Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Going back in time, and what is moderation anyway?

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Comments on my post reviewing “Refuse to Regain,” has gotten me thinking on the subject of nutritional history and anthropology and the  notion of moderation.

I’ve always defined moderation as “the least restrictive method that yields the intended results.”

I’ve used that exact definition for the last 20 years.  I even used it when I taught basic nutrition in community college childhood development classes.

So what is the least restrictive method that is effective?

Ah, if only there were a single correct answer to that question.  It certainly would save us all a whole lot of grief and trouble.

I think one effective strategy is to try to recreate in our lives a bit of the past.  We weren’t always the fattest nation (only getting fatter).

To a certain degree, I think most weight loss does follow the model of time-travel.  Some of us may only have to go back a few years - when there were just few fewer labor-saving devices, people got just a little more sleep, and people ate out just a little less.

But how far do you have to go back?  Five years; 10; 50; 100; 500; 2000; 5000; 10,000; 15,000 years?

As Barbara Berkely says in her book Refuse to Regain (I believe quoting another source, because I heard it long before her book came out) that if all of human existence were to be considered one day - we’ve only been eating modern foods (like grains and dairy) for about 6 minutes.

When humans switched from hunting/gathering to farming - average height fell dramatically and new or rare diseases became common in the fossil record (diseases such as tooth decay and arthritis).  As farming techniques advanced, those diseases become even more common).

But who wants to eat a “caveman diet,” even if it were proven to be the “best” diet for humans?  150 grams of fiber instead of 20 or even the 35 (which is sometimes seen as extreme advice).

There are few hunter-gatherer societies left in the world.  Not many, but a few.  Barbara Berkely references a study of New Guinea or Australian aboriginal tribesmen (born into the hunter-gathering tribes) living a modern lifestlye and suffering modern lifestyle diseases.  All the subjects had some modern illness diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure.  They were asked to return to their tribal culture for a period of time (it wasn’t terribly long, but I don’t remember if it was 6 weeks or 6 months)- and their health improved dramatically.

Does that mean that we can’t get healthier unless we live like triable peoples have for millions of years.

I don’t think so.  But I do think that “time travel backwards” is a concept that almost anyone could follow with success.  Someone with 10 lbs to lose, or someone who is at a healthy weight but has some risk factors may only have to go back to 1980, whereas someone with allergies, insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, thin tooth enamel, autoimmune joint and connective tissue disease, arthritis and morbid obesity (like myself) may need to go back to the Stone Age.

Even as I’m more and more intrigued by primitive diets, I know that I cannot replicate an ancient diet in much detail.  I cannot and will not go back 15,000 years.

I could start from either end (modern foods working backward or stoneage working forward) or I could start in the middle.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s my strong belief that moderation will be whichever point allows me to reach a healthy state (in weight and symptoms).

When will I end up?  1965?  1800?  20,000 BC

I don’t know yet, but I do know that 2010 is killing a lot of us.  If we don’t make some retro-style changes 2050 will be worse.

Ultimately, we can’t ever truly replicate any year.  I am not going to eat insects, so whatever humans have gained gained from eating insects I’ll have to replicate in a modified “modern” way.  Some ancestor diets recommend low-fat dairy (not a paleolithic food, but if you can digest it, it’s more palatable than eating bugs).

I’m not going to go into the wilderness and chase a deer (or let a bear chase me), but I am going to swim and walk and bicycle.

It’s not about replicating the past, it’s about recreating the results.  For the most part, eating more foods that ancestor’s would recognize and the further back the better. 

I think it boils down to making changes that are “older” in spirit, using some fairly easy basic principles.

Higher fiber is better than lower fiber (we’ve bred the fiber out of foods). 

Lower sugar is better than higher sugar (because we’ve bred sugar into our foods).

More omega 3 fats 

Less high fat dairy and other “concentrated” foods (dried fruits have more in common with candy than with fruit). 

Eating fewer processed carbohydrates.

If you have autoimmune disease, consider the possibility that you may have to “go back” further than someone without AI conditions.

