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"...Then I have half a banana (50)"
February 7, 2009 5:08 AM   Subscribe

Via Amazon, you can read the first few chapters[PDF] of Carol Lay's new graphic novel-cum-diet book The Big Skinny. Blogger and fellow cartoonist Ampersand/Barry Deutsch doesn't object to the weight loss she documents, he just isn't convinced that it's actually all that healthy.

See Junkfood Science for more discussion of the 'Obesity Paradox' (for more articles, scroll a great way down the right-hand sidebar).
posted by Acheman (78 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
"graphic novel-cum-diet book"

Yeah, a cum diet book sounds pretty graphic (or Japanese). If that's my only option I'll stay fat.
posted by orthogonality at 5:11 AM on February 7, 2009 [11 favorites]


Yet Lay refers to “health” to justify her weight loss.

Thin isn't necessarily healthy and healthy isn't necessarily thin.

Also, comic books are kind of a dangerous way of showing yourself as overweight because what the artist draws does not have to represent reality. For one thing, she doesn't look 50 in her drawings. Any weight loss (or gain for that matter) represented can easily be hyperbole.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:41 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


The actual amount of weight lost doesn't sound unhealthy to me, and if she feels better, that's great, but the concept of obsessively counting calories to the point of having half a banana, or half a slice of whole grain toast, or a quarter cup of lemonade in order to make your goal gave me the hinks.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:42 AM on February 7, 2009


Yeah, a cum diet book sounds pretty graphic (or Japanese).

No need to go to Japan for this: Natural Harvest - A Collection of Semen-Based Recipes.

I found the bmi/mortality chart in the second-to-last link interesting, but isn't that chart folding in the mortality rates caused by obesity with the low bmi sometimes caused by getting really sick? If so, I'd be reluctant to put too much emphasis on the "low bmi is bad" conclusions there.

Fundamentally, if she says she feels happy and healthy at her new weight, and the other cartoonist is happy and healthy at a different bmi, I don't have a problem believing both. People are different, and there isn't some universal specific weight that a person of a given height "should" weigh.
posted by Forktine at 5:48 AM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


She monitors her weight daily, using a scale that measure to the 1/10th of a pound. Breakfast can be a cup of coffee and half a banana. She counts calories religiously, staying within 1350, everyday. She's kept within 3lbs of her goal weight of 125 for several years now.

Good for her, but it doesn't sound very fun.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:08 AM on February 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


Carol Lay and Story Minute are awesome; it's a shame that there are no collections currently in print. (I have Joy Ride.)
posted by D.C. at 6:10 AM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


"For one thing, she doesn't look 50 in her drawings."

My thought too, do I googled some photos. She looks older in the photos, but still younger than 50 (and actually, she's 56).
posted by orthogonality at 6:12 AM on February 7, 2009


While the idea of a cum diet may be graphic, it's hardly novel.

Sorry.
posted by Curry at 6:34 AM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


As a comic book, it was actually a pretty amusing read. I don't think I'd follow the diet because, well, I don't always have the option of controlling absolutely everything I eat, but some of the recipes that the "Day in the life" section alludes to intrigue me.
posted by Phire at 6:35 AM on February 7, 2009


I'm sticking with my specialized tapeworms.
posted by orme at 6:40 AM on February 7, 2009


She monitors her weight daily, using a scale that measure to the 1/10th of a pound. Breakfast can be a cup of coffee and half a banana. She counts calories religiously, staying within 1350, everyday. She's kept within 3lbs of her goal weight of 125 for several years now.

Good for her, but it doesn't sound very fun.


Nor very healthy. I hope she at least takes vitamins.
posted by orange swan at 6:54 AM on February 7, 2009


She counts calories religiously, staying within 1350, everyday.

I thought she only went down to 1350 during the periods she was trying to lose weight, but maybe I misread.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:04 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


In fairness, she eats that way only once in a while, when her weight goes above the range she allows, to lose a pound or two. So while I find it kind of unappealing and hypercontrolling (half a banana? really?), I don't think that there are any real worries about vitamins and so on, as long as it really is temporary.
posted by Forktine at 7:07 AM on February 7, 2009


Any diet that will deny you George Clooney bearing bags of sausage biscuits is no diet for me.

Also, 5"9" and 160 certainly doesn't sound like 35 pounds overweight to me.
posted by Evangeline at 7:44 AM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Actually her book sounds really anachronistic. Counting calories? Isn't that what they told us to do decades ago? Did it work? No.

I don't see why anyone needs a book like this when they can get the same advice from a 1970s book found in the library discount bin.

I think people are starting to realize that what you eat matters just as much as how much you eat. Which is why books like Pollan's In Defense of Food are going to be a lot more interesting and useful.
posted by melissam at 7:52 AM on February 7, 2009


Counting calories? Isn't that what they told us to do decades ago? Did it work? No.

