Evil Diet Brain


One of my Facebook friends posted this article containing “19 New Reasons to Keep Fat Off.” I swear it is like an FA manifesto. 90% of these “new” reasons (not so new to those of us who are fat and deal with this crap on a regular basis) are about how fat people get inadequate medical care due to ignorance or bias on the part of physicians, or how assholes in society treat fat people badly in general. It seems to me like any logical person would see this list as a wake-up call to start examining some of our more poisonous and destructive attitudes toward fat people. Also, if I had done some of the studies they cite that look into these biases and negligence, I would not be well pleased that they were included in a pro-weight-loss article. Miss the point much?

Also, do you love as much as I do the total scientific and statistical FAIL in the #1 reason on the list, which refers to a published study to support its claim that EVERY SINGLE ADULT in the U.S. will be overweight or obese in 40 years? There will be NOT ONE exception. LOL.

“Enjoy.”

So I signed up to do a 10K with my friend in my hometown in May. I was getting nervous that I had never actually run a 10K distance, and I felt OK upon finishing my usual 45-minute run yesterday (I go about 4.2 miles in the 45 minutes–yes, I am slow) so I just kept going, and I did it! My legs were tired, but it was doable. I just had to share. ūüôā

It took me a little under 1:06. I think I have some hope of breaking 1:00 in the actual race, so I think I will set that as a goal. I badly want to say something here like “but it really doesn’t matter.” But Gina Kolata informs me (via Fat Girl on a Bike) that although the bad news is, younger women runners may tend not to take their running seriously or to feel like they are “allowed” to be competitive unless they are elite athletes, the good news is that women in the higher age groups (like 50-54) are kicking younger butt in races. The experts she interviewed believe that this may be because women tend to be less inhibited about being or “appearing” competitive (or IMO on the flipside, risking looking foolish e.g. “Who does she think she is?” if we don’t meet a goal) as we get older.

Let it be said that I think the Reebok “Run Easy” ad campaign (which Mo Pie at Big Fat Deal wrote about a while back) is an easy target, and criticism of it like that in the article–mostly out of people like the self-righteous wing of the Runner’s World crowd, which, like that bunch really needed any more opportunities to feel like they’re better than everyone else–is not unlike the sneers that come out of the “anti-obesity” mob whenever someone proposes that fat people can improve their health through HAES or even anything less punishing than the most spartan diet and exercise regimen. (It’s funny how trolls love to tell fat people that all they need to do is, like, “take a walk once in a while” and stop mainlining donuts, but along comes something like “Run Easy” and the same folks start bloviating about how Reebok is just encouraging obesity. Wait a minute, I thought the problem was that fat people were glued to the couch and stuffing their pieholes 24/7–now it’s just that we’re not running hard enough? Gee, these naturally thin people sure know a lot about the details of my diet and exercise habits, and exactly what I need to change in order to be just as thin as they are! One RW commenter, I shit you not, made a slippery slope argument that somehow this ad campaign would let fat lazy resource-squandering Americans off the hook to believe that driving in your Hummer was the same as running. Again, I swear I am not making this up.) I personally think the message of the “Run Easy” campaign (as described on the web site) is a really great one–exercise in a way that makes you feel good and that you love, and avoid injuring yourself.

Apart from all the moralistic ridiculousness described above, not everyone sees a need to race in the first place. To me one of the advantages of running is I can pick out a nice area that I enjoy walking around in, and then I can see even more of it in a shorter time because I’m going faster. For most people, I think staying in shape; getting some alone time, Vitamin D, and fresh air; enjoying the scenery if you live in an area where that’s possible; and the stress reduction benefits of running (or walking, or cycling) are probably plenty.

And it’s not like your health improves the faster you run; I tend to think that as long as your heart rate is elevated to an appropriate degree, you’re getting the benefit of whatever cardiovascular exercise you choose, and at some point running faster probably increases wear and tear on your joints and your risk of injury, all other things being equal. So I see getting faster as a goal you pursue for its own sake (which is not to say that it is not a worthwhile goal–certainly I am the last person to believe that every goal in life should be connected with “health” per se), which is why I think the reasoning of most of the “Run Easy” detractors is a load of crap.

But since I am signed up for a race anyway, and I do see that the article might have a valid point about women suppressing their competitiveness and that this is probably not a great thing for women in general (or for me in particular since I am so loathe to “look stupid” or “put myself out there,” which I need to get over), I might as well start putting Kolata’s findings to the test, my minor quibble about the “Run Easy” thing notwithstanding. I think the Cool Runnings 10K training program is probably a good choice, except I don’t have 12 weeks so I’d have to compress it, or find an “emergency” training program, and just do what I can to get a little faster before the race.

