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Hi everybody!

June 7, 2011

Its been a year and some change since I’v updated this blog and I’ve been feeling that blogging itch. And since at the moment, I’m only working full time (rather than working full time and in classes full time) I have both the head space and the motivation to write a little bit again.

So on the weight front, very little has changed. I’ve basically been maintaining for well over a year. I got to a point where I just didn’t have the brain real estate to actively diet. Plus I went through a long period where I was relying on food pantries and other such resources for a lot of my eating. I wasn’t going to worry about calories or macronutrient ratios when I was ecstatic to get a jar of peanut butter. In a slightly funny or at least not-expected-because-of-narratives-I-bought-into twist, my diet improved a bajillion percent once I got SNAP benefits (food stamps in the common parlance.) Being able to afford fresh fruit and veggies again is something I hope never to take for granted.

Maintainance is its own kind of work. And working at maintanance as a fat woman (still in the 30s BMI-wise) is interesting in terms of everyone else. I might blog about it some time if these awful writing urges don’t go away. So far, I haven’t found it to be all consuming or especially difficult. I’m also aware that I’m less than 2 years out and things can most certainly change.

Whether or not I’m going to try to lose more weight is something I haven’t decided. Some of my old goals still linger in the back of my mind. However, I don’t think I’m in the right space now for it. I feel like any change to my eating or exercising would veer sharply into that Capital D – Diet area that drives me crazy. Before, when I wanted to lose, I would look at my life and find places where change would be easiest. “Oh hey, I’m eating this huge breakfast and it wouldn’t bother me to cut a hundred calories from it. I can also replace my typical afternoon snack with a fruit smoothie and save another 150. And hey, I have all this time between 6pm and 8pm most nights where I’m just sitting on my keester. I bet I can find something a little more active that’s still relaxing.” Etc… Etc… Right now when I think of weight loss, I feel like any change would require sacrificing something I really enjoy. So for now I’m cool with where I am.

I hope everyone else has had a good year.

Know when to fold ‘em

May 18, 2010

This isn’t necessarily a good bye post. I’m not planning on shutting down the blog or anything. It’s more of a declaration that this blog isn’t a priority these days. I’ve said what I wanted to say and I’m moving on.

Switching this blog over to a focus on my personal weight loss was mostly about wanting to show people that the act of losing weight didn’t have to be about punishment and suffering. I wanted to talk about how I was approaching losing weight mentally rather than detailing my daily menu or focusing on what the scale was saying. I found though that eventually I ran out of things to say about that. It’s not that I don’t still have insights or learn new things. This journey has been a constant balancing act. How to balance my goals with my environment. How to incorporate days or weeks of not-so-great eating habits without weight gain. Learning to order a favorite dish at a restaurant without turning the meal into a 1,500 calorie affair. Mainly though these insights have been personal ones and not some system that will automatically translate to other people. The most important thing, imo, was putting forth the idea that if you approach weight loss from the perspective of being body-positive, of not demonizing certain foods or punishing yourself with exercise then a lot of the little details involved with changing how you interact with your environment will be the ones that work best for you.

Over time then the focus of this blog shifted from my personal experiences to a kind of larger overview of some of the science of weight loss. I was so frustrated with what I saw almost everywhere on the internet when any talk of fat came up. People repeating old disproven ideas over and over again. People frustrated because some guru had promised that it wasn’t about energy balance but they weren’t losing *any* weight. People on every side abusing the poor old 1st law of thermodynamics in a way that breaks this physics major’s brain.

And then I realized two things: 1) There are people out there who know a fuckton more about the science of weight regulation than I ever will. some of these people are online and sharing this knowledge. There really isn’t a need for me to fumble through my undergrad-level understanding of these issues on this blog.
2) The vast majority of people – even people who claim to be rooted in science – will ignore any evidence they need to in order to keep their beliefs intact. I certainly am not changing minds or even giving people much to think about. My dream/hope of being a kind of bridge between the FA camp and the weight loss camp was just not gonna happen. It doesn’t matter that being overweight probably shouldn’t be lumped in with being ‘morbidly’ obese in terms of health risks – we’ll still get to hear that 2/3rd of america is going to dieeeeee constantly. It doesn’t matter that equating a reasonable moderate diet with starvation is like equating going for a jog with an ultra-marathon. If it works to score a cheap point, it’ll get trotted out again and again.

Hmmm, this sounds bitter. I don’t feel bitter. I just am not interested in blogging about any of this anymore. In a little less than two years, I’ve lost 78lbs. There will be no before/after pics. I can’t pretend the weight loss has fundamentally changed who I am or solved all of my problems. I also can’t ignore the ways it has made my life so much better. I’m continuing to lose weight and my end goal is still just to find a weight where I reach a happy equilibrium.

So this isn’t some kind of official end to this blog. I have another project – somewhat inspired by this blog – that I’m in the process of setting up. I’ll provide a link when it’s ready. And I may find little pieces of information or personal insights that I’ll want to blog about here, but I suspect those will be few and far between.

Obesogenic?

