DebraSY

Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

Debra’s Gone Defunct (not entirely — I’m not dead)

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on October 3, 2011 at 10:10 am

Welcome, newcomers and old friends, to Debra’s Just Maintaining!  For roughly a year, starting September 29, 2010, this blog set about exploring the cultural mythology and science surrounding weight-loss maintenance, especially after “radical” loss (more than 10% of highest body weight).  As blog owner, I found myself moderating a discussion involving mostly weight-loss maintainers and size acceptance proponents, two seemingly disparate groups who ended up having more in common than any of us might have expected.   It turns out we are all betrayed by the myth that radical weight loss is some hard-won victory, to be followed (of course!) by maintenance, a less challenging, zippy “lifestyle” composed of tips and tricks.  It’s much more complicated than that. 

This blog is not a “big” blog, but big enough, and certainly has much heart.  Over the year it received just over 60,000 “views” of its various posts.  Many were repeat visits from people I came to regard as friends, dear friends.  We shared a sort of cathartic grief process as we stripped apart the mythology, and discussed from a lay vantage point some of the science surrounding weight-loss maintenance.   In addition to the maintainers and size acceptance advocates, we also entertained a scientist visitor from time to time, and a couple of trolls.

The blog is now mostly defunct because I have gone on to other time-consuming pursuits, and I also need time to be a good Mom, and to continue my weight-loss maintenance, an endeavor that I regard as a third- to half-time unpaid job.  To be competent at these things, something had to give. 

Since the blog is mostly defunct, it’s likely that you arrived here because someone sent you here or you conducted a search for “Weight-Loss Maintenance” or some topic discussed here.  A lot of people find this blog with searches to the effect: “Is obesity killing our children?”  If that is you, you are looking for this post.  Other people are apparently interested in a maintainer’s take on intuitive eating.  That would be here and here.  And a lot of people want to know what I think about journalist and anti-carb pundit Gary Taubes.  Those posts are here and here

If someone sent you here, it may be because you just lost a lot of weight and said something silly like, “If I can do it anyone can!”  Then that person wants you to start with the post subtitled Skiing as Useful Metaphor.

Other reasons someone may have sent you here: 

  •  You said something insensitive or rude about fat people being “in denial.”
  • You said something insensitive or dismissive of someone who works hard to maintain a particular weight – along the lines of “but certainly the rewards outweigh any effort you expend.” 
  • You said something definitively naïve, such as, “science has proven people are fat because of modern breakfast cereals.”  
  • You announced that you are embarking on a weight-loss process/diet (what number?), and a friend wants you to have a realistic idea of what lies ahead, more so than what some women’s magazine or morning news show may be touting today as a “breakthrough.”
  • You are struggling with weight-loss maintenance.  Perhaps your weight is sliding.  You need affirmation from a kindred spirit who knows how challenging this is, and doesn’t sugar coat it or pop off with “inspirational” platitudes. Read the rest of this entry »

The Penultimate Post: How do I Reconcile Size Acceptance and Weight-Loss Maintenance?

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on September 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Two people in the last month have asked me to answer this question.   Here goes.

Call it serendipity.  Call it an act of God.  But a year or two into my maintenance, when I was still the “joyful jogger” in my own mind, I found Big Fat Blog.  I don’t know what I was reading that got me linked there.  It wouldn’t surprise me to learn it was a diet related blog that belittled BFB.  But I got there and got hooked.   (By the way, if you visit my profile there, it says I’ve only been a member 42 weeks, or some such.  That’s actually the time since a computer glitch eliminated my profile for a few days.  I’ve been there many years – probably since 2005 or 2006.)

I read deep into the archives and all I could think was, these people are right:  society’s hating on fat people (with the best of intentions) isn’t creating health, or even reducing the number or size of fat people.  I searched the site for information on the awful 95% failure rate statistic for weight-loss maintenance.  Even though I was well into my maintenance and I’d thought (hoped) that I’d “clicked” into some new mental or physical state that would support life-long maintenance, I was also painfully aware that I’d been part of that statistic before.  I had regained, yo-yoed, in the past, and I knew that I had not gotten any smarter (and may have, in fact, killed a few brain cells with age and Chardonnay).  I was desperate to know more about this failure rate, the science behind it, whether it was true and whether there were special “exceptions” that I might qualify for.  Sadly, my search of BFB came up dry.  But I noticed that there was another private area for “registered” people, and I thought that maybe my answer was in there.

