DebraSY

Posts Tagged ‘Cultural Mythology’

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 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 »

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 »

An Open Letter to Weight-Management Scientists

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on June 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Dear Scientist Friends:

Consider this a personal invitation to test a theory, especially if your area of expertise is endocrine and/or you have a personal interest in exercise physiology and weight management.  (Er, and if you’re just one of my regular blog readers, please eaves drop on this letter.)

For several years, I have been synthesizing scientific information and personal experience as a radical weight-loss maintainer, and I would appreciate an experiment designed to better test the relationship between exercise and endocrine, especially those dicey signals that I believe cause most people to regain lost weight – the imbalance of leptin and ghrelin, PYY3-36 and aghouti related protein.  If you know of an experiment that has already explored this relationship, then please provide me a link.  (Disclaimer, as a lay person, my knowledge is embarrassingly limited.  I have not yet read Katarina Borer’s book on Exercise Endocrinology, or any other scholarly text, so maybe I’m naive, but if we do know all that we could know on this topic, it sure hasn’t made it into the mainstream marketplace of ideas.) 

It has occurred to me that there are different kinds of “hunger.”  Those of us who maintain radical weight losses have pretty much mastered how to quell insulin-triggered hunger and vacuous (empty stomach) hunger using macronutrient management.  In short, we use carbs (such as bananas or dark chocolate) to quell immediate, sharp (vacuous) hunger, and we use proteins and fats to keep sneaky insulin-triggered hunger at bay.  But this is not the full story.  If it were, more than 3% of people would be successful at maintaining radical weight loss for five years, the depressing figure that empirical research suggests.

According to the National Weight Control Registry (which could also be called the 3% Club), where I am listed as a participant, 90% of us exercise on average one hour per day.  This finding is one of the most dramatic commonalities among us, more so than eating breakfast (78%), regular weighing (75%) or limiting our TV viewing (62%).  In fact, the only two characteristics that are more common than the hour of exercise are that we have restricted our food (98%) and increased our exercise from our fat days (94%).  (It should hardly come as a surprise that one hour daily represents an increase for most people!) 

Learned people debate the value of exercise compared to food restriction in losing or maintaining weight, assuming that  exercise is a function of energy balance – calories expended v. calories consumed.  Energy balance, however, is not a simple equation, and I think exercise serves an additional, more important, function beyond expending energy.  I think we need to know more about its effect on endocrine.  Read the rest of this entry »

WARNING: FAT KIDS ARE FAIR GAME FOR AD CAMPAIGNS AND OTHER BULLIES IN GEORGIA

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on May 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm

The Today Show this morning ran a feature on Georgia’s anti-obesity campaign aimed at children.

My one-word summary of the campaign:  horrifying.  God bless Yale University Psychologist Rebecca Puhl (indubitably eruditer than I am!) for stating as much, calling it an example of “what not to do.” 

If you are unfamiliar, the campaign currently features children who talk about how awful it is to be obese.  They are child actors presumably echoing the words of children culled from a focus group.  This is Maya Walters, aka Tamika. 

I feature her, because she went on the Today program and allowed Meredith Viera to interview her, along with campaign spokesman Ron Freison, of Children’s Health Alliance of Atlanta, and Today Show regular, Clinical Psychologist Judith Sills.

In the interview, Ron Freison says that the campaign “gives voice” to obese children.  However, in many of the ads, actors like Maya do not speak at all.  The ad currently featured at the Georgia Stop Childhood Obesity website shows “Tamika” standing, silent and sullen while her mother talks about her, describing her as “thick.”

I used to act.  I have auditioned and waited for a call.  I know the joy of getting a part.  “They like me!  They actually like me!”  Poor little Maya is swept up in that emotional whirl.  She told Meredith Viera, “This ad actually helped me; gave me way more self confidence than I had before. . .to know that they liked me, just how I was.”  How sad.  The only part for a talented, young fat actress is playing someone who is plagued by diabetes and sad about her future, and whose mother is panicked for her health. Read the rest of this entry »

“Experts”: Phooey

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on March 22, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Well, my colonoscopy has been postponed.  Yeesh.  And it wasn’t me; I didn’t chicken out.  The nurse called and the doctor is taking a day off on Friday.  I got all wound up, and now I’ll wind down until April 18th – prep day, followed by the no-big-deal procedure on the 19th.  Thank you for all your well wishes.  When it FINALLY happens, I’ll let you know how it goes with more subtlety and decorum (but less humor) than Dave Barry.  Thank you, alert reader, Mulberry for the link.