Ultimately, it can all be reduced to “moderation,” if you define moderation as ”the least restrictive method that is effective in achieving the results you want.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bananas: big bananas, little bananas, banana.com

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Bananas are one of the most common fruits sold in America, and in the world (some sources call it the most popular, and others say it’s as far down on the list as the third place).   They are rich in B vitamins and are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and magnesium.

 

 Bananas are not my favorite fruit (or even my third favorite), but I do like them, but I don’t like that the most common varieties bananas (in the USA) generally are so large that they contain two (and even sometimes three)  servings of fruit per banana.  I like to spread my fruit servings throughout the day, so that usually means eating only half a banana. 

It’s not a terrible inconvenience to cut a banana and half and put the uneaten half in the refrigeratior, and that’s usually what I do.  I just set the banana on a shelf in the fridge and when I take it out, I cut a very thin slice off the end (just because I don’t like the darkened appearance of  the cut end.   Sometimes you’ll read or hear that bananas should never be stored in the refrigeratior - that’s just not true.  Unripe bananas shouldn’t be refrigerated, because the cold stops the ripening process, but ripe bananas can be refrigerated.  The skins will turn black very quickly, but the inside will still be nice and firm for a long time in the fridge (banana.com says up to 2 weeks, but I’ve had bananas last even a longer). 

Bananas are very cheap where I live.  The Kwik Trip gas stations and convenience stores in our area sell bananas for 39 cents a pound.  According to Wikipedia, “Kwik Trip is also the only company in the region to carry Darien  bananas which have a somewhat softer/smoother texture than the conventional Dole bananas commonly found in supermarkets.”  I knew I liked the Kwik Trip’s bananas better than supermarket bananas, but until I read the wikipedia article, I didn’t know why.

I love miniature bananas (some of the miniature varieties, I really do think taste better), but I don’t love the price (up to 5 times the cost of larger bananas).  The oriental groceries in our area sell the tiny bananas at much better prices than the larger grocery stores, but I’ve never found them cheaper than $1 per pound.  I buy them occasionally as a treat, because they do taste a little different, and they’re so darned cute. 

The short and fat bananas have about 55 calories (1 fruit exchange), and the short, thin bananas are usually about 25 to 30 calories each (2 bananas = 1 fruit exchange).

When it comes to eating a banana, I usually just peel and eat.  I also slice them and put them in the freezer to add to smoothies (I love the texture frozen fruits create - almost like ice-cream). 

If you’re interested in banana recipes, I’d suggest looking online.  I have to admit that the Green Banana (plantain) and Potato salad recipe looks really good.

Plaintains are a starch/bread servings, not fruit.  They’re almost potato-like in flavor.  Like the tiny bananas, I’ve found them to be of better quality and price in asian markets, compared to supermarkets.

Also on banana.com is an interesting page on the medicinal uses for a banana from anemia to warts (and morning sickness, pms, high blood pressure, hangover, depression and other disorders in between).

So perhaps it’s actually a banana a day that will keep the doctor away.  Or maybe not, but they’re still good eatin’.

 

Making food journaling easier (or at least harder to avoid)

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

I used to keep my food and exercise journal in a standard-sized 3 ring binder, but I thought I’d use it more if I reduced it’s size to a Day Planner size to fit 8.5 x 5.5 ” paper. It helped, but I still wasn’t taking it everywhere. Sometimes I’d remember to take it to restaurants, and when dining in other people’s homes, but more often I forgot, or left it at home because it was too inconvenient or embarassing to take.

So, I’m trying something new. I shrunk down my exchange plan checklist (I used a spreadsheet program to make a little chart with boxes for each of my exchange servings under each category - protein, dairy, starch/misc carb, fruit, veggie, dairy, fat. The whole chart is about 2″ square).   I printed out a bunch of the charts (many copies to a page), then cut the charts into pages to assemble little booklets, with cardstock covers (using a tiny hole punch to punch holes in the paper and cardstock and stitched the pages together).  I had enough to make a couple booklets, each about 2″x3″.   When you open a booklet, the food checklist chart is on the left hand page, and the right hand page is blank to write on.

If I write small, I should be able to log all my food for the day. and contains pages for 28 days.

Then I used some plastic canvas and a nice sueded cotton/acrylic yarn to crochet a little “wallet” to hold the little booklet, and protect the book so that it can last me a month of carrying around in my pocket..

