Punishing your body is not taking care of it.
January 11, 2016 9:17 AM   Subscribe

 
I hope you’ll remember that punishing your body is not taking care of it, resolutions rooted in shame should be avoided, and mental health is health, too.

That's awesome!
posted by leahwrenn at 9:28 AM on January 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


This is a really great article, with a few exceptions, I think. I wish that they could have done without shaming Oprah's own journey. (And yes, the commercial is gross, but she's being paid to say that.)

Also, this: “I want to climb a mountain” has a more tangible finish line than “I want to be less gross.”

For many people, if they can define what they mean by less gross, being less gross is a much more realistic goal than climbing a mountain.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:31 AM on January 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


Speaking of achievable goals, if anyone is tempted to follow some kind of plan this year (that doesn't involves self-denial), I'd encourage everyone to check out Always Hungry, by Harvard endocrinologist David Ludwig.

But before you do that, I'd suggest reading Radical Acceptance by Tara Branch or The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christoper Germer.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:31 AM on January 11, 2016 [12 favorites]


(And yes, the commercial is gross, but she's being paid to say that.)

That... doesn't make it less gross.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:33 AM on January 11, 2016 [44 favorites]


That... doesn't make it less gross.

I didn't say it did.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:34 AM on January 11, 2016


Also, I'd recommend mindfulness practice (ideally with a compassionate tutor) to anyone dealing with issues of self-contempt.

"Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away or become something better. It's about befriending who we are already." - Pema Chodron
posted by leotrotsky at 9:34 AM on January 11, 2016 [16 favorites]


For many people, if they can define what they mean by less gross, being less gross is a much more realistic goal than climbing a mountain.

YOU CANNOT TAKE GOOD CARE OF A THING THAT YOU HATE.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:35 AM on January 11, 2016 [127 favorites]


Those Oprah commercials are so terrible. The one where she claims that counting points isn't counting calories because it's "like a game," and that points "literally" gives you accountability annoys me just because it doesn't make any sense. That commercial is driving me crazy, because it runs constantly during the WE tv reruns of Law and Order that have been my wife's only pregnancy craving so far.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:47 AM on January 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


This sort of rhetoric is one of the factors which prevented me from becoming health(ier) until later in life. I was perpetually afraid of somehow starving myself or damaging myself by eating too little. Being hungry made me afraid of personal injury (and still does, to some extent). Ultimately, I ended up gaining weight to the point of morbid obesity instead of maintaining a healthy weight.

Ultimately, I've come to realize that hunger is a good thing. Punishing myself - in the form of balancing what I eat in the future versus what I've eaten in the recent past - is my way of maintaining my weight. It is certainly possible to take this to the excess; fortunately, I haven't come anywhere near it. My realization that weight maintenance at a healthy weight fundamentally can't be starvation, regardless of how hungry I am, is how I've moved towards a health(ier) lifestyle. I can prove that in the form of lab tests (all in the right direction), blood pressure levels (from pre-hypertensive to normal levels), and physical endurance levels. These are all measurable, and serve to verify that I am moving in the right direction. Vague rhetoric of "nourishing food" (which has no evidentiary basis behind it) has done precisely nothing for me; the only thing that has helped me is calories and a scale.

So - just as Lindy West correctly indicates, some things work for some people, and don't for others. I just wish I had started to ignore her (and similar commentators) earlier in life.
posted by saeculorum at 9:53 AM on January 11, 2016 [18 favorites]


Has it already been linked at MeFi? At the annual articles about new year's resolutions time, I ran across several reprints (and sponsored content!) of last year's articles about a 2011 study showing that procrastination and poor decisionmaking about the future is related to how we fail to connect with out future selves. How we consider 5-year-ago-me still Me, but 5-year-from-now-me is not Me.

Every time someone else muses on how to just love yourself, without demanding that you be thin or perfect or whatever, I find myself thinking again of how next year's self is a stranger. I am not quite sure how to connect the dots, but I feel like they are connected. Like, I don't think that if you can connect to your older self, you'll be able to make your present self artificially thin, but that if you can someone consider yourself continuous--or just contiguous--with that future self, you won't feel you have to be artificially anything. Instead you'll just be able to be the best you.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:54 AM on January 11, 2016 [20 favorites]


YOU CANNOT TAKE GOOD CARE OF A THING THAT YOU HATE.

Self criticism does not have to be hate. I think of improving my health and my satisfaction with my own body as an act of love for a life I value.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:13 AM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Ah, Metafilter, where "set reachable goals, don't abuse yourself for not meeting an arbitrary physical beauty goal if your health is good" is defined as dangerous rhetoric designed to keep you unhealthy.

insert all the eye-roll emojis here
posted by palomar at 10:14 AM on January 11, 2016 [62 favorites]


YOU CANNOT TAKE GOOD CARE OF A THING THAT YOU HATE.

Self criticism does not have to be hate. I think of improving my health and my satisfaction with my own body as an act of love for a life I value.


I think that's West's point as well: "Work with your body, not against it." doesn't mean "No self-criticism."
posted by Etrigan at 10:16 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Smart enough people can rationalize any kind of self-harm or self-hatred. The hardest thing in the world for some people (myself included) who are capable of enormous compassion and empathy is extending it to themselves, the one person in their lives that they are capable of bullying more effectively than any other person ever could.

The hardest thing I've ever taken on is learning to love myself at all, and it's worth more than any other effort I've undertaken. Everything that was good in my life has gotten better since I started trying, and the things I couldn't, just could absolutely not do that I should've been able to, now feel like they are within my grasp, that I can now at least attempt without deciding from the outset it will never happen for me.
posted by turntraitor at 10:16 AM on January 11, 2016 [22 favorites]


These are all measurable, and serve to verify that I am moving in the right direction. Vague rhetoric of "nourishing food" (which has no evidentiary basis behind it) has done precisely nothing for me; the only thing that has helped me is calories and a scale.

One problem with the weight loss and health industries is that they push systems and programs rather than encouraging people to experiment and monitor and see what works for them. For you, it's counting calories. For me, I'm someone for whom weight loss needs to be part of my overall health program, and I have enough experience with my body to have a sense of how to make that happen (though obviously I'm not consistent about applying that wisdom). For me, part of weight loss is not eating breakfast (which I love not wisely but too well). It's contrary to plenty of good established advice, which is probably right for lots of people, but it works for me, and I know that because I've paid attention to how my body reacts to different ways of eating. That kind of self-knowledge (which West calls working with your body) is ultimately what you need.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:19 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've more or less internalized "take care of your body, but don't trust it" because I seem to have the same natural drive for exercise that I have for filing taxes, with similar ramifications for noncompliance.
posted by Phyltre at 10:20 AM on January 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm a little sad I've plateaued at a weight roughly 20 lbs down from a few months back, but since I've gotten to the point where I can easily bench press my weight 5-6x instead of half of it once... I'm okay with that. Still sometimes frowning at the scale. I don't like the part of me that does that, but I accept that it is an intrinsic human desire to be better. I try to be kind to my inner critic as long as he's not hijacking my entire thought process.

For me, weight lifting accompanied with some (to me personally) seriously bonkers strength gains has changed my entire outlook with my body. I still look at my stomach in the mirror, sucking it in and sticking it out, and think god damn you are fucking gross and yet this is as good as you'll ever look. But not nearly as much.