Well, that's because nobody actually did it. The math is pretty simple: consume less than you burn, and you lose weight. If you can consume less than you burn while maintaining a balanced diet with lots of healthy foods in the mix, it's perfectly valid.

I'm currently working my way through about 20 pounds of (real, trying to get down to a BMI of 26) extra weight, and the only method that works for me, at the end of the day, is writing everything I eat and the calories in it down on an index card. It doesn't keep me from eating good foods, and does a fantastic job of helping me avoid bad ones -- when you can choose between a sliced apple and several pieces of sharp cheddar cheese or a single chocolate bar for a snack, you really start to re-evaluate the "easy" food.

So I don't think there's anything wrong with counting calories. Thinking that being 5'9" and 160 lbs. is overweight seems kind of whacked out, but there's nothing inherently wrong with the method.

I love food, and while I haven't read Pollan's books yet, they seem perfectly compatible with counting calories -- I'm sure his philosophy (eat fresh, not processed) dovetails well with anyone that wants to count calories and eat more than a Snickers bar and a Big Mac every day.
posted by Shepherd at 8:11 AM on February 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Actually, 1350 as the number of calories for an 125lbs, 56-year-old woman to lose weight is not at all unreasonable, especially if she isn't involved in a lot of strenuous activity (walking and "toning" are not strenuous). Maintenance for most people is about 14 x body weight (1750) and you want to subtract about 500 calories a day from that to lose weight (without going under 10 x bodyweight), and that would put her at about 1250-1350.

If you're a 250lbs guy who is pure muscle, that extra half a banana is a drop in the bucket of your calorie intake. If you're a 125lbs older woman who is definitely not pure muscle, the extra calories (and insulin spike) tacked on top of other things like more lemonade and shit are going to add up.

If I were her, I would actually work on putting on more muscle, bulk up to 135lbs at least, for general health (and bone health) and the ability to be a bit more relaxed with the calories.

The sad thing is that people are going to read the critiques of her book, think "Oh God, calorie counting is for CRAZY people!" and then go back to assuming they can't lose weight because they shouldn't count calories because it's bad for them.
posted by schroedinger at 8:12 AM on February 7, 2009


Also, calorie counting does work. I labeled myself as the type of person who can't lose weight easily, had pretty much given up on it. I weight-lifted five times a week and did conditioning work 2-3 times a week and lost nary a pound. Then I committed myself to really keeping track of my diet, once and for all, counting calories and ensuring I didn't eat too many carbs and had adequate protein intake, and lo and behold, the girl who "couldn't lose weight" and "had trouble losing weight" started losing weight.

I'd just never had the willpower to go at it for long enough.
posted by schroedinger at 8:14 AM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


schroedinger -- I think it's the carbs, and it's probably the carbs in Carol Lay's case too. When I realized that my blood sugar was spiking to over 160 after meals I stopped eating anything that made that happen, which meant going pretty radically low-carb. Without any other limits to my eating, I've magically lost 40+ pounds and a lot of health problems I'd taken for granted as an inevitable part of getting old -- including my high blood pressure and periodic attacks of gout.
posted by localroger at 8:28 AM on February 7, 2009


Also, 5"9" and 160 certainly doesn't sound like 35 pounds overweight to me.

Yeah, I'm 5'9" and 160 is my *goal weight* (well, weight to return to), post-pregnancy.
posted by gaspode at 8:32 AM on February 7, 2009


Also, 5"9" and 160 certainly doesn't sound like 35 pounds overweight to me.

Thirded. I'm only a little shorter than that and my doctor wants me at 155-160.
posted by immlass at 8:45 AM on February 7, 2009


People tend to go crazy when they discuss weight issues and diet. I've been a fan of Lay's since I started reading Story Minute on Salon way back, and the second I saw this, I thought: "Oh no. Is this going to be Lay's Suzanne Somers moment?" Because seriously, people go crazy with this stuff.

But man, did reading the first two pages of the book put those fears to rest. Lay's seems to be shooting for a practical and reasoned approach that addresses the real concerns and practical considerations about weight loss -- enough so that the introduction here is about just how hard it is to discuss practical, straightforward weight loss with people.

I've had many similar moments to the one described at the beginning of the book -- the "how'd you do it?" moment -- and even when you stand there, empirical proof that a certain technique can work, people really don't want to hear that you lost it by counting calories and exercising.
posted by eschatfische at 8:47 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Calorie counting definitely works, and her sample day's diet doesn't seem that unreasonable or that different from someone who's on, say, Weight Watchers. (Except, yeah, I'd much rather eat a whole piece of fruit than eat half a piece of fruit and then, later, eat half a brown piece of fruit. WTF).

But this:
My default weight seemed to be 160. At 5'9" that's at least 30 pounds too much.
is offensive, really. She's basically calling her perfectly healthy readers fat. The "at least" is the best part.
posted by lampoil at 8:47 AM on February 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Counting calories worked for me, and I agree with the poster above who said that those who claim it doesn't work probably aren't doing it - at least not as religiously as you have to do it in order to see results. Of course there are other factors to consider if you want to be healthy, and there are ways to get the most out of the calories you do eat.

