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Eating normally is the new black.
November 29, 2012 2:04 PM   Subscribe

"I’m bigger than most people, let alone most nutritionists — but I’m a pretty normal person. And a damn good nutritionist." The Fat Nutritionist wants to help you eat normally again.

What is normal eating?

Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life. In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.
posted by dontjumplarry (137 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hell yes. Thanks for posting it.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:20 PM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know, I don't really subscribe to eating when you are bored or sad or because it "feels good". The idea of eating until you "truly get enough" is also a problem because feeling satiated is a sliding scale; start eating more or less and eventually that feels normal. The whole mind/body dichotomy rings false too; my mind is part of my body. There's no conflict. My mind reminds me of how I feel when I eat too much, or eat certain things instead of others, which is really helpful actually. I don't want a manifesto on eating which is what this feels like, I like eating as part of my life but only as much as it supports the rest of my life.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:32 PM on November 29, 2012 [24 favorites]


Normal is the new normal.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:36 PM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


The way that most people eat, which is to say "quickly," eating until you are satisfied is going to result in overeating.
posted by squorch at 2:37 PM on November 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


I think I'm on the same page as 2bucksplus here. This just seems to want to say "hey, eat whatever the fuck you want, for whatever reason you want to." I'm not sure that eating an entire large pizza in one sitting because I'm sad should be classed as feel-good "normal behaviour" any more than drinking an entire bottle of vodka would be for the same reason.

It's not advice I'd give to my kid, let's put it that way. There are better ways to deal with stress than gorging on food or alcohol. Eating healthily does require a bit of discipline. If people don't want to eat healthily, I'm not suggesting anyone should stop them. But it's a bit of a stretch to argue that unhealthy eating practices ought to be redefined as 'normal' simply so as to spare feelings.

It kind of reminds me of that Simpsons episode where the psychologist comes to town and encourages everyone to "be like Bart!", in touch with their inner child.
posted by modernnomad at 2:39 PM on November 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't really subscribe to eating when you are bored or sad or because it "feels good".

Yeah, I tend to think that is super unhealthy. Also the prevailing attitude of parents who raised kids in my generation and presumably with my parents and grandparents was CLEAN PLATE CLUB OR DEATH, which has led to a lot of eating issues in my friends who will eat whatever you put in front of them, even if they are not hungry, and my mom, who took it personally when I turned down full meals offered to me literally every hour on the hour.
posted by elizardbits at 2:40 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can see where he's coming from; I'd phrase it in terms of "moderation", rather than "normality".

However, the elephant in the room is the disconnect between food desire, and food availability. "Normal Eating" is, historically and evolutionarily, when you have to spend most of the day performing hard physical labour to scrape together the scarce calories available to you in order to survive.
posted by Jimbob at 2:46 PM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe normal eating could just be eating in a way that works for you and not concerning yourself with whether anyone else's eating habits are normal or not.
posted by CheeseLouise at 2:46 PM on November 29, 2012 [19 favorites]


Jimbob: “I can see where he's coming from; I'd phrase it in terms of ‘moderation’, rather than ‘normality’.”

(Psst – Michelle is a she.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:49 PM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


You have permission to eat what and how much you want.

No.

That is what got me into the situation that I am currently fighting like hell to get out of.
posted by Cosine at 2:57 PM on November 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


However, the elephant in the room is the disconnect between food desire, and food availability. "Normal Eating" is, historically and evolutionarily, when you have to spend most of the day performing hard physical labour to scrape together the scarce calories available to you in order to survive.

You don't see a lot of people in developing countries, even ones where food isn't particularly scarce, that are obese. I don't think it has much to do with how hard they have to work to get food either. I think it has more to do with the fact that they don't eat as much meat, and don't drink very many sodas. When the majority of your diet is tortillas, beans, potatoes, rice, bread, etc, it seems as if you don't over eat.
posted by empath at 2:57 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Normal eating is eating enough to survive. Anything else is just gluttony. A fat dietician is like an atheist priest. Feasible but cosmically not right.
posted by Damienmce at 2:58 PM on November 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also it should probably be mentioned that she's selling a 12 session, $75/per hour online nutrition counseling program.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:01 PM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I liked the holiday eating article. But by the time I got to step 9 - Focus on your own food and enjoy it - I felt she was overthinking the proverbial plate of beans. But step 10 makes it all worth it. Hell yes. I prefer to just start at the kids table. The conversation is usually more interesting anyways.
posted by Roger Dodger at 3:02 PM on November 29, 2012


Anything else is just gluttony

We have the ability to store fat if we eat more than we need immediately for a reason. It's not a sin, it's a survival trait that became maladaptive when food supplies became reliable. It's not "natural" to eat less than you can, it's something you have to learn to do.
posted by empath at 3:03 PM on November 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


Sounds like a pretty good way to reinforce eating disorder behaviors (using food-related behaviors as a coping mechanism). Normalize is the correct word, though. In the case of an ED, the first step is to normalize eating patterns. Which means learning to eat 3 full meals plus small snacks in between every day, whether you feel hunger or not (because ED screws up your hunger and satiety signals). Eventually normal hunger cues come back, and your team (therapist and dietitian, hopefully you're seeing both) will teach you how to use your hunger cues to eat when you're hungry and not when you're not. Meanwhile, as your eating patterns begin to regulate, all the emotional stuff that was being subsumed by an obsession with food bubble up, and you work that stuff out with your therapist.

But if you have an eating disorder and someone tells you it's just fine to eat emotionally, well they're not doing you any favors because ED wrecks your health if you don't treat it. And high BMI increases your risk of cancer and heart disease, a risk you can minimize by getting plenty of exercise and choosing healthy foods, but that you cannot eliminate.
posted by antinomia at 3:03 PM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


A fat dietician is like an atheist priest.

She's not a dietitian, either.
posted by Roger Dodger at 3:07 PM on November 29, 2012


So, "normal eating" is gobbling as much food as you possibly can cram in, way past the point of satiety. That's not eating, it's self-prescribed medication for mental illness.

That said, it's too easy to say obesity is simply caused by eating out of boredom or entertainment. The two are related, but not identical.

Empath, obesity is a problem everywhere people aren't actually starving. It is epidemic in the developing world. The country in the world that drinks the most soda isn't the US, it's Mexico -- and there are a LOT of obese Mexicans. The fattest countries in the world are Pacific islands. The highest rate of childhood obesity is in Greece. Women in the Middle East and parts of Africa are obese at startling rates.
posted by Fnarf at 3:12 PM on November 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


...the fact that they don't eat as much meat, and don't drink very many sodas. When the majority of your diet is tortillas, beans, potatoes, rice, bread, etc, it seems as if you don't over eat.

I'll just add to the anecdata here and say this is the antipodes of my experience. Eating more meat and almost no bread, tortillas, potatoes rice or soda, I have dropped 20lbs.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 3:13 PM on November 29, 2012 [22 favorites]


And my cholesterol dropped 40 points.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 3:14 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this sounds better on paper than it is in reality for most people. I'm more or less at the "eating normally, not worrying about things" stage (while still being moderately overweight), but to get there I had to stop drink eight cans of soda a day and having 800 calories worth of junk food every afternoon. If you gave me vague advice about eating until I was full and not worrying too much about what I was eating, I would still be doing that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:15 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Normal eating is eating enough to survive. Anything else is just gluttony.

How many calories does finger-wagging burn?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:15 PM on November 29, 2012 [69 favorites]


A diet is just a prescribed eating disorder that is coded as "healthy". I can tell you that having gone through both eating disorder and diet there is functionally / mentally no difference.

Everyone loves to think that fat people just eat and eat and they need to be coddled / tricked / bullied into extreme caloric deficit (replace deficit with surplus and it's the same experience for the underweight and visible anorexics). Much same way that pregnant women are told to NEVER EVER drink when truthfully they can a bit. Everyone can eat what they want. Just because YOU only eat salmon, greens and an occasional prune juice for regularity does not make you a) healthier or b) a better person.

Maybe if it weren't coded as a moral issue, there would be less disordered eating and unhealthy relationships with food out there. This piece doesn't support binge eating or starvation; it offers a much more realistic, fair and yes - actually - healthy way to look at food choices.
posted by SassHat at 3:16 PM on November 29, 2012 [34 favorites]


Normal eating is eating enough to survive.

Normal eating is taking biomass, separating out its constituent nutritional elements like protein and calcium and iodine, and then consuming those elements joylessly in powder form at prescribed hours. That's what you meant, right? Totally agree!

Come on. First of all, people can eat "normally" and still be bigger than you. Second, "normal" eating is: having an indulgent feast with loved ones on special occasions; wolfing down comfort food by yourself when you're hungover; eating carefully engineered meals when you're training; etc., etc, et-bloody-c. "Normal eating" is eating food, full stop. Yes, we need food to survive, but the idea that surviving is all we're doing when we eat it is absurd and denies a lot of what's so fantastic about being people.

I happen to be reasonably fit by dominant standards, and I don't feel qualified to comment on Michelle's nutritional advice, but this kind of puritanism still turns my stomach.
posted by Mike Smith at 3:17 PM on November 29, 2012 [14 favorites]


Just because YOU only eat salmon, greens and an occasional prune juice for regularity does not make you a) healthier or b) a better person.

Morality and health are totally different. No, eating a particular diet doesn't make you a better person, but there are absolutely diets that make you a healthier person. This is self evident at the extremes(a diet entirely consisting of funions will make you less healthy than a balanced diet), but it's true in the middle as well.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:19 PM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


The country in the world that drinks the most soda isn't the US, it's Mexico -- and there are a LOT of obese Mexicans.

I guess it depends on where in mexico you are. I'm sure in the cities where there are Pollo Camperos and mcdonalds everywhere, there are as many fat people as the US, but if you go out in the country where people are still eating mostly a traditional diet, you don't see fat people walking around. For example, around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, you would be hard pressed to find a fat person that wasn't an American tourist. They aren't at all short of food there, but they don't have a bunch of fast food places and sodas are very expensive for them.
posted by empath at 3:21 PM on November 29, 2012


No longer, but once, one of MetaFilter's own.
posted by liketitanic at 3:24 PM on November 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh and I'll only accept eating-related snobbery from people whose every meal is made from strictly regional, seasonal ingredients and involved no slave labour or factory farms. We all have fucked up eating patterns, none are a simple matter to break, and the ones that have real social and ecological repercussions are way more everyone's business than whether my BMI is unclean in the eyes of the smoothie-chugging lord.
posted by Mike Smith at 3:25 PM on November 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


The idea of eating until you "truly get enough" is also a problem because feeling satiated is a sliding scale; start eating more or less and eventually that feels normal. The whole mind/body dichotomy rings false too; my mind is part of my body. There's no conflict. My mind reminds me of how I feel when I eat too much, or eat certain things instead of others, which is really helpful actually.

If you have always always always eaten until uncomfortably full (aka 'clean your plate') then stopping when you are satiated is a conscious act. Being able to understand satiated, full and hungry when you have never experienced these things accurately is a wonderful change. And the crux is that when you mindfully eat you gain a greater understanding of these things - when you consciously overeat you accept the effects and acknowledge them, rather than either assuming that's how one feels after eating, or ignoring them. When you mindfully choose to eat something because you're upset or celebrating, you mindfully acknowledge to consequences so are entirely less likely to keep doing it because the reality of accepting your eating takes away a lot of the psychological pain/pleasure/guilt of secretive and 'forbidden' eating. Savouring food rather than consuming it in a futile attempt to get the endorphins.

Mindful eating was part of a change in my lifestyle (assisted by months of physical therapy to get my mobility up to scratch) that meant I've lost 25kgs. It was 30 but in the past few months both the mobility and the mindful eating have been overwhelmed by anxiety/depression and I gained back 5. Coming up to Christmas I am mindfully eating once more and making choices based on what I want and what my body is saying, as opposed to false shortages ("eat the delicious thing or there may never be deliciousness again!") and social guilt (which is getting better in my family I must say). I have a family history of 'gluttonous disordered eating' where both parents subscribed to the 'eat everything' ethos thanks to their childhood issues. Add into that various mobility issues stemming from what physical labour really does to your body and my father is twelve months out from gastric bypass surgery.