I think a lot of people get frustrated when there's no progress. And then they tell themselves they're worthless or ugly. Which makes changing that much harder down the road.

Ultimately, I've come to realize that hunger is a good thing. Punishing myself - in the form of balancing what I eat in the future versus what I've eaten in the recent past - is my way of maintaining my weight.

That sounds not ideal. You don't have to be hungry all the time. Drink water (like a lot of water, way more than you think) and eat high satiety foods. A carbohydrate will not satisfy you nearly as long as a fat or protein. Liquid calories even less so. I guess if it makes you happy or at peace, it's fine, but "punishing yourself" isn't necessary.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:21 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


“I will hate myself until I turn into Gisele Bündchen” is not a reasonable, reachable goal. First of all, have you seen what Gisele Bündchen eats? In an interview with Boston.com last week, her personal chef revealed that Bündchen and husband Tom Brady avoid white sugar, white flour, MSG, caffeine, dairy, fungi, nightshades, gluten, and iodised salt...

This is a ludicrous statement in every direction, both rah-rah diet and rah-rah acceptance.

Tom Brady has his diet, exercise and therapy planned out per day for the next three years. Because he's a professional athlete at the pinnacle of performance levels.

"Let’s start here: Brady is a quarterback whose daily schedule, both in and out of season, is mapped clearly into his 40s. Every day of it, micromanaged. Treatment. Workouts. Food. Recovery. Practice. Rest. And those schedules aren't just for this week, this month, this season. They're for three years."

But then look at this the other way. "Avoid white sugar, white flour, MSG, caffeine, dairy, fungi, nightshades, gluten, and iodised salt."

OK. You know what's left? All meat, all legumes, all nuts, all seeds, leafy vegetables, many grains ... this is not difficult, not nightmarish. Heck, if you eat a common Asian diet (e.g. rice, fish, veg), you're already 90 percent of the way there.

Saying this is hard is just as bullshit as saying you could turn into Gisele Bündchen.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:28 AM on January 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


There is some good stuff in this article. I do have an issue with the implication that wanting to lose weight, or even eating "like Gisele" = hating yourself, or at least that there are ways to be more or less legitimate about stuff that is intensely personal. I believe in body positivity, in rejecting shitty cultural narratives around food/morality, in guarding mental and emotional health... and ultimately that it's not really my business how anyone else does or does not do any of those things or if they don't do them exactly the way I think is best.

Speaking as someone who struggled with eating disorders (including inpatient treatment) for many years, identifies as a major food nerd and also a passionate fitness enthusiast, and will never not have a deeply emotional relationship with food and my body...I wish I had a better way to think through some of this stuff; sometimes it seems like either you're a FatPeopleHate shitlord or you're into the kind of HAES advocacy that sees weight as having literally no impact on a total health picture. The best I can do is to do the best I can, I guess, for me now. I sure wish I had had some better middle ground role models when I was growing up, though.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:29 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Punishing myself - in the form of balancing what I eat in the future versus what I've eaten in the recent past - is my way of maintaining my weight.

I don't think most people would think aiming for nutritional balance is punishment, though. Not punishing your own body has to do with the inner monologue you have and how you approach health and fitness.

Being considerate to your own body doesn't mean eating everything you want (because for that matter, overdosing in sugar and causing a heart condition are very clear ways of mistreating one's body). Being kind to yourself and being able to forgive yourself and keep going are much more likely to result in long term health than constant fixation on our mistakes.
posted by Tarumba at 10:30 AM on January 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


If you consider it punishment, you're already set up to fail. I actually LOVE going to the gym now. Well, most days. Some days I don't and it's 50/50 if I end up going that day. The point is that it's time well spent or I can skip without hating myself.

If it was a thing I dreaded, I would've already quit.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:35 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Most "anti-inflammation" diets are overkill. Tom Brady's is a case in point.
Is this a good idea? On the one hand, there's plenty of evidence that diets rich in fruits and vegetables deliver important nutrients, reduce the risk for disease, and help people manage their bodyweight. So that part seems fine. Eating fresh food and cutting back on processed ingredients and sugar are always good ideas too.

Without getting into the obvious woo here — like why iodized salt and health oils are demonized — let's focus on the anti-inflammatory core of the diet. According to the best evidence we have, eliminating all sorts of specific foods in the name of "reducing inflammation" is absolutely unnecessary. And since these diets have gained a following in recent years (Gwyneth Paltrow has promoted one, as have Channing Tatum and Penelope Cruz), it's worth taking a closer look at the trend. ...

So what about nightshade vegetables, like peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants? "That’s one level of specificity that goes beyond what would likely have a big influence," Cannon said.

Dr. Gerry Mullin, a Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist, thought much the same: He didn't know of any science to back up eliminating these vegetables to reduce inflammation. (I couldn't find any good research on this either.) Plus, he added, "Tomatoes are a staple of an anti-inflammatory diet. They have properties that attenuate the inflammatory response." So why Brady and others chose to shun them is unclear.
If you're getting paid to follow an unnecessarily restrictive diet, and if you have a history of being a highly disciplined person, you can probably keep to that diet. But average people who want to "just eat better" who choose to follow a woo-based diet like Brady's are setting themselves up for failure. How many people fall back from an extreme diet like his to a more friendly and equally healthy Mediterranean style way of eating, for example, versus just going back to a more unhealthy diet because they felt so deprived that they couldn't even eat TOMATOES, for God's sake?
posted by maudlin at 10:39 AM on January 11, 2016 [12 favorites]


In re climbing mountains - pick a small mountain of the Appalachian or Fragrant Hills varieties. I have climbed two, actually. If you're in reasonable health, you - yes you! - can climb a mountain. The Beijing one was a brisk climb when I was younger and lighter and basically as fit as I've ever been, but I don't think it would be too difficult for older, fatter me even now.
posted by Frowner at 10:41 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Tom Brady has his diet, exercise and therapy planned out per day for the next three years. Because he's a professional athlete at the pinnacle of performance levels.

Tom Brady's "body guru" is also likely a quack.
posted by gyc at 10:41 AM on January 11, 2016


I'm not going to argue with doing things that work for you. If hating your body is working for you, then knock yourself out. It didn't work for me, though, and I'm in a better place physically and emotionally now that I think of myself as taking care of my body, rather than disciplining it. I'm not telling anyone else what to do. I'm just throwing that out as a possible strategy for people who haven't had good results with the other one.

And yeah, taking care of my body means realizing that I shouldn't eat gummi bears every day, even though I probably do want to eat a pound of gummi bears right here, right now, at all times. But I try to think of it as "I want to eat food with actual nutritional value most of the time" rather than "gummi bears are sinful and evil and you are an evil, sinful, gross person for loving them."
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:41 AM on January 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


Heck, if you eat a common Asian diet (e.g. rice, fish, veg), you're already 90 percent of the way there.

Yeah, but even actual Asian people (at least those living in East Asia, the region I'm most familiar with) aren't always on a "common Asian diet". They eat gluten (that's the thing they use to make meat substitutes), they eat dairy (in coffee, milktea), they eat white sugar (shaved ice, sweet pastries, taro, red bean), and they certainly eat white flour (noodles and dumplings).
posted by FJT at 10:56 AM on January 11, 2016 [18 favorites]


OK. You know what's left? All meat, all legumes, all nuts, all seeds, leafy vegetables, many grains ... this is not difficult, not nightmarish. Heck, if you eat a common Asian diet (e.g. rice, fish, veg), you're already 90 percent of the way there.

