I took my kids over to the library the other day. We like to hang out and play with all the nifty toys, check out books, and hit the playground right outside. We have a really nice library. It’s a one stop super kids outing. I don’t get a chance to really look at books while I’m at the library with my kids, they require too much watching to keep safe. Which is cool, we are there for them after all. I usually reserve books online and pick them up on my way out of the building. I do often pick up a magazine that’s lying around to peruse while my kids play and look at books. You can scan a magazine while doing something else unlike a book which you really just have to sit down and read.
While I perused my magazine my youngest son played. My older son selected 30 (yes 30!) books to check out. About half the books he chose were in Spanish. For fun my Dad is learning Spanish and my oldest son is quite fascinated. I should mention that I do not read, write, or speak Spanish well at all despite having studied it for several year in school. Reading to him about baloncesto en Español later that afternoon was quite an adventure.
I browsed the November’s issue of Ladies Home Journal. I ended up reading the most fascinating article, “Enough! I refuse To Hate My Body For The Rest Of My Life” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. The basic premise of the article is that if you’re overweight your pretty much stuck. The deck is stacked against you. You probably will never loose the weight you want and need to; and if you do, likely you won’t keep it off anyway. Diest just don’t work. Kind of depressing if you are trying to loose a few pounds.
At the same time the idea that diets don’t work is kind of freeing. At least if you come to the same conclusion as Brodesser-Akner. Rather then being down about never taking off the weight she wants to loose; Brodesser-Akner deciders it’s time to make peace with her own body. She gives up trying to loose the weight.
Brodesser-Akner says she had her epiphany when sitting at the computer looking up diet books on Amazon, preparing to start yet another round of dieting. “And as I waited for titles to load, the hopelessness descended. Again? I thought. Still? I’ve tried this. I’ve done that. I’m exhausted.” Brodesser-Akner instead ends up reading Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce With Your Body. She is inspired by the book to stop putting her life on hold while she waits to become her perfect weight. She realizes that she has missed out on life experiences; and made herself feel miserable by purchasing and stuffing herself into clothing she didn’t even like, because she was waiting to buy the good stuff for when she was smaller. (I’m guilty of that one!)
Brodesser-Akner also cites a few research studies discussed in Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere. The studies appear to prove what we probably already know: It’s hard to loose weight. It’s hard to keep it off if you actually loose it. Diets don’t really work for most people. And unless you are the occasional *results not typical, person you sure won’t end up looking like a Victoria Secrets model.
I have to say, I see the point here. I can really identify with Brodesser-Akner’s negative feelings about the endless rounds of diets. My personal experience certainly seems to prove the research cited true. I’ve tried a number of diets and healthy eating “lifestyles” myself. Yet, I still find myself overweight. I have self discipline in every other area of my life so why can’t I loose the weight? Or on the occasions that I have, why can’t I keep it off?
The article also cites a study in the Journal of The American Medical Association that found that overweight (but not obese) people have a lowed total risk of premature death then people who are a normal weight. I personally am not going to hang my hat on this one study alone. I’m just not sure I buy it, in fact I even fear it’s wishful thinking. There are just way too many other studies that links being overweight and obese to almost every disease out there.
I don’t know that I’m going to do like Brodesser-Akner and “stay fat.” I still worry a lot about being as healthy as possible; and to the best of our knowledge weight does correlate to health. I have two sweet little boys I need to be here for. I have residual problems with my leg from a past illness that probably won’t ever go away, but I don’t want to end up sick from something I could have prevented by loosing some weight. What I have is enough already. I certainly do acknowledge it could be a long time, if ever that I achieve my desired weight loss goal. And I struggle with the how part, but I suppose I am going to keep trying.
What I will take away from this article is the advice to live now and not put things on hold until I reach a certain weight. I’m going to take the exercise class I’ve been thinking about. I’m going to try really hard not to compare myself to anyone else and not get jealous when my very cute sister-in-law can fit into my cute “skinny tops” and I can’t. I won’t buy clothes that will fit in a few pounds. (Anyone else ever do this? I never end up ever wearing what I bought. If I actually get skinny enough, it ends up looking stupid anyway.) I will buy myself something that fits right now. I’m definitely going to read Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce With Your Body (thats going to be fascinating I’m sure). I’m going to keep on cooking and sharing my recipes with you all; both healthy and not so healthy! Good vows I think.
