When I started this blog I was hoping to find some like-minded and supportive individuals. Friends, if you will, who have also found themselves in an odd and skeptical place with regard to obesity and the research surrounding it, a place that doesn’t seem to exist if you accept only the gushy daily headlines about the latest weight-loss “discoveries.” I guess I wanted to find the other weight-loss killjoys at the water cooler, and while many reside at Big Fat Blog and other fatosphere locales, I always felt like an outsider. Talking about my weight-loss maintenance there would have been rude. But I wanted to talk about it. To share my mixed feelings, and find out whether there are others like me who are as confused by our cultural mythology as I am, and who may feel betrayed.
It’s not that I need more friends in my social circle. I have party friends, neighbor friends, tap-dance class friends, etc. I’m even on my church council of Deacons. However, in any certain geography, there aren’t a lot of people who are maintaining weight loss long term. There are even fewer people who are interested in the science of it to the degree I am. Moreover, there aren’t all that many people of any size who hate the weight-loss madness on reality TV and in the daily news the way I do. There are virtually no people where I live who are both weight-loss maintainers and size acceptance proponents, or, even, who are in one of those two groups but talking to each other. I wanted that, but didn’t trust that it existed.
Wow. We do exist! And I am so happy. Some of you have come by way of Big Fat Blog and the size acceptance chat boards. You forgive me my weight-loss maintenance peccadillo and accept me in the size acceptance community, even though I’m engaged in this odd personal, scientific experiment. You trust that I will not preach that weight-loss is the answer to all your health issues, the key to happiness and the primary evidence that you have “taken control” of your otherwise pathetic lives. Yeesh.
Some of you, like me, have lost weight and then discovered, after the fact and much to your chagrin, that (while there is a ton of encouragement for weight loss) there are precious few social supports for weight-loss maintenance. You’re on your own and it isn’t the simple lifestyle myth you’d been promised.
Here we are, strange bedfellows. Weight-loss maintainers and size acceptance advocates. We shouldn’t get along, really. Cultural mythology discourages us from getting along. We’re supposed to bicker, and each is supposed to feel superior to the other. I remember that when I was a new weight-loser – still in the honeymoon phase – I was often invited to participate in trash talk about fat people, and to trash talk my former fat self. “Aren’t you so glad that now you’re . . .” Trashing fat people was supposed to be part of the “thin privilege” I had earned, but I found it horribly uncomfortable, and I’m glad I declined to participate. I had already found Big Fat Blog then, and now I’m here in this odd group that gets along so well. But why?
Permit me to brag. We are the prize lab rats of the great obesity experiment. While the average rats run obediently from one diet to the next, failing over and over to find the magic golden food pellet, or finding it and dropping it and retreating in shame, both the maintainer rats and the size acceptance rats are standing up in the maze and clearing our throats, “Scuze me! We have an opinion.” Oddly, if the scientists would listen, they’d find that our opinions are closer, one-to-the-other, than they would logically predict.
We maintainers may have found the golden food pellet, but then we are disappointed to find out how much work it takes to continually manage it, and we’re angry that the help we are offered is spare, naïve and based in false assumptions. The size acceptance advocates are no ordinary “control group.” It’s not that they are too lazy, uneducated or emotionally broken to find the golden food pellet. They have rejected it. They’ve been through the maze. Many have held the golden food pellet temporarily – some fumbled it, but refused to feel shame like the average rats. Some might be able to hold on for a year (or more) of “success” but they decline to try again, because for them the cost is higher than the reward. Nevertheless, the scientists and our culture judge them harshly. It’s their “failure to maintain behavior changes,” we are told, that sinks them. We weight-reduced rats, with our golden pellets, are encouraged to pile on in the judgment, but most of us decline.
Both weight-loss maintainers and size-acceptance advocates who are not weight-reduced recognize that hating on fat people (especially ourselves or our former selves) advances nothing but more hate in the world. Science should not advance hate, and yet in the realm of obesity research it does. It often crosses the line from curiosity and exploration to weight-loss advocacy and we, the prize lab rats, don’t like that much.
More science to review later this week. Oh, and here’s a little treat for us
lab rats lay people who make a hobby of evaluating science: a nice summary of how to approach a news article on scientific research with proper skepticism. (Tip of the hat to DeeLeigh at Big Fat Blog for pointing me toward this).