Saying this is hard is just as bullshit as saying you could turn into Gisele Bündchen.


I have traveled extensively in Asia, and this is ... not true? I mean, maybe it's somewhat true of certain traditional Asian diets, in the same way that it's true of certain traditional European diets, but it's not true of how the Asian people I've met eat. Just like Westerners, they eat and love sugar and salt and MSG, and often white flour. Not to mention fungi and nightshades.

Saying it's hard to give up sugar and salt and other forms of quick energy is not bullshit, it's based on science. If you find it easy, congrats, you are probably genetically less prone to finding those things rewarding, but overall, humans find it very difficult to give them up.
posted by lunasol at 11:00 AM on January 11, 2016 [23 favorites]


Ultimately, I've come to realize that hunger is a good thing. Punishing myself - in the form of balancing what I eat in the future versus what I've eaten in the recent past - is my way of maintaining my weight.

This saddens me to hear - you don't have to be hungry to lose weight, and self-punishment is just unnecessary. I lost more than 50 pounds over a year - spent not one day of it hungry, and I ate healthy foods I enjoyed. I'm not going to give advice here (who wants that), but there are ways to do it that don't involve suffering.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:03 AM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Can we please remember that the least helpful three words in any discussion of diet and exercise are "It isn't hard"?
posted by Etrigan at 11:08 AM on January 11, 2016 [78 favorites]


Man, I've been on a weight loss journey this year, because I finally reached a point where death felt like it was around the corner if I didn't. (See here: http://imgur.com/a/CF3lL)

Funny thing about self-contempt and self-hate. I realized yesterday when I really, really, really didn't want to go to the gym and do my exercises that the thing that ultimately got me out the door was I wanted to stifle my internal asshole voice who loves nothing more than to lay into me for my weaknesses and failures. In that one regard that shitty jerk is useful to me.

He's still a jerk though. I'm also having to learn how to keep him under control because as I've lost weight, he's started to appear towards others, which is not a thing I'll have. That and who the hell knew I was suppressing anxiety with food & drink!
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:16 AM on January 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


The university I work for started a "wellness" program they were promoting during the holidays. (Because, you know, it's around the holidays that we get fatter.) The name of the program was "Maintain, Don't Gain."

They'd send reminders about "Maintain, Don't Gain" once or twice a week. Actually, they still are. I got one last week.

I mean, seriously? We get this shit from pretty much everywhere already -- and now I'm getting it in my work email too??
posted by mudpuppie at 11:18 AM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


The piece doesn't say don't weigh yourself, it doesn't say never feel hungry, it doesn't say you can't eat the Gisele diet if you choose, it doesn't say climbing a mountain is realistic, it doesn't say don't engage in self-criticism.

She's really, really not telling you how to eat here, but only asking you not to use despising yourself as a motivator. As for Oprah, once she's leveraging her "journey" to get people to pay a lot of money to a company she partly owns, I think it's in bounds to point out why her own journey may not make her the authority she's telling you it does in quite the way she's telling you it does.

You can choose one want over another want -- and thus, in one sense, deny yourself something -- without thinking of it as punishing yourself. When you stop drinking at one because you have to get up the next morning, are you punishing yourself? I would say no; you're just making one choice instead of another. People who respect themselves can still accomplish things, you know? You don't have to hate your kids or your best friend to want them to behave differently or to help them do that; why do you have to hate yourself to change direction? That's my takeaway, anyway.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:19 AM on January 11, 2016 [48 favorites]


Can we please remember that the least helpful three words in any discussion of diet and exercise are "It isn't hard"?

Who said that? It's totally hard, especially when even the standard, top-recommended health devices and tools out there set people up for failure, afaic. The default calorie settings on a lot of apps are way too low for most people. When someone sets up a profile, they're asked "how much do you want to lose per week?", and motivated people with no experience say, "1-2 lbs", usually. That gives most women 1200 calories to play with. Which is WAY too low for anyone who's not 5'1 and almost completely sedentary, and will almost guarantee hunger, frustration, self-punishment, probably bingeing, maybe giving up. A lot of the advice out there is just bad, and there's a lot of it, and it's confusing.

(I said no advice, but my 2 cents for anyone wanting to lose is: go slowly - 0.5 lb a week at most, don't cut too many calories. I lost on 2100 (!) albeit with a fair bit of activity, but even if you don't do that, you can likely eat way more than the apps say; eat a lot of protein, fat, and fiber (30:30:40 /fat/protein/carb) to stay full and fuelled; let yourself get excited about new recipes and foods, as things you are adding to your life; do a little something every day - go for a walk, a swim, a dance; do some strength training for your bones a couple of times a week. Think about the long haul...
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:23 AM on January 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


For many people, if they can define what they mean by less gross, being less gross is a much more realistic goal than climbing a mountain.

Climbing a mountain is an easy shorthand, though, isn't it? If you can define what you mean by "less gross", you're probably saying that, not "less gross". If that's not the sort of problem you have with your body, great, but a lot of people do and do need help and support in figuring out what kind of approach is actually going to make them healthier instead of just more miserable. We need reminders that we need to be more instead of less. It doesn't have to be a mountain or a marathon. It just needs the language of, "I want to achieve things, I want to be more flexible, I want to live longer, I want more energy." Not, "I want to carve away all this flesh and kill it", because when you're done what you have left isn't whole. The point of it being a mountain is that whatever it is, it's not something you can already do. It's been a weird trip for me to figuring out that my body can actually do stuff and it isn't just there to hold me back. It's not a fat prison confining the thin me, it's not an enemy spy sabotaging all my hopes and dreams.

This is my body. There are many like it, but this one is mine. That helps me. I don't need to love it every moment, but I need to accept that it's likely to be the only body I get, and whatever I do, I do with it, not in spite of it. It can do more, a lot more, than what I'm currently doing with it. My body and brain aren't the tools I would have requested if I'd been allowed my pick, but they're the ones I have, and I don't get anything out of hating them. I have to take care of them. Just like if I had kids, protecting them from all discomfort isn't really caring for them, but neither is hurting them just because they hurt me first. The me, the rational part, has to be bigger than that.
posted by Sequence at 11:26 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


No fungi?!? From my cold dead hands! I just put out a bunch of freshly shiitake-inoculated oak logs in my backyard.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:27 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Saying this is hard is just as bullshit as saying you could turn into Gisele Bündchen.

Given the level of processed sugar and/or gluten in the typical American diet, I would have to disagree with you. It may be doable, it may work for some people as smoothly as molasses, but it sure as hell isn't easy for everyone.
posted by blucevalo at 11:27 AM on January 11, 2016


We get this shit from pretty much everywhere already -- and now I'm getting it in my work email too??

Health insurance providers are incentivizing this sort of thing -- your employer is likely paying thousands upon thousands of dollars less because of those emails.
posted by Etrigan at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I guess if I had a personal chef and a personal trainer not only telling me what to eat and how to exercise but preparing meals and routines for me AND it was my full time job to follow those instructions (as it is for Tom Brady the athlete and Gisele Bundchen the model) then... yes, it might not be hard to dedicate your life to it, per se.

Pretending that it's just a matter of shrugging and giving entire food groups up (for questionable quack benefits, I might add) is disingenuous at best.
posted by lydhre at 11:29 AM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


Can we please remember that the least helpful three words in any discussion of diet and exercise are "It isn't hard"?