When I registered I only briefly contemplated lying to get in.  Ultimately, I figured, I’d feel more comfortable participating if I were there honestly.  In my essay I revealed that I was a weight-reduced person, but some things just didn’t feel right.  I promised that it would not be difficult to play by the rules and avoid diet talk.  God bless Paul McAleer, the founder and moderator of BFB at that time:  he let me in.   I guess he knew I needed to be there.

Sadly, in the BFB forums, I couldn’t find an answer to my burning question about the 95% failure rate of maintenance.  But I did find there compelling, intelligent, heart-felt, truthful discussions covering the  many facets of living fat, which I had not forgotten.  (For a time, among my real-world friends, I called myself a “fat chick in the closet.”)  When I participated in discussions at BFB I never used the word “we.”  I would say “fat people fall victim to . . .”  or “most fat people understand that . . .”  To my knowledge, no one noticed this pattern.  It didn’t stick out.  I became a member of the community.  Some people there attacked me for being “healthist” (and I think I was once disparaged for being a “good fattie”), but many fat people at BFB are subject to the healthist moniker (including DeeLeigh, who now administers the blog), and we supported each other’s views.

Within a short time of my joining BFB we discussed creating “cheat sheets” to help us with the most common challenges to size acceptance.  I volunteered to write on the 95% failure rate (which I would learn is actually 97%).  It gave me an excuse to do more research.  My early musings on that topic are still there.  Above the BFB logo are two tiny links, one to Big Fat Index and the other to Big Fat Facts.  My essay is down the page and entitled NEW:  The Truth About Long-Term Diet Success.   You’ll likely recognize my “voice” if you read it.  I also helped by doing some line editing in the other pages, so my “voice” is elsewhere too. Read the rest of this entry »

The Third to Last Post: On Plastic Surgery

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on September 18, 2011 at 11:21 pm

As regular readers may note, I am cleaning up loose ends before I move on.  For example, I finally posted the Rules of Engagement page I had drafted sometime Aprilish when we’d had a visit from a concerned but kind self-promoter (some might say “concern troll”) who thought I was presenting an unnecessarily dark (I would say realistic) impression of weight-loss maintenance.  The Rules page is no longer applicable, of course, but to people who come visiting when the blog is closed down and who happen upon the post that inspired it, it will make sense.

I had also meant, shortly after I opened the blog, to say a word or two about plastic surgery.  In my initial post on The Unfairness of Weight-Loss Maintenance, I mentioned the issue of loose skin. 

“Unfairness 7.  You hide a secret under your clothes: your body may be deformed.  Friends say you look great, but naked in front of the mirror you find your pendulous parts and saggy skin discouraging.  Some maintainers may need counseling; others undergo expensive plastic surgery.”

Well, I was one who went for plastic surgery.  I think it is important to talk about this issue openly.  So often it is reduced to a mere vanity concern, and it is not. 

For some people, I imagine radical weight loss presents a pleasing image, if not nude, then in clothing.  For many of us, however, if our skin is not elastic any more, losing radical weight results in a mirror image that we don’t recognize.  It doesn’t even look like a human as we have come to understand it.  The loose folds may conceal the parts that make us sexually capable and deform those parts that we heretofore thought defined us as sexually appealing. 

Many naturally trim people regard fat people as asexual or unappealing regardless, and Madison Avenue does much to perpetuate this notion.  Sadly, many fat people buy into the myth as well.  That, however, was not my experience with my own fat body.  On the way up, weightwise, I became accustomed to my ever increasing curves, lumps and bumps over the years it took to acquire them.  I was joyful, sexual and fully human and, to my thinking, a Boticelli babe.  On the way down it was very different.  Within a period of months, I became a conglomeration of saggy parts.  I didn’t adapt well to this change.  For example, during intimate times with my husband, instead of being present in the moment and contemplating how to please him, I became self-conscious.  I positioned myself so he wouldn’t grab handfuls of flesh. 

