Still Making Weight
April 10, 2016 10:02 AM   Subscribe

A year ago, Des Moines Register columnist Daniel Finney was about to turn 40 and weighed 563 pounds. After he was offered a wheelchair when he became short of breath on a routine reporting assignment, he made up his mind to try to lose weight. When the column he wrote about his decision went viral, he decided to chronicle his efforts in a blog called Making Weight. A year later, 95 pounds lighter, and significantly fitter and healthier, he looks back on the effort in today's paper. Previously

Finney admits that he wrote his initial column on a whim and was taken aback by how much national attention it received. Finney says that he expected to be mocked in comments and on Twitter, but instead the response has been overwhelmingly positive. "I’ve received thousands of emails, phone calls and letters from people cheering me or telling me their own struggles," he writes.

Finney will be answering questions on the Register's Facebook page on Wednesday at noon Central Time. If you're in the Des Moines area, he'll be hosting a free live event that YMCA on May 12th.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious (28 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I hope this is ok: it's sort of a double, but I though people might be interested in the update. I will be unoffended if the mods delete it!

Also: Finney is pretty candid about the fact that he's a compulsive over-eater, and his eating problems are totally bound up with his mental illness and the ongoing effects of severe childhood trauma. If your impulse is to scold fat people or talk about how losing weight is easy, this might not be the right place to do it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:06 AM on April 10, 2016 [40 favorites]


I like how he showed the pic of him eating tacos and stated that he still eats yummy non health food cuz hey life is short and we can't be pure goal machines. I like how candid he was. I hope he does a couple more updates.
posted by ian1977 at 10:17 AM on April 10, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'm very happy for people who meet their personal goals of fitness, including this guy, who really seems to have improved his life, but I hate the way narratives like this end up being used as sticks to beat heavier people.
posted by praemunire at 10:27 AM on April 10, 2016 [14 favorites]


The then/now article is really interesting and human. Maybe it is wishful thinking on my part, but I can't help but think how much it would help if all writing about weight and health was as honest and nuanced as this piece.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:35 AM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Finney admits that he wrote his initial column on a whim and was taken aback by how much national attention it received.

If he's referring to this column (first link in the post), it doesn't feel written on a whim. It is very thoughtful, addressing all the fears, anxieties, reasons, struggles, and hurts he experiences. It is an excellent piece of writing. I hope his support networks is as strong as it seems, and he can keep from being discouraged.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:35 AM on April 10, 2016


This is a great update and worthy of its own FPP if I do say so myself. I have wondered about how he was doing since reading his story here last year. Awesome work on his part. He's an excellent writer to boot.
posted by sockermom at 10:37 AM on April 10, 2016


95lbs a year -- 2lbs a week, 1000 kcal/day deficit -- is a perfect pace for someone morbidly obese.

if anything it's too fast, the slower you go down the more time your skin has to unstretch (i think)

back in 2004 I was 232lbs (borderline morbidly obese) and lost 50lbs in 6 months, 2lbs a week. That was too fast.

I gained it all back 2006-2007 (work -- the lack of time and energy to take day-long bikerides -- makes me fat) and then lost it again 2011-2013, at around 1lb/week.

Then I gained it all back again 2014-2015 and have been holding the line, barely, at 230 again.

AFAIK (the science is all over the place on this) no-one needs stomach stapling or weird-ass restrictive diets to get down to a healthy weight. Just eating a little less and exercising a little more.

This guy (and his health advisors) is showing us how to do it.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 10:52 AM on April 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


This is very encouraging! It is understandable why we goggle over the person who loses 95 lbs and comes out with a six pack, but weight is weight, y'know?

I lost 50 lbs over about a year, and the biggest part I still keep with me is thinking of health not as a point or a number (something that can be arrived at), but as a vector or a cardinal direction (a broad, navigational principle). Everyone, regardless of shape or strength, can make a change towards health on a daily basis. Sometimes though, the healthiest choice was blowing off a little stress with a good taco rather than throwing away all the progress in a fit of pique and self-loathing.

It seems like Mr. Finney is doing much the same, and his bravery and honesty are very inspirational, and are a much healthier message than what we get out of most of the fitness and weight-loss industry.
posted by Snowden at 11:08 AM on April 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


This is very inspirational. I've gone up and down in weight, luckily losing is very easy for me with calorie counting and tracking my walking with my phone, but I have my own mental issues that get in the way of maintaining long term progress. It's very cool to learn about someone who has a long way to go and serious mental barriers in their way who doesn't use it as an excuse to think of weight loss as impossible at the time as I sometimes do.