Who said that?


Saying this is hard is just as bullshit as saying you could turn into Gisele Bündchen.
posted by Etrigan at 11:30 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I realized yesterday when I really, really, really didn't want to go to the gym and do my exercises that the thing that ultimately got me out the door was I wanted to stifle my internal asshole voice who loves nothing more than to lay into me for my weaknesses and failures. In that one regard that shitty jerk is useful to me.
Ok, so this is where I think I get tripped up. My inner asshole is not rational and can't be stifled that way. I can't say "see, asshole, I went to the gym, so you should shut up." My asshole will respond "yeah, you went to the gym, but what did you do there? You didn't do enough. Lots of other people do more. What you did is actually pretty worthless. You're worthless. I mean, you think that stupid, worthless gym session was impressive? What better evidence of your worthlessness could there be?" So listening to my inner asshole doesn't make me more likely to go to the gym. Listening to my inner asshole makes me more likely to say fuck it, decide that I'm trash no matter what and nothing I could do at the gym would make any difference, and eat a pint of ice cream to make myself feel better. The only way I can motivate myself is to banish my inner asshole. My inner asshole is not allowed in my life. My inner asshole is like the abusive ex whose texts you block.

But I do realize that this works differently for other people.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:31 AM on January 11, 2016 [23 favorites]


Health insurance providers are incentivizing this sort of thing -- your employer is likely paying thousands upon thousands of dollars less because of those emails.

Oh okay I guess the weight-shaming is okay then.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:32 AM on January 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


Given the level of processed sugar and/or gluten in the typical American diet, I would have to disagree with you. It may be doable, it may work for some people as smoothly as molasses, but it sure as hell isn't easy for everyone.


I really agree with this. I think there is a common myth that Americans are lazy or just too greedy when it comes to food, but a few American friends of mine have felt miserably reassured by the fact that in my line of work, where absolutely all of my clients come from other continents, obesity after arrival is such a huge issue we had to include this subject in an orientation to newcomers. What I mean to say is a person from anywhere in the world is likely to gain weight after relocating to the US.

Which goes to further the point that being in the US, where opportunities for high calorie snacks and a sedentary lifestyles make it overall more likely for anyone to gain too much weight, we really should be a little more compassionate to ourselves. Living here, it takes more self control, more discipline, and way more presence of mind to stay healthy.

Being forgiving and keeping at it is what this piece is about. Nobody is saying oh then give up and die of heart disease. Just don't approach your own health and fitness from a starting point of guilt.
posted by Tarumba at 11:39 AM on January 11, 2016 [20 favorites]


Oh okay I guess the weight-shaming is okay then.

I read that as "in addition weight-shaming, you're also getting charged for it." Insult to injury and all that.
posted by mayonnaises at 11:41 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Can we please remember that the least helpful three words in any discussion of diet and exercise are "It isn't hard"?

Thank you, Etrigan. I, too, have lost significant amounts of weight and gained significant health benefits recently through lots of exercise and a low-carb diet, and the most critical factor to my continuing success -- and the hardest thing to stick to consistently -- is making it clear to my family that I will not be doing as much support labor for them, because I am using that time instead to maintain and improve my health. It's so easy to say "Oh, you just have to make it a priority!" but you can't just add new high priorities to your life without de-prioritizing other things; that's how priorities work. Between my gym time, my walking time (getting my kids to and from school, replacing driving), and my extra cooking time (since my dietary needs and my elder child's are incompatible), I'm looking at about three extra hours a day spent in health maintenance. That time has to come from somewhere, and even six months in, my partner and children are often left blinking owlishly at the things that no longer magically and invisibly get done.

That shit is HARD, and it flies in the face of most of our cultural expectations of women, particularly women who are also wives or mothers. We are taught constantly that it is our role to negate ourselves, to reduce ourselves, to put ourselves farther and farther down the interrupt list, to place our own needs subservient to those of our partners and children -- and then we get shamed from the other side for "not taking care of ourselves," for "letting ourselves go," for "being gross." No wonder we're all looking for the one weird trick that will make it possible to balance the scales of obligation without disappointing anyone.
posted by KathrynT at 11:41 AM on January 11, 2016 [112 favorites]


Oh okay I guess the weight-shaming is okay then.

no but tbh if it would cut my insurance premium in half i would probably let someone from my health insurance company smack me with a carrot like once a week
posted by poffin boffin at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2016 [19 favorites]


I like this article because I don't like seeing people hurt themselves with negative self-talk. I like that the article suggests goals like "I will climb a mountain", because I see those helping people immediately, both mentally and physically, in addition to being good SMART goals. They become personal change. Performance goals like "I'll run in that 5k" or "I'll deadlift my bodyweight by July" are so much better than exercise DVDs demotivating, encouraging self-punishment, and selling unrealistic promises.
posted by daveliepmann at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am pretty overweight and am trying to fit into a pair of pants I used to love. I would also like to be able to go on more adventures, and be mobile in old age, but right now what's in right in front of me is a pair of black snakeskin pants that will definitely be cool forever, shut up.

It isn't really simple OR easy, and the idea that it is is really destructive. "Eat less, move more" isn't good advice for losing weight any more than "get the ball into that hoop over there" is good advice for playing basketball.
posted by one of these days at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


As someone from the southeastern US, I am assuming "Climb a mountain" refers to mountains like ours and not the Rockies (or the Himalayas). I used to lead hikes in those mountains. Most people could set climbing one as a reasonable, achievable goal.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:04 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


My weight loss goals for the year are pretty modest, I hope. It basically amounts to, "Lose enough weight to avoid the indignity of having to bring my suit pants to the tailor to have the waist let out".
posted by The Gooch at 12:12 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Back when I was 100 pounds overweight and deeply uncomfortable just trying to move my own body through space, I joined a gym with the explicit goal of climbing a mountain. It was Mt Monadnock in New Hampshire, which isn't big - there used to be a person who ran it every day to train. But I fondly remembered it as the first mountain I ever enjoyed climbing, and sure enough, 5 months later I climbed Mt Monadnock, still 100 pounds overweight, but I did it.

I have continued to go to the gym religiously ever since, and have climbed a lot of mountains (including Washington and Katahdin) since. By far the best fitness motivator I've ever had.
posted by ldthomps at 12:13 PM on January 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


As someone from the southeastern US, I am assuming "Climb a mountain" refers to mountains like ours and not the Rockies (or the Himalayas). I used to lead hikes in those mountains. Most people could set climbing one as a reasonable, achievable goal.

As someone from Oregon, I saw pshaw, I climbed this when I was 18. With a pack on my back. And this bit: "it has eroded and is basically a large pile of loose volcanic rock" was nearly my undoing.

Anyway. Yes, caring for yourself is so important. I used to do 1-2-hour bike rides regularly. Broke my right arm at the wrist three months ago, and am just now able to get back on the bike. The sheer elation I felt when I was able to manage to hold my road bike straight for ten minutes was comparable to what I felt on my long trips before. I'm up to 20 minutes now, plus my hand is finally strong enough to shift gears (these are full-hand road bike shifters, not single-finger MTB shifters), and I'm like, "Weeee are the champioooons, my freh-hennds..."
posted by fraula at 12:17 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


You don't have to hate your kids or your best friend to want them to behave differently or to help them do that; why do you have to hate yourself to change direction? That's my takeaway, anyway.

