Health


Body Love Wellness has a very revealing interview with a Biggest Loser finalist here (Part 2 here, and some additional thoughts on the interview here). I think it is awesome that Golda got the straight story on this.

Whether to diet is a very personal decision, but I think it is bad news bears to make it dramatic enough to be a reality show–the kind of slow, moderate weight loss that people seem to agree is “healthy” (not that I personally am even particularly convinced of that, of course) does not exactly make good TV. Even worse now that clueless workplaces have weight loss competitions loosely based on this concept (my complaint being that–even if you buy into weight loss as a positive–it should never be a straight “competition” based on the scale because, since different people lose at different rates, that all but guarantees people will do stuff that is risky or ill-advised. Adults can do what they like with their own bodies, but feeling coerced to participate in a weight loss competition is not cool).

Individual fat people may be unhealthy, and I’m sure some individuals have benefited from The Biggest Loser. Statistically it seems likely enough, I guess. But it is by no means a given that any particular fat person is so unhealthy that it justifies overexercising in 90-degree heat, purging, diuretics, and a caloric intake so low that it is likely to screw up your metabolism for life. These things are a bad idea on principle, and fat people are being used as guinea pigs in a way that is very irresponsible. I am far from the first to make this observation, but I suppose something actually beneficial, like a HAES show, would be far less popular because fatties would be empowered, not punished.

I understand what it is like to want this badly to be thin, but The Biggest Loser just preys on that desire and feeds into viewers’ beliefs about fat people (all for entertainment value–it’s not like this is an altruistic venture designed to benefit humanity) in a way that is very distasteful to me.

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I was alerted to this article by the fan page of New York State Senator Diane J. Savino, of whom I am indeed a big fan even though I don’t live in New York. The article is a sad (from my standpoint) laundry list of diets that politicians follow to avoid being called or thought of as fat on the campaign trail. What made me perhaps most sad, though, was Sen. Savino’s comment when she posted the article:

Here I am quoted in a NY Times article on campaign season and dieting: ‘Most women are going on a diet whether or not they have a campaign,’ she said. ‘Since I hit puberty, there hasn’t been a week in my life that I haven’t been on a diet. It’s kind of like an ever-present condition for me.’

Well it’s true! Also we will soon be announcing a get healthy campaign this summer. We will keep you posted.

I can’t think about this too hard because I have seen enough fat hate today and already feel pretty much like shit about both my body and my diet. But I hate to see a woman who has accomplished so much just blithely accepting that it is a woman’s lot in life to diet from puberty until death. How can people consider this unproblematic or entirely a health issue? There are few things in life more apparent to me than the fact that the push to be thin on the campaign trail (and really most other places) is NOT. ABOUT. HEALTH.

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.”

I heard a report on NPR this morning, about a University of Buffalo study on consumer buying habits when food prices are manipulated to make “healthy food” (i.e. fruits and vegetables) more affordable. I have several comments. Don’t even get me started on how the report (it is kind of a mish-mash) starts with an example of how “In a London-based study, dieters got paid when they dropped pounds.” ‘Cause everybody needs to “drop pounds,” and everybody can do it without adopting unhealthy crash-dieting tactics, right? Anyway.

Now researchers are interested in understanding how food price manipulations may influence what ends up in mothers’ grocery carts.

Interesting. Are mothers the only people who buy food? I mean, naturally they are the ones to blame for killing their families with “junk food.” Everyone knows that.

‘Then we looked at the purchasing patterns of these mothers,’ explains Len Epstein, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Buffalo who was involved in the study. He says the mothers’ choices were somewhat predictable. When the costs went down, ‘they did buy more of the healthy foods.’

But since the healthful items now cost a lot less, the moms had money leftover. Esptein says they used it to buy more junk food.

‘When you put it all together, their shopping baskets didn’t have improved nutrition,’ says Epstein — they had the same amounts of fats and carbohydrates.

“Didn’t have improved nutrition”? Fat and carbohydrates ARE NUTRIENTS. As Kate pointed out long ago (but most people have yet to get the memo): adding cheese sauce to your broccoli does not negate the nutritional value of the broccoli. In fact–although this is beside the point that in my opinion grownups should be allowed to make their own food choices–some nutrients are fat-soluble, and limiting fat does not seem to be a priori a good thing. I thought we were all on board with that these days?

I get that in this case they are talking about people buying processed snacks, but simply totting up the macronutrients in the cart and concluding that a cart containing a variety of whole foods and some processed, fatty and/or sugary foods is just as “bad” as a cart containing all processed foods (or, to put it another way, that limiting carbohydrates and fat as much as possible is something to strive for) seems ridiculous to me. (Leaving aside that my shopping cart might contain all produce one day and all, I don’t know, baking ingredients, light bulbs, and cleaning products another.) Also, I can’t find the study, but I would be really interested in knowing exactly what the composition of those shopping carts was. Were they really outside the bounds of a reasonable carbohydrate/protein/fat ratio?

