Tag Archives: deprivation

New Study Finds that Losing Weight Won’t Make You Happy

 

In the past I’ve talked about how fat people can be happy without losing weight.  Now a new study confirms something else I’ve known for quite a while, that losing weight won’t necessarily make you happy.  The study, while still managing to pontificate about the “health benefits” of losing weight, points out that fat people who lost more than 5% of their body weight tended to be more depressed than those fat people who didn’t lose more than 5% of their body weight.  In fact, after adjusting for health issues and major life events (like losing a spouse) those who lost more than 5% of their original body weight were more than 50% more likely to be depressed than the group that lost less weight.

The study press release goes on to suggest that of course you should still lose weight because it’s good for your health.  And the study is careful to suggest that correlation is not causation, so we don’t know that the weight loss causes depression.  (BTW this is a good practice that is curiously absent in many press releases about the health risks of obesity, but I digress…)  And the study suggests a few possible reasons why this depression might be happening.  They use a lot of flowery language, but it boils down to:

1.  Constantly dieting and not eating what you want and weighing and measuring every morsel of food you put in your mouth takes a lot of energy and kind of sucks.

2.  When you win the weight loss lottery and your life is not as wonderful as promised, it can be a major letdown.

And I suspect both of these suggested reasons are totally true.  Constantly fighting the fact that your body is HUNGRY and you want to eat takes a lot of energy.  Watching your friends eat fabulous stuff while you order the fish (steamed please, no butter) and vegetables (steamed please, no butter) and salad (dry with cruets of vinegar and oil on the side) gets old really fast.  And don’t even get me started on weighing and measuring and obsessive point/calorie counting.

And let me remind you about the big fat cycle.  One of the major triggers for the big fat cycle of weight loss and gain is fantasy.  We are taught that when we are thin our lives will be perfect.  We will be beautiful.  We will be like movie stars.  Men or women (depending on your preference) will be standing in line to take us out and buy us fabulous stuff because we are gorgeous.  Our health will magically be perfect.  We will be pain free.  We will climb mountains and become CEOs of multinational corporations because that’s what thin people do.  Look out for me, baby!

Then we (at least temporarily) get  thin.  And we are the same.  Our lives are much the same.  A few people who weren’t interested in dating us before may become interested.  But instead of feeling elated about that, we feel hurt and kinda pissed off.  We wonder why we weren’t good enough to date before.  And we wonder about the fear of dating somebody who will drop us when we gain some or all of the weight back.  People tell us how fabulous we look now.  And again, it kind of hurts.  We wonder what they thought about how we looked before we lost the weight.  We still feel pain.  We still get sick.  We fail to climb mountains or climb the corporate ladder.  We are simply smaller versions of ourselves with the same frustrations, insecurities, problems, challenges, frustrations and crud in our lives as before–except without cookies.  No cookies are anywhere.  And people wonder why weight loss can be accompanied by a side of depression?

This is why a behavior-based approach to health is so much better.  There is no before and after.  There just is.  I feel better when I exercise, so I exercise.  I don’t have to do something I hate.  I don’t have to do things that feel like punishment.  I don’t have to build up some ridiculous fantasy about how my life will change when I do it.  I find exercise that I like.  I know I feel better when I do it.  So I do.  It’s pretty simple really.

I know that when I eat too much of certain things, I feel kinda icky.  So I don’t usually eat too much of certain things.  Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I know I’m going to feel kinda icky and I eat it anyway and I enjoy it.  But I don’t like feeling icky so the next day I probably won’t eat too much of that thing.

I know when I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, my body feels better.  I don’t count servings or weigh or measure my broccoli.  I don’t eat fruit or vegetables because I won’t allow myself to eat anything else and I’m starving.  I just kinda know I feel better when I eat fruits and veggies so I do.  I eat the ones I like when I am hungry for them.  I don’t imbue them with magical powers.  I am not suddenly going to grow taller or develop forearms like Popeye because I’ve downed a little spinach.  Fruits and veggies feel good, so I eat them.

It may seem revolutionary to some.  But I think when we stop focusing on how our bodies look and start focusing on the messages our bodies are sending us, we feel better.  And I don’t really know if I need a study to tell me that.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S.  We are only a few days away from the Fat Activism Conference.  It’s only $39 or pay what you can.  Check it out here!

P.S.S. Looking for a fabulously funny speaker who can talk about body image, HAES, eating disorder prevention, fitness and more?  Book me here!

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What Happens When We “Let Ourselves Go”…

TheFatChick

After I tell people that I support Health At Every Size (R) and after I explain what Health At Every Size is, people often share with me their fear that if they ever stopped strictly policing their body size, their food intake and their calories burned, they will grow “big as a house” and they will “never stop eating”.  Now this fear is natural.  We’ve been conditioned to believe that we are just one chocolate chip cookie away from total body apocalypse and that only constant, fierce and consistent vigilance will keep us from serious medical harm.  There’s a $60 billion dollar diet industry as well as an unbelievably huge system of bariatric surgery and drugs and research grants and public health initiatives to support the notion that if we take our eyes off the thin body prize for even a moment, all hell will break loose.

Except, in my experience, it kind of doesn’t.