In my more mundane moments, as well, my body would remind me of its new predicament.  As I ran or did other aerobic exercise, the loose parts would bounce about distractingly.  Sometimes they would grow itchy from this bouncing, or hurt.  It made me angry and sad.

I decided, because I could, to get plastic surgery.  I won’t go into the details of the process.  Actually, No Celery has produced a nice accounting of a tummy tuck, if you want that.  What I would like to do however, is issue a cautionary note, both to people who are considering plastic surgery after radical weight loss and people who are in a position to support them … or not. Read the rest of this entry »

Climbing Out From Under a Rock?

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on August 24, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Actually, I’ve just been in contemplation mode, mainly.  When I was a child, that would have meant sitting on top of a rock, down by a neighborhood creek (thoughtlessly trespassing on someone’s property, but it didn’t matter in those days), feet in the cold, rushing water.  As an adult, I prefer to perch on a softer landing spot.  I often have a book too.

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone in my last post for being so encouraging about my writing, my perspective, my voice on this topic.   You have given me pause.  I had pretty much given up on writing about weight-loss maintenance, at least in any compensated fashion.   It is nice to think that others find my thoughts worthy. 

While I haven’t entirely given up on writing on this topic, I am going to postpone and turn my attentions elsewhere.  Mid-September, I enter training in the Clinical Pastoral Education program for St. Luke’s Hospital in my hometown of Kansas City. 

Back in January, a close friend died, one who had been encouraging me to plumb spiritual depths, ponder imponderables and (as she had done) go to seminary.  Her career path led her to edit a national religious publication for a time and serve as a congregational pastor for a time.   I was shaped most, however, by being present for nearly all of the penultimate chapter of her life, in which she was technically mostly retired (but spent her days advancing peace in creative ways), and parts of her final chapter (as I could travel, and as time allowed).  It occurred to me that being present, God’s emissary, during people’s most important and challenging chapters would make for meaningful work, especially once my nest goes empty in five years (a chapter I’d like to plan for).  

Muriel and I met shortly after she had had a radical mastectomy following breast cancer.  At the time, she decided not to follow up with chemotherapy.  She preferred to fortify her body’s defenses against the internal enemy, through nutrition and other means, rather than try to poison it and herself.  Her children were grown, her obligations on this earthly plain mostly met, so she claimed the luxury of declining an ugly fight, knowing her decision might result in a shorter, if more comfortable, life.  Actually, however, her strategy kept her alive for nine lovely years.  Years that would change me. Read the rest of this entry »

As Fearful as I Ought to Be

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on August 8, 2011 at 10:34 am

At the end of the last post’s comments, 9-year radical maintainer “mem” shared that her co-exercisers and Zumba clients at Curves sometimes say things to her to the effect, “You don’t even need to be coming here. You’re one of those people who probably couldn’t get fat if they tried.”  It is uncomfortable and disconcerting, and she knows it is important to tell them that she once weighed nearly 100 pounds more than she does now, and she appreciates remembering “the almost inhuman effort it took and takes to change that.”  She has to pop her acquaintances’ bubbles, in service to authenticity, because their words are framing one of the biggest and most disheartening cultural myths of weight loss and maintenance.  That it is easy, as easy as being naturally trim, once you get it figured out, once your brain or your metabolism has “clicked over,” or you’ve adopted the healthy lifestyle (with the secret handshake), or you’ve assembled just the right tips and tricks, or some other magic has happened.  

The idea that maintenance will be easy takes the fear out of the whole process of loss and maintenance.  That maintenance is easy, however, is the biggest, baddest weight-loss lie of all.

Most of you know, I follow Barbara Berkeley’s Refuse to Regain.  We don’t always agree to the letter, but we are sisters in spirit:  maintenance is complicated and individual.  Currently, in the comments of one of her posts, a woman is hawking a book to be released next year.  With great gall, Ms. Libby Florence tells Barbara how she used to believe as Barbara does, but now Ms. Florence has seen the light. 

Perhaps Ms. Florence is self publishing.  I would find that less tragic because the lapse in judgment would be singularly hers and not a publisher’s too. 