I am especially pleased to learn that many maintainer friends did not experience a weight shake-up from their colonoscopies.  Had I not heard from you, I wouldn’t have taken it for granted.  I don’t trust the words of doctors and other “experts.”  With regard to weight management and weight rebound, simply, they’re out of their depth.  What’s more aggravating, they don’t acknowledge how out-of-their-depth they are.

Regular reader, Ali, just recently ran into an “expert” (chiropractor) who dismissed her dietary choices (which were working pretty well for her) in a conversation that lasted less than ten minutes.  With the pseudo-scientific authority granted by the likes of journalist and weight-loss opportunist Gary Taubes, she stated simply, “you must go low carb.”  Well, Gee, lady.: thanks but no thanks.  Low carb works for some people, and I’m happy for them, but if it worked for everyone we’d all be trim.  Anyone over the age of 20 in this country saw the rise and crash of the New Atkins Revolution (which nearly killed our grain markets and bankrupted our grain farmers at the beginning of this century). Had the Revolution worked for everyone, I’d have jumped on board too.  Instead, most of us witnessed sad stories of radical weight loss and rebound among earnest, disciplined people.  The few who succeeded then must now work at least as hard as I do to maintain their losses in a carbolific society (who pushes them to portion control, while pushing Ali and me to drop our bananas).

One sure sign that you’ve found a person who knows something is that they are secure enough to acknowledge that they don’t know everything.  That’s why Arya and Yoni have charmed me.  And I especially love this post from Barbara Berkeley, The Perfect Diet:  Does it Exist?   The one word answer is “nope.”  People who have earned their bona fides do not pretend to have the one and only answer.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sanity Starts in the North

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on March 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I think Canada may have a fighting chance at keeping its “COACH” program from becoming another thinly veiled fat hatefest.  This is because Dr. Arya Sharma is calling out his forces, and maybe some balance and sanity will prevail.  Here’s the link to today’s post for you who are only now-and-again visitors to Dr. Sharma’s blog.  It is especially vital for you to visit this post if you are Canadian.  Click the button within his post that describes you, and enter the fray to reclaim your COACH program.

I considered clicking, even though I’m a US citizen.  I can mispronounce “about” to sound like “a boat.”  I can end every third sentence with an “eh.”  But I’m sure, eventually, I’d be outed, and it would be horribly embarrassing.

The COACH program seems to show some signs of innate sanity.  Its Readers’ Digest condensed description talks about “resources to manage . . . excess weight” not resources to lose weight.  It acknowledges that “eat less move more” is not a panacea. 

I also like that the acronym they chose, “COACH,” which suggests a helper, advisor.  I would change the words from Canadian Obesity Awareness and Control Initiative for Health (which, technically, would be COAHIC, anyway) to Canadian Obesity Acceptance and Commitment to Health.  For one, obesity has plenty of awareness.  Every idiot knows about obesity and has an opinion.  Control is, well, too controlling.  And often impossible.  What the developed world lacks is acceptance of obesity, and the understanding that it can co-exist with health.  Perhaps if the COACH founders had started with different wording for their acronym, then the idiots wouldn’t be trying to hijack the program today, and it wouldn’t be so vital that you Canadians go join Dr. Sharma and try to claim it back.

Meanwhile, how’s public policy south of the border shaping up?  Well, we’ve got Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign.   Sadly, in the US, for some crazy reason, we have reached a consensus (enforced by “the American People,” excluding Democrats) that a society governed by the people for the people is inferior to a society controlled by the corporate elite to benefit the obscenely wealthy.  Therefore, for a government program to have any credibility, it must have corporate sponsorship.  Enter the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation.  Doesn’t it just take your breath away to read this: Read the rest of this entry »