I think this is a very good message, and absolutely the one the author meant! I also think it's a subtle one, and that sometimes the assumption that diet/weight loss goals must necessarily come from a place of self-hatred is...weird and counterproductive. Like, the standard American diet is not an optimum health diet for me. Eating ice cream too often makes me heavier than I like to be, which is not outweighed by the pleasure I got from eating the ice cream (I suspect this is true for many people, but I can only speak for myself). I don't have to hate myself to recognize that those things are true.

Obviously many of us are steeped in toxic cultural indoctrination around food and beauty standards and shame; I know as well as any woman. I guess I wish the advice, especially for young women, was less about overcoming something personally and more focused on taking power away from something untrue and stupid.

I don't know. This stuff is hard. Ultimately I am 100% in favor of everyone hating themselves less, obviously, and overall I was glad to see this message in a mainstream outlet.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:30 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


For many people, if they can define what they mean by less gross, being less gross is a much more realistic goal than climbing a mountain.

True, but in counterpoint - as a resident of Colorado with its numerous 14,000' high peaks with bases far above sea level (not uncommon for someone to drive up to 12-13,000), "climbing a mountain" really can be defined in a practical, accommodating way and it really does empower a lot of people of differing fitness levels to feel accomplished.

And then we've got foothills and mesas and such that can be climbed in 30-60 minutes with lots of satisfaction -- if you happen to have these things in reach, "climbing a mountain" becomes a super common stepping-stone for people aspiring to become more fit, and one of the reasons this state is so darned healthy and active compared to the rest of the US despite our proximity to cosmic radiation and plutonium from Rocky Flats...
posted by aydeejones at 12:39 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


ArbitraryAndCapricious - I really empathize with the double plus crappy voice you've got in your head. Mine kept me from losing weight for so long because really what's the point. I'm just going to suck at it and won't get any better. I can also really imagine that were it not for getting bed-ridden theraflu and chicken broth only levels of ill last January for two weeks, I'd still be there - in even worse shape. Getting that ill might have been one of the best things to happen to me.

But I'm shit pot terrified of the day when that idiot gets a victory over me and can only hope that I find a way to tamp him down or ignore him before I find myself on a long up hill climb again. I'd like to not have to be motivated by fear, but I suspect that's this year's journey for me.

On the it's hard work front - one of the few things I've struggled with is trying to communicate to people, even loved ones, that despite what they see as "oh he just decided to lose weight and it happened - that's so unfair", despite the innate advantage I have gender wise in terms of losing weight - this has been hard as hell.

I've literally had to deal with co-workers trying to sabotage me with treats, desserts and what not (while also cheering me on - weird). I've dealt with loved ones telling me that I'm too skinny and look like a concentration camp victim even though I'm just inside the healthy BMI ratios for the first time in 20+ years. I've been dealing with newly evident emotional challenges now that I can't get a cheap/easy pleasure hit. There are times when I'm sick of watching what I eat and just want to give up and eat all the foods and drink all the drinks, but I'm still muddling through. So yeah, it's hard and I don't even have to put up with the extra crap women do in terms of image and societal expectations!
posted by drewbage1847 at 12:47 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I was perpetually afraid of somehow starving myself or damaging myself by eating too little. Being hungry made me afraid of personal injury (and still does, to some extent). Ultimately, I ended up gaining weight to the point of morbid obesity instead of maintaining a healthy weight.

It's not all that hard to damage yourself by eating too little. Your body produces less growth hormone when you restrict calories (especially in the form of fats) and HGH is crucial to healing even the most minor injuries and sprains. Many people experience massive setbacks because they think the answer is to combine diet and exercise intensely, without giving themselves "re-feed" ("cheat") days and what have you. Then they slowly wear down and fail.

Ketogenic diets are a whole 'nother problem, completely incompatible with overall fitness and well-being IMO. A ketogenic diet in my experience kicked off one of the worst years of my life in terms of depression.

In my experience, many people think "eating too little" is the easiest way to lose weight until their metabolism completely re-calibrates and suddenly the 1,500 calories they're eating act like 2,500, but it sneaks up on them in various forms like plateaus that they might "break" by further stressing their metabolic and adrenal systems until years into it it becomes unsustainable.

It's much harder for me to eat the "right" amount than it is to eat too little. I didn't realize all these years that as a 200+ pound guy (even if I were solid muscle) I should be eating 3,000 calories AND should be active, to ensure that my muscle mass is regularly working to burn fat.

This is the essence of yo-yo dieting, people think "hey I can sustain this" until suddenly they can't, even if they don't break down and give up completely, the metabolism adjusts and becomes more efficient.

In the past I thought the answer was lots of cardio and calorie restriction, and realized that was a terrible idea because lots of cardio just massively increases your appetite and does the sort of damage to your joints and muscles that can only be fixed by eating a significant amount of calories.

I've always found it "easy" to cut my calories below 2,000 (as someone who needs 3,000+ to be happy) and have learned that it's actually "hard" to eat "exactly" the right amount.

Everyone's mileage may vary, but at the age of 35 it's occurred to me that the real hard part is not depriving yourself, but figuring out how much to give yourself to NOT be deprived. And then you have to allow for things that never seemed obvious before, like taking an entire week off from the gym to heal from nagging injuries, allowing yourself to almost abandon your diet during the holidays while still dragging yourself to the gym so that you only gain 4 pounds (male privilege, I can burn it fast), etc.

It's so complicated and scary and exciting. My big lesson for 2015 was that you have to have ups and downs, but you manage the yo-yo. You decide when to cheat and how hard to work to make up for it, vs. punishing yourself for 30-60 days relentlessly and then falling off.
posted by aydeejones at 12:59 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ketogenic diets are a whole 'nother problem, completely incompatible with overall fitness and well-being IMO. A ketogenic diet in my experience kicked off one of the worst years of my life in terms of depression.

Which is why the part in the article about working with our own bodies is important. My experience with this type of diet is the exact opposite. It cleared up my depression and has led to me being in better shape overall. For various reasons I went off it for a few months and ended up feeling like shit and I realized that depression is rearing it's head again. Went back on a week or so ago and am starting to finally feeling good again with the energy and motivation to get back to my normal physical schedule.
posted by Jalliah at 1:07 PM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Also something I'm starting to embrace is that resistance / strength / weight training are where the mood elevation are at. I learned this from MetaFilter over 5 years ago but didn't take it to heart. Every time I face weight training (3-4X a week) there's an initial reluctance, and then I feel like a Golden God afterward, every time. You slightly damage and hurt yourself bit by bit, but if you know what you're doing, it's far more manageable than the damage done by cardio -- really! It's easy to focus on different muscle groups to allow strains to repair, etc, as you learn to listen to your body. But it's not at all easy to break into it from the very beginning, with a full-time job. I'm just sayin', long slogs of cardio might be meditative or entertaining to some, but they are not the ticket to physical fitness and health into your 30s and beyond.

Cardio is beaten into all of us at this essential form of exercise but it's soul-sucking and only "fun" because we can disengage from it and read and such, which just gives you a weak hamster workout unless you dial up the intensity. If you think "I'll just go 30-60 minutes at low intensity" you're basically wasting your time, which is still better than being inactive, but it's not as productive as maximizing 15 minutes of cardio and then doing something more strenuous on your muscle groups.

