What Getting Thin Taught Me About Being Fat

Weight loss - Scale with HelpTwo years ago, at a small cabin in the San Juan Islands, I put a ladder on a slippery deck and stepped on it, and something happened that will surprise nobody but a woman utterly intent on fixing a rain gutter: it slipped off. I landed on one leg, fragmenting the knee joint. My husband hauled me to the beach and onto a boat and into a car, and ultimately I ended up at the best trauma center in the region, Harborview Hospital in Seattle.

During the aftermath of surgeries and narcotics, I got skinny, and then, over time, I gained back my normal weight, which put me at the low end of obese. Through the first year after the repair, my knee gradually felt better and better, but as I gained, it started hurting more. I talked to the doctor. “You did quite a job on that joint,” he said in a matter of fact tone. “At some point you’ll have to replace it.”

“But what about all of the metal?” I asked, gesturing toward my upper calf, where scars mark the steel plates that run down the top three or four inches of my tibia. “What about all of the screw holes?”

“Oh, we’ll just cut the bone off below all of that.” he said.

I had the same visceral reaction you’re probably having right now.

That isn’t happening, I thought. Two months later I elected an alternative procedure that I hoped would buy me an extra decade on the knee, a bariatric surgery that removed part of my stomach.

Any surgery has risks that have to be weighed against possible benefits, and for many heavy people the risks of stomach surgery would outweigh the benefits.  But for a number of reasons, I chose to make the gamble. I’ve been “sturdy” all of my life: early maturing, strong and stout. Even at 5’4” I think of myself as a big person because in the second grade I was big—proud to outweigh and outrun most of the boys in the class, proud to have the largest feet. By age 16, though, I felt like a cow and had developed a sense of body-loathing that kicked off a four year struggle with bulimia. I recovered, but becoming a mentally healthy adult has required a truce with myself that involves relentlessly fending off the beauty myth and refusing to diet. To this day, dieting just makes me compulsive about eating, which is why, when I wanted to save my knee, I turned to the kind of people who had saved it in the first place, surgeons.

Over the next nine months, I lost about forty-five pounds, and my knee stopped hurting, which turned out to be an especially good thing when I injured the other knee and my bad leg had to function as my only leg for a while. Today I can walk and even run a little without pain thanks to remarkable people who spend their lives figuring out how our bodies work and how to repair them.

My surgeries changed me. The knee surgeries were, essentially, highly sophisticated carpentry–mechanical repairs, if you will. I feel a certain kinship with the antique chair in my basement that sports a metal hose clamp as a permanent part of one repaired leg. But the bariatric surgery was a different thing altogether, and it changed how I think about weight.

Most Americans believe that weight loss is a matter of will power. We hear it all the time—in the words of doctors who advise middle aged people to lose a few pounds; on sit coms where fat people play out stereotypes; in advertisements where buff means lean; and in the sometimes subtle but ever present denigration of fat people. People who are fat are lazy or weak, sloppy or indifferent. Implicitly, they deserve knees that hurt and blood sugar problems, even poverty, early death, and worse: rejection.

This sort of thinking is a product of American culture, which teaches that with enough determination you can become anything. Self-made men are created ex nihilo by sheer force of will. Ordinary people can and should bootstrap their way to success even if they were born into families that couldn’t afford boots (or education). Addicts should have the fortitude to quit shooting up. Fat people should have the fortitude to quit eating.

As a budding adult who felt at times like a whale, this was the sea I swam in. By the time I was offered psychotherapy at age 19, I felt too hopeless to take it. If I couldn’t stop my compulsive eating with a combination of prayer and will power, then I was a wretched excuse for a human being. It would be years before I understood clearly why the combination didn’t work.

Like most powerful falsehoods, America’s cult of will power is built on a foundation of truth. Determination is powerful, and we tend not to get far in life without it. Some people do bootstrap themselves out of poverty—with a little help from their friends and public infrastructure. People sometimes can convince themselves to believe things that serve their self-interest, evidence be damned. (In technical parlance it’s called motivated reasoning.) Dieters do lose weight while they are restricting their food intake. Our choices do matter.

But as the Yiddish proverb says, a half truth is a whole lie.

Forty five million Americans report being on diets at any given time, yet according to the Centers for Disease Control, 36 percent of American adults are obese (BMI 30+) and another 33 percent are overweight. In case you’re not counting, that’s sixty nine percent of us who are fatter than we should be, fatter than we want to be. The medical establishment and diet industry have responded with a proliferation of products and with a broad vocabulary that blames faulty diets and dieters for our inability to weigh less. Crash diets are bad, but proper diets work. People who regain weight need to exercise more and eat more vegetables or try the next new magic bullet: Atkins, Big Breakfast, Caveman (Paleo), Detox, Eat-Clean, Five Factor, Grapefruit . . . I won’t go all the way through the alphabet. The bottom line is, if you didn’t lose weight and keep it off, you chose the wrong one or did it wrong.