Part of mindful eating includes working out what eating does to your body. So my mother, in the past few months of mindful eating, has worked out how bread actually makes her feel and what different breads do to her digestion. If you don't pay attention to what and how and why you eat you don't pick up on any of those things. And it helps to have a functioning digestive system. All the advice to eat fruit for regularity and drink water and eat protein didn't do a thing (other than orange foamy poop at one point) but getting my gallbladder out? Suddenly what I eat did change my digestion, did change how I felt. Before then it was only the most extreme events (a packet of gummi bears) that made any discernible effect on my body because the background 'noise' of a malfunctioning gall bladder made any attempt to regulate my food a moot point.

No, eating a particular diet doesn't make you a better person, but there are absolutely diets that make you a healthier person.

Gluttony is a moral judgement. Accusing Michelle of supporting EDs is a moral judgement. And 'you' is a very subjective thing. The protein heavy diets currently in favour do horrible things to my digestion and to my mood. Carb heavy isn't any better. The diet that works for me doesn't work for my partner - his certainly wouldn't work for me. He self-medicates ADD with caffeinated soda; I get sick if I drink soda and caffeine after 12 keeps me awake all night. My homemade muesli is great for me and my daughter - not nearly enough carbs for him. They love bananas, I hate them and had high potassium on my last blood test so they cannot be part of a healthy diet for me. They love chicken and chicken skin - nothing quicker for making me sick, but they both enjoy the taste and the extra calories. And that is just one small family - extrapolate that and you get a whole range of 'healthy diets' that are incredibly idiosyncratic.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:28 PM on November 29, 2012 [32 favorites]


For example, around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, you would be hard pressed to find a fat person that wasn't an American tourist. They aren't at all short of food there, but they don't have a bunch of fast food places and sodas are very expensive for them.
Agriculture is the main income-generating activity performed by the 95% indigenous Maya population in the Lake Atitlán watershed, a region nestled in the highlands of Guatemala. Despite this, there remains a high degree of malnutrition, with 29% of the population living in extreme poverty, predominantly found in the small rural communities in the hills above the lake. source
posted by xchmp at 3:28 PM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Empath, both Guatemalans and Mexicans alike would be very surprised to hear that Guatemala is in Mexico now!

I said "Mexico", not "Guatemala". One is a developed urban country; the other is rural and impoverished. But if you think Guatemala doesn't have an obesity problem, you are mistaken; Guatemalan women are the fattest in all of Latin America, and the obesity rate is skyrocketing; it's quadrupled in the past thirty years. Guatemala is in the top ten worldwide; Mexico is second.

And Mexicans drink 40% more soda per capita than people in the US.
posted by Fnarf at 3:43 PM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


And only 22% of Mexicans are rural dwellers, so "in the cities" doesn't narrow it down very much.
posted by Fnarf at 3:44 PM on November 29, 2012


To be fair though Mexican sodas are delicious. All that real sugar.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:44 PM on November 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


To be fair though Mexican sodas are delicious. All that real sugar.

I know you're joking, but European Coke has real sugar too. Guess how the U.S. ranks versus every single European country.

Actually, the U.S. drinks more than Mexico too-- and this looks like newer information.
posted by supercres at 3:48 PM on November 29, 2012


**not a nutritionist or scientist** Something I've often thought about - as an economist - isn't obesity sort of like the balance sheet, and your blood content and diet your income statement.

What I'm saying is that it should theoretically be perfectly fine to be fat - it's just fat stored harmlessly under your skin.

What's not fine is if your blood chemistry is out of whack - huge sugar spikes causing insulin rushes, fatty diet raising cholesterol and clogging your arteries, salt causing hypertension - this is what causes harm, and is invisible.

Of course the latter causes the former, but I could imagine a point where a person is on a completely healthy diet and just has all this fat that was there from before and I can't think of any medical reason for him or her to want to start burning it off? Because burning off that fat (especially done quickly) necessarily means you go into calorie deficit and that upsets your blood chemistry again...

Could someone explain how, say, two people eat a calorie neutral diet, but one is stable at 60kg and one is stable at 90kg, how one could be healthier than the other?
posted by xdvesper at 3:49 PM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't really subscribe to eating when you are bored or sad or because it "feels good".

Yes, but the key word there is "sometimes." Probably everyone is going to eat their pain after a bad day or eat their way through a bag of chips while idly watching TV every once in a while. Sure it's unhealthy, but there's no need to get worked up about it or consider it disordered eating if you only do it once in a while. Some people do have a genuine problem with emotional overeating or food addiction, but most people don't need to treat that post-break up pint of Ben & Jerry's or end of the work week chocolate reward as the crack cocaine of the food world.

The "normal eating" excerpt is obviously not going to hold true for everyone, especially those who have or have had serious issues with disordered eating. But I think the following from her post on food addiction and natural rewards is valuable to keep in mind when so much of the discourse surrounding food is all about binary good food/bad food: "The answer is to treat all food like it is food, calm down and manage anxiety about eating, make sure you are eating enough food at consistent times, and eat a variety of different foods, healthy and “unhealthy” alike, with lots of permission and a refusal to beat yourself up over it."

We constantly get shamed or judged for what we eat, whether or not we're eating a diet that's right for us. I definitely think it's a step in the right direction to move more towards mindful eating instead of the overly binary this is good for you-this is bad for you discourse that is otherwise so prevalent.
posted by yasaman at 3:50 PM on November 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


xdvesper, the difference is that "fat" is not some inert substance - fat cells in the body are still active, sending out signals that have effects throughout the body. The research in this area generally conflicts with itself so it's hard to say exactly what "fat cells" DO in the body, in any particular person's body, at any particular weight. One example in literature though, is that the hormone leptin can be regulated by adipose cells - it seems that excess fatty tissues can interfere with leptin signalling, which is a regulator of appetite, among other things. Thinking about the body requires more advanced economics than simple accounting.
posted by permiechickie at 4:13 PM on November 29, 2012


What I'm saying is that it should theoretically be perfectly fine to be fat - it's just fat stored harmlessly under your skin.

There's actually research showing that it doesn't just sit there harmlessly. Adipose tissue is hormonally active, meaning fat is capable of changing your body chemistry.

(Not a judgement on fat people, I have plenty of extra weight myself.)
posted by selfmedicating at 4:16 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


...the fact that they don't eat as much meat, and don't drink very many sodas. When the majority of your diet is tortillas, beans, potatoes, rice, bread, etc, it seems as if you don't over eat.

Like Mei's lost sandal, this is so dramatically opposed to my experience that it makes my head spin. I ate that diet out of poverty last year and gained 35 lbs in 8 months; I was miserable all the time, my blood pressure and cholesterol were through the roof. Now I eat basically meat, fish, eggs, fruit, and vegetables, and I've dropped 30 of the 35 pounds, and all my metabolic numbers are in the reference ranges. Plus I have energy, I sleep well, and I have many fewer mood swings.

I can be basically full, and if I eat a slice of bread or a scoop of rice or a tortilla, I will be starving in 30 minutes. The ONLY way for me to keep my calories down in a range that allows me to lose weight is to eat basically no refined carbohydrates.
posted by KathrynT at 4:34 PM on November 29, 2012 [15 favorites]


Yes, but the key word there is "sometimes." Probably everyone is going to eat their pain after a bad day or eat their way through a bag of chips while idly watching TV every once in a while.

Maybe it hinges on how seldom "once in a while" is for each person. I mean, if I chowed down every time I had a bad day at work, I'd do an awful lot of chowing down -- bad days and movie nights and afternoons with your sweetie happen all the time, but we tend to treat the extra eating that accompanies them as if they are truly unusual events.
posted by Forktine at 4:35 PM on November 29, 2012


It is being able to choose food you like

There's a pretty stark difference between "being able to choose the food you like" and "having to choose what you like best from the options you have available and can afford", those being two radically different things. This seems like nice advice, but probably doesn't apply to all, ahem, classes of people.
posted by mhoye at 4:40 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Up next: The Responsible Alcoholic: drink whatever you want, whenever you want, for whatever reason you want. And here's my pontificating alcohol-focused blog and responsible alcoholism consulting services!

Also, did I mention I myself am a responsible alcoholic? Because I am!

In conclusion: alcohol
posted by crayz at 5:40 PM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Isn't that what people who don't have a drinking problem do? The trick is not wanting too much.
posted by thelonius at 5:48 PM on November 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


[Folks, if you are not going to engage with the actual content and trot out your tired observations about who you do or do not sympathize with and lulz at the expense of fat people can you just take it elsewhere, please?]
posted by jessamyn at 5:57 PM on November 29, 2012 [20 favorites]


I'm kind of surprised this is getting such a terrible response. To me, intuitive/mindful eating isn't about eating whatever I want whenever I have an impulse for chocolate or cake or pie or ice cream; it's about learning to recognize what foods make my body feel good, what foods make my body feel bad; learning to recognize my internal hunger cues (but also satiation cues); realizing that eating until I'm painfully full (even on Thanksgiving) isn't actually fun; identifying a way of eating that is good for me (physically and emotionally) and fits my life; not attaching moral judgments to food; and not letting external things (like how many calories/fat grams/ carb grams are in a particular food) interfere with my own sense of how hungry or how full I am.

I mean, the analogy to drinking is an apt one in a way-- I can think it's fun to have 4 or 5 mixed drinks at a party, but that doesn't mean I do it all the time because I'm not so much a fan of the consequences. In the same way I can think that eating a pint of ice cream is fun but something I'm not going to do too much of because even though it's tasty, I don't like the way I feel afterwards.

It doesn't mean not acknowledging that what you eat has consequences for how you feel, it does, though, mean acknowledging that those consequences are individual-- what is good for the goose isn't always good for the gander-- and, because of that, many people are better off relying on internal cues (along with some knowledge of nutrition) rather than strict, externally imposed limits on what foods you are allowed to have and how much of them you can have.
posted by matcha action at 6:05 PM on November 29, 2012 [21 favorites]


Some people are reading the passage in some fairly extreme ways. There are a lot of "sometimes" qualifiers that seem to be being ignored.

I've been reading her blog for awhile, and it's an interesting perspective. I don't necessarily agree with everything she says, but she does have a fairly comprehensive further reading list of journal articles, so it's definitely more than a "well this worked for me, so you should do it too" blog.

One thing that is important to realise is her desired audience. She's writing for people who have been dieting for probably their entire adult life, but are still overweight and have a completely messed up relationship with food. And her message is: this isn't working, and you're just making yourself miserable. You don't have to eat perfectly to be healthy, and if eating a bit imperfectly sometimes means that you are happier, go for it.

I've watched my mother beat herself up for being overweight my entire life, dieting on and off, but generally being happy or not depending on how much weight she was losing. I got her genes, and I'm overweight, but I'd prefer to be happy than obsess for my entire life over my weight.
posted by kjs4 at 6:12 PM on November 29, 2012 [21 favorites]


So. Just today, I've had surgery... the most flamboyant anesthesiologist in the world hay-makered a pillow under my head and neck with a no-holding-back punch (Hey! That's... comfortable. Abrupt and violent, but comfortable) and knocked me out while dancing to a pop song I didn't recognize pumping through the Gastroenterologist's office sound system. I was in the middle of saying something clever when I was suddenly flat on my back in a completely different room with a slightly sore throat.

I just had an endoscopy in advance of a gastric-bypass operation, due sometime early next spring.

Before I got to this point, I had to attend an orientation. It was made brutally clear to a packed house that we needed to be under the care of a nutritionist and counselor or other mental health practitioner before and after the procedure. Then we got to meet a recipient of gastric-bypass, to ask questions and hear her story.

She was 5-foot-nothing, and weighed 300+. She had tried a number of diets, both of the fad and doctor prescribed varieties. After the surgery, she's now... close to 180. She wouldn't tell us. She admitted she was starting to put on some weight, and her nutritionist was trying to help her adjust her diet some... and this is a woman who has a stomach smaller than your thumb, now.