My plan is to keep the little journal with me, so I never have an excuse not to write down what I eat, before I eat it (even at home, I would make and eat lunch and then go record it, now I’ll have the log always immediately handy). It’ll also be less conspicuous in restaurants.

I have a short mechanical pencil to use with it. I thought about buying some micropens I saw at the OfficeMax, but I figured that a pencil was safer if the jeans ended up in the wash with the booklet and writing instrument in the pocket (hubby and I are both notorious for forgetting stuff in pockets).

It won’t replace my my Day Planner, because I’ll still want to food journal on a larger page when I have the time, because I also log things like how hungry I am, and also keep a symptom log in there. Also, I keep a lot of other neat motivational stuff in it besides the food journal, like my exercise chart and my weight loss chart (each pound lost is a square on a chart that gets a sticker. Initially I was giving myself a small reward for each 5 lbs, but then I got out of the habit.

I know it may seem more appropriate for a preschooler than a soon-to-be 44 year-old woman, but I’m willing to treat myself like a child if that’s what works.

 

 

 

Rats can’t count calories or keep tiny, little rat food journals

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Not long ago there was a research study that found that rats who drank water sweetened with aspartame ate more sweet foods when given the opportunity than rats not given the aspartame sweetened water.

This has inspired two new diet myths (that irritate me, which is why I’m writing this editorial).

1.  All artificial sweetners make you eat more sweets (or more accurately artificial sweeteners make you want to eat more sweets).

Firstly, the study was only of aspartame, so condemning all artificial sweeteners is premature - and secondly humans are not rats, and we have abilities that rats do not. Rats aren’t able to keep a food journal and set and keep a daily calorie limit.  They can’t say “I know this might make me hungrier for a short period of time, but the emotional satisfaction of having a low-calorie “sweet” dessert is worth a short period of inconveniently having to deal with a few cravings that might occur.”

 

2.  As a result of myth number 1, It’s better to eat “real” sugar.

This one really irritates me, because I believe in the original study, there was no sugar-water group.  The effecfts of aspartame-water was compared to plain water.  There’s no evidence at all that this “hungry for more sugar” experience doesn’t happen as much or more with real sugar, yet people are also saying that you should “eat real sugar” because artificial sweetener makes you hungrier for sweets than real sugar does (there’s been absolutely no support in the research for that claim, as far as I’m aware - in fact, quite a bit the reverse. Sugar is at least as likely to increase hunger for more sweet flavors - so eating “real” sugar probably is no better).

 

I an NOT saying that using artificial sweeteners is necessary to weight loss.  There’s no reason to use them if you don’t want to.  However, an advantage that humans have over rats (probably) is the ability to think about and control our actions.  A rat is unable (I think it’s reasonable to assume) to think ”boy I’m starting to pack on the ounces, I’d better cut back on the munchies.”

 

As a human, we can count calories (or whatever we want to count, carb grams, fat grams, food exchanges, Weight Watcher’s points…), and we can follow diet plans (whether we invented them or someone else), and we can keep food logs, and diet journals to help us gauge our own success.

Unlike a rat, we can keep a food log.  We can write notes in it about how hungry we feel, what we’re craving, how we’re feeling physically …. and if we see patterns that concern us, we can take corrective action.

If aspartame gives you headaches, or you get extra hard to ignore cravings after eating Splenda-sweetened treats, you can decide for yourself whether the food is “worth the trouble.”

My food journals helped me discover that I have a reaction to wheat (that seems worst with bread, so maybe I have a secondary allergy/sensitivity to yeast or some other bread ingredient). I’m avoiding wheat, and planning on eventually getting allergy and celiac tested.

I find that on a very low-carb diet (Atkins induction level) with no sweets or sweeteners of any kind - that I am the least hungry, but I’m also the least enthused about my diet. I feel most like I’m on a diet, and do not feel I’m eating on a plan I can stick with. I also lose the most weight (still not fast, but a whole lot faster than on a high-carb diet of the same calories).

Artificial sweeteners seem to make me hungrier for sweets, and hungrier in general, but the effect seems FAR LESS intense than real carbohydrates do. If I eat something too sweet, even some fruits I find that I feel like I’m “starving” within an hour. If I eat protein with the piece of fruit, this doesn’t happen or is less bothersome.