What about you? Any thoughts? Please take a moment to comment and share!
So I had to add an update to this post now that I’ve actually read Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce With Your Body. While there was nothing wrong with Brodesser-Akner’s article; it doesn’t do the book justice. The article was definitely Brodesser-Akner’s own reaction to the book, which is great, but there is a lot more to Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere.
For example, from just reading Brodesser-Akner’s article, I kind of got a hopeless sense about weight loss, and felt like on some level giving up on dieting is just giving up on yourself. Resigned. The word I’m looking for is resigned. Resigned to being fat. Now I’m not sure this is Brodesser-Akner’s fault. I think it may have more to do with the idea hitting me that sustainable weight loss may really not be possible for me then the article itself. The difference with the book verses the article is that authors Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby acknowledge that you may feel this, and then talk you past it. They spend a lot of time pointing out there is not anything inherently wrong with being fat. Being fat does’t make you lazy, equate to a lack of willpower, or anything else. It just means your bigger.
Most of us (unless you work in the diet industry) can probably acknowledge that dieting doesn’t work for most people. The hard thing is accepting that we are most people. We all look at new diet advertisements and see those before and after photos with the little disclaimer “results not typical” and we know logically that means 99% people will not be successful on this diet. Yet, on some level we really believe that we are the “not typical” person and that the diet will work for us. Unfortunately, if you just look at things from the numbers this just isn’t true. If you’ve spent years dieting you most likely have evidence in your own life; that dieting doesn’t work for you. That new diet isn’t going to work for you either, even though you really wish it would. As sad as that can feel, there is something freeing about acknowledging this fact, and no longer torturing yourself with a diet that won’t work, then beating yourself up about it.
What is really great about Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere, is that it shows you giving up on dieting, does not mean you have to give up on who you want to be. Harding and Kirby call this “The Skinny Myth,” meaning that many of us have this idea in our head that we will be better people when we are skinny. So, we wait on taking this class, talking to that guy, buying this shirt, taking this trip, until we are skinny and worthy of those things. No longer dieting doesn’t mean we should never take the class, meet the guy, buy the shirt, or take the trip, it means we should do it now! It means you should do it right now regardless of your size because you are good enough right now! And your size is irrelevant to your worth.
The other thing that Brodesser-Akner’s article didn’t cover at all was the idea that refusing to diet DOES NOT mean you are giving up on yourself. Harding and Kirby aren’t advocating going on an endless binge and mistreating your body. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The ladies actually want you to just stop beating on your body with the diets; and treat it well. Treating yourself well doesn’t mean eating nothing but bon-bons and never exercising. (Though don’t torture yourself if you do spend a day eating bon-bons and not exercising. That’s not the end of the world once and while either.) It means feeding yourself when your hungry, finding movement (aka exercise) that you love and acknowledging and respecting your bodies limitations. We should do these things because they make us feel good, not because they will make us skinny.
The book spends a lot of time discussing intuitive eating and health at any size (HAES), two methods or philosophies intended to help bring about the goal of treating our bodies well, feeling as good as possible, and being as well as possible. All this without the craziness of a diet, and without the aim of loosing weight. (Side note: Other interesting books with intuitive eating: Women Food and God, by Geneen Roth. Though Roth actually follows intuitive eating and ends up quite skinny so I feel like her message is a little different then what we get in Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere. Also check out Intuitive Eating, 2nd Edition: A Revolutionary Program That Works, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch for more information on how that all works.)
I have to admit that I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around and accepting the idea that I may never loose weight. I do see myself as the “results not typical” person. Historically that hasn’t been true but it still feels hard to give up on the idea. On the other hand I really like a lot of what Harding and Kirby have to say. It does sound freeing to stop struggling with weight loss and just eat like a normal person! After all I do run a food blog! I feel like a lot of clamoring ideas are banging around in my head and there is a lot to think about and sort out.
What do you think e? I’d love comments and thoughts on this one. (Please keep it kind and constructive!)