But I don't think stories about buying ONE chocolate covered peanut at the grocery store are going to win over any converts to the calorie-counting method. That's just... nuts. Sorry.
posted by Evangeline at 9:00 AM on February 7, 2009


Seconding Shroedinger. Us not-young women sadly have to reduce our calories considerably to avoid weight gain. I lift (fairly heavy) weights obsessively and I still need to be pretty vigilant about what I eat. And the half-a-banana thing? Put the other half in the freezer and use it for a post-workout smoothie.
posted by Fennel B. at 9:08 AM on February 7, 2009


Well, by any reckoning, I'm a pretty trim person. And, excepting when I had a knee injury and couldn't walk, I've always been lucky to stay that way without a ton of effort, though I do try to "eat right."

But after reading those 25 pages, I went and did some push-ups, and sliced up an apple with peanut butter for breakfast.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:11 AM on February 7, 2009


But this:
"My default weight seemed to be 160. At 5'9" that's at least 30 pounds too much."
is offensive, really. She's basically calling her perfectly healthy readers fat. The "at least" is the best part.


I'll agree that the biggest criticism she's going to get on this is that she admits that her target weight (125) is just about the same as what she later says is "the lowest possible healthy weight for a woman who is 5'8"" (in the frame where she discusses her post-divorce underweight period).

That being said, frame size is everything-- you may look and feel great at 5'9" and 160, but someone else may carry that much differently (both externally and health-wise).
posted by availablelight at 9:12 AM on February 7, 2009


Yeah, ok, I'll bite. For a 5'9" woman to diet down to 125 pounds seems to me to be a recipe for osteoporosis. If you're 5'9" and you're naturally very skinny, then that's your tough luck and you need to take extra steps to address your osteoporosis risk. But to voluntarily take on that risk strikes me as nutty, at least if you value your ability to walk without difficulty.

It's her body, and she gets to do what she wants with it. But her starting weight was healthy, at least by the standards of the medical community. I don't see her diet as anything to emulate.
posted by craichead at 9:14 AM on February 7, 2009


I read the pdf, and I found it to be strikingly similar to my anorexic days. It actually tempted me to go back, because the tone was so "Do this! It's good for you!"
posted by Xere at 9:18 AM on February 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


[adjusts epyonysterical hat]

As a Lay-lover [see here for one of the reasons why], the summary worried me too. As this lady has chronicled, obsessive calorie counting can be its own form of eating disorder.

Then I read the excerpt. It's sane advice, as demonstrated by the fact that she's kept her weight level for several years. And it's characteristically quality cartooning.

The blog rebuttal is politicized bullshit. Lay's higher energy level is more telling of her weight's healthiness than a generalized BMI chart. And to lump her in with the cultural forces of anorexia is an exercise in paranoia.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:29 AM on February 7, 2009


Wow, she eats a lot of carbs. Glad it works for her, but I would be a perpetually ravenous monster on that diet.
posted by bink at 9:32 AM on February 7, 2009


Lay's higher energy level is more telling of her weight's healthiness than a generalized BMI chart.
Bullshit. People with eating disorders lie constantly. You can't believe what she reports about her energy level or anything else.
And to lump her in with the cultural forces of anorexia is an exercise in paranoia.
She wrote a diet book bragging about how she went from a healthy weight to a dangerously low one. Lumping her in with the "cultural forces of anorexia" is honest. By some definitions, she fits the clinical definition of anorexia nervosa. I wouldn't call her anorexic, but I don't think her behavior is healthy or anything to emulate.
posted by craichead at 9:51 AM on February 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


Man, she spends so much time thinking about food and herself that she wrote a whole book about how much she thinks about food and herself.

I'm a fan of food, but I would gladly eat only a flavorless nutrient mush if I meant I didn't have to constantly think about food and myself all the time.
posted by The Whelk at 9:54 AM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Healthy" here is a status symbol, just another way of saying "thin" or "appealing" or "having enough resources to take care of one's self in a manner that makes me look like I belong to the class I want to belong in."

That's not to say I don't think obesity is sometimes a health risk and that a lot of people have very bad diets. And while I know that calorie counting does work, all this extreme calorie counting and self-punishment that perfectly thin women do is just so a) boring to hear people talk about x times an hour, and b) bone-crushingly (pun not intended) sad.