The research says that with ongoing post-op care, for the rest of your life, you will loose 60% of the "overweight" - if you are 6'2" and 350lbs, you will loose, if you're lucky, 100lbs and keep it off. You'll actually loose more initially, and then gain it back, and level off at that 40% overweight. Just happens. Science, bitches.

So, the absolute best medical science can do is make me less fat, so long as I also diet and exercise, after removing 90% of my stomach.

I don't think science has yet to identify exactly what's behind the obesity epidemic. It's cures are either ineffectual, or drastic and partially effective. Philosophical cures are worse. There's more science to be done, but I don't think it will be done well until we divorce the blaming-and-shaming bullshit from the narrative, or believe that we can actually choose to eat in a way that won't make us fat. Science is telling us our gut feeling is wrong. Science is good at that.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:23 PM on November 29, 2012 [20 favorites]


People really thought she was just saying "Oh eat whatever you want, it doesn't matter, signed, Your Nutritionist?" or "Eating your emotions is a great idea, do that all the time"?

All she's saying is that sometimes people do this and you have to not beat yourself up about it or obsess over it. Part of eating in a healthy way is not obsessing about food all the time and micromanaging your food behaviors. That means not going into a shame spiral when you "screw up" which makes you feel more ashamed which you proceed to deal with by eating more. And the blogger in question didn't even write that passage. Jeez.

A lot of people are taught to eat everything on their plate, no questions asked. This teaches you to ignore what your body tells you about how much food you need. Then you start taking your cues from your emotions instead. At some point you have to get this switched back around. Part of that is not pursuing the link between emotions and eating. And to do that you have to forgive yourself.
posted by bleep at 7:41 PM on November 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


There's a lot more to the job of a nutritionist than weight maintenance, so I don't doubt that, for some values of 'nutritionist', she's a damn good one (as she says).

Still, she loses a lot of credibility with this kind of self-justifying rhetoric--much of which doesn't jibe with nutrition science.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:42 PM on November 29, 2012


How doesn't it jibe with nutrition science? (Genuinely curious, not snarking).
posted by bleep at 7:48 PM on November 29, 2012


I like that she wants people to get past the shame and guilt associated with food but I also question some of the specific advice she seems to be giving which is possibly not great in terms of developing a healthier relationship with food and beginning to listen to your body.
posted by vuron at 8:12 PM on November 29, 2012


Her advice would be simply terrible for me and for lots of people I know. If I ate as much as I want to eat I would soon resemble the Goodyear Blimp. If it were stuffed with ice cream and cheese.
posted by Justinian at 8:35 PM on November 29, 2012


It's important not to take away soundbites from Michelle's advice, put your own spin on them and assume you know what she's saying or why she's saying it, which is what I see a lot of people doing in this thread. Her blog entries are generally pretty long, and they go into a lot of detail about the whys and wherefores of what she's saying.

I've taken the 12 week course she offers, and there's a whole lot more to her approach (which is not something she's just made up, by the way, it's based on Ellyn Satter and other intuitive eating experts) than stuff everything that crosses your mind into your face as fast as you can.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:45 PM on November 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


The amount of reductio ad absurdum and catastrophizing going on here exactly exemplifies why Michelle's message is important.

When talking about food and eating with kindness and common sense is considered controversial, you know that the cultural context for the entire discussion is seriously messed up.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:19 PM on November 29, 2012 [20 favorites]


What's so bad about social/emotional eating? Obviously it's a problem if you use it to avoid dealing with your problems in other ways, and obviously it's a problem if you do it all the time. But the idea that you should decide what you eat based on its nutritional content, not just as an overarching principle but meal by meal, is a huge historical aberration. In most societies up until the present day, it's been totally accepted that people eat unusual amounts or types of food in response to social or emotional stimuli. (Parish feasts in renaissance England were apparently the scene of ridiculous gluttony.) Obviously we can't do that as unthinkingly as people in the past did because we have so many more calories and so much less physical activity readily available to us -- they did that sometimes because they couldn't do it all the time, whereas we probably could -- but choosing to eat something for social/emotional reasons is not automatically disordered.
posted by ostro at 11:02 PM on November 29, 2012


It's difficult. I mean, really. Trusting your body? What -- does your body have a habit of deceiving you? And, why is three meals a day normal? And missing out on enjoyable food? Is that like never telling your true love about your feeling? Is that something that happens to real people? They regret the food they didn't eat on their death bed?

But then I am always a bit struck by this intense, unrelenting message that food is pleasurable. It is so absolutely wonderfully pleasurable that virtually nobody can be trusted to deal with it responsibly. Whole industries, vast amounts of money and research must be devoted -- all to help people manage their addiction to food.

Is there anything else like what food has become? What other item has such power to terrorize the men, great and small?

I suppose sometimes we do hear of talk of "diets" being applied to other pleasures but such diets don't seem to have the gravitas, the "do or die of cancer" or "I've been reborn!" quality of a food diet. And now we actually have to tell people to eat normally! Do we tell them to walk normally? To sleep normally? To talk normally?

Our friend Marx would say that food, ripped from its social context, disassociated from all cultural foundations, has become a kind of pure, capitalist pleasure, a bodiless phantom that nobody seems able to control or contain. Not even the First Lady! Unfettered by any social bonds, freed from the matriarchy, food has become a kind of pure commodity that rips through society with the power to destroy or to save, murdering millions while elevating the select few. After all, deep down, isn't everybody afraid -- of being fat?

All of this is nothing new, of course. People always fear things that they do not understand. Once men were terrified of demons and and witches. Now it is McDonalds and ice cream that haunts them and fills them with anxiety. All is pain. But what is remarkable is that food -- the stuff that really does grow on trees! -- has become so deeply strange that "experts" must now be summoned to tell us how to eat normally.
posted by nixerman at 11:20 PM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm going to guess the population of people this women is addressing have been dealing with deep feelings of shame and guilt surrounding their eating for a long, long time. You eat something, feel guilty and awful about it, eat more to comfort yourself, feel awful about that, deprive yourself, pat yourself on the back for being "good", eat a little bit of something "bad" then go completely off the rails, feel ashamed, eat more to comfort yourself . . . Her philosophy seems to be "Chill the fuck out" which, if you're used to obsessing about what you eat all the time and imbuing every bite of food with a moral judgement, is quite liberating. For the people who know what constitutes healthy and unhealthy eating but are crippled by their psychological baggage about food the "live and let live" approach can be the first step to ending a binge-shame cycle and regaining control of normal eating patterns.

For the people who see it as a reason to eat cupcakes 24/7, not so much.

Weight loss and long term maintenance ultimately boils down to caloric restriction. Intelligent macronutrient management and cycling caloric restriction will make the process easier and more sustainable, but ultimately, it's just about caloric restriction.

However--saying "All you need to do to lose weight is restrict calories!" is like saying "All we need to do to achieve world peace is stop fighting!" It's a stupidly pat answer that does nothing to address the psychological realities of the situation. The medical field is not always effective at addressing this crucial aspect of weight loss which leaves a lot of people vulnerable and hungry for anyone who'll show a bit of empathy. The unfortunate side effect is you get a lot of self-professed "nutritionists" and "professionals" who have no formal training beyond reading articles and a lot of Internet who are nonetheless successful because they're able to address the emotional needs of their clients. And sometimes that's all their clients need to be successful. But other times it just ends up enabling them as the "nutritionist" isn't so much addressing their client's needs as they are projecting their own baggage and beliefs on the client.

Anyway, I'm not really sure where I'm going with this so I'll stop now.
posted by schroedinger at 11:22 PM on November 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


The medical field is not always effective at addressing this crucial aspect of weight loss which leaves a lot of people vulnerable and hungry for anyone who'll show a bit of empathy.

Or perhaps there is something innate about this idea of a shaman, of a priest, somebody who intercedes on our behalf, or mediates between us and the vast magical powers of the universe to break us from our prison etc. and does indeed seem like that's what this particular storyteller is selling. This isn't the fault of the medical field -- there are plenty of people who still want to drink snake oil even after you tell them its snake oil.

Then perhaps where the quacks have failed (though not really, of course, they're all paid quite handsomely, ha ha) is in the production that what eat -- matters at all, that your diet is question of life and death. This is a cruel act of violence on their part, violence without reason, violence that cannot be repaid, violence that must be silently endured -- unless just maybe... This is what opens the door to the priests and the nutrionists.
posted by nixerman at 11:39 PM on November 29, 2012


I think the desire for a "shaman" or "mediator" comes when people feel their more human, emotional needs aren't being met and look for someone who is better able to satisfy them. I don't think it's just magical thinking, it's the feeling that the person speaking with you really "gets" you and understands your ongoing frustration in a way the person repeating "diet and exercise" doesn't. Weight loss is such an emotional process for so many people that an approach that attacks from that end rather than the other is almost always more popular.
posted by schroedinger at 12:25 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do find it interesting that a lot of the early comments pounced on her philosophy of 'eating whatever you want, whenever you want' and immediately connected that to the idea of 'oh i can never do that, i'll never stop eating cakes!' (for example), without stopping to read further that it's exactly that sort of connection she's trying to address, because that's the attitude of disordered eating that seems to cause a lot of moral pain leading to actual physical consequences for many.

When I started reading her blog, I found it so refreshing, after dozens of health and fitness sites, those tailored to women especially, with their barely disguised moralising of every piece of food that could theoretically pass my lips. It was just stressful reading those sites, and I'm a fairly well-adjusted person who was just trawling for healthier suggestions for recipes. Her philosophy is very important for anyone with a history of disordered eating, in my opinion, but I would suggest trying to find the earlier or introductory posts first because as she's made it very clear, one of the most important and hardest thing we have to do towards being able to grasp what is 'intuitive eating' sensibly is examining all our past associations with food and the act of eating and decoupling that. My $0.02.
posted by cendawanita at 2:03 AM on November 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think that other posts on the site may convey the idea of what she means by 'normal eating'. Not to say that I think the one highlighted in the OP is not a good starting point, but I am not sure that I was on board with the whole idea of intuitive eating until this post: Getting Good at Eating (emphasis mine)
"As it turns out, there are four factors that comprise eating competence:

1. A good attitude toward food and eating. People with good eating competence enjoy eating, and they don’t feel guilty about either food or their enjoyment of food. They are pretty relaxed about it.
2. They are also decent at trying new things, and at eating not-super-favourite foods when the situation calls for it. They are not afraid of food — even “unhealthy” food — and, as such, they manage to eat a decent variety.
3. They are pretty good at internally regulating how much they eat. They can feel hunger. They can feel satiety. They can comfortably eat until they are truly satisfied, both physically and emotionally.
4. They plan ahead to feed themselves. They do the work necessary to ensure there is food on hand, and they have regular meals. They give some thought to nutrition, as well as taste, when selecting food. They make the time to eat, and to give some attention to their food while eating.

What are the outcomes for people who tend to eat this way? Well, they tend to have stable body weights (even if they are fat.) They also tend to have better blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, which translates into a lower risk of heart disease."
posted by matcha action at 4:28 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Having an entire discussion on diet and not including exercise is complete nonsense. While the food that we eat has changed in the last 20 years, it's only a small piece of the puzzle. Weight is a simple calculation of intake + output. Health is a little more convoluted.

Fat nutritionist has the diet thing somewhat correct. But she's only solving for one side of the wrong equation.
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:10 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]



Having an entire discussion on diet and not including exercise is complete nonsense


For health, probably. For weight, the research is saying pretty much the opposite -- that diet overpowers exercise in terms of weight gain/loss. When you compare the calories expended while running with the calories you can eat in less than a minute from a box of donuts, the math makes sense.
posted by Forktine at 6:42 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Having an entire discussion on diet and not including exercise is complete nonsense. While the food that we eat has changed in the last 20 years, it's only a small piece of the puzzle. Weight is a simple calculation of intake + output. Health is a little more convoluted.

Actually, she's not at all talking about weightloss. She does touch occasionally on exercise in her blog and in her sessions, but since she's not counselling people on how to lose weight, it's not a big part of what she's dealing with.