I find that the emotional satisfaction of having sweet treats is more valuable to me than the small difference in hunger. As a human being, I can choose to ignore hunger, or satisfy it with a zero or low calorie snack.

I do find that my particular downfall is mindless eating - eating without a plan. As much value as I place on food journaling - it’s also something I find very easy to abandon. I’ll do great for a few weeks, and then get lazy.

Without a plan, I do eat more like an animal (an animal with good table manners) - letting my hunger and cravings guide my eating. When my intellect is in control, and I’m aware of what I’m eating, artificial sweeteners do not seem to affect my weight loss at all. I just can’t afford to go on “auto-pilot,” especially using artificial sweeteners, and even more so on a high-carb diet.

The expression “Are you a man, or are you a mouse?” comes to mind, or in this case “Are you a human, or are you a rat?”   The answer is clear, but living like it - isn’t always quite as simple, and yet we do always have the choice to exercise our humanity.

 

 

The Wolves You Feed

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

I always tell people that the only difference between me and a person with multiple personality disorder, is that all my personalities communicate and are all named Colleen.   It’s just unfortunate that we all get punished when one of the Colleens does something stupid - but it’s great when we all get to benefit from one of us doing something kind, brilliant or wise.

It reminds me of the native american legend/parable about “the wolf you feed:

 

One winter’s evening whilst gathered round a blazing camp fire, an old Sioux Indian chief told his grandson about the inner struggle that goes on inside people.

“You see” said the old man, “this inner struggle is like two wolves fighting each other. One is evil, full of anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, deceit, false pride, superiority, and ego”.

“The other one,” he continued, poking the fire with a stick so that the fire crackled, sending the flames clawing at the night sky, “is good, full of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith”.

The grandson pondered his grandfather’s words and then asked, “So which wolf wins, grandfather?”

“Well”, said the wise old chief, “The one you feed!”

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I’d like to think that if I have a totem animal it would be the wolf (although it’s probably a fat golden retriever), but regardless…

I have to be conscious of which wolf (or which Colleen) I’m feeding, and how I’m feeding her (them), and not just symbolically but literally.  Do I want to feed Colleen (literal and mataphoric) crap and make sick Colleen sicker, or do I want to make healthy and strong Colleen healthier and stronger (physically and metaphorically).

Apathy and other negative states makes it easier too feed on junk.  Not just junk food for the body, but junk food for the mind.  Creating a negative mental/emotional environment by bitching, whining, and all-around pessimisim is so much easier (it often seems) than creating a positive environment with creativity, industriousness, and optimism.  The “default” setting can easily become a slowly (or not so slowly) descending spiral of negativity.

But we do have the power to change the direction of the spiral, and it doesn’t take a dramatic conversion experience.  We don’t have to become a different person, or change our outlook entirely, a small change can make dramatic change.

If pessimism is your natural state, you wil not become an optimist overnight (and possible never), but you do have to start with a glimmer of hope.  “There’s a chance that life doesn’t have to suck entirely as much as it does now,” may be as far as you can push yourself in the positive direction.   It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a start.  And afterall, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

 

 

 

 

My Dreamsicle Smoothie.

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

I bought some protein powder the other day (Pure Protein, Vanilla Creme flavor) at Target.  Almost $20 for 2 lbs (26 servings in the tub according to the label - but about 80 protein exchanges according to my exchange plan).

Here’s my smoothie

1 cup strawberries, frozen (about 200 g)

about 1/4 cup (60g) of orange sherbet

28 g Pure Protein whey protein powder, Vanilla Creme flavor (or any vanilla or unflavored protein powder)

3 t orange flavored psyllium fiber (I used Walmart’s equate brand, comparable to Metamucil)

1 packet of sugar free tang (the packets you add to bottled water).

8 ice cubes

1/2 can of diet orange soda.

Blended everything in a blender.  Mad about three cups of smoothie.