March 26, 2010

My great-grandmother spent her childhood on a large farm whose main crop was sugarcane. When I was much younger, one of my favorite things was to sit in her kitchen sipping coffee-milk (a drop of coffee, lots of hot frothy milk with a spoonful of sugar) and listen to her tell stories about growing up on the farm. Most particularly I loved hearing about harvest time. She didn’t do any heavy labor on the farm, but the kids would help out by fetching water or running messages between workers. The kids all wanted to help not because back then kids were so much more responsible than today (dag gummit) but because of how they were paid. In sugarcane. The boy or girl who was judged to be the most useful would get several big stalks of sugarcane. The way my great-grandmother described the ecstasy of eating sugarcane and the lengths kids would go to get some as well as the bargaining, wheedling and outright thievery to get their hands on other kids’ haul convinced my young self that this must be one of the most amazing things in the world.

So when attending some kind of outdoor festival with my mother I saw a stall selling little stalks of sugarcane I was sure that I was in for one amazing treat. You can imagine my confusion when, after working to get into the damn thing, the only thing it tasted like was sugar. Ummm wow? My great-grandmother had slept with these things under her pillow and had got ants in her bed and hair in order to protect the precious cane from her siblings. The children on the farm had run themselves ragged in Louisiana summer heat in the hopes of getting just a little bit more.

I didn’t get it. And at the time that was it. But recently during a discussion (argument) with some people irl about the food environment and personal responsibility, the story popped back into my mind. Both my great-grandmother and I had/have a big sweet tooth. The difference was that when I was a little girl I could just go into the pantry and grab the jar of pre-sweetened kool-aid and eat it with a spoon (although it tasted better if I ate it with my finger.) The sugarcane stories didn’t make sense to me because in the food environment of my childhood sugar was everywhere. My great-grandmother’s world included candy, cakes and other treats of course – she was born in 1895 – but it wasn’t a world where she could have a steady supply of sweet treats and packaged baked goods and wash it down with fizzy sugar water on top of it.

But you know what? If she could have eaten that way as a child, she would have. That’s the thing that these people I was arguing with don’t get. People don’t change that quickly. A hundred years ago when she was growing up, my great grandmother sat and dreamed of sugarcane. She invented saints names and would tell her mother that they must bake a cake in honor of saint so-and-so her did some stuff (her very devout mother was not amused.) The difference between me and her wasn’t restraint or responsibility. It was access.

My great-grandmother cooked and ate in a way that would make the Michael Pollans of the world stand up and clap. She grew up eating that way after all and those habits followed her into adulthood and into a world where she saw food options expand beyond her wildest dreams. But it’s not hard to imagine that the little girl who begged her mother not to throw away her sugarcane even while she was scrubbing ants out of her hair might have joined me in sticking her finger into the kool-aid jar. Would she have been a fat little girl with a kool-aid stained finger just like me? I don’t know. I know many of her grandchildren are part of the ‘obesity epidemic’ and all but a handful of her great-granchildren are fat as well. Whatever is hereditary about fat is definitely present in that part of the family and yet neither her nor her siblings were ever big people.

I don’t have any brilliant way to end this. So I won’t try.

Obesity Panacea on scienceblogs!

March 20, 2010

I’m really stoked about this. Obesity Panacea has been one of my daily-visit blogs since Julie pointed me in their direction. Their content is already great, but the wonderful thing about being on scienceblogs (I *heart* scienceblogs) is that, on the whole, the commenters tend to be really really sharp, well informed and absolutely not afraid of challenging the bloggers so the discussions tend to be just as informative as the posts. Anyway, you should check them out.

Already they have a post which has burrowed its way into my head and refuses to leave. Very interesting stuff. Go read it. Now.

How to write a science article when you have no hard science.

March 14, 2010

Learn from the masters at men’s health

So the article starts out with our fearless author knocking down that out calories in/calories out model. Not through citing research or even quoting an expert but by appealing to our shared experience. Now I don’t have a problem acknowledging the complexity of the mechanisms that regulate fat levels, food intake and all those hormones that affect body weight. I do have a problem with oversimplifying that complexity until it sounds like you think that the human body breaks a fundamental law of the universe. Any energy you take in has to go SOMEWHERE – now show me the research that in some people ingested energy is used much less/more efficiently and that’s cool, talk to me about hunger and individual experiences of satiety and I’m all ears. Ok, I’m ranting and this isn’t the point of the article. I just always feel like I can tell something is going to be crap when they bravely take on calories in/calories out.

What is the point of the article? Well, it’s chemicals. A particular kind referred to as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and how they might be behind weight gain in the US. Here’s the part where we have our minds blown by the results of new studies showing how these chemicals cause us to gain weight even in the absence of a caloric surplus.

Oh no, here’s the part where we spend two pages dancing around the lack of hard data with clever wording and lots of super vague references.
Read more…

Formspring: round 2

March 7, 2010

As always, if you have any questions, you can ask them at my formspring page.

If you don’t have a goal weight, how do you know when you’ve lost enough and it’s time to stop dieting? -Tricia

Basically, my idea is that I’ll stop losing weight when I have to use drastic or unhealthy methods to keep losing weight. So when I reach a point where getting any more weight off involves lots of hunger or too much exercise then I’ll stop there.