Some of the diet offerings are transparently silly, but the reality is that even the most sensible diets rarely work well or for long. One analysis reviewed 25 years of weight loss research. Dieters who persisted for three to four months in a structured program lost an average of almost 25 pounds. By the end of a year, this had dwindled to 18 pounds. Only a few programs kept track for three years, and by then the few participants still weighing in had maintained about 14 pounds of weight loss—significant but far less that the loss most obese people are seeking.

In reality, lasting weight loss was probably much lower than these published averages. Around half of dieters drop out before their chosen program is completed. Pleased customers are more likely to stick with a program for three months or answer questions three years later. Successful programs are more likely to be included in the published research. Thus, published results likely overestimate the effectiveness of weight loss programs.

Weight Watchers has built a multimillion dollar company based on slow, healthy weight loss bolstered by social support. It is thought to be one of the more sensible and comprehensive programs available for weight management. Even so, it has been the focus of significant controversy in recent years, and not just because of questionable employee practices. Three randomized controlled trials that studied Weight Watchers programs found a weight loss of merely three percent after two years. That’s six or seven pounds for a person who started out at two hundred, and again, people who dropped out of the study likely had poorer experiences than those who stuck with it. Biology’s a bitch.

I first got an inkling of the power of biology in my own weight struggle about a decade ago when I suffered a bout of low grade depression. My doctor put me on a drug called Wellbutrin. Within a few weeks I noticed that the sun was brighter and I was humming in the car. More surprisingly, my migraines were gone, as was my lifelong tendency to fret about the health of our pet rabbit or chickens when there was nothing bigger to worry about. Most unexpectedly, my appetite changed.

Normally, when my blood sugar drops, it crashes, and in the absence of food I turn into a wild-eyed witch. My husband always carries snacks when we are traveling. Even in the absence of a crash, hunger doesn’t just call to me, it bugs me like a whiny dog until I do something about it. On the medication, I found myself thinking I’m kind of hungry, but I’m busy and I’ll get at that later. It was an alien thought, and it led to a very un-Valerie eating pattern. Plain and simple, I felt like I had more of a choice about what foods I ate, and which to ignore, and I ignored more. Consequently, my weight dropped back to what it had been during my twenties. Six months later, the headaches started to return, followed by the nattering anxiety, then hunger and weight. My body had found a way to fend off the medication. Fortunately, my mood had lifted, and so I went back to my regular rhythm of life. But not without marveling that so many aspects of my experience could be altered by a single set of neurotransmitters!

So, last spring, when I started trying to figure out what to do about my knee, there was a reason I decided to have part of my stomach removed rather than, for example, merely having it banded like New Jersey Governor Chris Christy did. Any bariatric surgery would have reduced how much room I had for food. But from what I read, removing part of the stomach would change the way my body regulated appetite by decreasing a hunger hormone called ghrelin that signals the appetite regulation neurons in the hypothalamus. My brief experience a decade earlier had convinced me that those hormones are powerful.

Sure enough, once I had healed from the surgery itself, it was clear that something was different in my brain. I could go four hours without thinking about food. I didn’t crash when my blood sugar got low. I could finish a task and eat when I got around to it. When I actually felt hungry, I had no more self-discipline than I’ve ever had, but I was making different choices, and so my body changed too. Where I used to have soft, smooth extra chins, I had soft wrinkles. My daughters missed my lap. My husband lamented my Italian ass. But it was a fair trade, I think, for knees that could hang in there with me from sun up till bedtime.

Perhaps the biggest gift was the freedom I got from the constant chatter in my head that used to interrupt me while I was trying to think (often while I was trying to write). It might sound odd, but back when I was eating more, I also was saying no thanks to food way, way more than I am now. A person can say no to a bowl of chocolate espresso ice cream twenty times and give in the twenty-first, and that counts as failure rather than a feat of resistance. That was my life story. I said that I have no more self-discipline now than then, but the reality is probably that I have less. Temptation simply doesn’t come calling the way it did.

Back in grad school I had a friend, let’s call her Cara, who was a marvel to me. Cara could buy a cookie at the lunch room in the basement and then carry half around for the rest of the day. I would buy a cookie, finish it on the way up the stairs, and then go get another. The thought of carrying half of a cookie for hours was inconceivable. I wouldn’t have been able to think, uninterrupted, about anything else until it was gone.

Recent research suggests that I’m not a rare mutant in this regard. Resisting a cookie takes mental energy—executive function, it is called—and when people are putting energy into resisting temptation they do less well on other cognitive tasks. Furthermore, people who are fatigued from hard mental work have a harder time resisting temptation. Cara is an outlier, and so am I for the time being. (For about fifteen percent of people with my surgery, their body finds a work-around and they get their old hunger back and regain the weight.)