 

310 calories; 3 fruit, 2 protein

 

Results:  Very yummy, but a little too sweet and the vanilla flavor was a bit strong.  Next time I’ll make a few changes.  I’ll omit the sherbet.  I don’t think it added anything to the smoothie.  I’ll cut the protein powder down to half (1 protein, rather than 2).  I’ll only use half the protein powder.  I’ll also omit the Tang, or use only half a tube, and cut the fiber powder to 1 - 2 tsp.

 

Following the amended recipe, the smoothie stats would be about 140 calories, 1protein, 1 fruit.

 

Gaining respect for slow weight loss.

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

All of my life I’ve focused on the end result when dieting, measuring my progress by how close to goal I was getting.

As a result, maintaining the loss I already had managed was always still “failing” if I wasn’t moving closer to the ultimate goal. I felt like a failure more often than a success.

When I was 13, and weighed 225 lbs my doctor prescribed an amphetemine diet pill. By junior year I wasn’t taking the diet pill any longer (they’d stopped working long before) and was struggling just to maintain my weight loss (I’d gotten to 155 lbs, and my goal was 150). I was yoyoing around that 150, and my doctor decided to change my goal weight to 140. I suspect he thought it would “motivate” me. It had the opposite effect, I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I was now 15 lbs “further” from my goal rather than just 5. Not only did the new goal seem impossible, because I measured success only by how close I wasw to goal, I didn’t see any way for me to succeed. I was only 16 or 17, so I didn’t have the maturity to look at the success I’d already accomplished. I saw only my failure and the likelihood (it seemed) that I would never see success.

I kick myself even today (because I was a very smart kid. My IQ measured at Mensa level, for Gosh sake) that I wasn’t smart enough to decide that regardless of what the doctor said 155 was worth maintaining even if I never reached 140 or even 150.

I didn’t learn my lesson until THIS attempt, that every pound loss IS a celebration-worthy success. I don’t have to worry about whether I will eventually lose all the weight I would like to. Every pound lost is a success - no matter how long it’s taken me to achieve . Another mind game I find a hard habit to break, is thinking that my weight loss doesn’t “count” as much as someone who is losing those pounds quickly. If the message wasn’t coming only from myself it would be bad enough, but I get the same harsh message loud and clear from many outside sources (family, friends, other dieters, acquaintences, doctors, magazines, books, television) - only fast weight loss is admirable weight loss.

Most people don’t find a loss of 5 lbs (especially when you start with more than 250 to lose), very impressive (even to those who have never done it themselves). I think everyone assumes “well anyone could do that,” and losing the 5 lbs is easy, it’s maintaining it that is a lot harder, and most dieters don’t do that. If you know the statistics, maintaining a 5 lb loss for 4 years is VERY impressive.

I impress the heck out of myself when I realize that I’ve gone 6 years without a significant gain; that I’ve maintained a 20 lbs loss for about 4 years; a 50 lb loss for about 2 years, and an 80 lb loss for several months.

My husband and I are just starting to get a little respect from our families about our weight loss, because we’ve each lost about 80 lbs now. Though we have family members on both side who keep pushing us towards gastric bypass surgery because “it would be so much quicker,” even though we’ve explained every time the reasons our doctors have discouraged us from the surgery.

“Oh I’m sure you could find a doctor willing to do the surgery,” we’re told. They don’t get that we agree with our doctors that the risks outweigh the benefits of the surgery for us. We do not believe that being fat is worse than being dead.

My mental state has much improved since I’ve chosen to focus on how far I’ve come, rather than how far I have left to go (and when or whether I’ll get there).

I don’t have to have confidence in the next 175 lbs, only the next one. And on days when I don’t have confidence in the next pound, I can have confidence in maintaining the loss I’ve already achieved. Even on my worst day, I do have confidence that I can maintain the loss I’ve already achieved. I realize that’s something I never had before. I never looked or thought to maintenance, only loss. Now my prime focus is maintenance and further weight loss is a side benefit (but each pound I’ve lost, hasn’t yet shaken my confidence that I can maintain that loss too).

I don’t know where I’ll end the weight loss, and it really doesn’t matter. I only have to be confident in the current and next pound. If I focus on that, everything else will fall into place without my worrying about it.

Fat taboos

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I dearly wish that it weren’t taboo to acknowledge fatness (without assigning horror, blame, evil…. to the word).