There are two things about this idea that scare me:

1) I am not fast. When we did the 50-yard dash in school, I was always the kid crossing the finish line like 5 seconds behind everyone else. I was churning my short fat legs as fast as they would go, but that was the best I could do. If you haven’t experienced this, let me tell you: It’s discouraging and once you do it several times for various Field Days and Presidential Fitness Challenges and such, it’s enough to convince a kid for… oh, let’s say, about 20 years afterward… that she’s just not athletic, so there’s no point in trying. So anyway, even if I completed all their recommended fartlek (hee) and hill training and such with the goal of getting faster, it’s likely that I would still not be objectively “fast.”

You might say that I should be competing against myself and the focus should be on getting as fast as I can be, not as fast as someone else can be, but I can already anticipate the disappointment of knocking myself out and then not really getting that fast. And then the self-doubt would creep in: “You didn’t train as hard as you could have… this is because you’re lazy and didn’t really go flat-out in that one hill-training session…” I’m not sure I’m really up for feeling that way.

I also think that physically, I enjoy the runs I do now (although they are hard, don’t get me wrong–if anything I tend to push my heart rate too high) whereas I doubt I would enjoy the interval training. What if I put myself off running altogether? Worry, worry, worry.

2) Ironically (or perhaps “totally expectedly, duh”) I find that the “Activity Points” focus of Weight Watchers actually makes it a little more difficult for me to get over the mental hurdle of starting to “train” versus just logging x minutes or miles y times per week. The thing is, I need those Activity Points–my appetite is much larger than the number of points WW allows me, but when you add in the 8 or 9 APs I can get in a typical run, that’s closer to the ballpark. 10K training programs typically include shorter runs, intervals, and crosstraining days that would reduce the number of APs.

So I guess the question is, do I care? WW people reading this would probably go “Just eat less on those days” whereas sane people reading this would probably go “Scrap WW and the APs and save yourself some money and stress.” I guess I am somewhere in between those two ideas, probably (I flatter myself) closer to the “sane people” side. My rational brain is going “Why the fuck do you put any stock in this stupid Activity Point concept in the first place?” But again, and you’re going to get sick of reading this if you haven’t already, I am not sure the Evil Diet Brain is ready to make that leap.

OK, so I think what I’m going to do is figure out today the best training schedule for the 4 1/2 weeks I have remaining before the race, and just start it tomorrow. If I hate it I can always either quit signing up for races, or just return to my usual schedule and accept that I’m in future races for fun, not speed. But who knows–maybe I’ll actually enjoy it.

So I mentioned recently that I was hoping to divorce activity from “calorie-burning” in my mind,¬†and this weekend I decided that since the weather¬†had gotten¬†so nice, I’d make a policy of something I had done off and on last year and start substituting some form of yard work for one of my weekly runs/gym workouts. And darned if it wasn’t actually kind of fun and satisfying to rake the yard and get things cleaned up a little, out in the gorgeous weather, and it actually accomplished something.

I like running on its own, and it gives me¬†alone time to hang out with my iPod, as well as reducing my stress and helping with my depression,¬†so¬†it’s not like I am minimizing those benefits. But the unfortunate truth is that¬†deep down my evil diet brain finds it an expedient form of exercise because you can¬†burn a lot of calories quickly. So breaking up that mindset by varying my activity a little is probably a good thing, plus I’m using different muscles working out in the yard, which I think is good for your body overall, and I get to enjoy the fruits of the improvements I’ve made to my¬†fitness when I¬†can work longer without getting tired¬†(note, I’m not referring to weight loss here–I think I could probably¬†have made the same improvements just through Health at Every Size (HAES) strategies¬†without any weight loss–it’s just the fact that I have started working out and lifting weights regularly over the past couple of years seems to be¬†increasing my endurance for this kind of task).

I¬†did check¬†the Activity Points after finishing up in the yard, because I am apparently hopeless, but the amusing thing is that the number that I estimated was 4. In the original post I said I was hoping to be OK with activity for its own sake and not feeling negative about it if I only earned 4 Activity Points instead of 9. And looky there… that’s exactly what I did, and I didn’t feel edgy about it¬†like I think I would have in the recent past.

Of course the ultimate goal would be not to check or care about the points, but I think this is a good first step and I think¬†the once-weekly “real-life activity” substitute¬†will be good for my sanity going forward. Not to mention my yard might look marginally less like shit this year. Nah, that’s probably a little too optimistic.