(I didn't read the book, or even look too far at the pdf -- I couldn't get past the word "fattitude.")
posted by theefixedstars at 9:58 AM on February 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also, 5"9" and 160 certainly doesn't sound like 35 pounds overweight to me.

n-thing this. I've done the weight loss thing too, pretty much as she describes it: count calories religiously, and exercise. All it takes is time and persistance (and a few bookmarked sites that give information on the calorie and nutritional content of food). But hell, 160 at 5'9" sounds healthy to me... I'm 5'7" and at 125 (back in the day) I was thin enough to share jeans with a friend who was generally believed to be anorexic. 150 is about right (not that I'm close to that now, but whatever).
posted by jokeefe at 9:59 AM on February 7, 2009


in the interest of full disclosure I should say I have a slight grudge against Ms. Lay cause she was once mean to a friend of mine.
posted by The Whelk at 10:03 AM on February 7, 2009


She wrote a diet book bragging about how she went from a healthy weight to a dangerously low one. Lumping her in with the "cultural forces of anorexia" is honest.

How do you figure her weight is dangerously low? That's quite a presumption.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:13 AM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


craichead: " People with eating disorders lie constantly. You can't believe what she reports about her energy level or anything else. ... I wouldn't call her anorexic..."

Your second statement invalidates your first.

And since nothing she says is believable, maybe there is no Carol Lay!

Enemies everywhere, I tell you.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:28 AM on February 7, 2009


How do you figure her weight is dangerously low?
Being underweight is associated with higher risk of mortality, just like being obese is. Being normal, as she was at 160 pounds, or overweight but not obese are not associated with higher mortality risks. Some people are naturally underweight, just as some people are naturally obese. Those people need to take special care to address the risks that go along with being either underweight or obese, which might mean trying to change how much they weigh and might mean accepting their weight but taking other measures to mitigate their risk. But to intentionally diet yourself into the underweight category in order to be "healthy" makes about as much sense as me, a normal-weight woman, intentionally making myself obese so I could cut down on my osteoporosis risk. It makes no sense from a health standpoint. She's gone from a condition that promotes optimal health to one that carries added risks.
posted by craichead at 10:32 AM on February 7, 2009


And since nothing she says is believable, maybe there is no Carol Lay!
There appears to be external evidence that there is a Carol Lay. I don't know whether she actually does what she promotes. I believe it, because I used to have an eating disorder, and the behavior she describes is familiar, although mine was more extreme. But all I can say with confidence is that what she promotes is problematic. If the person who wrote the book is actually a guy named Eduardo Rubenstein, it doesn't change the fact that the book promotes an unhealthy lifestyle.
posted by craichead at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2009


I read the book because the pictures were fresh and appealing, and her tone was pretty candid. I tend to raise my hackles at a lot of omg-let's-all-be-thin diet stuff, but Lay's story only garnered a few eye rolls from me, no hackle raising.

Yes, we all say that calorie counting is like, nazism for your soul or something, but the book makes it pretty clear that she was a person who did a lot of binge eating throughout her life but finally got it under control, and I could see where that would be a weight off of your soul, too. Sometimes control is a bad thing, but her story reads more like a memoir than a set of commandments, and she discusses allowing some leeway, but then sticking back to the numbers when she gains weight. Calorie counting isn't the root of all evil, it just can be obnoxious. Most people underestimate how much they eat, and counting tracks the intake better than not counting. After a while, it's assumed you will start to know stuff kind of offhand, and it won't be as a big of a deal.

Again, I don't fall into the same boat as her by any means, but her tone was pretty okay throughout the story, and it was a memoir, not a rule book.
posted by redsparkler at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2009


Yes, but you haven't establishes that she is underweight, much less dangerously so. And the studies I've read actually associate being mildly underweight with an increased life span.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:38 AM on February 7, 2009


I haven't seen studies that differentiate between various levels of underweightness, Astro Zombie. If you've got one, I'd love to see it. This one, from the Harvard Medical School, considers anyone with a BMI of under 19 to be underweight and says that being underweight puts women at a higher risk for mortality. At 5'9" and 125 pounds, Carol Lay's BMI is 18.5.

I don't think it's credible to claim that Lay isn't advocating her lifestyle, since the book's website says:
She’s been there, and she’ll tell you and show you what it was like — and give you the tools and inspiration so you can do it, too.
That may be the marketing people and not her, but it's being touted as a self-help book.

Like I said, she can do what she wants with her own body. I just don't think it's a great thing to recommend to other people. She may be a good cartoonist, but a nicely drawn pro-ana book is still squicky from my perspective.
posted by craichead at 10:57 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


craichead: " I don't know whether she actually does what she promotes. I believe it, because I used to have an eating disorder, and the behavior she describes is familiar, although mine was more extreme."

45 minutes before this you said: "You can't believe what she reports about her energy level or anything else" because "people with eating disorders lie constantly". Now you're saying that you believe what she says about her dieting because it reminds you of the behavior you associate with an eating disorder.

Your second statement invalidates your first. Again.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:01 AM on February 7, 2009


Oh, for fuck's sake. I will try to use small words.