Some recent research coming out of Australia, seems to support the notion that Health At Every Size and Size Acceptance does NOT generally lead to giving up on health altogether.  “The Role of the Fatosphere in Fat Adults’ Responses to Obesity Stigma: A Model of Empowerment Without a Focus on Weight Loss” details interviews with 44 bloggers in the “Fatosphere”.  The subjects of these interviews often talked about moving from a reactive response to stigma (attempting weight loss to conform to societal norms) towards a proactive approach to stigma (recognizing stigma, reframing fat, and focus on self-acceptance).  These bloggers described significant improvements in well being as a result of being associated with the size acceptance community and taking a direct approach to dealing with shame and stigma.

Granted, we’re only talking about 44 bloggers here.  This is hardly a representative sample of fat people all over the world. But it does seem to map to my experience.  For a short time after I declared all foods legal and nothing off limits I ate a LOT of cookies and chips and pizza.  But after not very long, the bloom was off the rose.  I found I really didn’t want another candy bar.  I wanted broccoli.  I wanted chicken.  I wanted whole wheat bread and peanut butter.  I wanted real food.  Once the “forbidden” label was removed from foods, I found I could often take them or leave them.  I could eat one cookie.  I could eat 3 potato chips.  Because you know what?  I knew I could have them again whenever I wanted them.

Once I removed the notion of punishment from my physical activities and started focusing on finding exercise that was fun, I started enjoying my workouts a whole lot more.  Rather than dragging myself up onto the treadmill and burning an arbitrary number of calories, I called the dog and we went outside for walkies.  I got my heart pumping.  I bumped up my Vitamin D levels.  And I HAD FUN.  When I accepted that I no longer had to do exercise that I hated, I found myself free to focus on fitness that I loved.  I learned to look forward to workouts again.

Clearly I’m citing anecdotal evidence here.  But there is plenty of other research by amazing people like Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor that explains what happens when people lose their obsession with weight loss and start focusing on the Health At Every Size approach to wellness.  What happens is that folks get happier and generally healthier all without the nasty side effects of disordered eating, weight cycling and depression so common to the traditional diet-based approach.

So after I tell people about Health At Every Size and after people tell me that they can’t support HAES because they would lose all control and would wind up desperately unhappy and unhealthy, I still have an ace up my sleeve.

I share the overwhelming evidence that the HAES (R) approach typically leaves people at a weight that is natural for them with a body that is healthier and with a mind that is happier than ever before.

Seems like a safe bet to me.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

Body Intelligence or Body War?

golda_biggest_loser

This week, I’ve come across two very different approaches to young bodies in the media.  One is the announcement (and subsequent activism response by the amazing Golda Poretsky) that the television show “The Biggest Loser” will now include teenagers and the other is a new study about the effectiveness of “intuitive eating” among young adults.

It’s hard to imagine a stronger dichotomy than these two approaches.  On the one hand, we have “The Biggest Loser” which teaches us that our body is the enemy.  No punishment is too harsh.  No humiliation is too great.  We must deprive ourselves of delicious foods.  We must exercise until we vomit or pass out.  We must make our bodies thin at all costs.

The study outlines a different approach (at least to eating) by documenting the outcomes of young adults who practice intuitive eating.  The study defines intuitive eating by the young people “trusting their bodies to tell them what to eat” and “stopping eating once they felt full”.  Based on the Biggest Loser story, one would imagine that those who trust their bodies and allow hunger to guide their eating would be larger than those who focus on controlling body weight.  However, the study seems to indicate the opposite.  Those who trusted their bodies not only had fewer signs of disordered eating, but also had a lower average BMI.

Now, it’s important to remember that this is only one study.  But we’ve yet to unearth a single study that indicates that deprivation and self hatred is an effective way to maintain a lower body weight or BMI over the long term (more than 5 years).  So what should we be teaching our kids, to love their bodies or make war on them?

While it seems obvious to me that teaching kids to trust the innate intelligence of their bodies is the better choice, I think it’s important to recognize this is not the easier choice.  I think peer pressure plays an enormous role both for children and their parents.  I think many of us have faced discrimination and outright cruelty from others because of the size of our bodies.  We don’t wish that pain on our worst enemies.  So it’s not surprising that we don’t want it for our children.  And the prevailing wisdom of the women at the beauty shop, Aunt Thelma and even our pediatricians often involves hushed side conversations about what the parent is going to “do” about a child’s weight.  It seems clear to me that peer pressure bends us towards putting our kids on diets, obsessing over their BMIs, forcing them to exercise, sending them to fat camps and yes, even allowing them to be on “The Biggest Loser”, even though there is so, SO much evidence out there showing that this approach doesn’t work.  But at some point, we have to ask ourselves, “Is peer pressure a smart way to decide what’s best for kids?  Is bowing to peer pressure in this case going to make our kids happier or healthier in the long run?”  I think we need to ask the proverbial question, “If our friends tell us to run off a cliff, will we do it?”  Or will we put peer pressure aside, assure the ladies at the beauty shop and Aunt Thelma and even our pediatrician that we are doing what science indicates is best for our kids, and teach them that their bodies are wondrous and intelligent and trustworthy?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Love,

The Fat Chick