Or perhaps she found a publisher because she’s selling the party line:  weight loss and maintenance are effortless, once you have the “key.”  It’s all very easy, doncha know!  Her comment, before she gives the book’s website URL, ends as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Thin Privilege

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on August 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

Last week was vacation.  Breckenridge, Colorado.  Note in the picture below, I am the one you cannot see because my head is down, on the far side of the raft, and I’m paddling with the intensity of a windmill in a tornado, thinking “Oh, Sh*t!  Oh, Sh*t!  Those rocks are so hard and my head (under this cheap-assed plastic salad bowl) is so soft!”  My kid is the one smiling so hard he had to loosen the chin strap on his helmet.

Rafting Brown's Canyon 2011

Rafting Brown's Canyon in the Arkansas River, Colorado. Photo by Performance Tours Rafting.

I didn’t give many details in my “away” post about being gone or why, because one doesn’t want to hand a map and game plan to robbers and such who troll the internet looking for people to reveal when and how long their houses will be empty.  I suppose I could have said something about hoping my house sitter’s Rottweiler would behave himself around my terrier, but that would have been an obvious ruse.

At any rate, I’m back, and the house is intact, unrobbed, and the terrier is home from the Hound-Dog Hilton.  And I have a blatant experience of thin privilege to share.  And that prompts me to talk more on the topic.

Eight years living in Maintenanceville, thin privilege is different.  I think it would be good for my size acceptance friends, in particular, to know how so.  Anyone who has ever lost and regained weight (as most people in the size acceptance community have) has had a taste of the “early” form of thin privilege and I think this is sad, because the first few months of thin privilege is tinged with the worst kind cruelty, hubris, embarrassment and awkwardness.   Eight years out, it’s still awkward and wrong, but it isn’t so cruel. Read the rest of this entry »

Out of the Saddle

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2011 at 3:19 am

This week I’ll be too distracted and occupied to blog, but I send you all my best!  Look for a post first week in August.

In the meantime, live joyfully most of the time, eat healthfully most of the time, exercise most days and treasure whatever body happens.  If you’re a blogger, do your best to tell a truth and advance compassion.  Those are the words that carry me through.

At the Risk of Getting Too Political

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on July 20, 2011 at 9:28 am

At Big Fat Blog, from time to time, political arguments erupt in the comments, and then shut down quickly, over which US political party is the most size accepting.   The arguments are quashed, generally, by the Libertarians who point out that both the left and the right view fat as a moral issue.  The right sees obesity as a failing of personal responsibility, whereas the left sees it as metaphor and consequence of society’s greed and overconsumption.  The Libertarians then make an unsubtle marketing plea, since they see themselves as the original torch bearers (and remain more consistent and stalwart than the upstart tea partiers) of “keep government out of our lives.”

Well, I am on an email list for an online, left-leaning news analysis publication called Truthout, and, truth be told, I don’t click through very often.  But, for obvious reasons, this article, Are Chemicals Making us Fat?, caught my eye.   Could it be that the left is coming ‘round?  

It’s a rather simplistic article, written as though this conversation is brand-spanking new “Researchers have called these chemicals endocrine disruptors. . . But a new, more relevant term for these chemicals has emerged. They are now also called obesogens.”

Has emerged?  Bruce Blumberg of the University of California at Irvine takes credit for coining the term obesogen, and his research using that word seems to date back to the mid-2000s, but the conversation regarding endocrine disruptors and obesity has been going on for decades.  (Our conversation at this blog, which I extended not once, not twice, but three times, is one of the most fun conversations on the topic.)

I am uncomfortable with the Truthout article for a number of reasons.  I don’t like how it conflates and confuses obesity and diabetes, as though they are conjoined twins.  This is a common practice now, and a panic-laden term “diabesity” has “emerged” to express this concept.  Generally, if blame is Read the rest of this entry »

American Dream meet American Dream No. 2

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on July 14, 2011 at 8:29 am

“You can accomplish anything you want with hard work.”  