It doesn't matter whether she's telling the truth. I hope she's lying and that she actually has a healthy relationship with food, although it would be kind of loopy in a James Frey-esque way to claim you had an eating disorder when you didn't. But what she is promoting, and what she says she does, is disordered eating. If you look at the words on the page, she promotes disordered eating. It makes no difference whether she's lying about that or not.
posted by craichead at 11:05 AM on February 7, 2009


Jesus Christ. When someone is overweight and you mention BMI, a score of people will cry out "BMI is a bad way to factor weight! Athletes have the BMI of an obese person! But someone on the Internet does some quick mental math to decide that the author's BMI is .5 into the "underweight" category and suddenly they're dangerously thin.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:18 AM on February 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Man, I don't care if she's overweight or underweight or omegaweight or whatever. Just the fact that she put the word "fattitude" down in print is a fucking crime, especially on a title page.
posted by Caduceus at 11:31 AM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


How do you figure her weight is dangerously low? That's quite a presumption.

5'9" 125 = 18.5 BMI, "under-weight"
posted by afu at 11:47 AM on February 7, 2009


How do you figure her weight is dangerously low?

just as a purely anecdotal data point - when I weighed 125 pounds, I was slim, muscular and healthy looking. But I'm 5'2". it's a huge difference.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:52 AM on February 7, 2009


I think that going on an extreme diet because one arbitrarily decided that one wanted to be slightly obese would be about as bad an idea as going on an extreme diet to reach an arbitrary goal of being slightly underweight, Astro Zombie. The difference is that nobody would ever publish a self-help book about how to force one's body to become slightly obese, because very few people in our society determine a woman's worth based on her ability to maintain a perfect, slightly-obese body. An individual obese or underweight person might be perfectly healthy. That's a valid point to make. But we're not talking about someone who happens to be underweight here. We're talking about someone who expends a huge amount of energy, from the very moment she wakes up the morning until she goes to sleep, working on the goal of being slightly underweight. If someone behaved like that with the goal of being slightly obese, everyone would worry about that person, unless the person had a very good reason to want to gain weight. We're not talking here about whether it's ok to be slightly underweight. We're talking about whether it makes sense to alter one's entire lifestyle in order to achieve the goal of being slightly underweight. And I have yet to see any justification for doing that, other than that our society imposes some pretty screwed up and unjustifiable standards on women.
posted by craichead at 11:52 AM on February 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


5'9" 125 = 18.5 BMI, "under-weight"

Are you kidding? BMI merely suggests what a sedentary person's true body mass index is; it's not a careful measure of a healthy weight. It doesn't take into account frame size and muscularity.

You guys are doing rough, lazy math online and using it to try and make a case that she's promoting anorexia? Please.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:57 AM on February 7, 2009


By the way, I count calories. It's not the amount of work you are making it out to be. It takes me more time to shower. You're making a lot of assumptions about the way Carol Lay lives her life based on a book that is exclusively about weight loss; of course it's going to seem like the central subject in her life. But that's like arguing that she must have a short attention span because she wrote a series of short strips called "minute stories."
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:59 AM on February 7, 2009


I read the pdf, and I found it to be strikingly similar to my anorexic days

Xere, thank you for pointing that out. I haven't read the whole book, but the tone of unrelenting vigilance and need for control seem really unhealthy to me. The only difference I'm seeing between this and a pro-ana site are photos of Kate Moss.
posted by queensissy at 12:04 PM on February 7, 2009


It's probably not a good idea to enter into one of these weight-themed metafilter discussions, especially with a personal example, but here goes.

Like Lay, I’m 5’9. Last year, I weighed 185 lbs, about 40 pounds more than I did before having two children. My "fattitude" came from a combination of not losing all my baby weight, from not having as much time to exercise, from eating out of stress, and from cooking and eating on a schedule with my family (which meant not skipping meals or just eating fruit and cereal). I was overweight and not happy about it, and I never rationalized that I was at all healthy.

Since August, I’ve lost 35 pounds. I’ve gone from a size 14 to an 8. I look pretty fucking good, and up until this morning, I felt proud of myself. Now I feel like a fat loser again. I'm actually crying right now, and yes, I realize that it's a stupid reaction because what Lay weighs doesn't have any bearing on my life. But the connection between weight and status is not something I can ignore, even though I think it's ridiculous. And the fact that she clumps 206 with 160 with 137 and labels them all an unacceptable weight - that she uses people like me as a contrast to her success - feels like an affront. She's conflating obesity with non-skinniness, and I find this insulting.

I thought I was done – I want to concentrate on something other than calories. I want to be able to focus on my success with my full time job/child rearing/dissertation writing/housekeeping life that consumes about 18 hours of my day and not feel like every calorie I put in my mouth represents a moral failing.

So I read Lay’s cartoon and I think – Good for you. You wanted to lose weight and you did because you are an awesome person with an amazing ability to restrain and retrain your appetite. You've taken "responsibility for your choices," which seems to imply that those of us who don't weigh in at the bottom of the BMI chart are not responsible But using the numbers that you provide, you went from an acceptable weight to a socially desirable one.

