DebraSY

Posts Tagged ‘Weight Loss 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 »

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 »

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 »

There is no “Normal”

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on January 17, 2011 at 7:16 am

Often people talk about wanting to develop a “normal” or “healthy” relationship with food.  This is often the goal of HAES practitioners, intuitive eaters, or some variation on that theme.  The idea that there is such a thing as a “normal” or “healthy relationship with food” has become a favorite myth.  And it will remain mythical as long as there is a month called “January.”  We are in the throes of an annual festival of soon-to-fail New Year’s resolutions, all documented in our women’s magazines.

At the grocery check-out, I picked up a Family Circle (at $2.79, it was the cheapest).  Here’s the on-line version.   Let’s have some fun with content analysis:  try to figure out the messages we’re supposed to get that will help us develop a “normal” or “healthy” relationship with food.  In total, there are 192 pages in the print version.   Maybe we can pretend that a Martian is on his first visit to this planet.  Assuming he wants to experience what we think is “normal” or “healthy,” what shall he choose to eat based on the messages he sees? 

In addition to food messages, I identified body image messages, since that speaks to the other side of our “relationship” with food.   Food and body image messages comprised 60 percent of the magazine’s content.  Some pages clearly had a single message, while other pages were significantly dedicated to a message, so I counted them toward my totals as well.  I created four categories, and in each category I separated ads from articles.  Here are my findings: 

  1.  Pages predominantly about food with messages that are neutral or unconcerned about health (emphasize pleasure), Ads = 18, Articles = 15, Total = 33.
  2. Pages about food that promote health benefits (but not necessarily weight loss), Ads = 26, Articles = 7, Total = 33.   Read the rest of this entry »