I have some friends who have real self-discipline yet who are, by CDC standards, obese. They are strong, smart, determined women who have charted the courses of their own lives, including high powered careers. They have lost weight the old fashioned way—and gained it back. One friend did an expensive, extended diet and exercise program that took off a hundred pounds. Another clamped down on her food intake and trained for a marathon. Another has spent weeks and thousands of dollars at retreats where she devotes the full formidable power of her mind and body to getting fit and healthy. Still another can ride a bicycle from Seattle to Portland no matter how much she weighs. If I can be accused of taking an easy way out, the opposite is true for them. These women are Amazons. They are forces of nature, fit and beautiful, and they are fat.

Here is what incredible, strong obese friends and my own history have taught me: Fat isn’t about being weak or lazy or sloppy or indifferent. It’s mostly about biology. And the fact that we humans are getting fatter en masse says there’s a misfit between modern culture, economics, technologies, and food supply and the average human body. As of 2006 there were more overweight people in the world than hungry ones. Obesity has become a global norm. Our bodies are optimized for survival under conditions of scarcity. We are programmed to want fat and sugar, carbs and salt, and to eat them when we can get them. The same can be said for our dogs and cats, and many farm animals.

Like any other evolved characteristic, of course, the intensity of this call and response varies. Variety is what makes evolution work. Some of us are like Cara, meaning it takes relatively little effort to tune out the call and make healthy food choices. But for some of us at the other end of the spectrum resistance is a full time second- or third-shift job for which we simply don’t have the energy—or a hope in hell of succeeding.

Together we know more than enough to challenge fat-shaming as a last bastion of bigotry. As J.K. Rowling put it, “Is fat really the worst thing a human being can be? Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil or cruel? Not to me.” Not to me either. Not even close.

It’s time to get over it.

It’s also time to tell any doctor who suggests dropping a simple twenty pounds Go drop it yourself. Cut the pep talks. Cut the A-Z diet list. We already know we’d be better off health-wise if we lost weight. We already know we’d have better odds in romance and job interviews and getting smiles from passersby. You don’t need to convince us to care. For many of us, it’s not a matter of where there’s a will there’s a way; it’s a matter of where there’s a way there’s a will. If doctors and other public health advocates want people to be less fat, they need to get real and find better alternatives. Promoting diets is about as sophisticated and effective as promoting sexual abstinence for teens.

Just beneath the surface, many fat people are caught in endless cycles of self-scrutiny and utterly baseless self-blame about their weight: Was it my childhood? Is it my birth control? Is it my conflict avoidance? Am I staying up too late? Am I going to bed too early? The recriminations are not only baseless they are useless and worse. They can lead to depression and despair.  They can suck the pleasure out of sports or create a vicious cycle of overeating as a form of self-punishment for overeating.  They can draw energy away from big dreams and projects or small wonders and beauties, or the creativity and passion a person would otherwise put into making our world a little better.

So, the next time you see someone you think is fat, or the next time you hate on yourself for weighing more than you wish, try a little kindness. With all of the relentless social and health pressures you can rest assured that most fat people have tried, are trying and—whenever they can muster the energy–will spend their lives trying to eat less and weigh less.

Lastly, please remember this: Most fat people exercise more will power every day than the cookie carriers of the world can possibly imagine.

————
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Subscribe to her articles at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com

Related:
Birth Control and Weight Gain–Is There a Relationship?

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About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings. Founder - www.WisdomCommons.org.
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47 Responses to What Getting Thin Taught Me About Being Fat

  1. john smith says:

    There’s an old argentine folk song that goes: “Que me importa que sea gorda, si pa’ corer no la quiero…” (I don’t mind she being fat, if I don’t want her for racing anyway).

    Like

  2. mriana says:

    I agree, willpower isn’t always the key for some people- even my mother who had Grave’s Disease struggled with her weight during treatment, going from thin to obese, until they got her thyroid medication right, after killing her thyroid with radioactive iodine. My late grandmother and I were lucky to never be obese, or even overweight, but I noticed during and after menopause, I went from a svelte 90 lbs to 110 (I’m 4′ 11″), without changing my diet. I’ve always been a vegetarian, who loves chocolate, imbibing chocolate at least once a day, even suffered from anorexia for many years since I was around 10 y.o. with the severest times being in my teens and twenties. However, being thin or average weight doesn’t always stop the pain of arthritis nor does it necessarily prevent pain, which I learned on my current job, as a cashier standing on cement floors for 8 hours a day. I’m not happy with my current weight, but I don’t think you can eat 3 inches of a 6 in veggie Subway sandwich or 1/2 of anything else, when you already eat small amounts of food, and survive. Thus, why I haven’t changed my diet much. My grandmother often survived on a couple of chicken wings for her lunch, as well as small meals in general, with more veggies than meat and was an gardener, canner, and often on her feet as she “peddled” around the house as a homemaker, until she was in her 80s and she spent most of her life, trying not to weigh more than 90-95 lbs, but I think she too eventually gave up in older age, even when she shrunk to 4′ 8″, and was never considered overweight by doctors. My grandfather often described her as eating like a bird one day and a pig the next though, even though her piggish eating consisted of more fruit and veggies than anything else. Increasing exercise is difficult when one works all day too, esp in winter. With arthritis, too much or too little exercise, as well as cold, doesn’t help. One has to get the right amount of movement to ease some of the pain, but diet and exercise alone doesn’t always work, esp when one isn’t considered out of the range of normal weight. My grandmother eventually had nodes on her fingers from her arthritis and I suspect I will too. So, I decided that unless the doctor starts telling me I weigh too much, then I will just deal with weighing more than I like, because, for me, being 90 lbs or 110 doesn’t change my arthritis pain. Now, if I were medically overweight, then yes, losing the excess weight would help ease some of the pain, but at the same time, I’d probably have more than I do now. I’ve given up starving myself just to stay close to 90 lbs though, but I have increased my fruits and vegetables, and decreased how much chocolate I imbibe, figuring if I don’t gain any more weight, I should be OK, even though that doesn’t necessarily prevent high blood pressure (which my grandmother also eventually had after years of low bp, as I have), heart disease, strokes, or even thyroid problems. Controlling one’s weight helps, but as we’ve pointed out, diet and exercise alone doesn’t always help, because there can be other reasons for weight gain- everything from menopause to thyroid problems to other biological problems can cause struggles with weight, some gains more extreme than others, which you can either accept, if still within normal, or get medical help, it is extreme, putting one in the overweight/obese categories. I learned a long time ago, if one is overweight or gains some weight illness, it can be either due to medication(s) or medical issues, or even biology (menopause is biological too), and it’s not always a case of eating too many giant cinnamon rolls or too much chocolate. Sometimes we just have to accept it, like in my case, even when we don’t want to, and other times, in case of obesity, there is something doctors can do to help, when diet and exercise aren’t enough due to an underlying medical cause.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tim Miller says:

    Fantastic article! I was riveted all through it. I’ve read many similar articles but this one really nailed it for me. And I tend to be skeptical about such reasoning, mainly because I am very successful about controlling my weight through will power. I was the fattest kid in school until college. Then I lost weight easily (being away from my mother’s fantastic cooking). Then I gradually gained some of it back over the succeeding decades. Then I went vegetarian, and later vegan. I still had huge temptations to overeat, but once I was solid in being a whole foods vegan, and committed to a daily exercise regime of at least 1 hour, usually 2, the pounds melted away and I have a stable low normal BMI now. Plus I can overeat all I want. You simply can’t get fat eating plate after plate of broccoli (as long as you leave off the cheese sauce)! Works for me. But I also know that most people cannot possibly become committed whole foods vegans (or permanently adopt whatever other highly restrictive eating pattern that works for some minority of people). And I know it has a lot to do with brain and gut chemistry, what evolution has outfitted us for, and the current food and medical industries (e.g. surfeit of affordable fantastic-tasting bad-for-us foods for all but the very poor, availability of brilliant surgeries and pills to suppress symptoms without requiring iron wills). But Valerie, you have put all this together and weaved it in with a personal story that really resonates with me. Thank you so very much!

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    • Thank you, Tim. Your words mean a lot. And I certainly don’t intend to underestimate or undervalue the incredible hard work and focus through which some people keep their bodies healthy. It’s not like there are two groups, one for whom weight regulation is effortless and one for whom it is impossible. We are scattered along a continuum in between with a host of factors in the mix.

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  4. Thank you SO much. I weigh 25 lbs more than I did at age 22, now that I am 60. And a little East Indian pulmonary doc dismissed me by telling me I was “…obese, like all Americans” and I was furious with her. I’ve always felt starved, I, too, eat the cookie(s) on the way up the stairs. I WAS starved literally as a child and food is my comfort and security that all is well in my world. The odd thing is, I hated my body when it looked more round and less strong-athletic while simultaneously finding rounded women the most beautiful! What is THAT about, LOL?! I’ve been rejecting ‘fat hate’ for years and yet can’t stop judging myself harshly.

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    • I would have been furious too.
      P.S. I believe that on average American women gain about 35 pounds between age 20 and age 55. Given food sufficiency and variety, warm houses and transportation, it’s how our bodies work!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank goodness, I had an experience with a cardiologist (consulted for rheumatic fever damage to my heart) years before…when I was about 30, tell me NOT to lose weight –that in fact he preferred women to carry 10 lbs beyond recommended weight; what he called “insurance”!

        Now, with spinal damage (from age 40) I am trying to change life style to be lighter to be more pain free. But that whole fantastic plastic Barbie bit? Forget about it!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. mikespeir says:

    “The same was said of eternal salvation—as if any of us could simply make ourselves believe in devils or gods or talking donkeys if we so chose.”