If you can casually read and flip pages on a recumbent bike or elliptical for 30-60 minutes to burn fat or stay fit (two of the objectively, measurably worst machines for actually pumping oxygen through your lungs body as someone who blew $900 on an ellipcal once) you will almost certainly get more benefit slightly "punishing yourself" for 10 minutes on an upright bike using intervals, or a rowing machine.

I submit that most people don't need more than 10-15 minutes of cardio at the gym, if they use high-intensity intervals on the bike or rowing machine. We are conditioned to think "spend a lot of time on the stair climber / bike / treadmill / whatever and that's all you need to do!" but really it just makes you hungry and makes exercise seem like a boring chore.

Someone inevitably will chime in and say that exercise will always be a boring chore to them, and however they can get it is better than nothing. True. But if you maximize the time you spend doing that chore, you can put your time to better use and get better results.
posted by aydeejones at 1:09 PM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


Re: ketogenic diets, I think they are totally extreme and not conducive to having muscle mass or optimal cognitive function for your average baseline human, but so too is the typical western diet extreme and far less "natural" in terms of being a recent innovation, and "the" answer is some compromise that takes into consideration all of the sacrifices and "perversions" we endure to be functional Western Working People. Just like intense depression and ADHD may be a manifestation of the fiddly overburdening complex society we've built around ourselves, our diet is as useful as its ability to help us "function" in this system.

The human body was "designed" to go into ketosis here and there, it's a great backup system for when the primary fuel required by the brain and muscles (glucose) is not available. For me, it seemed to bring me a lot of mental clarity and fitness for 90 days, and then *crash* I suspect I might do OK with some sort of cycling ketogenic diet, but I'm rather fixated on increasing my muscle mass because as a 6' dude who has struggled my whole life, I'm pretty sure I "have to be big" but I'd rather it be "muscle big" than "fat big."
posted by aydeejones at 1:16 PM on January 11, 2016


Has it already been linked at MeFi? At the annual articles about new year's resolutions time, I ran across several reprints (and sponsored content!) of last year's articles about a 2011 study showing that procrastination and poor decisionmaking about the future is related to how we fail to connect with out future selves. How we consider 5-year-ago-me still Me, but 5-year-from-now-me is not Me.

I'll stop flooding after this one, but one of my struggles my whole life as about "future Andy." I've always screwed "future Andy" out of a fair shake; to me this is the nature of impulsivity and my bipolar / ADHD entangled brain. I was self-aware that I was telling "future Andy" to fuck off and figure it out, but couldn't take it another step further, like dragging "today Andy" to the gym even though I really don't feel like it, even if I knew "future Andy" 2 hours from now would probably feel pretty good about the decision.

"Future Andy" can always get by somehow, will always have one or two pair of pants that fit, will always manage to find a way to get to work even though you forgot to fix your car this weekend, but with time "future Andy" was ripping pants left and right and struggling with getting out of bed at one point.

One of the most important lessons I didn't take to heart until recently is that it takes a long time to let yourself go, and it takes a long time to build yourself back up. Better to continually find little ways to build yourself up each day, or week if you can, than to take a passive interest in your own future. But it's super hard and requires mindfulness, mindset changes, constant improvements in your self-talk, constant checking-in...sheesh
posted by aydeejones at 1:24 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


More than any other axis of life – more than our careers, our relationships, our finances – we’re trained to ring in the dawn of each year with a hyper-critical evaluation of our bodies. [...] There’s always a notion, come 1 January, of getting our shit together, tightening up and becoming the effortlessly moderate wood nymph we pretend to be on Instagram. Our true self. “This will be the year,” we think, “when I will finally get smaller.”

To me, this is what spoke to me the most about this article, moreso than the question of whether particular types of dieting and weight loss programs are better than others. I think that's why she brings up the question of why Oprah refers to her thinner self as a different person. Weight loss plays a very unique role in women's lives as a stand-in for a woman's entire being, for all of the ways that we are judged and picked apart as people by the surrounding world. We are immediately judged as people--our complex personalities, strengths and flaws, reduced down to a single point--by our weight; well, we are judged on physical attractiveness, but weight is the one thing we can actually control, which is why being a "bad" weight (observe the goalposts constantly moving on this one) is seen as a moral flaw above all else. That's why, every single year, so many people, more than anything else, choose as a New Year's Resolution: get "healthy". Eat "better". Go to the gym. Count calories. Use a FitBit. Lose more weight. Lose more weight. Lose more weight.

I am of an average weight for a woman my age and height in the US (daily fluctuations take me over and under the "overweight" BMI line), and no one ever explicitly criticizes my weight to my face. That's the insidious beauty of it: they don't have to. We have already been taught from the moment we gained consciousness to do it to ourselves, in ways more harsh and cruel than most of us will ever experience from others. To be a woman in this world is to live with the constant drum beat of "am I thin enough?" And the answer is always "no, not enough to not have to think about it". (One reason for this that is frequently mentioned on MetaFilter is so that companies can continue to sell us things based on the concept that they are "healthy" and/or will allow us to more efficiently conduct our self-flagellation, but to me that only scratches the surface of the myriad of complex socioeconomic reasons that serve to explain why it's convenient for a male-dominated society if women are constantly worried about how thin we are to the exclusion of all else.)

(I think there are some aspects of this that men have to deal with as well, but the socioeconomic context is different, and I can't speak to them from personal experience.)
posted by capricorn at 1:31 PM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


My body is an inseparable part of me. If I hate my body, I hate myself. And it’s far from perfect. But you know what? The perfect is the enemy of the good. I’ve got a couple dozen balls in the air right now, and if I divert extra attention to the “losing weight” ball” something else just as important is going to suffer. I don’t have any health problems I didn’t have thirty pounds ago, and anyone who doesn’t like the way I look can go suck a lemon. The only thing self-loathing ever motivated me to do was curl up in bed, cry, and work out suicide scenarios.

I’m not going to worry about which medication might be keeping me from losing weight; I’m going to worry about the ones that best keep me from suffering the affects of chronic illness. If I’m too tired to cook on Saturday, I’ll eat PB&J for breakfast and lunch and Progresso soup for dinner. If my arthritis isn’t bad I’ll go for a walk, and if it is, I’ll just stretch as much as I can. But I’m sure as hell NOT going to put off giving myself permission to live my life or like myself as a person until I can fit back into my 1995 jeans.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:37 PM on January 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


Oh okay I guess the weight-shaming is okay then.

I don't feel it's shaming to encourage people not to unconsciously *add* more weight just because it's the holidays, which compounds like interest over the years and requires astronomical effort to remove years down the road. It's trying to work against an unconscious rationalization (it's the holidays, so I'll eat more, without making any effort to avoid a compounding effect).

My gym had "Maintain, Don't Gain!" signs everywhere. I found them motivating and took to heart my own lesson (eat mostly what you want! but go to the gym at night because it's the only chance even though it's 10 degrees!), but I'll grant that I was receptive because of the gym setting.

I could see how it would be obnoxious in a corporate email, but then what corporate emails aren't obnoxious? It's impossible for an employer these days to express any interest in your personal life without implying their desire to min/max your productivity and cost to the company.
posted by aydeejones at 1:37 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I must have completely missed the memo about fungi being bad for your diet. And when I tried a search, all it gave me were links to tips on what not to eat when you have a fungal infection.
posted by Flexagon at 1:46 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't feel it's shaming to encourage people not to unconsciously *add* more weight just because it's the holidays, which compounds like interest over the years and requires astronomical effort to remove years down the road. It's trying to work against an unconscious rationalization (it's the holidays, so I'll eat more, without making any effort to avoid a compounding effect).