BTW, I would define lots of hunger as the kind of dieting where I’m obsessed with food all day, feel cranky, have physical hunger pains etc… IOW, the way I used to think that being on a diet had to feel. And too much exercise is both when I don’t give my body a chance to recover and when feeling obligated to exercise outweighs my enjoyment of movement.

I was curious as to how you process the 5% success rate for dieting with your decision to lose weight. Do you believe that you will definitely be one of the rare success stories?

This is really easy to answer. I don’t believe the failure rate for weight loss is 95%. I think it’s high, but not that high. And I’m in some classes where the percentage of people who won’t pass can be as high as 50%, I’m still in the classes because 1)it’s worth it to me to try and do this and 2)I believe I know what I need to do in order to pass my classes. It’s not a perfect analogy, but I feel the same about fat loss.

You never mention your weight, or change in size. I’m curious how your high sugar but regular calorie diet is affecting this.

Well, first I should clarify that my high sugar diet was only for a briefish period of time. I’m now back to a more balanced way of eating with higher protein, lots of veggies and fruit and, yes, sweet stuff sometimes too.

However, even when my diet was high in sugar, I was still relying on counting calories to lose weight so it didn’t affect my weight loss much at all nor did it seem to change my waist circumference (I’ve heard some theories that higher sugar diets can affect where you gain weight.) I will say that it’s harder to maintain a larger deficit when you’re not eating filling foods though.

On a related note, I don’t get specific with how the scale or other measurements are changing. This is mainly for me. I want to see a downward trend, but I don’t want to obsess and not blogging the numbers is one of many ways I avoid that obsession.

Damn, I wish I’d said that.

February 26, 2010

We’ve all had those moments. Maybe while reading a blog or a book or a magazine article – that moment where someone says in a few words or brief paragraphs something that would have taken us pages and pages to get out. Well that happened to me recently, but it was lucky enough to be in the comments of my blog. In a reply to this old posta commenter, Runner, left this comment (Bolding my favorite bits):

I agree completely. (Rant warning!) Often, the way they’re talked about, men’s exercise focuses on ability while women’s on vague “fitness.” I started running TO BE ABLE TO RUN. When I wanted. Fast, too. And for far far longer than it takes to sprint to a bus about to leave so that I can sit down on the bus I did make and be calm. I weight train to feel my body BE ABLE TO. Be able to lift heavy things easily. Be able to push. Shove. Move. I love my abs because they lift me up. And down. Without thinking or straining.

I love feeling my arm muscles under my skin. I love feeling my quads engage hard. It is because then, I embody strength. Literally. Nothing makes me feel like a woman like being strong. And I know that’s not how it’s “supposed” to be, but it is how it’s really supposed to be.

After having read other FA blogs, I now think that my sense of being my body and seeing it as functional first and foremost has lifted me above much of the emotional morass that many serial dieting women seem to have fallen into. I never bought the sexist base idea of that I had to be pretty and thin to be someone as a woman, and that has saved me many headaches. What gets you somewhere in life – and makes you YOU – are other things, all function-related. Primarily your brain ability and function, but also your body ability and function. I am something that is both above my body – above age, gender, physical looks – and my body at the same time. They meet in my body’s ability. Screw Inner Beauty indeed – what you want is inner strength. And preferably outer as well.

So I can count calories and calculate protein/carb/fat percentages in my diet without spiraling into depression. I can increase the number of calories I eat in a day because I am worried I’m not eating enough for my activity level. And I can do it while losing weight. Or not. Whatever. And I can say fuck calorie counting today and move on with my day another. And eat pizza and enjoy it. And eat beet salad with great relish right after. I can hear people ramble on about their miracle diet and try to hide my eyes glazing over with boredom rather than whatever feelings of anguish diet talk seems to induce in a lot of FA people. (If they’re that on fire about it, my judgement is that the odds are 99% that it’s a crock of shit. But I’ll pretend to listen to be polite, they’ll notice it’s shit without my help eventually.) I can skip a workout and feel good about it. I just did the past two days and it was the right decision. I didn’t feel quite right and indeed, today I woke up with a cold. I can live in the sort of world you live in too. I really believe that the root of self-acceptance of all kinds, particularly as a woman, is to cherish your own ability and your strengths. To KNOW that you can make your way on your own mental and physical strength. (And pleasure… which is a whole other, but related, topic. Whom are you and your body to please, anyway, right?)

This is what I wanted to get across when I started this blog. That there existed this other path for those who reject or never quite understood the diet culture, but who weren’t happy in the mainstream fat acceptance movement either. That there is a world of women (and men) who use food for fuel and/or enjoyment as they need to. Women whose time in the gym doesn’t leave them bitter or miserable, but strong and full of energy. Women who are as excited, and usually more, by the weight on the bar as they are the weight on the scale. I’m not saying everyone should or would want to live in this world, but until I ‘discovered’ it in myself, I didn’t know it was even an option. So thanks to Runner for basically summing up my entire blog in couple of paragraphs.

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