitalize on it. Unfortunately, it worked, and this show became one of the most popular reality shows of its time, leading to merchandise that promoted the show as well (including a fat camp). Gordon and Hobbes dive into how this show was ever created, debunk the statistics used, and, yes, talk trash about the show along the way. 

  1. “Celery Juice” 

Saving the best for last, this one includes a taste test! At the root of most of these junk science and health fads is blatant manipulation of people. Gorden lists the numerous illnesses and conditions that celery juice is purported to “cure,” such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Lyme disease, endometriosis, and autoimmune disorders (celery juice cannot cure any of these and should not be used a medication). Hobbes points out, “many of those conditions are multifactorial, and scientists don’t know all that well….Many of them are perfectly structured for this kind of snake oil bullshit.” Those selling these products take advantage of people genuinely concerned about their health or have any of the aforementioned illnesses and may not completely understand their condition. Gordon mentions how the creator of this fad contends that celery juice is “not a health trend” but an “affordable” and “accessible” way for people to become healthier despite the fact that most “wellness” trends are only accessible and affordable to wealthy individuals. The man who began this craze was Anthony William, who is not a certified healthcare provider but has millions of followers on Instagram and Facebook. There is also a “protocol” for drinking celery juice: to drink 16 ounces of fresh juice on an empty stomach and then go without food for 15-30 minutes before moving on with your day. Celery juice and other trends like it use specific protocols and requirements, like not adding anything that can “taint” it to blame the people who choose to use the product rather than the product itself.

Written by JD Valdepenas

bottom of page