It only matters what works for you.

Archive for June, 2016

I beg your pardon?

I finally had time to read an article shared by a dear friend of mine who shares not only my love for bats, but also health issues that refuse to fit in a box and a waistline that defies all attempts to force it to conform to mandated proportions.

The title is “On ‘tough love’ and your fat friend’s health.”

Something was wrong with my body. I’d failed a test I didn’t even know I’d taken.

It’s really horrible as a child when you first find out that a) you’re fat, and b) fat is bad. The equation is simple, if I’m fat and fat is bad, then I’m bad. It really sets you up for an entire life where you’re a failure for something you didn’t even know you did. I’m pretty sure that’s not what doctors and parents and family intend when they start explaining things to you, but that’s what actually happens.

…I received unsolicited health suggestions, stern lectures, gym recommendations, names of surgeons — an avalanche of advice I was already taking. Talking about diet and exercise, my favorite vegetables and personal bests, were all shorthand to preempt the inevitable. I know I’m fat, but I’m spending every waking moment to change that. I hope you won’t write me off completely.

I’m not sure why people you know seem to forget that you are intelligent and educated when they start talking about your weight. Did you think I hadn’t ever looked into diet or exercise? And why, exactly is it socially acceptable for complete strangers to accost you and discuss your ‘failings’. I was once accosted by someone while on vacation at Disney. A perfect stranger walked right up to me to discuss the virtues of something or other. Since at that precise point in time I was reveling in my recent loss of over 100 lbs, I wasn’t really interested in her opinion on how far I might still have to go.

Why is it ok to accost a stranger about their weight, and not about something like inadequate hygiene?

No matter my symptoms, no matter the needs I stated, everything was attributed to being fat. Even when I lost weight, my health failed. Bloodwork showed that I had become anemic, dangerously short on iron, and low on essential vitamins. Despite being a middle class, college educated woman, I was undernourished. Because the focus of weight loss is never nutrition — just burning off as much fat as possible, as quickly as possible. Anything that didn’t do that was an abject failure.

Every fat person knows that fat causes every conceivable health problem, from dandruff to athlete’s foot. Most doctor’s first questions will be about what you’re doing to get the weight off. Like it’s the most horrible creeping mold conceivable.

They spend much less time checking to make sure that the 1200 calories that are all a fat person deserves in a day are healthy and providing the nutrition needed. Do you know how hard it is to get an appropriate amount of trace minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids in 1200 calories? It’s not impossible, but it requires strict attention to detail.

Those are just a few of the brilliant and insightful comments in the article. I encourage you to read through the whole thing.



Cause or effect?

Recently there were a number of articles all about The Biggest Loser, and how every contestant but one has gained back weight and a number of them now weight more than they did before.

I’m going to be clear, I’ve never watched the show. For some reason I don’t care to watch endless fat shaming and unhealthy exercise, because I’ve already been there and done all of it, and I don’t need to live vicariously. And this article shared a lot of the horrible things I expected but that aren’t common knowledge.

In fact, contestants have been seriously injured, but it’s not often shown. The first-ever “Biggest Loser,” Ryan Benson, went from 330 pounds to 208 — but after the show, he said, he was so malnourished that he was urinating blood. “That’s a sign of kidney damage, if not failure,” Darby says. Benson later gained back all the weight and was disowned by the show.

This article was the one that made me ponder though. Apparently the Biggest Loser phenomenon has been very useful for scientists, because they have been able study a group of people who have all been closely monitored, so it’s easy to see what really happens. It isn’t pretty though. Lose skin and permanently altered metabolisms. All stuff I already knew from my own forays into dramatic weight loss. The article talks a lot about set points, and the metabolic damage done by dieting. It talks about leptin and the voracious hunger caused by low levels of the hormone, barely detectable in contestants by the end. It talks about the difficulty in maintaining a significant loss in the face of biology.

Which brings me to the question I have for this. What if the institutionalized diet companies, and the increasing focus on maintaining a standardized and possibly unrealistic body weight is the real cause of the ‘obesity epidemic’?

I’ve written about the inherent failure of diets before. More than once. And truly, I think it’s much more complicated than that and has roots in our food supply, but I think it’s a serious, problematic contributor. The problems with significant calorie restrictive weight loss have been known and understood since the Minnesota Starvation Experiment in the 40s. If you wanted to build a conspiracy theory about self perpetuation of the diet industry, there’s a lot of great material, you don’t really even have to dig.

Long term weight loss and maintenance have a horrible failure rate. Anything over 5 years is considered a success. I was a ‘success’ until my life got complicated and I couldn’t maintain the strict diet required to maintain my loss. Absolutely, almost everyone can lose weight using any of a number of diet approaches. But the chances of keeping it off long term are terrible. And so are the affects of yo-yo dieting on long term health.

I want to ask, why, if the pitfalls and poor long term success is so well documented, do doctors keep recommending strict calorie controlled dieting. But I know the answer. They don’t have anything that works better to offer.

We’re going to have to keep looking ourselves.

Grief is physical.

There’s a lot written about how grief affects the mind. 5 stages of grief, types of counseling. It’s easy to forget that things that affect the mind also affect the body. I don’t know about you, but all my various health issues often cause me to think about my body in the third person, as something separate from the ‘real’ me. I don’t believe that’s particularly healthy, but, you know, work in progress.

This was brought home to me recently by a bad cold.

My husband gets sick more often than I do. He works in an office with people who can’t remember to stay home when they’re sick (very liberal work from home policy) and he rides the germ-ridden DC metro twice a day. I work from home, giving my immune system many fewer trials.

Two weeks ago my husband brought a particularly nasty cold home from a conference. He was sick several days and we held off any kissing and he’s good about hand washing and corralling his tissue pile, and I went about my business as usual.

Then my sweet kitty got sick. I took her to the emergency vet thinking ‘gastroenteritis’ but it turned out to be poisoning from advanced kidney disease with no reasonable treatment options. I can not clearly express the depth of  my shock. She was her normal, happy self only two days earlier, and then she was gone.

And by the next evening, I was sick.

Now it’s entirely possible that I was going to catch it anyway, but I don’t think so. I haven’t had a full on respiratory infection in nearly 10 years, since I fixed my asthma and allergies by giving up dairy.

So the next time grief comes into your life, remember to be kind to yourself, not just emotionally, but also physically.