I actually find it interesting that so many people have assumed that her advice is an approach to weightloss. Can we literally not talk about what and how we eat without looking at it through the lens of losing weight?
posted by jacquilynne at 6:46 AM on November 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is just more "you're okay - I'm okay" claptrap. Most people will over eat if given the opportunity and said opportunity is historically abundant at present. Evolution has programmed us with a desire to eat to excess in order to weather the lean times. I'm not an advocate of exotic diets but I do believe that if you aren't moderately hungry several times a week you are not mastering your monkey brain.
posted by dgran at 6:49 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking as somebody who used to be fat and is now in fairly good shape, I have never seen a weight problem that could not be solved with enough willpower. (With the exception of certain unfortunate glandular conditions.) What makes the Fat Nutritionist dangerous and misguided is that she nibbles away at other people's willpower, saying "It's OK! Do what makes you feel good!" This is not the kind of advice that is helpful for people who want to be fit.

Also, we need to stop pretending that fat can be healthy, because there is a huge preponderance of medical evidence which suggests that it is not. I don't believe we should be mean to the obese, but letting somebody live in a state of denial about the health risks is not helpful either - it's just a form of enabling.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:56 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking as somebody who used to be fat and is now in fairly good shape, I have never seen a weight problem that could not be solved with enough willpower.

OK. So... what's will power? Is it an innagte construct like language? What part of the brain controls it, then? Is it a neurophysical phenomena? What chemicals regulate it through the nervous system? Or maybe you have no idea what the hell willpower is apart from some metaphysical woo?
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:04 AM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


OK. So... what's will power?

Having mastery over your instincts. If done long enough the gratification of self-mastery outweighs the gratification of giving in.
posted by dgran at 7:16 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, we need to stop pretending that fat can be healthy, because there is a huge preponderance of medical evidence which suggests that it is not. I don't believe we should be mean to the obese, but letting somebody live in a state of denial about the health risks is not helpful either - it's just a form of enabling.

As someone who was a loud proponent of being ok with yourself at any weight in a thread like this (the BBW Tumblr thread if I'm not mistaken) a while back, and who has gotten his diet/exercise act together and dropped 50 pounds in the last few months, I've been conflicted about how I would handle this discussion the next time it came up.

On the one hand, I felt the brunt of fat shaming for years, and it's awful. I don't think we should set limits on at what body size people are allowed to be considered healthy, or allowed to consider themselves beautiful or sexy. On the other, adding subreddits like r/loseit and r/fitness to my feed provided background noise that eventually (along with turning 30 and the need for some significant dental work) spurred me to get my ass in gear health-wise.

So I don't know, I certainly never want to shame anyone or tell them how to live their life, and I don't know what people struggle with. All I know is I never really made an effort to pay any attention to what I eat other than what felt good, I never got much physical exercise other than walking to work, and now that I've started doing both, the results have been extraordinary in every way. Struggling to carry around a 50 pound weight in the gym and realizing that I used to do that all the time... it's pretty mindblowing.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:18 AM on November 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


letting somebody live in a state of denial about the health risks is not helpful either - it's just a form of enabling.

Assuming that if you have one data point about someone you can tell how healthy they are is likewise a form of false consciousness.

I am all in favor of people doing the best they can to enable healthy lifestyles. However for some people that means getting a lot of exercise and eating healthily, but not necessarily putting weight-loss on the top of your to do list. As many people have said there are ways to be healthy at many sizes and while there are many health issues associated with obesity, the same is true for smoking, lack of exercise, stress, lack of sleep, untreated mental illness and many other complicating factors.

More to the point, spending your time making presumptuous statements about other people's entire lives based on looking at a picture of them is toxic to a culture where we all want the best for one another and where real life is complicated. I'm stoked if people want to make changes in their lives that will make them healthier. However weight loss is only one among many life changing paths that someone could take and people's single-minded single-topic judgments of people based only on weight are the worst sort of nerd myopia.
posted by jessamyn at 7:31 AM on November 30, 2012 [16 favorites]


Having mastery over your instincts. If done long enough the gratification of self-mastery outweighs the gratification of giving in.

Great! What's an instinct? What part of the brain controls it? What neurochemistry is involved? What do you mean by mastery? Is it another part of the brain? Can it be influenced by pharmaceuticals?

I find I'm growing less and less and less tolerant of non-scientific opinions on weight loss. It's usually psuedo-scientific baloney, or worse, superstition masquerading as wisdom.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:39 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great! What's an instinct?

I think you are playing a game of definitions here or kicking the can down the road. We are persuaded by our natural tendencies but most of what is good in life is achieved by keeping them in check. We could keep going on this way until you eventually question the existence of free will or the validity of self identity.

Excepting for extreme hormonal imbalance, you can reliably correlate people's calorie in/out ratio with their body mass index. Whether those who have a more healthy BMI find it easier to resist over eating, I don't know, but at some level they have achieved better mastery of their instinct to store calories in case of famine. This isn't necessarily a moral judgement but I can see how it gets framed this way often.
posted by dgran at 7:52 AM on November 30, 2012


Assuming that if you have one data point about someone you can tell how healthy they are is likewise a form of false consciousness.

Jessamyn, you're overreacting to what I said and blowing it out of proportion. It's lot like I'm advocating "fat shaming" or anything like that. But the Fat Nutritionist goes too far in the opposite direction. What she's doing is the internet equivalent of dangling a chocolate bar in front of an obese person and whispering "Go ahead... eat it. It's OK. You know you want to." Surely you can see how this would be morally wrong?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:52 AM on November 30, 2012


Yellowbinder, my experience seems similar to yours and I am also very conflicted.

I get frustrated with some (read: SOME not all) of the info I see on Health at Any Size blogs. On one hand, I think some of the proponents do ignore very real health risks and I've also seen some info that made me feel like a "fat traitor" for hitting the gym and that I was "giving up" by getting smaller and stronger (and for me, that translated to healthier).

On the other hand, I think there is real harm in fat shaming and some (again not all, but some) off the cuff comments about will power and gluttony and mastery that honestly isn't helpful to anyone except normal weight people who want to feel good about themselves/self congratulate.

As jessamyn says, there are a lot of unhealthy behaviors - and many of these aren't as visually obvious at being overweight. One thing that always frustrated me as I was starting to lose was that if I had been a smoker, for example, as soon as I put out a cigarette I could be a non-smoker. They say you can start feeling better almost immediately when you quit. But for weight loss, that took a long time and it was hard to work and work and work at it and see no (or very small) results for so long. That I had become a healthy lifestyle person but to look at me, I was still fat.

I think there are also issues with letting the perfect be the enemy of the good with regard to weightloss as well as a lot of assumptions about what works and what doesn't. I think it's very complicated and the same approaches - nutrition, exercise, mental health - won't work for everyone.
And for me, mental health was key. I got bigger by 7 dress sizes while in a miserable, abusive marriage (I have lost 5 those sizes now, thankfully) - and the perception that I was a lazy glutton with no will power during that dark time in my life - well, I acknowledge this is my own issue - but it makes me very sad.
posted by pointystick at 8:01 AM on November 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Speaking as somebody who used to be fat and is now in fairly good shape, I have never seen a weight problem that could not be solved with enough willpower.

Speaking as somebody who has lost 65+ pounds, I invite you to consider that using willpower is a counter-effective technique for many or most overweight people. It's been demonstrated over and over again that most people who lose weight by using willpower (in the form of voluntary calorie restriction and exercise) gain it all back PLUS MORE. In fact, willpower is so ineffective that even people who are motivated enough to have parts of their stomachs cut out or walled off surgically knowing that they will have to eat in a way more restricted than any diet for the rest of their lives still choose that drastic step. It's not because they lack willpower.

Willpower is a blunt and limited tool. It is far more effective to address the root causes of fat accumulation, be they psychological or physiological, rather than to try to tough it out. Yes, we gain weight because we eat more than we burn, but why do we eat more than we burn?

Is it because fat people have less willpower than thin people? I do not think that is the case. There are a million other possibilities that seem more plausible. Perhaps we're just innately hungrier than other people or have a lower natural desire for exercise. Perhaps food is more addictive for us than for them.

For me, the answer has been a very low-carb, high-fat diet. Funny how I've been able to lose 65+ pounds with hardly any willpower, whereas on a traditional diet I struggled for years, using much more willpower, to much less effect.
posted by callmejay at 8:13 AM on November 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think it's also worth distinguishing between fat shaming and diet shaming. I know plenty of people who, no matter how much shame they might feel about their weight, don't really feel a lot of shame about their diet. I come from a family of overweight to obese people who can sit around talk about how they want to lose weight while shamelessly scarfing down ham biscuits without anyone saying or implying or even thinking "maybe we should stop eating this way." Obviously, this is not to deny at all that some people feel shame about how they eat, but that group doesn't include everyone who feels shame about their weight.

Also, as a man, I get way more social pressure to eat badly than I do to eat well. If I bring a salad for lunch at work, I will get made fun of by the guy who eats burgers every day. These kinds of conversations tend to focus on the shaming that comes from one direction, rather than the other, but society is diverse and social pressures are myriad.

Nutrition education in this country is terrible, and because of that there can be a disconnect between how you feel about your weight and how you feel about your diet. I know as a kid I was taught to eat vegetables, but never learned anything about calories or portion sizes or the differences between types of vegetables such that getting the three vegetable special with fried okra, mashed potatoes, and creamed corn satisfied my parent's desire that I eat a healthy meal.

In general, I think this approach should be very helpful for kids who are learning to eat and have good nutrition role models. For adults with a lifetime of bad eating, I think you need more based on my experience as someone who grew up eating very badly and positively needed a period of time where I thought a lot about food in order to get to a healthy place. Following my body's instincts and eating until I was full were things I had no idea how to do. Dieting was effectively an intensive course of study on nutrition that enabled me to catch up to where I should have been all along.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:16 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I should add that I only came to the LCHF diet after I gave up on willpower as the solution and started looking for alternatives. I also found that my weight stabilized (as opposed to yo-yoing ever upward) and that my binge eating pretty much stopped entirely once I started giving myself permission to eat whatever I wanted and for whatever reason I wanted. A lot of the binge eating was a reaction to all the willpower I'd been working, it turns out.

I think a lot of overweight people might actually be better off eating whatever they wanted than trying so hard to use willpower. The willpower myth is probably actually a cause of fat gain.
posted by callmejay at 8:19 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Surely you can see how this would be morally wrong?

I disagree with your metaphor and your description of my comment as "overreacting" and won't be engaging with you on this topic further.
posted by jessamyn at 8:22 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


As someone who is "normal" weight, or maybe normative weight would be a better term, I don't buy the whole will-power and self-mastery stuff. I certainly don't have any stronger will-power than anyone else -- I'm just fortunate that thanks to whatever mix of nature and nurture I received, I don't have to exercise much of any will-power over my eating.

Sure, if I notice my pants getting tighter, I'll vaguely cut back on the burgers and beers for a couple of days. But otherwise, I do exactly what this writer is advocating (listen to my body, eat when I'm hungry, etc) and things magically work out ok.

If I've learned one thing from reading comments here on MeFi, it's that it's not that easy for everyone. And the last thing anyone needs is a lecture from someone like me who doesn't need to exercise an ounce of will-power himself. If I haven't walked that path, I probably don't have much to offer, you know? I can say, "hey, this is my experience and this is how things feel to me," and maybe that's of relevance, but mostly we are collectively struggling and largely failing to figure this out as a culture.

I do think that a lot of our customs and traditions with food come from ye olde days when food was scarce and life was harder, and those traditions aren't working so well today. But it will take time to figure out better approaches and in the meantime I'm going to take some care to a) avoid casually making other people feel shitty and b) remaining aware that sometimes things work out well because of luck, not because I'm super smart and a model of self-restraint.
posted by Forktine at 8:25 AM on November 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


OK. So... what's will power? Is it an innagte construct like language? What part of the brain controls it, then? Is it a neurophysical phenomena? What chemicals regulate it through the nervous system? Or maybe you have no idea what the hell willpower is apart from some metaphysical woo?