    When I look back, I can’t believe I once thought like that. What was I thinking?

    I’ve lost between 90 and 100 pounds over the last three years and have been successful in keeping it off. I started out by giving up meat. (Although I still wouldn’t qualify as a real vegetarian, much less a vegan.) I started because I thought it would be healthier. But then the pounds began going away and I was encouraged to work at losing. I think the habitual restyling of my eating habits is mostly what’s helped me keep the weight off. I won’t say it’s never a struggle, but it’s not as much of one as the old dieting routine had been in times past.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great article, Valerie. All the best to you in this new year with your knee, your leg and in every other way.

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  7. Viv says:

    I am deeply moved by this; too many of us have had the same experience.
    Thank you.

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  8. veronique2 says:

    Excellent blog. I relate to the struggle of trying to lose weight. I am lucky in that I have never been obese but often got borderline overweight. I have struggled to lose only 20 pounds for the last decade, which may not sound like much for someone who has been obese, but just won’t bulge. I suffer from arthritic knees as a result of too much weight and don’t want to go the surgery route. Your story is so heart-felt. Thank you for sharing how difficult your experience was.

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  9. April Rose says:

    “My husband lamented my Italian ass. ”
    Thanks for making me laugh. I didn’t even know asses had nationality!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. April Rose says:

    And let’s not forget the wage of Hormone Replacement Therapy!

    Like

  11. john smith says:

    Cara Valerie,
    Only the ones who know Italian asses can appreciate the merits of it! By the way, when I fall, I do it carefully…
    John

    Like

  12. Brian Magee says:

    Like in so many things you’ve written, I can see large pieces of myself, and it’s nice to know there is someone out there who can write so well about them!

    Like

  13. Alex says:

    Wonderful article. I especially appreciated your take on the “willpower” issue. As a biologically sturdy gal born to a tiny mother and with a tiny sister, I have always struggled with my physicality and, once I’d hit a point-of-no-return weight, also had bariatric surgery. Eight years later and I can honestly say that it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I would like to correct one thing you mentioned in your article, however. You implied that the lap-band surgery does not effect the gherlin hormone, which is untrue. I, too, had (and continue to have) relief from the food chatter in my brain. I have to remind myself to eat sometimes and, frankly, I’m no longer an addict jonesing for my next bit of food. This is the great freedom. My brain is mine again. :) That being said, the lap-band surgery is becoming less popular in favor of the gastric sleeve. Like all medical procedures, bariatric surgery continues to evolve and improve. I imagine that, in another eight years, there will be an even more effective/efficient procedure. Now let’s hope that the insurance companies catch up!

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    • thank you for the correction. The chatter thing is a life changer, isn’t it. As someone who has problems with attention span and distractibility anyways, it’s such a relief to have less of at least one kind of mental intrusion.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Linda I says:

    Thanks, Valerie, for this thoughtful essay. There are so many ways this spoke to me I’m not even sure where to start. My father was slim until he hit his mid-40’s. My mother spent the first 30 years of her life eating a phenomenally restricted diet and, until she had her last child, maintained her weight. I have struggled with depression for as long as I can remember. Food and books were a great source of comfort for me. That’s a great recipe for a lifelong weight problem. I can’t remember how many times people in my mother’s family would say to me, “You’d be so pretty if you only lost weight.” My younger sister never had a weight problem. Neither does anyone else in my family…immediate and extended. I’ve dieted since I was in junior high school. Sometimes I lost a lot of weight, other times I gave up after a few days. My mother has tried to make me feel guilty, offered rewards, paid for diets and shrinks – you name it – to get me to lost weight. She’s a mad researcher about all sorts of varied subjects and reads scientific and medical research all the time. But she is tone deaf when it comes to the science of obesity and me. I have a close friend who has also struggled with her weight her whole life. We often discuss the challenges we’ve endured in our own families who love us but see us as flawed because of our weight. It took me until I was in my 40’s to feel confident and comfortable in my own skin – no matter what size I am. About 6 years ago I read “The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life” by Wendy Shanker. It changed my outlook on being heavy and happy. My boyfriend worries when I don’t eat, that I’ll lose my curves. My mother won’t change her attitude but I changed mine. That has made all the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Allan Avery says:

    Valerie, Ohhh – Myyyyyy – Lucky Starrrrrs! No. More. Falls. OR Ladders. OR Haste On Un-noticed Slippery Surfaces. Period. So, Y’all are The Best; and this is up there tied with all of your Co-Best. (My own medical late-2012-to-date is better than yours, but same result: No! More! …! Rehabbing busted shoulder right now. After 3 Hospitalizations, 2 pneumonias; still hope to recover mobility-with-cane.) Hardest is the hit on mobility, for me. Unlike you, I didn’t grow up with that sternly ingrained “commitment” that we so badly need along with your intelligence. (Maybe better if I’d started out like you. If the intelligence is there.) So I’m still mostly sitting; thinking; and wondering how much commitment I have to act. Think of something. Different “something?” Some new way to try to help “cross the listening/hearing; hearing/understanding; thinking/re-thinking divides.” I’m still at it.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Valerie, your thorough reflection here sparks new thoughts for me. Also, ironically, when people are easier on themselves and others, willpower has more of a fighting chance. Deflecting judgment is also tiring. Thanks for the thinking.