If I see someone crocheting in public, I can say “I crochet too, and I love that yarn, where did you get it?” without risk of offending.  Yet if I see someone approximately my same size, I can’t say “What a lovely blouse, would you mind my asking where you bought it?” without potentially offending the person for indirectly implying a size comparison.  If the person isn’t HUGELY fatter than I am, the question is almost guaranteed to offend.

And God forbid talking to another large sized person (except in fat acceptance clulbs, weight loss groups and on fat acceptance or weight-loss websites) about the special challenges of being a large sized person.

Hubby and I were recently eating in our favorite Thai restaurant owned by a Hmong family. It’s a very small family place, and we’ve become very close to the family. Occasionally the owners’ children are in the restaurant. They’re all extremely well-behaved, and the four year old is an absolute doll. She’s allowed (by mutual agreement between my husband and I and her parents) to come sit with us while we eat.

She’s fascinated by my husband’s freckles and the fact that I have only a few and she (and her family) have none.

The last time we were in, she was fascinated with our glasses, so I let her try on my glasses, and she started talking about all the ways people look different including belly size and such, and I was very matter-of-fact that “yes” my husband and I are very big people, and that she is a very little person, and that yes David is taller than her daddy, and I am rounder than her mommy, David needs a cane to help him walk (she loves to borrow his cane and walk around the restaurant)…

It dawned on me only after we left, that some people may consider the conversation “wrong” both in our allowing the child to ask such questions without reprimanding her or at least distracting her, but also in our straight-forward, happy-to-talk-about-it answers.

To me they were innocent and wonderful question, and I enjoyed talking to her about all the ways people are different and the same.

I believe her parents did overhear most of the discussion, and they didn’t appear to be offended by any of it, so I suspect that the taboos about talking about a person’s size might be different (or they just suspect we’re a bit on the odd side, which we’ve already acknowledged).

I just wonder though if I made her life easier or harder by being so nonchalant and comfortable with talking about things that many people in our society consider taboo. Will someone freak out on the poor child if she asks them a similar question.

Not long ago a (very chubby) child in the Walmart made a comment to her sister that I had a big butt. The child was old enough to know this probably wasn’t a nice thing to say and her mother made the girl apologize and I was mortified.

Not because of the comment, I’m not afraid or ashamed to talk about my being quite a bit different than the average person. Fat isn’t a bad word to me, and I really am uncomfortable with children being punished for talking about it. Especially for a very chubby child, I think it sends a really messed up message. “Fat is really, really bad. So bad you’re not allowed to even talk about it or acknowledge that it exists. If you are fat, you are therefore also very bad, and you can’t talk about it.”

As a chubby child by kindergarten, I remember being very confused about being fat. I knew I wasn’t supposed to “notice” that anyone was fat but me. I wasn’t supposed to say much about being fat, yet everyone in my family and even sometimes adult strangers were allowed to talk about MY fat (and they usually did it with sad or angry faces), but I wasn’t allowed to talk about anyone else’s fat or even my own in most situations. But then at 8 I was enrolled in Weight Watcher’s meetings where everyone did talk about being fat (even women who had never had more than 10 lbs to lose). Talk about confused!

Sometimes I’m still confused. The taboos don’t make any sense (but then again taboos almost never do).

Rant: Obese does not = Evil Monster

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

I remember the days long ago when I felt guilty for being fat.  So much so, that I also felt guilty when eating - no matter how much, how little or how healthy I was eating.  Being fat meant I didn’t “deserve” a lot of things, but most especially enjoying my food.  If it tasted good, I was sure that I wasn’t supposed to be eating it because I didn’t deserve the pleasure.

In fact, I didn’t deserve much.  I punished myself by withholding most pleasures, telling myself I didn’t deserve any of them until I reached goal weight.

I’m very thankful that I gave up those beliefs in my 20’s when I found “Fat Acceptance.”  A controversial movement, but I do credit it with teaching me not to waste my life with self hatred.  Being obese since age 5, and having  never reached my goal weight in all that time, I would have had a very miserable existence if I were still torturing myself for being overweight, and putting my life on hold until I was magically worthy when the scale hit an arbitrary number.

