I am a big fan of FlyLady because she has helped me get my life in order. For nearly 12 years of marriage (to say nothing of my single years), my husband and I have had goals that include washing and putting away dishes every day, cleaning house once a week, and going to bed early enough to get 7 or 8 hours of sleep. We’re still working on the sleep part (and let’s be honest, probably will be for the rest of our sleep deprivation-shortened lives), but FlyLady has enabled me to, for really the first time in my life, meet the dishes goal (and certain other goals) on a consistent basis. This may not sound like a big deal to those of you who are, as she puts it, “born organized,” but it is a huge deal for me after beating myself up over this issue for years.

So anyway, I get her emails and am generally a big believer in the system. She is kind of cheesy and occasionally throws a bit of a petulant fit when people disagree with her, but who’s perfect? Certainly not me. That’s why I like her.

One of the offshoots of her philosophy that I don’t so much enjoy is the concept of “body clutter.” She tries to loosely apply her strategies for decluttering to weight loss, and predictably, it doesn’t seem to quite work out. For one thing, she herself is still fat, which is certainly fine by me and none of my business, but it’s interesting since I have no doubt she has tried to lose weight using her own system.

Note that I haven’t read the book and the description sounds like weight loss is de-emphasized, so I’m sure this is not the worst diet ever invented or anything… I just feel like the whole “fix your emotional problems and get skinny” thing has kind of been done to death, and surprise, we are not all skinny. Anyway, the email list is not terribly diet-y but there is an overall attitude (to be fair, this hardly originated with FlyLady) that getting your weight “under control” is part of getting your life under control.

There is also an emphasis on cooking at home to save money and improve your health–and there’s nothing wrong with that unless it becomes a moral imperative. The tips and recipes provided are probably helpful to a lot of readers. Unfortunately, in a recent email from FlyLady’s food expert, Leanne Ely, it did become a moral imperative, in a way that really pushed my buttons. Ely put together a “top ten list” along the lines of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules (unfortunately I can’t link to it because it was posted to FlyLady’s email list and login-required message board, not to Ely’s blog), and number 10 read as follows:

10)To afford to eat food worthy of consuming, eat only quality, real food and eat less of it.

Who does she think she is? “Eat only quality, real food and eat less of it.” So basically, in the real world, if you are poor, this means you’ll be taking the same food budget and using it to buy more expensive food (usually read: fruits and vegetables), necessarily in smaller quantities than you were buying before of other foods. This could result in a huge loss of available food energy. Possibly enough of a loss that you will no longer be able to afford enough calories to live on. It is not necessarily the overall concept of changing the choices you make that bothers me–perhaps if you are lucky enough to not be all that poor, you can make some substitutions and still be able to afford adequate nourishment. (After all, leaving aside non-trivial issues of the time it takes to prepare such things and whether you can find them in your local store, say, dried beans or canned vegetables–which she also nixes in one of her other “rules” due to sodium, but screw that–can actually be affordable compared to prepared foods. In fact that makes the “rule” kind of bewildering because it seems to imply that “high quality” food is always going to be more expensive. Kind of leads you to wonder what she means by “high quality,” but anyway.) No, as screwed up as some of the other assumptions implicit in this rule are, it is the apparent belief that less is always better when it comes to food intake that is causing me to experience a  simultaneous sort of white-hot rage and terrible hopelessness.

I think this reaction is mostly because deep down I know how common this view of fat people is–that somehow, because we have larger bodies, we can subsist on air and a few broccoli florets and that will actually be good for us, whereas a thin person gets a pass to consume, you know, an actual reasonable quantity and variety of food, as needed to live and thrive. (I wish I could find it now, but I remember someone in the fatosphere being told by a doctor to buy a head of broccoli and make it last all week as the entirety of her dinners.) Ely seems to make it even worse by extending this “less is better” belief to all people, probably because “everybody knows” that Americans are pretty much all too fat, right? This “rule” implies–intentionally or not–that it is a universal moral good for all people to constantly strive to eat less and less and less.

Anyway. Wrong. Fat people need adequate quantities of nourishing food–note: 1000 calories is not usually an adequate quantity, and you need protein and fat too–in exactly the same way that thin people do. To think otherwise is to deny that fat people are… well… actually people; and, in this case, to dismiss the difficulties of poor people and those who can’t afford “high quality” food as something they could overcome if they just tried a little harder. There is way too much of this crap out there as it is.

Thumbs down, Leanne. Keep the cooking tips coming, but lose the self-satisfied judgment next time.

(Incidentally, in rule #6, she also states “They are the enemy” with reference to regular and diet sodas. Dramatic much?? I tire of the scapegoating of soda. Sure, it’s bad for you. I am just finding it harder and harder to care.)