You dare not criticize it.  You dare not suggest that light skin color may convey an advantage, that already having resources or growing up in a home where the parents are educated and speak proper English may help.  You will be whomped squarely with an anecdote that breaks that rule, you Negative Nelly, you!  People pull themselves up by the bootstraps every day, and if you temper your celebration of their achievement – by citing statistics or expressing compassion for the people who don’t succeed despite trying – then you will be put in your place.  It’s downright unpatriotic to suggest that the playing field isn’t even.  That’s just an excuse for laziness.

Well, the American Dream will be the platform of Miss South Carolina in this year’s Miss America pageant.  (Be sure to click through to the video.)  Technically, Bree Boyce’s platform is “Eating healthy and fighting obesity,” but the subtext is the American Dream.  Bree weighed 234 pounds when she was 17.  Now, at 22, she weighs 122.  She uses her life story as the example of the obesity-curing benefits of hard work and rugged individualism.

“I did it all on my own.  I did it for myself.”  She tells the Today Show’s Ann Curry.

She conflates being fat with being unhealthy and she conflates “it” (weight loss) with the American Dream:

“I had so many dreams and aspirations for myself.  And I knew that being so unhealthy I wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of those dreams.  So by changing my lifestyle completely, I did a 180, and it’s been completely amazing, and I’m just so excited.”

From what I can tell, however, her dreams and aspirations have been to get thin and win beauty pageants, like her older sister Tiffany.  In a family that supports those aspirations.  And she has done it. 

She works out two to three hours a day when preparing for contests and she “maintains” her “lifestyle” with half- to one-hour of daily exercise.   But she hasn’t spent much time in “lifestyle” mode, methinks.   She’s been working hard.  She loves looking at her swim suit competition pictures, and, indeed, there’s no denying that she is ripped.  She tells Ann that when she did her swim suit promenade, to keep the butterflies in her stomach at bay, she was just thinking about herself, her hard work and all the people she could inspire.  She kept herself focused on how she is “a confident and successful woman.  And to strut my stuff on that stage was the proudest moment of my life.” 

In the end, it’s all the American Dream.  She sums it up:

“Whatever it is in life that you want to do, it takes hard work.  There’s no secret.  It’s hard work, and determination and perseverance.  All those things.”  Read the rest of this entry »

What Katarina Borer Found: Good News for Maintainers?

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on July 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Before I say another word, my conscience tells me to add a BIG trigger caution here.  If you are a size acceptance proponent and are feeling the least bit susceptible to the call of the weight-loss diet fairy, skip today’s post.  If you’re feeling brave, however, I’d love your response as well as that of my maintainer friends.

In my last post I explained Katarina Borer’s methodology for comparing the effects of food intake and exercise on appetite and on certain endocrine secretions.  Dr. Barry Braun describes it as “a multicondition crossover design to cleverly disentangle the relationships between energy imbalance, exercise, energy intake, putatative energy-regulating hormones and perceived appetite.”  Yup.   That’s what it was.  Now, let’s see whether I can explain in plain English what happened and what was correlated and what was not.

In her first study, Appetite Responds to Changes in Meal Content, Whereas Ghrelin, Leptin and Insulin Track changes in energy Availability, Dr. Borer found:  

  1. Human appetite is influenced by the passage of food through the mouth and gastrointestinal tract.  When food went through the mouth, it triggered GIP, a gut peptide that is activated and serves as a marker for GI activity but seemingly has no affecting qualities of its own.  This peptide rose and fell in concert with participants’ reported appetites. 
  2. Participants’ appetites responded to the size of meals that came in through the mouth, but were insensitive to calorie replacements (or saline placebos) that came through an IV.  Moreover, exercise did not increase appetite, but marginally suppressed it.  This led her to state that “between-meal increases in circulating nutrient load and exercise energy expenditure are not under homeostatic feedback control.”
  3. Ghrelin, leptin and insulin respond in slightly different ways to changes in energy availability, but had no influence on participants’ appetites.  Whoa.  Interesting, yes?  Dr. Borer thought so too.

The graph array that interested me most, as a maintainer, however, was Figure 2 (in the second study it was reposted as Figure 4).  I was surprised, in fact, that it was not included as a “finding” in the Discussion section.

It looks fuzzy in my preview, but I was able to click on it to get a blown-up view that was very clear.  Column 4 describes the trial day Read the rest of this entry »