It takes incredible courage to make this effort in front of the whole world, because if you fail so many people will hear about it. Plus, you really feel like you let yourself down if you backslide after putting in all that work even if nobody is watching.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:42 AM on April 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


This guy rocks.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:47 AM on April 10, 2016


Pulling for this guy. So much respect for him, hard work physically and emotionally.
posted by littlewater at 12:48 PM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


I hate the way narratives like this end up being used as sticks to beat heavier people.

Seconding this, praeunmire, especially since Finney himself stresses (in the link at the word "attention") that his approach "isn't a prescription" and that there's no magic bullet solution.
posted by virago at 1:25 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


It didn't come across as a stick to beat heavier people at all. The guy has a life-threatening condition and he took steps to do something about it.
posted by My Dad at 1:32 PM on April 10, 2016 [11 favorites]


I think that the fat-shaming narratives are so strong and so deeply embedded in our culture that it's really hard for any weight-loss story not to sound that way. I think that Finney would really, really not want anyone to use his story as a club with which to beat other fat people, and he would definitely not want fat people to read his story and feel bad about what they are or aren't doing to try to lose weight, but I can understand why people might read it that way.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:39 PM on April 10, 2016 [11 favorites]


Yes, that's what I meant. The subject himself didn't read as judgmental of others, but this is the kind of story that gets drawn helplessly into the gravitational well of cultural prejudices. I myself lost a good chunk of weight quite some time ago and have more or less kept it off since, but I don't even like talking about it, because unless you do some arduous framing work it's too likely to hurt people.
posted by praemunire at 2:05 PM on April 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


I've been following his column religiously all year. It is wonderful stuff. Weight loss journey aside, he writes really honestly about his mental health issues and troubled childhood in a way you just don't see very often. He seems like a really thoughtful, introspective person, and I would like to be his friend.
posted by something something at 2:05 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


FAIK (the science is all over the place on this) no-one needs stomach stapling or weird-ass restrictive diets to get down to a healthy weight. Just eating a little less and exercising a little more.

This guy (and his health advisors) is showing us how to do it.


Please don't do that. As others have noted, this guy doesn't shame others or hold himself up as a model. Different approaches work for different people.
posted by Superplin at 2:16 PM on April 10, 2016 [21 favorites]


If your impulse is to scold fat people or talk about how losing weight is easy, this might not be the there is no right place to do it.

Hooray for Daniel!
posted by Glinn at 2:21 PM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


He came out very publicly as Fat, and is making impressive progress dealing with that. And Fat is what we respond to here. But he also came out as Depressed, Anxious, Suicidal. I like his article a lot. Thanks for posting it.
posted by theora55 at 2:47 PM on April 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


The subject himself didn't read as judgmental of others, but this is the kind of story that gets drawn helplessly into the gravitational well of cultural prejudices. I myself lost a good chunk of weight quite some time ago and have more or less kept it off since, but I don't even like talking about it, because unless you do some arduous framing work it's too likely to hurt people.

I've been following this blog since the first time it was posted to Metafilter and over the course of the blog Finney does do the arduous framing work required to prevent his story from being an easy tool to use to shame other fat people. He discusses his failures and setbacks almost as much as his actual successes and when he does manage to generate a sense of accomplishment (and he has accomplished a lot) he talks about the huge amount of effort it took and credits a number of people who helped him through the process.

He also goes into the mental health issues that contributed to his weight gain and continue to make weight loss hard (see: dwelling on his setbacks). He is clear that he isn't making excuses but he is acknowledging that things in general are easier for some people and harder for others and that maintaining a healthy weight is a thing that is hard for him.

It would take some serious word twisting to turn this column into fat-shaming, although I don't doubt that there are folks out there who would try. However, those assholes have plenty of material already, and I don't think you should blame Finney for writing the best first-person narrative I've read on the topic of obesity/weight loss and an excellent account of dealing with anxiety and depression for the fact that there are people out there who might use it for bullying/fat-shaming. The answer to those people is not to stop talking about weight entirely, it's to write blogs like this one that deal with the issue bravely and honestly.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 2:50 PM on April 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


The answer to those people is not to stop talking about weight entirely, it's to write blogs like this one that deal with the issue bravely and honestly.

I don't agree--or, rather, I think it's very important to recognize, when one chooses to present one, the unfortunate and often genuinely unintended negative impact of this kind of story due to its cultural context. Most of us don't feel the need to talk "bravely and honestly" about our iron levels, because if we have anemia, we usually treat it as a private medical matter. That's where we need to be with weight. Can we get there without passing through the stage of "brave and honest" stories? I don't know, but I do know those stories inflict collateral damage.