What is "stubbornness"? What is "happiness"? What is "flakiness"? C'mon, pretending willpower doesn't exist as a psychological phenomenon because you can't identify the exact neurological pathways associated with it means you're also questioning the existence of every individual personality trait and emotion ever. If you insist they must be tied to exact physical phenomenon before we can acknowledge their presence and study them then it means the entire human race are all emotionless psychological clones.

I am guessing that is not the discussion you're entering and you're instead expressing your frustration with the messages about weight loss that bombard you every day. Willpower is the ability to exert self-control over one's impulses in the pursuit of a larger goal. Ultimately though long-term weight loss isn't just about denial, but about revamping one's life and habits in such a way that it facilitates healthier eating and less caloric intake. Which is not just a matter of self-denial (though starting the process does require will and motivation), but finding positive ways to rejigger one's approach to the world.

The woman in your story who was regaining weight despite her surgery? That's a lesson in two things: first, the body has a strong inclination towards homeostasis. And second, permanent weight loss requires psychological and environmental modifications, not just physical.


Forktine, I think the issue is when you're dealt a poor hand in the nuture side of things--you tend to turn towards food for comfort, your parents made you "clean your plate" growing up and it's screwed your sense of satiety, your mom was obese and it set you up with a disadvantageous hormonal profile from the get-go and then taught you poor eating habits--the "willpower" thing comes from realizing that ultimately, if you want to fix the problem you have to do it yourself. Which sounds dismissive but is pretty empowering once taken to heart.
posted by schroedinger at 8:29 AM on November 30, 2012


The "willpower" hypothesis is BS. When I'm pregnant, I can sit on the couch and eat as much cheese as I can fit in my face and lose a pound a week. When I'm not pregnant, I can only lose weight by eating fewer calories than my 2 year old* and working out for 1-2 hours a day. Is the answer here really that I have less willpower when I'm not pregnant than when I am?

The shaming thing is awful. I was recently on vacation, staying with my father-in-law, a slim, healthy man. I made myself a breakfast of 2 oz of cooked pork sausage, sliced cucumbers, and fresh pineapple, because that is delicious and provides me with a good nutritional foundation for the day. Every single day, my father-in-law poked me gently in the flab and lectured me about how much fat was in the sausage, until finally I snapped and pointed out that he was eating three cups of granola for breakfast, probably five times the fat and three times the calories of what I was eating. And then he indignantly got up and checked the nutritional information of his granola to prove me wrong, and that's when he discovered that he was eating a 1200 calorie breakfast to my 300.

Did this information motivate him to stop picking on me about what I ate for the rest of the vacation? Reader, I think you know the answer.

*Really. My son is very small for his age, so we kept a food diary for him for a couple weeks at our doctor's request. I eat about 1300-1400 calories a day; he eats about 1500-1575.
posted by KathrynT at 8:31 AM on November 30, 2012 [14 favorites]


Hm. That's interesting callmejay. Reading about willpower upthread I was automatically assuming that meant in conjunction with some sort of plan (like LCHF in your example). People just pitch "willpower"? That seems pretty empty. Thanks for sharing. I obviously make a lot of assumptions on what people mean that may not be accurate.
posted by ODiV at 8:31 AM on November 30, 2012


but about revamping one's life and habits in such a way that it facilitates healthier eating and less caloric intake.

For example, by breaking the back of shame-based eating and learning how to identify what it feels like to be hungry, what it feels like to be full, and what consequences different foods will have on the way you feel.
posted by KathrynT at 8:33 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why the "nutritionist" in scare quotes?

From her about page:

I have a Dietitians of Canada-accredited bachelor’s degree in nutrition (with a focus on dietetics), and I work online to help people stop dieting and relearn normal eating. I’m 32 years old, and I’ve been doing nutrition stuff professionally (mostly in hospitals) since 2004.

I’m a student member of Dietitians of Canada, and the Association for Size Diversity and Health.

I’ve completed the American Dietetic Association-approved Treating the Dieting Casualty workshop, where I learned how to counsel people back into normal eating.


Are the Dietitians of Canada and American Dietetic Association not rigorous groups? Is her background suspect in some way?

What makes the Fat Nutritionist dangerous and misguided is that she nibbles away at other people's willpower, saying "It's OK! Do what makes you feel good!"

Eating disorders are tricky: the more you try to solve your unhealthy relationship with food by hyper attention on what and how you eat, the more mired in unhealthy thinking and cycles of food abuse you become.

Food simply shouldn't be that big of a deal, and chasing perfection in your eating habbits could easily be more harmful than many other approaches to food even for people with major weight problems. Every now and then everyone will eat all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons, and that should not be a major crisis any more than sleeping in on the weekend instead of getting up at 6 a.m. like you do on the weekday, or watching Crank instead of Citizen Kane (or vice versa) on your downtime, or that time you drove instead of walked to the store that is only two blocks from your house.

Stuff happens, and mostly it shouldn't be a big deal. Losing your job, kind of a big deal. Having a bear try to eat you while camping, kind of a big deal. Eating a high-calorie meal? Not a problem unless you make it one. People who are fatter than they want to be and who catastrophize over food have one more problem weighing them down than people who are fatter than they want to be and who don't beat themselves up when they inevitably eat something that isn't a steamed vegetable.

I believe studies suggest that children in households where they are forced to "clean their plates" and where dinner time becomes a battle of wills between the "eat veggies" and "don't wanna" camp every night tend to wind up with many more eating disorders than people who grow up in houses where eating is relaxed, non-confrontational, and self-directed, with parents modeling diverse and positive eating habits rather than enforcing them with an iron fist.

She seems to want to move people from the first mindset to the latter as adults, and that does not appear to be an obviously wrong concept to me.
posted by jsturgill at 8:40 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


For example, by breaking the back of shame-based eating and learning how to identify what it feels like to be hungry, what it feels like to be full, and what consequences different foods will have on the way you feel.

Totally agree.

Like I said, where I think the Fat Nutritionist and others succeed is they address this holistic, emotional side of weight loss. Where I think they sometimes fail is by confusing the extreme psychological difficulties behind weight loss and establishing healthy eating patterns (you know, the difficulty of completely changing your lifelong approach to food, exercise, and your body) with physical impossibility. 99.99% of bodies are capable of weight loss and maintenance at a healthy weight, given proper nutrition and calorie/macronutrient cycling techniques. The question is actually implementing these changes, which is a huge psychological can of worms.

It is like overcoming mental illness or a history of child abuse: like a well-worn trail in the woods, you'll always have these negative patterns ingrained inside you. You have to build new trails and it takes a lot of struggle and a lot of effort every day. The more you do it the easier it gets, but there's going to be backsliding and some people's forests are way more overgrown than other's. And there are some nutrition and psychological tools that are the equivalent of a big chainsaw, and others that are like more like hacking a new trail with a butter knife, and not everyone has the same tools available to them.

It doesn't help anyone if you shame them for taking familiar paths. But it also doesn't help anyone to claim it's impossible to forge new trails. The best weight-loss consultants are able to help their clients find the balance of acknowledging the enormity of the task while providing the tools and encouragement needed for success.
posted by schroedinger at 8:45 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is "stubbornness"?

Stubborness is a subjective and not objective or innate quality. Not much to do with the topic at hand. It's definition is wildly variable, and usually an insult, and as such, probably doesn't exist as an actual trait.

What is "happiness"?

There are a great number of studies on the psychological and neurological condition of happiness, and a number of treatments available if it's unaccountably absent, or overridden by depression.

What is "flakiness"?

ADD or other learning disability, usually - treatable with pharmaceuticals and/or therapy. Lots of science done on it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:50 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


you can reliably correlate people's calorie in/out ratio with their body mass index

Some people really do put on weight much more easily than others, even when calorie intake and physical activity is carefully controlled for. See this article (NYT link), especially the twin study about a quarter of the way down the first page.

The problem with the "Calories in, calories out!" drumbeat is that it invites judgment. Average-size people who eat moderately assume that if fat people ate like they do, they'd lose weight, so obviously fat people are gluttons. But, again from the article, "to lose weight and keep it off, a person must eat fewer calories and exercise far more than a person who maintains the same weight naturally." If people decide to eat a healthy diet, exercise moderately, and accept being the weight they are, rather than torture themselves, way over the level of normal eating-healthy self-discipline, to lose weight, who can blame them? The stories of weight loss in that article sound like torture. Nobody has the right to expect that much willpower from anybody, especially towards a goal that is really none of anyone else's business.
posted by ostro at 8:59 AM on November 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


ODiV: Hm. That's interesting callmejay. Reading about willpower upthread I was automatically assuming that meant in conjunction with some sort of plan (like LCHF in your example). People just pitch "willpower"? That seems pretty empty.

They usually pitch it in conjunction with counting calories or some equivalent thereof (weight watchers, portion control, etc.) You may find them referring to the laws of thermodynamics frequently.
posted by callmejay at 9:16 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really sounds like I'm being willfully ignorant, on rereading my own comment, sorry. I don't miss comments like the ones you're referencing, but I guess I don't end up taking them seriously. If someone is suggesting willpower I probably either discount them as non-serious or assume they mean in conjunction with some sort of concrete method or plan (which could be critiqued, but that's a whole other conversation).

So it sounds like I'm working myself into a tautology, which isn't really helpful.
posted by ODiV at 9:48 AM on November 30, 2012


There are a great number of studies on the psychological and neurological condition of happiness, and a number of treatments available if it's unaccountably absent, or overridden by depression.

... ADD or other learning disability, usually - treatable with pharmaceuticals and/or therapy. Lots of science done on it.


"Lots of science"? That's your retort? Really? And none of these studies have come up with any definite conclusion on the nature of happiness nor flakiness. Ascribing "flakiness" to ADHD ignores an entire section of neurological study on memory and habit formation. Which, incidentally, are also involved in the formation of willpower.

Your pat dismissal of psychological traits you don't like while attempting to hand-wave away psychological traits you acknowledge belie your lack of study in the fields of psychology and neurology. Believe it or not but "lots of science" has been done on willpower, as well as any number of psychological traits you probably choose to believe are a figment of imagination.
posted by schroedinger at 10:29 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your failure to link "willpower" to anything real and tangible in the human mind is kind of silly. It's like saying my chakras are misaligned or that my Fung Shui is bad.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:50 AM on November 30, 2012


I'm just not getting you either Slap*Happy. As someone who's consciously working on eating healthier (and 2 months smoke free as well) I will often think on my walk home, "Mmmmm ice cream would be awesome tonight," or "Aaaaaaaaah want cigarette," but I don't follow through on those thoughts because they are contrary to my goals. I'm not saying I never give into food temptations, but the vast majority of the time I'm keeping on track. What is that if not willpower?
posted by yellowbinder at 10:56 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


My own personal experience with weight loss was going for a full week eating nothing but salad (no dressing). After that initial "shock to the system," I went back to a normal diet, and occasionally skipped eating for a weekend. And let me tell you, you would be shocked at how quickly the fat melted off. Obviously it wasn't fun, and it probably wasn't too healthy either. But personally I would rather go through maybe two months of pure hell and have my weight problem be fully solved rather than have it dragging on for years and years, you know? Better to get the whole annoying thing out of the way in one fell swoop and be done with it.

Obviously, I can't speak to your own experience, but I can say that the willpower approach (which is how I categorize my method) worked very well for me. And I'm absolutely certain that it would have been a lot harder to maintain my self-discipline if I had been reading somebody like the Fat Nutritionist, telling me that "it's OK to eat what you feel like eating." Everybody's different, and I'll acknowledge that for some people her advice might work. But for other people, her advice is poison, and I think it's important to recognize that as well.