And so who is your reader? As an overweight person, I would have seen her example as an impossible regimen to follow. I know that when I was used to eating a bagel with cream cheese every morning, if I was told to go down to half a banana, I’d think “Fuck it. I can’t do that. I’ll just stay fat.” And at a perfectly normal weight, I think “Well, I thought I was ok, but clearly I’m still a disgusting pig.”

And that's what pisses me off. Yes, I needed to lose weight. Yes, many other people do too. But by using words like "Zaftig," which last saw applied to Monica Lewinski, to describe herself at a whopping 137 pounds, Lay seems a little too proud of her dietary restraint and scornful of those who don't reach the glorified status of "skinny."

So I'm going to go see Coraline and not think about my weight for a few hours. Because seriously - fuck Lay, fuck obesity, fuck whatever has turned this discussion about weight and health into a goddamn status contest.
posted by bibliowench at 12:11 PM on February 7, 2009 [19 favorites]


Just can't win, I guess. She's at a weight that her doctors, and the medical establishment, consider healthy -- the bottom end of a healthy weight (18.5 is the point where, if you start dipping below it, you're considered underweight -- from 18.5 to 25 is considered normal). She made an active decision to lose weight to the point where she likes how she looks, and is at a healthy weight. She's not continuing to slim down past that point, and that's not her goal. She exercises and eats healthy food.

And she has apparently produces a pro-ana book. God help people who make considered, thoughtful, healthy decisions. They're apparently supporting people who don't.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:12 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


But what she is promoting, and what she says she does, is disordered eating.

This kind of statement shows that you really can't win when discussing weight.

Those who eat as they please, unless they're very lucky, are vilified for being fat -- and are told, right or wrong, that they have an eating disorder.

Those who restrict their intake continuously are vilified for being too thin -- and are told, right or wrong, they have an eating disorder.

And now, those who write a book how about their desire to stay within a healthy range of weights after being both too big and too small, a book which contains precise instructions on how to calculate the amount of food necessary to stay within the range of healthy weights and look attractive, they're told *they* have an eating disorder too.

By that standard, we all have eating disorders.

What Lay's describing is ordered eating, not any sort of disorder. It may seem a bit obsessive when she talks about halving bananas if you're not someone trying to keep your weight under control, but eating smaller portions of healthy food is the best way to keep from getting bigger when food is plentiful and your natural state of being is to slowly gain weight if you don't pay attention to what you eat. Alternately, by doing the calculations, one can make sure that they're not getting too thin, as she might do if she stayed on that diet.

You might say "you shouldn't have to pay that much attention to what you eat." But one is told when they're too large or too small that they should pay that much attention to what they eat -- and if they stop paying attention after completing their diet, they just go right back in one of those two directions. Lay is writing a book about maintaining weight rather than just dieting, an issue that really isn't commonly addressed -- and for many people, to maintain weight, you just plain do need to pay that much attention to what you eat.

Look, folks. Dieters and anorexics are both successful at losing weight by using similar techniques. Being a dieter and being an anorexic means the exact same thing -- both require the continued discipline to eat limited portions of foods and exercise to lose weight. There is only one major difference: the successful dieter stops and eats more when they reach the line dividing a healthy weight and being underweight, and the other continues to lose weight until there is a risk of their heart stopping. Lay isn't endorsing anorexia.
posted by eschatfische at 12:19 PM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't know what your body type is, bibliowench, but from Lay's photographs, she looks to be an ectomorph. I am too. I am almost 6 feet tall and, at 160 pounds, I look heavy. My brother is an endomorph. At 160 pounds, he looks perfectly normal, even though he is three inches shorter than me.

Bodies carry weight different. It is entirely possible that Lay looked a little heavy when she was 137, and you look fine. She describes herself as zaftig, not all women who weight that amount.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:20 PM on February 7, 2009


Bodies carry weight different. It is entirely possible that Lay looked a little heavy when she was 137, and you look fine. She describes herself as zaftig, not all women who weight that amount.

I understand what you're getting at, AZ, and by and large I agree with you; I once dated a girl who, at seven inches shorter than me, weighed the same, but she carried it well, and made it look hot. But she didn't see it that way. And neither do the women you're talking to, because it's a message beat into them by the media and by society in general from the time they're old enough to understand. You're fighting a lost battle.

Further, the way Lay phrases things do, over and over again, come off in such a way that makes it sound like she's judging everyone else. I'm sure she didn't mean it like that, but she and her publisher should have known to pay as much attention to the words as to the art when discussing such a sensitive topic. She may be trying to make a simple, easy-to-access comic to help people figure out how to maintain their ideal weights, but whatever her intentions, her poor writing makes her sound judgmental to anyone with with some measure of sensitivity about the subject. Which, sad to say, is nearly everyone. I read somewhere (don't remember where, just that it was a link off of Metafilter) that 80 percent of women think they're too heavy; however dire the statistics might be, I know that 80 percent of women aren't actually overweight.