The researchers, in any case, conclude that a “sin tax” is therefore the way to go. Great. That should really help poor people get the calories they need to function and survive. WHY do these people always assume that the ideal that we should all be striving for is to live on, like, vegetables and air?

The report then jumps for some reason (under the heading “Effecting Change in the Real World”–and I’m not suggesting people stop trying to find creative ways to give kids access to healthy food, but let’s recall that we learned in Rethinking Thin that even the largest, most comprehensive school nutrition intervention programs aimed at reducing obesity, which is likely the subtext of all this since again, fruits and vegetables are emphasized whereas higher-calorie whole foods are not) to an anecdote about a school which bars any snacks other than fruit during the school day. I have no problem with fruit, obviously, but I think the more telling part of this is a statement by the teacher interviewed for the report that “Once they get it every day, they’ll eat like three bananas.” Maybe these growing kids are just hungry and fruit doesn’t always cut it? How about some dried fruit, nuts, cheese, yogurt, trail mix, or something?

It also doesn’t help that every time I see a program like this gleefully enforced by an adult (as it is by this teacher, who brags that she “has tried for years to enforce a healthful snack rule in her classroom”–yeah, let’s try to control how families spend their own food budget without offering assistance), I can’t help but think that he or she has probably been dieting his/her whole life, like most people who live in modern society, and is likely projecting those mores onto kids. Making fruit available: good. Making a moral issue out of it: bad. Assuming “more vegetables and less of everything else is always better” or “fewer calories is always better”: also bad.

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.)

But this would seem at first glance to be one of the wackiest (I ran across it accidentally while trying to find… not a naturopath, exactly, but I need a new doctor now that I no longer work in the city where my previous doc is located, and am interested in one who is both fat-friendly and open-minded about various types of therapies. These features would unfortunately seem to be mutually exclusive as far as I can determine through internet searches, seeing as most alternative practitioners also seem to be super-fixated on weight loss, colonics, and restrictive ways of eating such as raw diets, but that’s another story).

I especially love an argument I read in the Amazon reviews of a book associated with this plan, basically that it’s a human hormone, so compared to HFCS and trans fats, how could it possibly be dangerous? (After all, he or she argues, it’s used as a fertility treatment! So therefore it must be totally safe for everyone!) Anyway, everyone knows that there is absolutely no way hormones or related substances can cause problems.

The same reviewer states “I am very surprised by the negative reviews of Trudeau’s book. Amazon’s suggested tags have words like ‘fraud’ although this book has mostly positive reviews.” I mean, how can something be fraudulent or misguided if it is POPULAR, am I right?!?! LOL.

I would certainly never go off-topic and start ranting about a pet peeve (ha), but come to that, most diet books I have seen on Amazon have mostly positive reviews. That is because they all seem to say “I have been following this diet for 3 months and feel great and have lost x pounds!” or “I am 30 pounds into a 60-pound weight loss and better yet, I am keeping it off!” Um, I don’t think that means what you think it means. Rarely do you see an update from someone saying “I lost the rest of that 60 pounds and 8 years later, it’s still gone!” I wonder why that might be.

In any case, I think most of us can probably agree that eating 500 calories a day and injecting pregnancy hormones is perhaps not the most sane-sounding plan ever hatched.

I just wanted to toot my own horn by announcing that I finished the half-marathon I have been training for this morning in 2:15:49. I also finished in the top half of my age/sex group. I am thrilled with this result–my goal was 2:30:00, and near the end of training I was somewhat concerned I wouldn’t be able to meet it. But prior self-doubt notwithstanding, the race itself was a ton of fun and the course (over the Ambassador Bridge and back through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel) was so scenic and enjoyable. Crowd support and the weather were also great. Interesting factoid: other than a refueling stop in Gander, NF on a flight to Europe in 1992, I have never been to Canada before. This is despite growing up in Michigan and working for 3 years in an office building overlooking the Detroit River from which I could see Windsor every day. (No, I’m not really sure why I never just drove over there.) Well, now I have been there–on foot! 🙂 Very cool. Overall, the race was an amazing experience for me.

I also wanted to report that despite rumors to the contrary (I saw a couple of Facebook comments–which I’m sure posters  considered positive and complimentary–about how it was great to see such a “fit, good-looking” crowd at the pre-race Health and Fitness Expo–presumably they meant by contrast with the typical convention center crowd), my visual observations indicate that a number of ACTUAL REAL LIVE FAT PEOPLE, even apart from myself, participated in this morning’s races. Many of them even finished AHEAD OF THIN PARTICIPANTS. Photodocumentation of this remarkable fact is available (possible headline: “OMGWTF FAT WOMAN STOPS EATING DONUTS FOR SEVERAL HOURS, RUNS MARATHON”). But… but… Fatosphere readers, you don’t seem shocked at this news! Huh. Oh well. 🙂

In any case, congratulations to everyone who participated, and on a very sad note, my thoughts are with the loved ones of the 3 runners (certainly an unusually high number for one event) who died during the race. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a friend or family member under such shocking circumstances.

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