So, I wanted to flesh out my goals here a little further, and hopefully give anyone who is reading a little better insight into who I am and what I’m like. This should also help you determine whether you want to continue reading me in the future. Here goes:

What I anticipate I’ll be posting about:

Fat Acceptance. Weight is an issue that is near to my heart, as I have lived as a fat person for all of my 31 years. I am a proponent of fat acceptance (see sites like Big Fat Blog and Shapely Prose for discussion on what this means). There is a lot of debate about what has caused or is causing the so-called “Obesity Epidemic.” Setting aside all of my opinions on that topic for now–because the cause of the so-called “Obesity Epidemic” is 100% beside this point–fundamentally, I believe that fat people have the right to be treated the same as other human beings, and not to face discrimination. This means, among other things, that fat people have equal rights to access effective health care and not to be discriminated against in matters of employment, family life, or everyday activities. If you think this isn’t happening, here are examples of discrimination faced by fat people in each of these areas: Health care, employment–the proposed policy in this case, interestingly, is not legal in Michigan only because we have an anti-size-discrimination law; family life (via Shapely Prose), everyday activities. And these are only the ones I know about, that occur to me off the top of my head.

Fat people deserve just as much basic human respect as thin people regardless of their habits or your perception of their habits. And although it is outside the scope of this post, and although I believe very strongly that basic rights should not be predicated on whether you are “good” health-wise, I still want to underline that most fat people do not fit the donut-eating, couch-potato stereotype that you may have in your head as you read this. Fat people eat similarly to thin people. Whether it’s about weight or anything else (pet peeve alert), we all REALLY need to stop assuming that we can know anything about someone’s lifestyle just by looking at them.

Food and my weight. All that being said, I have very complicated feelings about my own weight. In a nutshell, since I was 16 or so I have weighed anywhere between 169 lbs. (when I was on the Fit for Life food-combining diet in high school) and 276 lbs. (two jobs ago when I was at about my lowest point as far as hating my job and my career). I also have a lot of past history of compulsive/disordered eating, which I believe probably arose from my mother’s well-meaning attempts to keep my brother and I from getting fat. No, she didn’t starve us–she just did what parents are advised to do now, which is to keep pretty much all junk food out of the house, and put kids on calorie-controlled diets if they start to get fat. Later I started sneaking lots of food when my parents weren’t home and bingeing to the point of discomfort on a regular basis. My relationship with food is screwed up to this day, and I don’t think the fact that my food was restricted and I was taught to diet at such a young age is unrelated to this.

I have lost and regained weight several times as an adult through various cycles of dieting, attempting to eat intuitively, disordered eating, dieting again, etc. Most recently, my best friend lost a significant amount of weight a few years back on a commercial diet program, at a point when I was at my highest weight ever, and after observing her for a while and determining that she seemed to be eating fairly sanely, I decided maybe I would try it too. The day after my 30th birthday, I attended my first meeting, and have since lost 97 pounds.

So, this would normally be the point where I talk about how I’m a “completely different person,” and vow that I’ll never be that fat again. To be blunt about it, I view that entire outlook as a load of crap. I believe the statistics that say that 95-98% of dieters regain their weight (and anecdotally, we have all seen really dedicated dieters regain–it’s obviously not just a matter of trying really really hard), so every time I see someone vow never to regain weight, I think “Yeah, good luck with that, and trust me, you’re gonna need it” and I put myself in that same category. It also enrages me both personally and as a feminist to think that I’m supposed to consider weight loss such a huge milestone or accomplishment in my life. Finally, I don’t disgust myself, whether we’re talking about the fattest or the thinnest version of me. I am me and although my weight is a huge part of who I am, because how could it not be in our society, the way it influences me may not be quite what you think.

Oh, and incidentally I don’t believe in the hairsplitting that goes on between “dieting” and “lifestyle changes” or whatever the current euphemism is, even though the diet program I’m on is IMO dishonestly trying to split that very hair in their current ad campaign. I don’t really believe this company is completely evil, and my meeting leader is actually a wonderful person, but call a spade a spade. If you are controlling your food intake and exercise level for the purpose of losing weight or controlling your weight, you are on a reducing diet or what is known in current vernacular as “a diet.” Therefore, as much as I would like to weasel out of it and say I’m not, I am on a diet–and if you are currently deliberately losing or trying to lose weight, so are you. I have a lot more to say about this, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

OK, so do I prefer being thinner? Sure. It’s a lot easier to grab a size 12 off the rack in any store I like than it is to try and find something that looks decent on me (and doesn’t cost $60.00) in Lane Bryant. The thinner I am, the easier it is for me to run, which I enjoy, and I feel better physically–though honestly, for me this has not been nearly as huge an improvement as other dieters say it is. I also feel better about how I look when I’m thinner. Duh, I live in society, it’s kind of hard not to feel that way. So, because of these things, I’m still on the diet and I’m still attending meetings and weighing in weekly, because for now I find it relatively low-stress and am at a kind of equilibrium where I am neither starving nor stuffing myself, which is physically and mentally comfortable for me.