I vowed not to let obesity prevent me from doing anything it didn’t prevent me from doing.  I can’t run up a flight of stairs and I accept that, but there’s no reason to avoid swimming or bicycling just because I “look ridiculous” doing it.

I’m finding though that I’m having less and less patient with folks who believe that they are evil, disgusting, and worthless because they do not weight what they’d like.  It drives me craziest when the person has only a few pounds to lose (although anything under 50 lbs feels like “only a few” to me, but even if the person has 800 lbs to lose, I still find myself internally screaming when they bash on themselves.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that shame, guilt, and embarassment are always inappropriate, and it is natural to hold yourself to higher standards than you hold others, but when a person treats themselves more harshly than they would treat a violent criminal, something is seriously WRONG.

If guilt and self-punishment worked, maybe I’d have a different opinion.  Then again, the cost still has to be considered.  What are the consequences of hating yourself to a lower weight?  Will you recognize a healthy weight when you see it?  Will you be able to turn off the self-hatred switch or will it have become a habit that you find harder to break than overeating.

Replacing self-hatred and punishment of fat isn’t easy.  It’s the social norm - so much so that women with not an ounce of body fat to spare, often call themselves “disgusting” over imagined curves.   Magazines and other media criticise petite celebrities for “letting themselves go,” if so much as a dimple can be seen on their size-4 thigh.

Fat-bashing contributes more to the problem than it does to the solution, and we’ve got to find that solution.  Obesity is becoming in reality the evil that we’ve to this point only imagined it to be - but obesity is the vilain - not the obese person.   We can’t confuse fighting obesity with fighting the obese person.  And I think that’s the distinction we are failing to make.  Punishing a fat person (even if that person is ourselves) doesn’t do much to combat the obesity.  It often does the opposite, by making the person feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless.

Without hope, nothing gets accomplished or even attempted because “what’s the use, it won’t work out anyway.”  We end up creating in ourselves, the monster that we see.

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

Does The Biggest Loser send the wrong message?

Monday, January 18th, 2010

There’s a great discussion going on at 3FC on this topic, and one of my posts struck me as something I really need to remember.  The easiest way to do that, seemed to be to put it here on my blog, so for what it’s worth, here it is:

I know that virtually everyone SAYS they know the show’s losses aren’t realistic (I believe them, or at least believe it’s what they think), but before Biggest Loser existed, I don’t remember ever seeing so many complaints on the 3FC and other boards about “only losing 3 lbs.” It seems that more and more folks ARE expecting much larger losses than ever before.

I think that on one hand, with the logical brain we “know” that those losses aren’t possible in “real life” (because no one has the time to work out 6 to 8 hours a day unless they’re independently wealthy and don’t have a job or a life). And yet the emotional brain says “I want that too - if them, why not me.”

Especially since the format hides how much work and time really went into those results. The week (which may not even be only a week) shows some intense exercising, but just a minute or so at a time. You see people being yelled at, and it encourages you to think of some of those folks as “slackers” (not realizing that your at-home exercise is probably 1/20th as long or as intense as the slowest, least achieving contestant). The show WANTS you to think that you would do better if you were there, you would APPRECIATE the opportunity, and you would be one of the ones that worked the hardest - Jillian would never have to yell at YOU.

It isn’t that people don’t think the show is unrealistic, it’s that I think there’s a big gap between the reality and many people’s perception of just HOW unrealistic the show is. People aren’t expextng to lose 20 lbs in a week - but they may expect still-unrealistic 5.

In part, because there aren’t shows praising and making a big deal out of the 1, 2, 3, and 4 lb losses, I think people are losing sight of just how incredible even the smallest losses are. It’s a big deal, and it should be treated like a big deal.

I don’t think ONLY TBL is responsible for the rise in unreasonable expectations, we’re an instant gratification society in more ways than ever before. I just feel that it’s one of the largest barriers to lasting weight loss, because when you expect instant, and don’t get it, that results in disappointment, and I think disappointment is the biggest source of failure when it comes to weight loss. People don’t quit because they ARE failing, but because they feel they are failing (often interpreting success as failure because they think, for many reasons that it “should be” faster and easier than it is - so they must be doing something wrong).