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:
But there is another option. A much easier, pleasant, ENJOYABLE option. And that is to escape the addiction. To end the addiction.
People think that permanent weight loss involves constant (or at least recurrent), unpleasant deprivation…and they think that, because their own experience seems to support this theory. But I promise you, it’s not true. Escaping the obesity trap is actually ridiculously easy (almost to the point that it will make you break down and cry). I worked it out, suddenly, three years ago. I think I have discovered something that very few people know. I’m writing a book about it… 🙂
You read that right: three years ago the magic weight fairy entered her forebrain and revealed the “truth” to her, even as she was still fat. In 2008, she figured it all out, then she lost 37% of her weight (we don’t know how long that took) and has kept it off effortlessly (what, six months?) ever since. Sigh. I almost wrote a comment at Barbara’s site along the lines of “you arrogant twerp,” but then I read NewMe talking about “sour grapes,” and I knew that’s how my comment would read. I also visited maintainer Debby, and she was gently pointing out the limitations of blogging, and somehow, together, I took those as signals: If you don’t have anything nice to say . . . at least put it on your own blog, and don’t muck with someone else’s.
Okay, I’ll admit I’m a little jealous. I was rejected by publishers at two conferences, and I’m too timid/lazy/fearful (circle one – depends on the day) to self-publish. But my jealousy notwithstanding, do we really need another instant inspiration story?
But it will sell, won’t it? Because it contains the “secret” that came to her in a burst one night when she was sitting on a sofa. And the “secret” removes all the fear associated with weight loss and guarantees that maintenance will be easy.
From her shallow, one-page teasers, I understand we are trapped in a simple misunderstanding that compels us to eat wrong food, and we may escape this trap easily when we assemble the few tiny puzzle pieces that will make it easy it is to “step free,” and suddenly decide to eat the “right” food, foods that aren’t “rubbish.” Now, don’t mistake this for willpower . Willpower fails. The desire to eat “right” foods becomes effortless and endless when you know the “secret,” and she is not afraid that she (or any of her followers) will regain, because this secret makes her want to eat right foods and not want to eat rubbish.
Oh, good Lord! Everyone remember your weight-loss honeymoon? That time before you had to juggle maintenance with another health issue, like joint failure or bowel obstructions, or a personal or work-related complication? Yeesh. To this day, I still prefer good food to rubbish. That was, indeed, part of the transformation. But how arrogant to call maintenance “ridiculously easy” when you’ve been doing it only a few months. Her endocrine hasn’t even had time to go out of balance yet; how the Hell does she know anything? (Oh, and we know that ALL fat people eat rubbish, lots of it. That’s the only reason they’re fat.) And finally, how brazen to hawk a book on someone else’s blog and to discredit the blog writer’s opinions. Whoa, Nelly.
Hoookay. Ms. Florence is not afraid that she or her followers will regain, but she would benefit from some healthy fear. If it were so easy to escape “the obesity trap,” then the 97 percent recidivism rate for regain after weight loss would have been reversed by now. Her writing doesn’t indicate that she’s the Einstein of weight loss and maintenance. If the weight-loss maintenance equivalent of the theory of relativity has escaped Arya Sharma and other bright minds, I’m willing to bet she hasn’t found it.
She would benefit from some fear, and so would anyone else who wants to join the 3% club. Every true maintainer (longer than a few months) I know and respect harbors at least a little of it. Fear need not be a constant companion, or a debilitating force, but it needs to rear its ugly head from time to time. And we as maintainers need to confront our fears, question them and, as long as we wish to remain maintainers, embrace them, at least partially.
Our fear is a bit like an actor’s stage fright. All good actors embrace their stage fright. They weave it into their character’s passions and motivations. It’s healthy . . . except when it’s not. Except when it saps the brain of its ability to think or the mouth of its ability to speak, or it becomes a Black Swan delusional thing.
And that’s why I raise questions in this blog, from time to time, as to whether my behavior or thinking is disordered, or moving in that direction. My thoughts and behaviors are radically different from most people’s. Most people don’t use their gulp mechanisms to measure liquids, for example. Most people aren’t compelled to chew out good-hearted wait staff who don’t want to take back the fries before they bring the fruit. Most people do not meticulously plan their food intake in the shower daily. It is not a lifestyle, it’s a strategically different way to live one’s life that involves heightened sensitivity to cultural and biological influences.
So I am right to question. To wonder. And then to reframe my experience so that I can live with it, honestly and stoically. I can call it a personal experiment, a part-time job (that need not be joyless), or a serious hobby along the lines of playing the cello. But I cannot call it easy or effortless. And, in service to honesty, I share my thoughts with others here, because there ain’t no book, nor will there be one in the current publishing environment and Biggest-Loser cultural climate, that is as scary (or at least as truthful) as it ought to be.