I also recognize that my "willpower" diet might not work for some people and might even be unhealthy for some people, so my approach is by no means applicable to everybody. But judging from the reactions I've got when I explained my technique to people, I would also speculate that there probably aren't too many people who have actually tried my appraoch, so it seems very unscientific to dismiss it out of hand.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:14 AM on November 30, 2012


It's an awareness that eating the ice cream or smoking the cigarette will yield results that you don't want, and working with that awareness to make choices that will yield results that you DO want. It's the difference between labeling a chocolate bar as a calorie-dense, low-nutrition food item that will have negative consequences for your blood sugar, your mood, your energy, and ultimately your health, and labeling it as a bad food item that only bad wrong weak people eat, unless they meet some arbitrary definition of "thin enough" in which case it's OK because they are good people who deserve it because the taint of sin doesn't stick to them because they are thin.

There are people who live for years, sometimes their whole lives, under the latter construct of "good foods" and "bad foods," and honest to god, I am not exaggerating there. I've had the internal dialogue of sitting in front of a plate with a piece of wedding cake on it, at a wedding, trying to figure out if this is "OK" to eat because it's a wedding and you have to eat the cake and if everyone around me understands that even though I'm fat I'm eating the cake because it's a wedding and you have to eat the cake or if I should just push the cake away because I'm not a person who gets to eat cake, because I'm fat, or if THAT would be rude, because it's a wedding and you have to eat the cake, and oh my god, everyone else is already halfway through with their cake, now everyone's going to be done and they'll be watching me eat my cake, will they think I got seconds? I didn't get seconds, I promise, this is my only piece of cake. . . In situations like that, the cake consumes far, FAR more mental energy than the actual wedding itself, and that's just bullshit.

It's that level of dysfunctional thinking around food that the Fat Nutritionist is trying to break. Wedding cake is the ne plus ultra of "social eating," and it's equally OK to participate no matter what your weight is. If you're at Game Night and the available food is pizza, it is OK to eat a piece of pizza rather than miserably starving. Or even three pieces, if you're that hungry. It may not, if you do it frequently enough, result in you having the level of fitness you would ideally like, but it does not make you a bad person.
posted by KathrynT at 11:20 AM on November 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


I'd venture to say that if a week of salad followed by a couple months of intermittent fasting was sufficient to permanently solve your weight problem, you are not the target audience for this message. Those of us who have been lectured about Good Foods and Bad Foods our whole lives, spent years yo-yo dieting, who well and truly overthink every single plate of beans, who know that others are constantly judging us based on what we eat or don't eat - we need it. "Normal eating" isn't "Go hog wild! Binge all you want because there's nothing wrong with it!" It's paying attention to your body, to how you feel, to eating when you're hungry and not when you're not, and making choices based on that information rather than on cultural messages about what we should be allowed to have.
posted by Daily Alice at 11:43 AM on November 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


I also recognize that my "willpower" diet might not work for some people

This experience is, in fact, pretty unusual. Most people who lose large amounts of weight and keep it off do so by keeping a very close eye on their calorie intake for the rest of their lives. (They also have to eat considerably less that other people who have always been at that same weight, and deal with the resulting cravings.) It's one thing to do two months of that kind of thing, something else to accept it for thirty years or else risk gaining back all the weight plus extra, which is one reason why recommending "willpower" like it was some kind of quick fix irritates people.
posted by ostro at 11:51 AM on November 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


I just want to be clear that when questioning Slap*Happy on willpower I'm not saying it's a quick fix or that people who struggle just lack it, but it is a tool to get you through cravings and to say it doesn't exist is ridiculous. I agree with KathrynT and the following few commenters 100%.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:58 AM on November 30, 2012


For what it is worth, my advocacy of willpower in this discussion doesn't imply that it is a quick fix or that willpower itself is valuable apart from a sensible plan of action. Our biological inertia to accumulate calories is a real and lifelong struggle for many in the modern age and in no way do I mean to belittle the challenge this poses, especially since we all experience it in our own private way.

In these discussions I observe a lot of imputed motive directed at one another. I suppose we have all at some point felt slighted by someone's judgement of our health and well being. I can easily see someone using willpower as a stick to morally berate another person, but most of the discussion I've seen here is about the logical deduction that:

a) Calories in, calories out is still largely true
b) Modern society creates a unique challenge historically to achieve balance
c) Something (and I call it willpower) is needed to enforce balance
posted by dgran at 12:08 PM on November 30, 2012


The idea that some people might be happier if they eat "normally", possibly despite being overweight or whatnot, may be somewhat valid (though I would strongly disagree as a generality). Ultimately eating does make a lot of people happy, and worrying about what they eat does not, and in the extreme can lead to major issues. On the other hand, obesity has major health consequences that influence your quality of life. I find it difficult to believe that there are many people who absolutely cannot modify their eating habits enough to avoid obesity without feeling awful, or at least who couldn't have done so before they reached a point in their health it is difficult to return from.

Trying to suggest that "normal eating" is necessarily healthy, regardless of whether it leads to being overweight, is ridiculous. Obesity has been clearly shown to be unhealthy, any handwaving is meaningless. That doesn't mean it is ethical to confront people on the basis of (any) health issues that are none of your business, but it is also unethical to tell them what they're doing is healthy. You shouldn't be a jerk to someone just because they smoke, but that doesn't mean it is healthy.

The whole "diets don't work" thing is also really bothersome. Diets obviously work, and for everyone. If you get few enough calories, you are guaranteed to lose weight. And you can pack your RDA of vitamins and minerals into a tiny amount of calories. Of course, some people are lucky enough metabolically, and/or physically active enough, that they can eat 5 billion calories every day and be thin, while others might have to have a restrictive diet. It certainly isn't fair, or comparatively reflective of willpower, but it is reality.

Now, if it is one of those diets where you just have some specific group of foods that are supposed to make you feel less hungry, so you can eat whatever you feel like because you have "tricked" your body into wanting less, then that might not work. If one does, great, but otherwise you are gonna have to consciously modify what you eat and keep track of it, and ignore your natural cues to eat more. Whether you want to call that a question of willpower or anything else doesn't really matter. Just like smoking some find it extremely difficult to quit, but no one is naturally a smoker, even if they might have some genetic inclination to be more additive towards nicotine than other people.

To be honest, I think the whole focus on hunger and other natural cues is extremely over-emphaized in general, the opposite of what this nutritionist seems to think. There is no reason to believe, and much reason to disbelieve, that for most of us our natural inclinations with regard to what we eat are going to make us healthy, given effectively limitless access to calories. The vast majority of human evolution took place when food was extremely scarce and very different, and it's only "goal" was that we live long enough to have children who could also have children. The unfortunate reality is that if you are overweight, your body probably just tells you to eat more than what you should, and to reach a healthy weight you are gonna have to feel pretty hungry for a while, and never be able to just do what comes naturally if you want to keep it off.

My personal recommendation to anyone losing weight is to sit down a pick out a diet for yourself, using one of the free online calculators and general health guidelines for weight loss. Follow it. Weigh yourself on a regular basis, obviously keeping in mind daily weight fluctuations. If your weight doesn't go down over a reasonable time period, you need to lower the amount of calories. If you slip up, make a note of it, try to account for it, and definitely don't let it spiral. For example, if you get something fattening for lunch, maybe just skip dinner, and definitely don't call the day shot and hit the donut shop. And, once you have a diet that meets your weight goals, you can play around with it to try to enjoy it more, or feel less hungry, etc.

Of course, that's just what worked for me. You might just be able to buy into veganism, or lowcarbism, or cavemanism, or any number of general ideas, and just naturally keep the weight off, and feel better that way. Or you might just decide that you enjoy your current lifestyle more than you want to avoid its consequences, which is certainly not a moral failing.
posted by Pekoni at 12:22 PM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well yes, part of what helps me keep the weight off is by never eating breakfast anymore, except for a piece of fruit. But that's just maintenance. Honestly, what Daily Alice said about me not being the target audience makes a lot of sense. But if that's the case, shouldn't the Fat Nutritionist do more to specify whom her target audience is? The way her website is written, she seems to come off with the mindset that her advice is healthy for everybody, and that's just not true. Given the fact that A) she's billing herself as an expert authority on the subject, and B) her advice is actively toxic and harmful to some people, it seems very irresponsible of her.

And also, for what it's worth, I want to second what dgran said and emphasize that I didn't mean to suggest (and I'm sure nobody else did either) that anybody who has weight issues lacks willpower. It's just that the Fat Nutitionist's advice seems to utterly trivialize and be detrimental to the willpower approach - an approach which (judging by the comments)actually works quite well for some people. Don't you think it's fair to direct a certain amount of criticism at her for that?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:22 PM on November 30, 2012


Most people who lose large amounts of weight and keep it off do so by keeping a very close eye on their calorie intake for the rest of their lives. (They also have to eat considerably less that other people who have always been at that same weight, and deal with the resulting cravings.)

So there are some people who lose large amounts of weight, keep it off, and feel they are able to eat an enjoyable amount of food without dealing with cravings. Do you think it would be worth trying to find out what these people do?
posted by crayz at 12:27 PM on November 30, 2012


a) Calories in, calories out is still largely true

But, and this is key: not true in the same way for everyone. See the study ostro cited. Or my own experience with radically different metabolisms when pregnant and not.

The way I dropped weight absolutely effortlessly while I was pregnant was an eye-opener to me. If my metabolism worked that way all the time, I would probably be mystified by persistently fat people, too, because I did basically nothing except try to eat more fruits and vegetables (with no portion control or exclusion of foods), with fabulous results. But that is not true of my non-pregnant body.

It would go a long way towards reducing the grar on these topics if people would just accept that while "willpower" is definitely necessary, there really is genuine diversity in how radical of a change different people need to make to lose weight and maintain that weight loss. If I tried wolfdreams01's "willpower diet," for example, it would be a complete disaster; assuming that he was eating 500 calories a day, and that that would correlate for me to a 3-lb weekly weight loss (1500 cal/day deficit), I would have to be eating like that for a year in order to get from my highest weight to the top end of a normal BMI. And then, from personal experience, I can tell you that the instant I stopped, I would put the weight on as fast or faster than I took it off. Why would that be something to aspire to, even assuming I could keep up a lifestyle as an active mother of two children on a 500 calorie a day diet for a year?

On preview: So there are some people who lose large amounts of weight, keep it off, and feel they are able to eat an enjoyable amount of food without dealing with cravings. Do you think it would be worth trying to find out what these people do?

I think the answer, quite seriously, is that it's not so much what those people are consciously doing that's the secret. I think it's increasingly obvious that there are differences in the way those people's nutrition mechanisms work, from hunger cues to insulin curves to satiety responses to god only knows what else. Pretending like only stupid lazy deluded people think that has not worked out well for us for the past couple of decades, and I doubt it will work well going forward.
posted by KathrynT at 12:33 PM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Self regulation and decision making are real things studied by real scientists who are interested in willpower.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:37 PM on November 30, 2012


The whole "diets don't work" thing is also really bothersome. Diets obviously work, and for everyone. If you get few enough calories, you are guaranteed to lose weight.

The difference between the second and third sentence there is key. For example, withdrawal as a method of birth control, when practiced perfectly (i.e. the guy withdraws every time), has a failure rate of only 4%, which is not bad. But people don't go around saying "Withdrawal works!" because you have to consider how people actually use it. In the same way, before you say "Diets work!" you have to consider how people actually use them. And the research suggests that unless the people dieting undertake a lifetime of extremely close attention to what they eat, they regain the weight. That doesn't sound like "working" to me.
posted by ostro at 12:40 PM on November 30, 2012


It's that level of dysfunctional thinking around food that the Fat Nutritionist is trying to break. Wedding cake is the ne plus ultra of "social eating," and it's equally OK to participate no matter what your weight is. If you're at Game Night and the available food is pizza, it is OK to eat a piece of pizza rather than miserably starving. Or even three pieces, if you're that hungry. It may not, if you do it frequently enough, result in you having the level of fitness you would ideally like, but it does not make you a bad person.

Yes, being unhealthy doesn't make you a bad person, anything is OK in that sense. But this website is supposed to be about nutrition, and promotes a lot questionable ideas, including in the realm of physical health. The fact that your personal nutrition doesn't determine your morality is just a limitation of the role of nutrition.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with thinking about that wedding cake/pizza/etc in your example, rather than just acting "normally". If you are overweight, and want to become more healthy, you absolutely should think about it. If it is a rare, one time thing like a wedding, of course you can decide you can probably eat it, though ideally you could compensate later. If it is a common social event, you should consider whether maybe you can get something different to eat, or if you have to eat at that event at all, or if whether that type of thing fits into a healthy lifestyle for you at all.