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  17. This series on the University of California channel has some fascinating information about the endocrinology/ biochemistry of weight regulation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn1cI8FNU6M

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  18. Laura Petersen says:

    Wow Val. Thanks for writing so eloquently about something many of us think about daily or hourly. I think as women our monthly cycle also contributes to the difficulty in having a stable relationship with food and for myself, having a positive self image or feelings of shame when I give in to the cravings.

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  19. Kelly Calvert says:

    In this article http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/obesity-an-overblown-epid/ they describe a scientific study that reviewed the scientific research that has lead to the concept of the current “obesity epidemic”. It turns out that the original research was conducted almost exclusively by a small research group which is in fact solely funded by the multibillion dollar weight loss industry and their results have simply been repeated ad infinitum through the press and medical profession. In this study they reviewed their research results and even by THEIR OWN CRITERIA AND THEIR OWN DATA it turns out that the healthiest weight is in fact what is currently termed “overweight”. Furthermore, even the category termed “obese” turns out to be healthy if you divide it into two subcategories: obese and active, and obese and inactive. Obese and active is healthy, whereas obese and inactive is not. And the least healthy category is underweight.

    It turns out that there is in fact NEGATIVE correlation between weight and health and a very strong positive correlation between weight and being physically active.

    The so called obesity epidemic is a complete myth created by the weight loss industry. That’s why will power doesn’t work in terms of weight loss. Our bodies are telling us unequivocally that it is in fact unhealthy to try to achieve “normal” weight.

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  20. When you think about it, a person who really tries hard to lose weight is spitting into a wind created by a multi-billion-dollar advertising agenda. Multinational conglomerates band together, study human beings, figure out how to hit our weak points, and do their level best to reach our lizard brains. One person standing against that kind of onslaught? Who can blame anybody for succumbing? The real miracle is that anybody can win, not that so many lose against that force. Long ago Americans realized just how insidious food advertising could be and we stopped advertisers from luring our children with their bright, shiny morning cartoon ads. I wish we’d realize similar things are happening to the adults. Somehow we’ve been persuaded to let these companies take over our nutrition, like they even care about our health or welfare. But slowly, slowly, we’re creeping out from under their influence. It’s just very slow. I hope, with you, that we find some way to level the playing field. At present, only those with super-superior willpower will win, and that just can’t be acceptable.

    Incidentally, I lost 75 pounds on Atkins under a doctor’s supervision to avoid diabetes, which I was cruising toward very quickly; I have kept most of it off over the last 12 years, so I guess I’m doing all right, but it really took educating myself and getting terrorized by the idea of needles to find the strength to succeed. I’m hardly a paragon of willpower either. I think now that it was just moving away from processed junk foods and more toward cooking from scratch for myself from whole ingredients, not the low-carb-ness of the food I was eating. It’s not that such junk food is evil; it’s that it’s just not good for people to eat that processed crap very often. But eating that way doesn’t happen in a vacuum and we’ve got to be careful about making moral judgements about people eating that way. There’s a lot bound up in that–as I know, having moved to an honest-to-goodness “food desert” recently! What we need are solutions that really work, especially for those fighting eating disorders. What we have instead is moralizing and paternalistic finger-shaking. sigh..

    Liked by 1 person

  21. A 2013 lecture on the role of sugar in the Obesity epidemic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceFyF9px20Y

    Liked by 1 person

  22. You are so right about Welbutrin! I don’t really struggle with weight because I have fast metabolism (not due to any moral goodness haha), but because of said metabolism I get hungry all the freakin’ time. Now with the medication I can look at the clock and think you know, I can wait until 1 for lunch, I don’t have to eat now. It’s life-changing in so many ways. This article was wonderful, and I’m so glad I found your blog!

    Like

  23. Pingback: Weekend Reading 2/14/14 | Sightline Daily

  24. Gary Court says:

    Valerie,
    I love your writing style and content as well, especially regarding anti-religious topics.
    Keep up the good work.

    Like

  25. Darren says:

    So nice to read responses from a group of compassionate, supportive people…you’re all beautiful

    Like

  26. David says:

    There’s a lot of non sequiturs and mixing of distinct issues in this article. And what are we to make of this concluding claim: “Lastly, please remember this: Most fat people exercise more will power every day than the cookie carriers of the world can possibly imagine.” Wasn’t there something about the importance of evidence in reasoning earlier in the piece?