Realistically, however, this is probably going to change (remember, I’ve been fat all my life–I’ve been dieting since I was like 8 years old, so I’m not exactly blind to the predictable end that most diets come to), so I think a lot about things like Intuitive Eating, and how I can transition away from the parts of the diet that I feel are destructive while still maintaining the parts that I feel are healthy for me (this may be confusing since I’ve just more or less said that diets suck, but again, it’s complicated for me), and maintaining a focus on health without freaking out if and when I do regain weight. I have made some modifications to the “program” that make it more suitable for me, and I’ll probably get into that also because there are connections there to Intuitive Eating and my own eating history, but again I don’t consider the diet any more likely to “work” because of this. It’s still a diet.

So, all of these things will probably come up. I think I’ll enjoy having my own space to be honest about my own feelings about all of these issues, and hopefully be able to work through some things in the process.

Health and exercise. I enjoy running, weightlifting, and generally getting stronger and more fit, and I’ll probably talk about that stuff. I love the focus that I seem to see among fitness bloggers over the past few years on actually improving women’s strength (as opposed to strength training just to look better or “spot reduce” or “tone up”) and I enthusiastically support that approach, relatively clueless though I might be; at the moment I’m trying to figure out ways to mix up my strength training routine and although there is lots of amazing information out there to take advantage of, my immediate reaction is usually “too hard, too complicated” so I’m not exactly a poster child. But I do enjoy kicking ass and taking names.

On the downside, it’s hard for me to divorce exercise from “burning calories,” and eventually I want to learn to keep the part where I enjoy activity on its own merits and for the health benefits, without obsessing about whether I earned 9 Activity Points or only 4.

Boring events in my life. See also, overwrought personal angst. I am currently in what might politely be called a “career transition.” Basically, I quit my job as an engineer last November (a career that I was never really suited for, despite getting a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a P.E. license; OK, I’m a slow learner) and am looking for a new direction. You might say I was crazy to voluntarily leave a good job with a good company, which as far as I know I could have kept for as long as I wanted it, in a state where the economy is famously bad right now. You would probably be right. I hope this works out, because I’m getting to a point in my life where I need to either shit or get off the pot as regards both my career and the possibility of having children. In either case, I’m very lucky that my husband has a job he enjoys and is capable of supporting both of us while I figure this out.

Personal loyalties. Speaking of the above… nobody was probably surprised to hear me say that the State of Michigan is in big economic trouble right now. However, in the press and the popular imagination, that often gets translated to mean that Michigan is a horrible place to live. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. I absolutely love it here and although I certainly can’t argue with anyone who is leaving the state because of an inability to find work, I won’t hear any of the usual arguments about how “nobody” wants to live here partially because the weather “sucks,” or exaggerated dumping on the City of Detroit (much of which takes a very racist tone). I love the climate here, and although I’m a rural/suburban girl by upbringing, Detroit is a great American city. The scenery is amazing and the Great Lakes kick ass and I’m so fortunate we were able to move back here. I’m also one of those people who will jump down your throat if you refer to “flyover states.” On a related note, I am also a Michigan State grad and a huge fan of MSU sports (I’ve shelled out for season football tickets for the past several years, and if you are from around here, you know that only a true fan would voluntarily endure that). ūüôā These things are a big part of who I am and I’m sure I’ll be writing about them. In short, the Upper Midwest: Woo!

What this blog is not about:

It will be a cold day in hell before you catch me posting food logs, point counts, or assessments of whether I was “bad” or “good” with regard to food. Also, I don’t really condone dieting even though I am doing it myself (I know–I am a weird, inconsistent person) so I don’t really want to talk about it that much, except if I’m using the discussion to sort out some kind of larger issue or come to terms with my own feelings about it. I don’t mean “I can talk about diets but you can’t,” but it’s more like I’m going to have to take such discussions one at a time–I mean, if they occur, since nobody is even reading this right now ūüôā –and curtail them if they get too “rah-rah dieting.”

I guess that’s pretty much it.

For anyone who made it this far, hello and welcome! ūüėÄ