To be honest, having been overweight, my biggest suggestion for supporting others would be to not question an overweight person when they choose to eat less or not at all when everyone else is eating, or even avoid occasional social events based around eating. Also, and I guess this might be considered discriminatory, don't push food onto people who are overweight, even in a normal context of sharing that would be totally fine for someone fit, and certainly don't be offended if they don't eat it.
posted by Pekoni at 12:42 PM on November 30, 2012


But, and this is key: not true in the same way for everyone. See the study ostro cited. Or my own experience with radically different metabolisms when pregnant and not.

The real thing here is that calories in and calories out are both basically unknowable numbers because people both take in calories and expend them different, even controlling for the same food and activity levels. A caloric deficit should produce weight loss for everyone, but there's not really way to know if you're in a caloric deficit except looking for after the fact weight loss.

If you want to lose weight,* you need to weigh yourself. If your weight isn't going down change your calories in or out numbers, It's really the only way to know how your body is working in terms of process calories.

*I'm not saying this is or should be every overweight person's goal, but it's also a perfectly acceptable goal if an overweight person choses for it to be.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:42 PM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


But, and this is key: not true in the same way for everyone. See the study ostro cited. Or my own experience with radically different metabolisms when pregnant and not.

The study pointed out discrepancies and complications in identifying a calorie values for food (as well as how the "cost" to metabolize varies by person) but it didn't overturn the laws of physics. I say this as kindly as possible, but my wife gained weight easily while pregnant. I think these examples only serve to describe the exception and not the rule. Hence, I say that calories in, calories out is largely true.

Your description of the wedding cake scenario was eye opening to me, I'll say. I've had a few food anxieties but never quite like that. It helps me to be a bit more self aware, but for what it is worth I don't think most people are looking around the table analyzing other's plates.
posted by dgran at 12:47 PM on November 30, 2012


Yes, being unhealthy doesn't make you a bad person, anything is OK in that sense. But

I'mma stop you right there. That first sentence you typed represents a radical shift in the way our culture handles food and weight issues, and a shift that, for me at least, was essential in making it possible for me to make rational choices about my eating and activity level. If that's all she does, she will help millions of people.

it didn't overturn the laws of physics. I say this as kindly as possible, but my wife gained weight easily while pregnant.

Was it because she had less willpower? OK, that was snarky and unnecessary, but it's still apt. Metabolism is not a simple physical machine; we don't have to overturn the laws of physics in order for everything I said to be true.

I don't think most people are looking around the table analyzing other's plates.

Based on the lifetime of criticism and abuse I've gotten, I will tell you straight out that enough of them are to make those fears valid.
posted by KathrynT at 12:55 PM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


The difference between the second and third sentence there is key. For example, withdrawal as a method of birth control, when practiced perfectly (i.e. the guy withdraws every time), has a failure rate of only 4%, which is not bad. But people don't go around saying "Withdrawal works!" because you have to consider how people actually use it. In the same way, before you say "Diets work!" you have to consider how people actually use them. And the research suggests that unless the people dieting undertake a lifetime of extremely close attention to what they eat, they regain the weight. That doesn't sound like "working" to me.

First of all, there are much better solutions for birth control than withdrawal. There is no better solution to obesity than diet and exercise. If withdrawal was the best solution it absolutely would make sense to stress to people in a public health context, that when done correctly, it works about 96% of the time, and promote effective use of it. And since a low enough calorie diet will lead to weight loss for everyone, it's much better than a 96% effective birth control technique.

Also, I disagree that a lifetime of paying attention to what you eat isn't "working". You have to pay attention to nearly every aspect of your health for your entire life. There is no way a diet would work one-off. Of course, you need a more restrictive diet to lose weight than to keep it off, but you obviously can't go back to what you were doing that gained you the weight and expect it to not happen again. The fact that you are overweight means your natural cues are not a good guide to what you should eat in your environment (unless for someone reason you are regularly uncomfortably overeating for some reason). A diet is a just a way you can plan out and apply reason and data to what you eat. It isn't some terrible yoke on your whole life.

The fact that diets are often not working in practice suggests we need more public health outreach to make them work, not more acceptance of lack of health.
posted by Pekoni at 1:00 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


So there are some people who lose large amounts of weight, keep it off, and feel they are able to eat an enjoyable amount of food without dealing with cravings. Do you think it would be worth trying to find out what these people do?

You might be referring to some population of people that's completely different from what I know about, in which case I'd be interested to find out. But in general, we know what these people do. "To lose weight and keep it off, a person must eat fewer calories and exercise far more than a person who maintains the same weight naturally. Registry members exercise about an hour or more each day — the average weight-loser puts in the equivalent of a four-mile daily walk, seven days a week. They get on a scale every day in order to keep their weight within a narrow range. They eat breakfast regularly. Most watch less than half as much television as the overall population. They eat the same foods and in the same patterns consistently each day and don’t “cheat” on weekends or holidays. They also appear to eat less than most people, with estimates ranging from 50 to 300 fewer daily calories." "Years later they are paying attention to every calorie, spending an hour a day on exercise. They never don’t think about their weight." “It’s something that has to be focused on every minute. I’m not always thinking about food, but I am always aware of food.”

This may be something people choose to do in the interest of their health, but it is not something to recommend to people like it was simple or easy. We've gotten past telling alcoholics that all they have to do is put the bottle down, because we've recognized that there are real biological issues involved in alcoholism that require major support, struggle and lack of judgment to overcome. Not all fat people are trying to lose weight, but those who are deserve that kind of support. Telling people to just cut their calories helps exactly nobody.
posted by ostro at 1:01 PM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think most people are looking around the table analyzing other's plates.

I wish that were true. When I was very large, well meaning friends & family had plenty to say about what I ate (odd, since I was never a binge eater or took excessive portions - the focus was that I should be eating noticeably less than non-overweight people did).

It may be one of those things you only notice when you're overweight but judgement about what larger people eat is everywhere. The wedding cake thing is so very much my experience - the absolute fear of what people would think. And some of them will actually comment where you can hear.
posted by pointystick at 1:04 PM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


I sort of touched in this earlier, but I think the question of how much attention other people pay to what you eat is largely a function of gender. I'm a guy, so I get basically no negative attention for eating badly. In fact, as I said, I get it for eating well. Eating a salad is a socially harder choice for me than eating a hamburger.

For women, the situation is basically reversed.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:06 PM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Telling people to just cut their calories helps exactly nobody.

I really like what you have contributed here to the discussion, but I don't see anyone making such a simplistic claim here. I believe emphasizing the fundamental scientific value of calorie deficit is essential to avoid witch doctor solutions to obesity. I wouldn't go around saying "put down the fork" or some nonsense. Many people who struggle to achieve a healthy BMI need support doing so.
posted by dgran at 1:10 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pekoni: Diets obviously work, and for everyone.

This may seem "obvious" to you, but as far as I can tell, every study ever done for longer than a year shows that diets do not work for most people. It may seem counterintuitive to you, but that doesn't make it false.
posted by callmejay at 1:21 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]



Yes, being unhealthy doesn't make you a bad person, anything is OK in that sense. But

I'mma stop you right there. That first sentence you typed represents a radical shift in the way our culture handles food and weight issues, and a shift that, for me at least, was essential in making it possible for me to make rational choices about my eating and activity level. If that's all she does, she will help millions of people.


That's not all she does though. The website is about nutrition, not courtesy towards others. And it is nutrition advice that will not help any overweight person overcome that health issue. A few people might be legitimately in a condition where trying to improve it isn't worthwhile anymore, but promoting that acceptance as a general creed of nutrition is not reasonable. Accepting being overweight might be something one should do if one can rationally weigh the effort required for weight loss against the health consequences and say they'd prefer the latter, but it is terrible idea in general.
posted by Pekoni at 1:22 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pekoni, it sounds as though you're saying that accepting that being unhealthy doesn't make you a bad person is the same as accepting being overweight, or that the only people who should strive for such a mindset are people for whom "trying to improve it isn't worthwhile any more." Is that what you meant to say? If not, could you clarify?
posted by KathrynT at 1:25 PM on November 30, 2012


Also, I disagree that a lifetime of paying attention to what you eat isn't "working". You have to pay attention to nearly every aspect of your health for your entire life. There is no way a diet would work one-off. Of course, you need a more restrictive diet to lose weight than to keep it off, but you obviously can't go back to what you were doing that gained you the weight and expect it to not happen again. The fact that you are overweight means your natural cues are not a good guide to what you should eat in your environment (unless for someone reason you are regularly uncomfortably overeating for some reason). A diet is a just a way you can plan out and apply reason and data to what you eat. It isn't some terrible yoke on your whole life.

Sure, but most of the ways you pay attention to your health don't involve daily discomfort. I mean, maybe my experience is usual, but when it gets towards 7:00 or so every day, I am hungry. I find it difficult to concentrate. I feel mild pains in my stomach. If I'm particularly hungry, it affects my mood; I'm more inclined to irritability than I would be otherwise. So I eat something. If I couldn't (if, for example, I was trying to skip dinner to make up for what I'd eaten earlier in the day) or if I had to eat something very calorie-light like salad, it would have a negative effect on my ability to get things done well during the rest of the evening. More than that, paying a lot of attention to your weight, for example through weighing yourself daily, can be very stressful in itself depending on your personality, especially considering random small fluctuations, and especially for women. (I'm a "healthy" weight, but boy, can I already picture the effect weighing myself daily would have on my ability to enjoy the rest of the day.) It's really unpleasant to have to exclude yourself from eating in social circumstances, or from celebratory food at a special occasion ("they don't 'cheat' on weekends or holidays") -- people bond that way, especially if you come from a culture where special holiday foods are a big deal. Medicalizing and measuring food and associating it unbreakably with something you dislike in yourself (your obesity) can destroy your ability to take pleasure in even what you do allow yourself to eat. And, apart from anything else, it's stressful to constantly be denying yourself a pleasurable experience. None of these things is so horrible in itself, but they add up to what could definitely be, for some people, a yoke on your life. The reason not many people do it successfully is because . . . it's really hard.
posted by ostro at 1:32 PM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Pekoni: Diets obviously work, and for everyone.

This may seem "obvious" to you, but as far as I can tell, every study ever done for longer than a year shows that diets do not work for most people. It may seem counterintuitive to you, but that doesn't make it false.


I guess it's a question of semantics, when I say that diets obviously work I mean that there is some amount of food that a person can eat (a diet) and they will lose weight, and that that is true for everyone. I can certainly believe that when most people decide to "diet" in general, or even follow any given diet that doesn't necessarily do what they need, it doesn't work.

The studies might show that someone saying they are going to follow some kind of diet doesn't generally lead to weight loss. That doesn't mean that people can't solve their weight problems by dieting. It suggests on an individual level people either need to choose better diets (for the most part less calories), or follow them more strictly.

Pekoni, it sounds as though you're saying that accepting that being unhealthy doesn't make you a bad person is the same as accepting being overweight, or that the only people who should strive for such a mindset are people for whom "trying to improve it isn't worthwhile any more." Is that what you meant to say? If not, could you clarify?

I meant that people should only accept being overweight if they can personally reasonably decide given all the information that it isn't worthwhile to try to change it. Accepting that being unhealthy does not make you a bad person is different, and fine, but the website in question is certainly not limited to that idea. Also "not being a bad person" does not mean that your natural inclinations for eating, and your decisions in the past, have been okay for your health.

I commented because I am very critical of her "normal eating" nutrition philosophy because it inherently involves accepting actually being overweight. That is, eating without regard to it's impact on your weight as a positive idea. It is not just accepting that being overweight doesn't make you a bad person. To be honest, the main reason I commented was because I read the main blurbs on the website, and I realized if I had bought into them five years ago I would be in a terrible health situation right now, and that I had to do the exact opposite to get where I am. But it's not just a program that might or might not work for obesity, like low-carb or whatnot, it is a program that says to ignore a major element of health.