    Like

  27. Adrian says:

    Thank you so much!!! Your article is like a breath of fresh air. I am so tired of feeling like such a miserable failure for not being able to control my eating. I can’t help it, I love food, eating makes me feel so happy. I know I have a problem, I don’t need pep talks and lectures and Bible quotes telling how sinful and how horrible a human I am, I need help. For me, this battle with food started when I was a little boy. I only recently found out I was autistic, I’m now 25. For 24 years I was mocked, laughed at and not treated like a fellow human in general, just because I am so bad at being a social person. All the rejection and hurt had made my life nothing but an empty pit of despair. The only thing I enjoy is eating something with taste to make me feel nice, even for a little while. I can’t love myself like normal people do, because for 20+ years all I know is that I am a failure as a human, a sub-human. I watch them. For them it’s so easy just to go out and do exercise and to eat healthy. And, they mustn’t tell me it’s hard work. When you love something it’s not hard work. How do I tell this brain of mine that those are the things I need when all it wants is satisfaction it knows and craves? I have a sub-human brain. For years too, eating was an escape for me, from a troubled childhood. Hiding in my room playing in my “miniature world” was another. I am such a depraved (sub)-human being, I am like an animal, following my cravings like some scavenging bear or something. And, the willpower is another thing. I have none. You can only possess will power if you are confident as a person. If your confidence has been eroded your whole life, you don’t have will power to do anything. I know what it means to achieve things. I am quite a “geek” and am academically strong, always have been my whole life. It’s not will power it was just love of stuff like science and maths, I excelled automatically. If this world was true and just, then each person would be judged according to their true self and their unique gifts. But, so much emphasis is placed on those people who are lucky enough to have the gift of love for exercise and dieting. All it is is that they are simply gifted in that department and I am not, mine lie in another place. Yet, I must be punished and deprived of all things wonderful in life because I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to eating. I just wish so much that I could just lose weight. I am so lonely, and feel so rejected. Only thin people get friends and relationships. I want to love a girl so much, but because I’m fat they all hate me (and it’s not my imagination, when people wish you will just disappear that is hate). I just wish I could go into a shop and buy some decent clothes, decent sizes. So, thank you so much for your article. I really wish I could find a way one day. I really am at a wits end and truth be told, I don’t really see much point to life if I’m just going to be misjudged because I’m fat for the rest of my life. I’d rather then be dead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vanessa says:

      At 25 you express yourself so well. I am a decade older than you and I cannot do it. But I am sending you hugs. Please keep following your passion. Something nice will emerge out of it. xoxo

      Like

      • Thank you, Vanessa. What kind words. But I’m actually closer to 55. It has taken me a long time to get here. :)

        Like

      • Vanessa says:

        Valerie…I absolutely adore the article you have written. So many poignant moments in there. But this comment was in reply to the comment by Adrian. It is heartbreaking to read what he has to say.

        Like

  28. jpick13 says:

    36 y/o white male. 2 advanced degrees. Trilingual. Leadership position at work. And 325 pounds. I weighed 180 once…. years ago after i dropped down from 280. in my 20s, i was fat because i deserved it… i was mainlining buffalo chicken subs and cheese fries. So i cut the shit out and ate like a rabbit for a year and dropped 100 pounds. I became like a male model and even went to a few outdoor parties with dancing and had girls rip my tanktop off while grinding against my crotch. Never happened before. Then i was placed on lithium for bipolar disorder and for the last 10 years have gained 145 pounds. Thats a whole other person. Knees ache. Back aches. Walk up three flights of stairs and cant breathe while i used to run 6 miles in 45 min. Running now is nearly impossible. I am grateful for a devastatingly charming personality and titanic vocabulary otherwise i may not be employed. Fat discrimination is real. Skinny bike riding helmet wearing douchebags with ipods and kids named ethan and skyler who eat nothing but gluten free whey cultures and drink wheat grass shots while singing kumbaya in their priuses look down upon guys like me. Fuck that. We all have a right to be here. If i didnt need lithium to keep me sane balanced and at peace then i would probably be a skinny bike riding douche who waits in line all night in front of the apple store for the new ipad. Wait…. no i wouldn’t. LoL. Seriously though…. some people literally have no control over their weight circumstances. I have swam walked jogged dieted etc etc and the most i lost was 8 pounds going from 325 to 317. I could walk 10 miles per day and eat lettuce through my ass and it wouldnt matter… no matter how many superior legions of vegan hippies shout to the rooftops in contradictory elitism. The author is right. If you fat shame then f##k you, your family, all your loser friends. Don’t make fat people the next thing to be bigoted againstbin America after women blacks Hispanics gays and immigrants. Plus… you look like a moron wearing your flourescent biker spandex vomit clothing with your cute little lance armstrong copycat helmets while you teach your gross offspring to be as loathesome intolerant and bigoted as you. You know who you are.