(Every time someone uses the term "morbidly obese," someone else is getting hurt.)
posted by praemunire at 3:09 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Most of us don't feel the need to talk "bravely and honestly" about our iron levels, because if we have anemia, we usually treat it as a private medical matter.
I don't know. Before he wrote bravely and honestly about his weight, he wrote bravely and honestly about his own and his mother's struggles with mental illness. He addresses this specifically in his column on Robin Williams:
People do react differently to you when you struggle and are open about it. But I talk openly about it among my colleagues, on my blog and with my friends, family and sometimes my sources when reporting stories where the disclosure is relevant.

I talk about it not to brag about it or complain in a "woe is me" kind of way. I talk about it because mental illnesses are really no different than high blood pressure or diabetes — other health problems that can be fatal. And that's what suicide really is: the fatal heart attack or liver failure of depression and anxiety.

I talk about it because people who suffer, my fellow travelers, need to know they are not alone. As my friend Bill McClellan, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist, once told me, "We are all walking on the thin ice."

I talk about it because people need to hear from those of us who suffer from the illness that sometimes it is a daily struggle, but most of the time we survive and even thrive. But it is a scary thing. Because I have been to that place Williams visited, with the instrument of my death in my hand, and thought there was no way out.

I found another way out. Williams didn't.
I don't know if he would feel the same way about weight, but when talking about mental illness, he explicitly says that he talks about it bravely and honestly because it *is* like anemia, and the only difference is the stigma.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:24 PM on April 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


Morbid Obesity is a medical term. Inherently it is not fat shaming. It is a point when thehuman body starts having medical problems due to extra weight. As much as the name could be nicer, it decribes a condition which leads to a significantly decreased lifespan.


This guy is amazing and inspirational. I think this needs to be talked about more and more because weight loss is soo hard.

I do feel he has some privalage in being able to have a trainer, PT a nutritionist and the like. Those things cost money and aren't covered by insurance.

Thanks for posting!
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:06 PM on April 10, 2016 [11 favorites]


Tickled to read Kaiser Permanente, the largest HMO in the US, serving 9.6 million people, described as "a health care firm in Oakland, Calif." Dishing a little of that West Coast provincialism back to us, huh, Mr. Finney?

He seems like a really smart, compassionate guy. I wish him well in this endeavor.
posted by gingerest at 8:12 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


BTW, "moron", "cripple", and "monster" are all medical terms we have come to see as unacceptably negative. Anyone above a BMI of 35 with an obesity-related health condition, or over a BMI of 40, is defined as "morbidly obese", but there are other, less loaded terms. For example, the World Health Organization uses classes I, II, and III to categorize obesity.

(We can fall down a big rabbit hole about BMI - it has some big flaws, but it has the singular advantage of being measurable for most able-bodied adults using just a scale and a stadiometer, which is why it's got the historic advantage.)
posted by gingerest at 9:17 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


AlexiaSky: "Morbid Obesity is a medical term. Inherently it is not fat shaming."

Medical terms can be stupid. I am officially obese - I'm a six-foot guy who weighs 220 pounds and swims two miles a week. "Obese" starts to seem pretty idiotic, as a category, when you realize you'd have to get an eating disorder to avoid it.

Probably it's going to take a very long time for medicine to sort out its biases and preconceptions on this issue and get down to the business of really assessing whole-body health in a scientific way. Until then, yes, it's probably a good idea to at least be aware of the silliness and poor valuation inherent in terms like "obesity."

David Finney did a cool thing. I love his ability to meet his goals without holding others in contempt. I dread the parts of his story, however, where he seems to suggest that the contempt of others was a positive force for him to improve himself - because I know that encourages some very unhealthy things. Still, he has my support, and aspiration is a good thing.
posted by koeselitz at 10:10 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


AlexiaSky: "Morbid Obesity is a medical term. Inherently it is not fat shaming."

I'm in no way a health expert, but I disagree. There are plenty of more neutral terms that could be used, like the Class I/II/III mentioned above, for example, to simply describe how far from the norm (or supposed ideal) a person's weight is. And, assuming that the science is fully there, which may not yet actually be the case, it would be even more useful to have terminology that clearly reflects the difference between, say, the author a year ago (with his long list of weight-related health problems including mobility and diabetes), and the author today (still heavy but with much better health).
posted by Dip Flash at 4:18 AM on April 11, 2016


I guess that what I appreciate about Finney is that he's really honest about his own experience. His experience isn't my experience. His politics aren't my politics. But he's telling his truth as he sees it, and I think there's a lot of value in that. I personally am pretty committed to the Health at Every Size philosophy, which is what works for me. But he's not me, and I don't get to tell him how to interpret his own experience or view his own struggle. I definitely think that some people might not benefit from reading his blog and might even find it triggering, and those people should trust their instincts and stay away.

I also very much view his blog as being about eating disorder recovery, although I am pretty certain that he wouldn't ever use those terms.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:11 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


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