Other people should obviously not "accept" or "not accept" any health aspect of people's lives for whom it is not their business because it isn't.

Sure, but most of the ways you pay attention to your health don't involve daily discomfort.
I mean, pretty much everything worth discussing is an inconvienience at the very least. But yes, dieting can be very difficult. I just do not think that dieting to just not gain weight is so hard for so many people that need it that we should abandon the idea. Quitting smoking is very difficult too, and it also has major social implications, but we still push it from a public health perspective.

Also, and this is just personal, I found that even a very limited diet and probably excessive measuring and such, though it starts off very difficult, gets easier, especially when it starts working, and if you give yourself a good environment (not a full fridge). It's also something you can gradually work with to work with other things (like social settings and enjoying eating within limits).
posted by Pekoni at 2:01 PM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I commented because I am very critical of her "normal eating" nutrition philosophy because it inherently involves accepting actually being overweight.

I just don't think this is true, as someone who was very unsuccessful losing weight in shame-based systems and who has been very successful losing weight with more intuitive eating. For me, before I could even begin to address my weight and my physical health, I needed to fix my utterly broken emotional relationship with food. I could not rationally think about my body until I had accepted the reality of my body; I could not manage my dietary intake until I was seeing food just as FOOD, not as moral choices and shame. It took years of work to get there, and yeah, during those years, my weight fluctuated a lot, even going up under some circumstances.

But during those years, I learned a lot of things about my eating habits and how they contributed to my health; I learned that a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet is terrible for me (in direct conflict with what I was hearing from my doctor at the time), I learned that refined sugar makes me crazy, I learned that I only truly feel good when I eat massive quantities of vegetables. I learned that regular exercise is essential to my mental health, unless I want to take antidepressants. I learned that when I'm pregnant, weight falls right off me, which was very surprising. I learned that if I do eat a cupcake, I can either go for a run right afterwards or I can suffer the consequences of the sugar load. I learned that I don't particularly like rice or pasta or toast or potatoes, too.

So then, armed with that information, I was able to start making different choices, based not just on what I wanted right now, but what I wanted for four hours from now. I discovered ways to think about portion control that felt empowering instead of shaming. I learned how little food it really takes to make me feel full, and that I actually get LESS hungry when I exercise instead of hungrier. I started eating sausage and vegetables for breakfast instead of cereal, I started leaving the rice and the potatoes and the pasta off my plate, I stopped buying boxes of chocolates at Costco and eating the whole thing in the car where my husband couldn't see me.

I started losing weight.

And right now, I'm at about the same weight that I was when I first heard about Intuitive Eating, but my blood pressure is 20 points lower, my cholesterol is 100 points lower, my blood sugar has gone from pre-diabetic levels to ridiculously acceptable, and I no longer need antidepressants or sleeping pills. I'm still fat as hell, but I'm also comfortable and not ashamed to describe myself that way, because it is a physical condition, not a moral one, and I am finally treating it appropriately.

(That's not even getting into how important the Intuitive Eating concept has been for instilling healthy food habits into my children. My kids have to take adventure bites of everything on their plates, but they don't have to clean them. They see me going to the gym every day, and they know how much grumpier I am when I don't go. When my kindergartener offers me candy from her Halloween stash, I say "no thank you, that will make me feel crummy." We talk about food in this house in terms of how good it is for you, not how bad it is for you, and I think that's an important difference.)
posted by KathrynT at 2:30 PM on November 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


There are people who live for years, sometimes their whole lives, under the latter construct of "good foods" and "bad foods," and honest to god, I am not exaggerating there.

You are so right, and some of the ways people divide food into those categories boggles the mind. A few months ago I had someone tell me, while they were eating a cheeseburger and fries, that my sandwich was "bad" because it had mayo on it. First, that makes no sense, and second, that's damn rude, even for someone like me with no food issues.

However, reading the comments here, I'm getting the idea that a lot of people haven't bothered to actually click on the link and read anything she actually wrote. At least from what I read, I'd say she's pretty nuanced and smart, and isn't saying anything wild and crazy. Just in that first link, she says things like:
I think the answer is not to clamp down with food restriction, but to build our eating competence skills by being responsible and structured, and also allowing ourselves to seek pleasure, with food.
That's what I do, as a normative weight person, and it works fine for me; I don't think it's ridiculous to suggest that it might work for other people, too. She then goes on to make a really smart link between the way the food industry advertises and packages food, and the disordered ways we eat:
The industry at large profits from people eating in black-and-white, all-or-nothing ways: eating a ton of calorie-rich food, then clamping down and restricting and using products to help them eat as little as possible. Learning to eat well results in people eating moderately – by which I mean eating tasty, nourishing foods in comfortable quantities – which isn’t very exciting and doesn’t provide a good platform to sell products and diet books from.
She ends with something I've been more and more thinking about myself in the last year or so (spurred in large part by FPPs and discussions here on Metafilter, actually):
Since weight loss is supposedly about “getting healthy,” why not cut out the middle-man? Focus on doing stuff directly for your health, and let your weight sort itself out.
Skinny is not automatically healthy -- just ask the family of meth addicts on the other side of my block. I think sometimes the health at any size people overreach -- there are health consequences of being large, too. But the solution is to work on being healthier, not smaller, and emphatically not on losing weight in ways that have been scientifically proven to be both unhealthy and ineffective.
posted by Forktine at 2:43 PM on November 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


A few months ago I had someone tell me, while they were eating a cheeseburger and fries, that my sandwich was "bad" because it had mayo on it. First, that makes no sense, and second, that's damn rude, even for someone like me with no food issues.

Weirdest of all? Their cheeseburger had about half a cup of aioli on it, but evidently that was completely different from sandwich mayo.
posted by Forktine at 2:49 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to see how little such discussions focus on the environmental sustainability and ethics of the Western diet. In fact, I could only find one reference to veganism in this entire thread.

Watching thin omnivores lecturing others about the social impacts of their diet choices is galling to say the least.
posted by smithsmith at 3:02 PM on November 30, 2012


Pekoni: “I guess it's a question of semantics, when I say that diets obviously work I mean that there is some amount of food that a person can eat (a diet) and they will lose weight, and that that is true for everyone.”

This, too, is not true "for everyone." There are situations where people who are gaining weight get to the point where eating less would mean not getting enough nutrition. These situations include some more specialized medical conditions, but the point is you really don't have room to generalize about it in that way.

Also, as you said, this is different for everyone. The point there is that, even in cases where a certain kind of diet works well, it's sometimes extraordinarily difficult to know what the magic combination and amount of foods would be to lose weight and get healthier. The point of the "eating normally" that the 'Fat Nutritionist' is talking about is to do just that: to attempt to get to the point where one's metabolism can naturally approach the right levels of eating for being healthy. Because that's so hard, and because forcing it doesn't seem to work for many people, it seems like it can be a good thing in many situations.
posted by koeselitz at 3:13 PM on November 30, 2012


point point point
posted by koeselitz at 3:13 PM on November 30, 2012


So "normal eating" is eating like the average American? I was under the impression that strategy wasn't working out real well.
posted by Bugbread at 3:20 PM on November 30, 2012


No. Normal eating is eating like a person who has never had trouble with their weight or been subjected to horrible weird food moralizing.
posted by KathrynT at 3:23 PM on November 30, 2012 [6 favorites]



So "normal eating" is eating like the average American? I was under the impression that strategy wasn't working out real well.


Ok, I read the article, and this isn't what the author is saying.
posted by sweetkid at 3:26 PM on November 30, 2012


The average American diet is horribly disordered and distorted. Our agricultural systems, the way food is processed and packaged, the restaurant and fast-food insane portions, the huge amount of advertising and marketing, and the accompanying diet industry with its own screwed-up messaging- it's led us nowhere good. "Normal" eating in this case means more like "mindful" eating - eating with awareness of how the food tastes and makes you feel and whether you're hungry, satisfied, or overstuffed.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:29 PM on November 30, 2012


The environment and people managed to survive eating meat and animal products for millenia; I don't think meat eating is the problem and veganism is not the solution.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:29 PM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The environment and people managed to survive eating meat and animal products for millenia; I don't think meat eating is the problem and veganism is not the solution.

Sure, as long as we're agreed that the current way we farm animals and process meat is terrible for the environment and people. I'm not a vegetarian but there's really no escaping that.
posted by sweetkid at 3:44 PM on November 30, 2012


People have also been able to survive as vegans for millenia. I don't know how much that has to do with it.
posted by koeselitz at 3:49 PM on November 30, 2012


It has to do with the fact that in a thread about obesity someone brought up the sustainability of a diet including meat and animal products. The fact that the environment and people have been able to survive (without crippling obesity) with meat eating as a part of the diet is relevant to that comment.

Honestly, I don't see the relevance of meat to a discussion about obesity. Obesity (in the West) is far more likely to be a result of too many processed carbs than it is of too much meat, but if you're going to come into a thread and say that veganism is part of the discussion then I think the fact that meat eating is older than the obesity epidemic (and civilization) is relevant.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:14 PM on November 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was clearly NOT linking obesity to the consumption of meat. I was saying that fat shamers often disguise their concern trolling behind a curtain of societal concern - ie the apparent cost of obesity on society.

But point out to those same people that their diet choices also have significant societal costs they suddenly become tantrum-throwing toddlers appealing to tradition.
posted by smithsmith at 7:12 PM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Self regulation and decision making are real things studied by real scientists who are interested in willpower.

Yes, yes yes and ohhhhh yes!

Real science is being done, here. More importantly, how does self-regulation and decision making impact weight gain or weight loss, and if you want to correlate it to the "real world", the fat me typing this out on the deck in 20º weather, in his boxers and t-shirt, and would like to remind you he is tougher than you are. Also, 10 mile bike rides each weekend, rain or shine or snow or 100º heat. (The baby in the bike trailer likes orange sherbet.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:08 PM on November 30, 2012


Good question. Let us know what you come up with.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:47 PM on December 1, 2012


It has to do with the fact that in a thread about obesity someone brought up the sustainability of a diet including meat and animal products.

The material in the OP actually isn't about obesity at all.
posted by liketitanic at 4:41 PM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I read the article posted, and I read the article on dealing with holiday meals. She is straightforward about obesity, admits that she is fat, honest, and relies on facts. Her method of dealing with eating and food is calm and common-sense. She doesn't recommend eating cupcakes 24x7, or specific diets. I haven't read her archives, so I don't have the full grasp of what she does recommend, but it's a hell of a lot more thoughtful than some of the comments here. I liked her writing style.

People are fat mostly* because they take in more calories than they expend. There are interesting direct correlations between the rise of cars(fall of laboring for work instead of office work, etc.), corn syrup in most American pre-prepared foods, and advertizing, and the weight of Americans.

*Exceptions - there are plenty. That person who is fat - she has a genetic condition that affects her processing and storage of food; I forget the name of the condition, but it will likely take a number of years off her life, it already limits her mobility, and it causes her to be overweight, and unusually shaped. That person who's been laid up with illness or injury, and gained weight and lost muscle tone? Fat hate hurts them, too. That person with Type 1 diabetes? They didn't overeat their way into it, and you can't tell what kind of diabetes a person has unless you're their endocrinologist. Your contempt hurts them, too. You? On whatever diet you're on? That big hamburger isn't very good for you, but you probably don't have to apologize, justify and explain, because we're not as judgmental about that.

If a person is overweight, and is unsuccessful at managing their weight, it's not a character flaw, and shame is not a successful health improvement strategy. Her version - eat delicious food and enjoy it - is not the same as - eat the fattiest food on the table, in unreasonable portions. Behaving normally around food would help a lot of people. Many of those people aren't going to magically get super willpower and go vegan and exercise 2 hours a day. If they can learn that they are in charge of their eating, that their food choices are up to them, etc., they may get real about weight management. Meanwhile, there's no need to be unkind, to fat people, people who are in debt, alcoholics, smokers, etc.
posted by theora55 at 11:48 AM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


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