In an ideal world, we could all be rational about this, and acknowledge that Lay didn't mean to come off as judgmental, and that many people are not overweight, and that not everyone who is curvier is unattractive, and all kinds of other stuff both relating to weight and not. But we're not all rational all the time, and even I, as a dude without the least bit of concern over my weight, think she comes off sounding judgmental.

Though it's possible my opinion of her is negatively influenced by the use of "Fattitude."
posted by Caduceus at 12:46 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


different things work for different people, that's the beauty of being human, one solution doesn't cover all contexts. So saying that "this doesn't work" is a bit off the mark. This isn't disordered eating, sheesh, disordered eating is when you arrive at a point that you restrict caloric intake so severely it creates potential health risks. Being hyper mindful of what she eats seems to work for her... so good for her.
posted by edgeways at 2:16 PM on February 7, 2009


This isn't Story Minute by a long shot. However, I see this book as not a document of cultural body image brainwashing but merely a way to reach out to a (ahem) wider audience. Times may be tough for indie cartoonists but the American public sure does love their diet books. Whatever keeps you in print, Ms. Lay.

And the next time George Clooney comes over with a nightcap, send him to my house.
posted by pernoctalian at 2:35 PM on February 7, 2009


I lost some weight years ago. Lay's starting weight and attained goal weight are both almost exactly the same as mine were.

However, I am eight inches shorter than she is.

This culture is weird.

(Also, I know it's supposed to be a joke, but I get the feeling that this lady would genuinely rather lose a pound than have sex with George Clooney. Kind of a joyless existence, isn't it?)
posted by lemuria at 2:43 PM on February 7, 2009


I'm just an inch taller than she is. When I was in my twenties and weighed 125 lbs -- what she says his her ideal weight -- two different doctors told me I was too skinny and sent me to nutritionists to find out what was up. Although different people have different bodies, it's difficult for me to imagine 125 lbs as being the ideal weight for a middle-aged, tall, healthy woman.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:15 PM on February 7, 2009


Being underweight is associated with higher risk of mortality

Well, Calorie Restriction seems to have it's merits (and studies backing it up).
posted by P.o.B. at 3:33 PM on February 7, 2009


By that standard, we all have eating disorders.

Sadly, I don't know any females that don't have disordered eating behaviour & bdd combined.
posted by zarah at 3:56 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


my guess is that the comments here show more about the poster's view of body image than they do of ms. lay & her situation. she seems happy, is convinced she's healthier, and states that what she has to say might not be for everyone.

i ran into a friend i hadn't seen in months. he'd lost 72 lbs. when i asked him how, he shrugged & said, 'eat less, move around more.' some people can make it work doing one or the other, but for the majority of human beings, it's a combination of eating less & moving around more. i think that's what carol lay is advocating. *if* it appeals to you.
posted by msconduct at 4:02 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm going to ..back out here, cause these threads are bad for my health. But from what I know about Ms. Lay and her nasty comments to my friends and her apologies in the past, and the fact that her final weight is less than my female magazine friends and how neurotic and insane the food issue can make Americans, let me just say, I hope this goes well . For her.
posted by The Whelk at 4:08 PM on February 7, 2009


Listen, of course it's totally possible that 125 is the right weight for her, and that she's perfectly healthy that way. And as I said before, her strategy seems fairly reasonable, and something that can be adapted to different people's different goals.

BUT, she didn't frame it that way at all when she declared, in a definitive way, that 160 was AT LEAST 30 pounds too much for a 5'9" woman. She didn't say, "I know that sounds extreme, but I have such and such type of frame and that's just right for me." She just said that being near the line between normal and overweight (a place that for the average person is probably the most healthy) is 30 pounds too much. No caveats, no YMMV, just, that's at least 30 pounds too much. That's not being fair to her readers.

Where's the line between encouraging all your readers to aspire to the precise line between underweight and normal, and being pro-ED?
posted by lampoil at 4:20 PM on February 7, 2009


Good for her, but it doesn't sound very fun.

I dunno if you're a nerd or a gamer, but I'm always a bit surprised when people can't conceive of the possibility that paying attention to numbers might be fun for some folks.

It isn't for me. But I know paying attention to the numbers works: when my wife got type 1 diabetes, I began eating what she ate so's not to be a jackass. She focuses on the glycemic index, not calories, but the end result is much the same: control the process, and you control the result.
posted by shetterly at 6:09 PM on February 7, 2009


It's a memoir, not a diet book. Which, to me means, "this is what I did" not "this is what you should do."

I just have to say that when I met Carol Lay at APE, she was kind, down-to-earth and very warm and friendly. Which is challenging in a con setting no matter what.