There's a big difference between your gym (where you presumably go to for this exact reason) telling you this and your employer (who has absolutely no business telling you what to do with your personal health whatsoever and does not account for private, health-related reasons why someone's weight might be difficult to maintain) telling you this.
posted by capricorn at 1:47 PM on January 11, 2016


Of course there's a difference, hence the subsequent paragraphs
posted by aydeejones at 1:48 PM on January 11, 2016


I made a commitment last year to stop weighing myself. I grant that I am in a lucky genetic position in that so far, no matter my weight fluctuations I typically stay within a normal/healthy weight range for my height; I'm not a doctor and can't speak to whether ditching the scale is "good"/healthy for folks who are heavier. But for me, it's mostly helpful.

It's really hard, though. I am currently injured and have gone from biking 10 miles a day 4 days a week plus 2-3 days of jogging and/or weight training, to only walking my dog a couple times a day plus the physical therapy for my injury. I *feel* heavier when I look in the mirror but I'm honestly not sure if I am, and it's so tempting to step on a scale to find out--because if I'm not, I'll feel so great about myself! Wouldn't that be awesome?! But if I am, or I've gained more than I think, I will feel really, really crappy.

Stepping on a scale for me feels like pulling the lever on the slot machine, except that if I don't "win" (see a low enough number), I'm out my sense of self-worth, not just a quarter or a dollar. So I try to remind myself that my worth as a person and my moral standing in society are not dependent on how much I weigh, despite how much my lizard brain is craving that validation/self-flagellation.

I am worried about this injury because I've lost my exercise habit. When I first got hurt, I was depressed for a while because I couldn't do my normal activities. I really missed them. But I've gotten accustomed to this more sedentary life now and I know it's going to be a pretty big effort to get back into my old routines. I never *liked* getting up at 5am to go for a run before I rode my bike to work, but I had tricked myself into thinking it wasn't optional; it was just what I did. Getting over that hump again (once I get better, which won't be for several more months since I'm having surgery in a couple weeks) will be really hard and I'm scared about what happens if I fail.
posted by misskaz at 1:54 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


>I'd encourage everyone to check out Always Hungry, by Harvard endocrinologist David Ludwig.

Funny that the book is called "Always Hungry." Because there's a philosophy that recommends precisely this state of existence. It's called "hara hachibunme" (腹八分目)and it's a system of eating in Japan.

David Ludwig, of course, isn't proposing that we be always hungry in "Always Hungry." The title is ironic. Yet the proponents of hara hachibunme, who include many people from all walks of life in Japan, are. In a nutshell, the idea of hara hachibunme is that we should never eat beyond the point of being eight (hachibunme) tenths full; that we should always leave 20% reserve in our stomachs. In one respect, this colludes with what Western diet books say all along, because the final 20% of fullness doesn't come until half an hour or so after beginning to eat. So, if you eat to eight-tenths fullness, the remaining 20% of fullness will come with time.

But hara hachibunme is deeper than that.

It's a philosophy that goes beyond minimalism in its conventional form, which says that you should always consume, be it food or goods, to satiety and no further. Hara hachibunme says that consumption should be to a point below satiety. Twenty percent below, to be precise. When making purchases, buy less than you need. When binging on Netflix, binge less than you need. When eating food, eat less than you need.

In doing this, you'll always be mildly dissatisfied. The things that you own will be less than what you want. You won't get enough Netflix. And you'll always be slightly hungry. Always, always. Perhaps the best way to cope with this lack of complete satiety, in the case of food, is to engage mindfulness, using it as a tool to overcome the slight discomfort of hunger, and also to reflect on the meaning and value of hunger in a world where many struggle with staying full.

But there's a flip side; an unexpected dividend for longtime dieters that equates to a huge reward.

If practiced intently and consistently, there will be an unexpected positive outcome from hara hachibunme: Never satisfying the appetite means never having to worry about being overweight or obese. Hara hachibunme is an example of a mild CR (calorie restriction) lifestyle practiced from before the modern era.

Are you up to the task of being hungry all the time? Of being never completely satiated, never able to say "I'm full" or "I'm stuffed" or "I can't eat another bite"? I know I'm not. But some are.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:02 PM on January 11, 2016 [12 favorites]


There's a big difference between your gym (where you presumably go to for this exact reason) telling you this and your employer (who has absolutely no business telling you what to do with your personal health whatsoever and does not account for private, health-related reasons why someone's weight might be difficult to maintain) telling you this.

Except if they provide you with group health insurance, they they probably do have some business telling you what to do with your personal health, as your lifestyle choices drive up the cost of health care for the company and all of its employees.

Of course, this is yet another argument for single-payer health care, but that's neither here nor there.
posted by Automocar at 5:32 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


sugar and/or gluten in the typical American diet

Gluten is a protein, not a sugar or starch. Enough quackery already. It's not helpful to anyone.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:01 PM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


Never satisfying the appetite means never having to worry about being overweight or obese.

Except this kind of universalism is completely unproductive and wrong. You aren't doing it "wrong" if you're never full and you still gain weight. There are a huge list of reasons this may happen. And this is exactly why I wish to god that every single fucking article that has anything peripherally to do with weight loss wouldn't turn into people spouting off their preferred ways of eating and/or exercising. This particular article is not about what you should or should not eat or do for exercise. Making it about your preferred method--not a specific "you", here--turns it into yet another referendum on whether or not the bodies of your fellow MeFites are actually okay or not. Whether they're doing what they should be doing or not. I could put this on MeTa, but I think it's relevant to this particular article. We can't even have the slightest discussion about whether it's okay to have positive feelings about our bodies without it turning into comparing diets. That isn't just Metafilter--it's a big problem everywhere--but it would be nice if for once we could be better than this.
posted by Sequence at 6:22 PM on January 11, 2016 [21 favorites]


Hara hachibunme says that consumption should be to a point below satiety.

This works for me. FOR ME NOT NECESSARILY EVERYONE ELSE. When I want to lose weight, like I do now after too much overwork last year, I calorie track plus work out a lot plus try to cultivate the feeling of not having eaten quite enough.

To the OP, I generally want to deliver my eyeballs directly to anything Lindy West writes and I liked this and the spirit of it. At the same time, I didn't think the Gisele Bundchen diet thing was that big of a deal.

I like restricted diets like Paleo, keto, etc to do for a time because it makes me more mindful of what I'm eating. With Paleo for example I had to think about like, the sugar in sriracha sauce. It's interesting to me and I like being fitter and lighter and making myself that way.

However, it's a ton of work, just planning snacks and workouts. I didn't have time for this work for part of last year and put on ten or so pounds I want rid of. And then right now my body is used to more calories and worse calories so I have to teach it how to not want that anymore, whereas at this time last year I wouldn't have touched ice cream. Its all a lot of work, and people have other priorities. No one should feel badly about any of it.
posted by sweetkid at 7:51 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's going to be painful to get and stay skinny if you tend to be fat, because the tendency to be fat is, for most people, about a glitch where you stay hungry after you've already eaten enough to replace the sugar your body has recently metabolically consumed, aggravated by the spectacularly high ratio of bioavailable sugar to stomach-filling volume of modern processed foods.

