Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

What is Maintenance? And Why I Like my “Job” Metaphor

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on January 31, 2011 at 11:24 am

What is maintenance?  It seems a simple, seemingly obvious, question.  Ali asked it in the last post’s comment section.   At first I was taken aback, because I thought I’d already answered it with my clever Job Description.  But I hadn’t.  Ali wanted to know whether maintenance is seeing the same number on the scale day after day after day.  Hmmmm.

For people at their highest natural weight, I think it can be.  I know when I was at my biggest, my body used its remarkable, dare I say miraculous, systems to maintain a weight, and often it was the same number day after day after day.  Most variances I could chalk up to something tangible, and many I could plot on a calendar:  the final days of my menstrual cycle would add two pounds to me, which would depart reliably on day two of my period, a day at the amusement park with salty popcorn and other water-retaining treats could add a pound or two for a day or two, then I was back at my number.   I didn’t need to concern myself over what a pound here or there meant, because my body would take care of it.  If a day hiking meant the scale showed me a pound down, I would hope it was truly a lost pound, but it never was.  It was back the next day, as faithful and reliable as the pounds that played on the other side of my equation.  I was in caloric balance.

Now that I maintain a weight that is lower than my highest natural weight, maintenance is not so easy to define.  We operate from slippery assumptions.  I can call myself a maintainer (and the NWCR accepts my proclamation) because today’s scale says I’m 57 pounds lighter than my all-time high.  However, I have been as much as 68 pounds below my all-time high.  So, am I really a maintainer, or am I a sloooooow yo-yo weight cycler?  I don’t know.  Is it important to know?  I don’t know that either.  Obsessing doesn’t seem practical.  But still, in the safety of this blog, let’s obsess a little.  Size acceptance advocate friends, proceed with caution, or don’t even click through.  (If it doesn’t make you mad, it will bore you, at best.)  Maintainer friends, let’s enter our dark territories. Read the rest of this entry »


Why We Are at War and What to do About It

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on January 26, 2011 at 11:14 am

I am still plodding through Taubes’s Why We Get Fat.  It’s slow going, because his language remains alienating.  He insults me with his word choice and tenor, and by asking me to throw out my narrow assumptions and replace them with his narrow assumptions.

First, his language.  He repeatedly refers to “the overweight and obese.”  Hasn’t he been in this field long enough to know how dehumanizing it is to define people this way:  to say you don’t have adiposity, you are your adiposity.  In this book, he’s writing for the lay audience, not the medical and scientific community whose brains are presumably immune to the influence of such short hand.  Because of this broad audience, it would simply be polite (I won’t marginalize it with the phrase “politically correct”) to talk about people, not conditions or characteristics who happen to walk, breathe, think, eat and poop.

His language is tinged with an anger that smacks of a martyr complex.  Apparently, his ideas are not venerated to his satisfaction, so, he believes, everyone who disagrees with him either lacks imagination, is ignorant and not very well read, is biased to believe that fat people are gluttonous and slothful (and he may have a point there, but not enough to justify his intense outrage), or is stuck in a post-World War II mentality that will not permit the equal consideration of ideas from scientists of German origin.  Huh?  Get real. Read the rest of this entry »

Unsolicited Review, Parts I and III

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on January 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm

My Mother advised me, when I was a child, that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, to say nothing at all.   But then she allowed that if I had constructive criticism to offer, I could do so if I began by saying something positive.  So, I will start by thanking Gary Taubes for the contributions he’s made to my life over the years. 

First I’d like to thank him for allaying my fears of dietary fat.  The world of women’s magazines had (in my yo-yo days) hijacked my brain and persuaded me to feed myself a completely unsatisfying diet.  I believe it was you, Mr. Taubes, who gave me back avocadoes and stir fry and salad dressing that has flavor.  You gave me permission to banish SnackwellsTM from my pantry forever.  How can I ever thank you enough?!       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 »

Queen for a Day

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on January 11, 2011 at 11:02 am

In the discussion of my last post, Viajera asked me what I would do if I were queen of the National Weight Control Registry.  Ah, what an irresistible question!

I think for those of us who have committed to living in a state of weight-loss maintenance for as long as we are able and have submitted our names to the registry, the NWCR comes to represent many things.  It is our annual call-to-account.  Its presence hangs with us, not like a cloud, an itch, a funny smell or any kind of bad thing, but like the periodic recollection of a smart but nosy sister who lives in a distant city, and with whom we only touch base once a year.  She is guaranteed to ask about our weight – sometimes she grills us at length – and she’ll judge us, gently, if we’ve regained, so we anticipate our meetings with her with mixed feelings – angst, indignation, smugness, humility.   

I can’t say I’ve ever turned down a specific piece of my mother-in-law’s pie because of the NWCR.  I’ve never “prepared” for the arrival of the form by dieting or ramping up my exercise.  I pretty much continue with life as usual, but I have a sense of her always, and I’m sure she affects me.  This is pathetic to admit, but I probably think about the NWCR as much as I think about my own breathing sisters, who each live more than 100 miles away in different cities.  And I gotta give the NWCR credit, she may have all kinds of opinions about my weight, but she hasn’t lifted an eyebrow with regard to my housekeeping (or told me I should hold a garage sale).

In addition to being the nosy sister in Rhode Island, for those of us on her rolls, the NWCR is an affirmation (once all the cheering for our weight loss has long gone silent).  

Perhaps I’m being overly bold and should speak only for myself.  For me, she is affirmation.  I know many (most?) other Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts on Science, Optimism and Bias

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on January 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Happy New Year!  Hope you all had lovely holidays.  It’s good to be back at the blog, and back on the internet, for that matter.  (Long story involving words like #!%^&$!#!!, and a whole lotta bad Karma directed at AT&T.)

Between holiday adventures and internet mayhem, I managed to slip in a post about one of my weight maintenance peccadilloes – my ability to measure fluid in ounces using my gulp mechanism.  I must admit that when I get that personal, I do feel a bit self-conscious and self-indulgent, but I think it’s instructive – for me, mostly, but also for others who participate in the fray.  We broke into a lovely discussion about the admirable pursuit of goals, and when that pursuit crosses an invisible line and becomes something less noble.  I don’t think we reached any conclusions, but I came away recommitted to the idea that I should NEVER suggest, “if I can do this anyone can.”  Even if it’s true that anyone CAN do what I do, maybe not everyone should.  One person’s pursuit of a goal may be, in all likelihood, another person’s gateway to disorder.

Somehow, in the comments, RNegade was possessed to share a couple of science-related links.  (Whew!)  My favorite was this New Yorker article by Jonah Lehrer on the “Decline Effect” that happens to our sense of scientific certainty.   This “Decline Effect” is part of a larger problem with bias in science that misshapes our understanding of a variety of social and medical issues.  I put the phrase in quotes, because, as Lehrer notes, “This phenomenon doesn’t yet have an official name, but it’s occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology. In the field of medicine, the phenomenon seems extremely widespread . . .”   

As I understand it, the “Decline Effect” happens when the scientific method, and all its noble precepts, leads a scientist (or team) to discover a statistically significant anomaly, Read the rest of this entry »