And also, what's with all the hate for half a banana? I'm losing weight in a slow-but-steady way (by kinda counting calories, using the dietary exchanges). The size of the friggin' mutant bananas from El Salvador demand at least halving. A quarter of one of those kilbasa-sized fruits cut up on my cereal in the morning is more food than I've ever eaten for breakfast my whole life.

A banana counts as 2 fruits in the dietary exchanges. This fact alone means that she is not the first, nor the last, to have a half a banana.
posted by Gucky at 7:19 PM on February 7, 2009


I found the excerpt of this book depressing. The chipper tone, the calorie counts. Ugh. I wish no one had to ever go on a diet.
posted by pinky at 8:08 PM on February 7, 2009


It's absolutely being positioned as both a graphic memoir and a how-to diet book. It has recipes. The publisher's description calls it a "graphic memoir that tells Carol’s story and shows you how you can do it, too."
posted by lampoil at 8:18 PM on February 7, 2009


What worked for me when I lost weight (~50 pounds since last summer) was to cut out liquid calories and foods that were calorie dense in particular, namely carbby and fatty foods, and I decided to become something of a flexiterian for environmental reasons. Many diets seem to encourage you to pick a side between fat and carbs, but neither are really that great for you, so I just decided to limit my intake for both of them. This meant eating more salad, and it was actually not that hard to stick to, since I wasn't really depriving myself of anything. I also tried to eat whole foods, whenever possible. If I wanted something fatty, I'd have it, but I'd then make an effort not to eat anything else as rich later in the day. And the same story for carbs as well. I also ate slowly and tried to start off with small portions at dinner, so that I would really know when I was full. Exercise-wise, I live in the suburbs over the summer, so I bike for fun. I enjoy it, so it doesn't become something I avoid. On campus, where I don't have a bike, I go to the gym and read on an elliptical or stationary bike.

Here's an interesting thing to note, as well: I also started avoiding HFCS and trans fat. Those may not be as unhealthy as the media says, but if you get paranoid about processed food chemicals, you'll likely start eating less and make healthier choices, as well.

There was no real math, I just made a concerted effort to develop a healthier lifestyle that I could still enjoy. The key thing is to just cut calories while making sure you still get whole foods and tastes you like (I'm a foodie). Read "In Defense of Food" if you want to get the rationale behind whole foods. There's no one "evil" nutrient, just overeating, and feeling unsatisfied will probably lead to overeating more than anything else. That's why I didn't cut any particular food out; I just made sure to limit myself.

Then again, everyone has their own approach. I couldn't live with the mathematical method she lists out, because I'd know what I'm depriving myself as a science, and get disenfranchised. Instead, I just decided to think out how I could feel full and enjoy what I'm eating while ultimately eating less. Some people have trouble finding a sense of being full, so the math probably is better for them, or they might just find that more fun.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:32 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


About the health argument: I don't think we really have enough to go on. What's probably a better indicator would be body fat percentage, which is harder to get than just weight and height, or maybe even better would be blood pressure and heart rate in a resting state and during aerobic exercise. Admittedly, a lot of those metrics aren't just tied to weight, but BMI seems to be more useful for forming statistics rather than for an individual case. I'm not entirely anti-BMI, but I think the only reason it's being used is because it's a cheap and simple metric that works for most people who lead sedentary lifestyles and have a pretty common body style. A heavy person who exercises is probably better off than a slim person who doesn't work out, but if they're both sedentary, the BMI is likely right.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:43 PM on February 7, 2009


If you read that last item, this Deutsch fellow does object to her weight loss- and he even sounds angry about it.

My guess is he has met this woman at one of those comic book conventions and he's developed a crush on her. And if she becomes a hottie, she will be out of his league.
posted by Zambrano at 2:18 PM on February 8, 2009


I'm pretty sure your guess is totally off base. Zambrano. He's a fat acceptance activist, and that's the source of his beef with Carol Lay. Your assumptions are interesting and revealing, though!
posted by craichead at 2:48 PM on February 8, 2009


I will confess to being a bit politically uncomfortable with the whole "I will buy a single candy from the bulk bin at Whole Foods, and even though the label says 20 calories, I will count it as 40, because it tasted like 40" thing, but more importantly, it makes for a really boring comic book. Even her jokey George Clooney thing couldn't get around the pages of drawings that were just recounting what she ate that day. She is a good artist, but it is dull, dull subject matter.
posted by SoftRain at 3:18 PM on February 8, 2009


Wow. Count me among those who are uncomfortably reminded of eating disorders by this book. I have done the eating half a piece of fruit as a meal and the overestimating of calories, too.

I probably would have bought this book a few years ago, for purely self-triggering purposes.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:33 AM on February 9, 2009


Counting calories and exercising certainly does work *if* you can follow the necessary rules of burning off more calories than you eat and getting enough nutrients/vitamins/etc.

Also, I *never* weigh myself and I would rather lose a pound than have sex with George Clooney. Ick.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:00 PM on February 9, 2009


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