I know long-term ex-fat people who range from incredibly active to extremely sedentary. They are all, to a man or woman, hungry often, and have learned to live with the discomfort. Meals are an exercise in self-deprivation (stopping eating while still hungry) except in the case of a couple of people I know who have managed to train their palates to extremely low-bioavailable-sugar eating. (Dudes who don't even look at the potatoes going around when sitting down to a steak dinner, and sincerely ask the waiter if they have any apples in the kitchen when he shows up with the dessert menu.)
posted by MattD at 8:19 PM on January 11, 2016


I've literally had to deal with co-workers trying to sabotage me with treats, desserts and what not (while also cheering me on - weird). I've dealt with loved ones telling me that I'm too skinny and look like a concentration camp victim even though I'm just inside the healthy BMI ratios for the first time in 20+ years.
A few years ago, after a huge upheaval and a really shitty few months, I'd lost a tonne of weight. I wasn't eating unhealthily -- looking back now I was still in the 1700Kcal / day range, but the stress had caused my appetite to drop so that I wasn't craving sugars; I was craving healthy foods, so I ate a tonne of them. I dropped 3 stone. And because everyone told me for months how unhealthy I looked, I started eating more, and my weight is higher than I'd like again.

So I've bought myself a stationary bike and I'm getting some exercise, because I daren't go outside where people can see me yet, let alone hit the gym. And once again I'm keeping track of what I eat. And just getting exercise and knowing what goes into my body is so liberating! I don't need sweets and cakes and oodles of carbs; I'm getting so much pleasure out of learning how to prepare veggies properly, and eating a tonne of lean protein, and I'm loving it. I quite enjoy being a little hungry, because it means I'm going to enjoy some nice food soon -- a measured amount, but full of flavour, because I need the experience of eating to be fun in order to feel like it's not just fuel.

All my life I've been shamed for my size; since I was a kid. There are mornings when I'll look in the mirror and a torrent of abuse will start in my head. My inner dickhead reminds me that I'm turning 35 in less than a month, and that my family calls this "half way through" (the corollary is that once you're over 70 you're "living on borrowed time"). The most helpful thing my inner dickhead says is "Hey, lard-arse. You're half-way through. If you don't do something now, you're going to die early." Most of his shit doesn't motivate me -- it just depresses me -- but that one does actually spur me into doing something.
Stepping on a scale for me feels like pulling the lever on the slot machine, except that if I don't "win" (see a low enough number), I'm out my sense of self-worth, not just a quarter or a dollar. So I try to remind myself that my worth as a person and my moral standing in society are not dependent on how much I weigh, despite how much my lizard brain is craving that validation/self-flagellation.
Yeah, I have this too. The scales are terrifying for me: if I'm heavier than I expect, I'm crushed. If I'm lighter than I expect, then there must be something wrong with the scales, and I move them around until they weigh closer to what I think is my actual weight.

I should probably stop doing that shit.
posted by gmb at 11:59 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]



I know long-term ex-fat people who range from incredibly active to extremely sedentary. They are all, to a man or woman, hungry often, and have learned to live with the discomfort. Meals are an exercise in self-deprivation


When I was in my teens, I lost a bunch of weight through some really disordered eating behavior. I was in the "normal" BMI range until they changed it, and then I was just over the edge into "fat person". (I genuinely have a pretty big frame and tend to carry muscle, so even when I'm small-for-me, I'm not small.) I kept that weight off almost entirely for about seven years and then it crept back on. I've been around my original teenage weight, although physically more muscular and compact because I got in the habit of exercising, for the past ten years.

What happened was that it got too hard to be hungry all the time. When I was a teen and a young adult, I didn't have a lot of responsibilities and I could devote a lot of brain power to "I am hungry and I have food, but I must not eat it". As I got older, I just didn't have the energy.

It's the "I have food but I must still be hungry" that wears you down, and unless you literally don't keep food in the house, it's difficult to deal with. Some of the weight that crept back on was stress eating during a particularly bad stretch at work (pizza and cake, a LOT) but much of it was just "instead of eating very small healthy meals, I am going to eat healthy meals that don't leave me feeling hungry".

I assume that the disordered eating messed up my metabolism a bit, as I went for a couple of years on about 800 calories a day (and I counted, believe me) but did not loose nearly the weight that the "calories in calories out" model would have you believe. In theory I should have lost about two pounds a week every week for that whole time; in reality, I lost thirty pounds pretty fast and then another fifteen quite slowly.
posted by Frowner at 7:00 AM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Like, between the ages of 15 and 18, almost all I did was school, exercise and "distract myself from how hungry I am". I was a social outcast, there was nothing else to do. I was so hungry all the time.
posted by Frowner at 7:01 AM on January 12, 2016


I think a lot of teenagers do that, I certainly did. I was a lot more self-absorbed at that stage though - I could literally spend an entire weekend thinking about how flat my stomach was. I find it hard to care as much now because my self identity comes from different things (partner, job, pastimes, political views). My sense of self as a teenage girl came solely from my appearance, my grades and the bands I liked.

I well remember struggling up the road to my house on my bike because I hadn't eaten for 5 days and had bonked. I didn't care at the time (or even recognise it as anything other than lack of fitness, meaning I needed to make myself do more), because my whole focus was on staying under 7 stone (I'm short, that's still a normal BMI for me). I wouldn't let that happen now because I enjoy cycling more than I enjoy feeling thin. I wouldn't be devastated if I woke up thin, but I'm not prepared to sacrifice other goals in the pursuit of it.

I was never really hungry though - I found that with prolonged fasting you stop feeling hungry quite quickly. I was just obsessed with my weight. Ironically I'm hungrier far more often now, and I'm eating a ton more food. I think a lot of the time it's actually boredom. I often miss meals at work (not through choice) and if you're busy you don't really notice it. Sitting at home on leave, I'm constantly peckish.
posted by tinkletown at 8:35 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's going to be painful to get and stay skinny if you tend to be fat, because the tendency to be fat is, for most people, about a glitch where you stay hungry after you've already eaten enough to replace the sugar your body has recently metabolically consumed...

This.

I recently found a doctor who believed me when I said "I'm not overeating but I'm not losing weight" and started treating me for a metabolic disorder. All of a sudden, I wasn't hungry EVERY WAKING MOMENT. I lost the capacity to eat a whole damn pizza with extra toppings plus dessert. I didn't obsess over recipes and menus and Pinterest.

My first thought when I finally noticed what was happening was "Wow. This must be what normal people feel like." It was a revelation.
posted by ninazer0 at 5:56 PM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't be devastated if I woke up thin, but I'm not prepared to sacrifice other goals in the pursuit of it.

Very well put. I have a limited amount of energy - mental, emotional, and physical - and there are just a bunch of other things higher up on the list of priorities to spend it on.

I was never really hungry though

I've been overweight, clinically underweight, and everything in the middle. I've been on strict 1,000 calorie diets, I've been on student diets of pizza and hot dogs, I've been on lavish my-mother-is-such-a-good-cook-dad's-bosses-are-always-angling-for-invitations-and-don't-skimp-on-the-biscuits diets, and honey and expired matzo food pantry diets. I've never experienced the physical sensations of hunger or fullness. There's probably something wrong with my stomach like gastroparesis or something. So stoppong before I feel full is never gonna cut it for me.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:32 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


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