    Like

    • usedtorun says:

      I used to be so slim and fit but I had to work so hard for it. I hate how other women are so small framed. In fact I noticed that even most men aren’t very tall and I am amazed at how small framed some men are. I am a 55 year old, 5’10”, 250 pound woman. I used to be 135 pounds eating 1000 calories a day and working out. Back in 1999 I went on Prozac and I never was the same since. I gained 50 pounds in three months. I lost some then I gained 70 more. I only took it for eight months but I just don’t have the willpower I used to have. I used to run races. Over the years my knees, lower back and feet have hurt and now I can’t use running to lose the weight. Running always was my “go to” to lose the weight. I don’t know what to do. I hate how my once pretty face looks different with the double chins and the menopausal cystic acne I developed. I know I sound vain. I love to read and spend time with family. I just was never very smart. I struggled in school and I to this day hate really smart people. I can’t imagine how nice it must be to be smart and therefore successful. I hate being a dummy. I even had two teachers in grade school tell me so (that was the ’60s) and that stayed with me. I didn’t go to college or anything because I thought I was too stupid. I really wanted to be smart, especially in math and science but I wasn’t. You have what no one can take from you, intelligence and your education. I just know the frustration. I wish I was smart because now I don’t even have my looks. I am now just fat, ugly and still stupid. I don’t like meeting new people or talking to old friends and acquaintances because I feel like a loser. I wish I could stop binge eating! I felt hungry and thought about food my whole life. It was only through sheer grit and determination that I ever got and stayed thin in the past. To be free of the burden of not thinking about food would be such a weight lifted from my shoulders. I think it would be so great if everyone was obese. We could all feel good then. Every new day is one more day closer to my loser ass being dead.

      Like

      • Tim Miller says:

        Usertorun, even if you don’t realize it, you are a beautiful human being who deserves love and admiration. You are probably way less stupid than you think – teachers caused you great harm when you were young by telling you you were stupid. But as to your weight, I would say 2 things. One: perhaps you could learn to love your body as it is. Have you ever seen blog posts by very heavy (usually) women showing themselves doing very difficult yoga poses? At first when I saw those, I was appalled. But over time I have come to really appreciate them and admire these women, and to see how beautiful they really are. Maybe you can come to see them and yourself that way. Two: I have a huge appetite like you, and I have a metabolism built to survive long periods of famine, but I have been able to remain slim by adopting a whole foods vegan lifestyle. That means I eat only foods that come from plants, minimally processed (no vegan junk food, in other words). I can eat large quantities of whole plant foods, so much I never feel hungry, yet my weight stays in complete control. If you Google “John McDougall” you will find the McDougall Program which is one way of eating along the lines I’ve described, a very satisfying way because it involves eating a lot of yummy carbs, yet is proven to help people lose weight and maintain a low weight for life. But it, like all similar approaches, is a lifelong thing, not a temporary diet. It may take a few weeks or a month to get used to, but if you can just stick it out for that adjustment period, you will be able to eat to your heart’s content after than and stay as slim as you want. It still involves some discipline since you have to eat the right stuff and avoid junk food and processed foods and animal foods, but being able to eat a big volume of food really makes sticking with that discipline way easier than deprivation diets.

        Like

    • Morecoffeeplease says:

      Wait… Two advanced degrees? Trilingual??

      *that’s hot!*. ;^}

      Like

  29. susdebutblog says:

    Thank you for the article. I understand so much of this. I started my weight loss journey with Weight Watchers on 10/3/15 and I have lost 70 lbs thus far – and I’m at goal as of two weeks ago. I love this plan for me – because I’m eating healthier than I have ever eaten in my life – I eat so many fruits and vegetables and much less processed foods than ever and I’m exercising regularly (and wanting to do it) almost every day! I can’t say enough good things. However, the support I get at my weekly meetings is what sustains me more than anything. People who understand the struggle and relate. I have noticed about being thin: more people wait for me and hold open the door, more people smile, talk and approach me – I’m no longer invisible. I’m much happier, I’m not as tired, all my medication has been stopped and I’m very healthy again. I used to restrict myself from participating in life – I wouldn’t wear a bathing suit in public, therefore, I would not swim with my grandson and things like that – well, I did many things this Summer that I haven’t done in years – I went swimming with my grandson in public, I bought and ride a bicycle, I walk every day after work and on Saturdays I take a Zumba class. I now sleep well and my husband says I don’t snore. I enjoy rather than loathe clothes shopping. I’m living life. So, in my case, will-power and action did work – but this isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle and my “before” lifestyle was not healthy in any way. I plan on reaching lifetime and keeping active in the program for the rest of my years.

    Like

  30. Erin says:

    Amazing. Thank you so much for this article.

    Like

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