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?!         

I also adore the illustrations he uses of people with lipodystrophy and other incidents of ill-placed body fat.   I watched one of his lectures, and those pictures provided such a “eureka” moment for me.  When people try to argue with me now that it’s just a “lifestyle” issue, I ask them to think about people they know – can they think of anyone with a huge belly and toothpick legs.  Everyone says, “yes.”  I ask them why that person chooses a different lifestyle for her legs than her tummy, and why she doesn’t rethink that?  Likewise, someone with distortedly large thighs.  Why not choose the same lifestyle for her thighs as her arms?  This helps people recognize that there are complex genetic and endocrine issues at play here that vary from individual to individual.

And I thank Mr. Taubes for acknowledging those issues, right before he becomes a single-minded, foaming-at-the-mouth zealot.

I have slogged through the first third of Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It.  I also peeked at the diet he proposes at the end.  I’m going to go ahead and write about what I have read so far, because I want to get my vitriol out, so that I may approach the middle of the book afresh, because I suspect (and hope) it may have something good to offer.

The first third, 86 pages, is dedicated to explaining that which is NOT making us fat, according to Taubes, calorie imbalance, and to repeating over and over and over that practicing calorie balancing does not happen.  At all.  Ever.  In dozens of ways he restates this point:

“…the diet advice our doctors and public-health authorities are invariably giving us is misconceived . . .  eating less and/or exercising more is not a viable treatment for obesity or overweight and shouldn’t be considered as such.  It might have short-term effects but nothing that lasts more than a few months or a year.”  (p. 79)

In other words, I don’t exist.  Nor does my friend Mary in New York (10 years, more than 100 pounds), nor Marilyn in North Carolina (18 years, more than 100 pounds), nor Jared Fogle, for that matter, at your local Subway store (10 years, more than 200 pounds, eating mandatory sandwiches), nor Carol on your Leslie Sansone DVDs (10 years, 60 pounds).   Nor do many of the participants here.  I know we have some primarians, since I have attracted some readers from RTR, but many of us are doing the balance thing:  Attack Laurel, No Celery, Vickie, Debby, Lynn (who lurks but does not speak).   From what I can tell, and correct me if I’m wrong, we are calorie balancers or point counters who exercise (a variation on that theme).  We may have adapted diets that are lighter on the carbs, for a variety of reasons.  I have recently dramatically cut my grains and that has helped my joints, for example.  But I haven’t eliminated them entirely, and I don’t eschew potatoes, bananas or other carb-rich foods.  I’ll even eat an occasional ice cream or custard treat, or a piece of my mother-in-law’s pie.  Moreover, until recently, I did my maintenance on a Mediterranean “foodie” diet, heavy in whole grains, for more than five years, and balanced on the exercise side with running.  

Pubsgal has an adapted diet because she deals with Type II diabetes, but I think you balance calories too, no?  Your exercise includes triathaloning, right?  Be careful how you answer that, because if you do balance calories, you don’t exist according to Taubes.

Granted, we are outliers, but there are at least as many of us as there are Duke University low-carb adherents (the diet Taubes presents at the end of the book).   The Duke diet is similar to Atkins, and I’m willing to bet that long-term, we outnumber them too.  The NWCR (and you know my mixed feelings about that think tank) seems to have found more of us than the high-protein, high-fat/low-carbers, and I don’t think it’s simply because we’re more likely to be “joiners” than Atkins’ folk. 

In addition to repeating himself about the futility of calorie balancing, he presents a number of arguments that are just exasperating.  I kept finding myself writing in the margins, “yes, but there could be a variety of explanations for this” or “this doesn’t clearly prove your position.” NewMe referred me to a review at Weighty Matters, which I have now read, that explains more clearly than I can why one may be uncomfortable with Taubes’ assertions.  

In addition to making several incomplete arguments for his position, Taubes’ language gets downright snarky.  One of my notes asks whether this is a science journalist or a political pundit talking.  On page 81, where he talks about challenging the common wisdom of calories in/calories out, he repeats, with dramatic petulance, “That’s not allowed” in two different places.  It IS allowed, you nincompoop; that’s why you get to have two books published by major publishing houses doing just that.  Trust me, YOUR THOUGHTS ARE IN THE MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS.  Stop playing “martyr.”  It doesn’t become you, and it no longer fits.

Maybe the reason the rest of the scientific community, as well as the diet-hungry public, hasn’t embraced your theory wholeheartedly is because it’s as incomplete as calories in/calories out, and because low-carb dieting has proved itself as ineffective (or more so) long term than calorie balancing.  We all remember the low-carb surge at the beginning of this century, the New Atkins Revolution, which was so popular it affected the grain markets, for crying out loud.  This 2003 agriculture article bemoans, “. . . as low-carb diets have increased in popularity, flour consumption in the United States has plummeted to record lows. Domestic use of flour has dropped for two years running, something that has not happened since the 1950s, the government says.”  And yet, despite all this low-carb dieting we didn’t see record numbers of people get trim and remain that way.  The center of the bell curve representing our average weight keeps its relentless march to the right.   Fatter and fatter we get, on average.

I would want to ask Taubes and others who are stuck to one position, why does this have to be so fraught with emotion and politics anyway?  Yes, let’s keep testing insulin resistance, and let’s test other endocrine components of this problem.  And let’s figure out what makes it possible for some of us to balance calories using behavior while others cannot.  And let’s not assume it’s because we balancers somehow got the word that it is a “lifestyle change,” while the other fat people think they can “return to their old ways” after they have dieted.   And let’s acknowledge that fat and formerly fat people are individuals, and may be fat for a variety of reasons, and that we may find clues to these reasons in their endocrine profile and even in their body shape. 

When I was big, I was a cello:  45”-35”-49”.  Is it possible that my basic shape may make my calorie balancing easier (though not by any means easy) than for an apple-shaped person.  What about inverted triangle people?  What does their endocrine profile say about them and their challenges?  What about people who store their fat in their thighs?  Why must we insist that only one thing makes us fat (whether it’s a calorie imbalance OR issues with carbohydrate sensitivity OR something else).  Why do we insist on confining obesity to any kind of narrow or single explanation?

I will now go read Barbara Berkeley’s review of the book.  I know she’s a fan of the man (she posted one of his lectures on her site), and I hope she may prepare my brain better to accept what I may read in the center of the book.  After clicking over, I see she’s been inspired to write her own opinions on why we get fat too, and I’m willing to bet I’ll find more common ground with her than Taubes.

In the meantime, I’ve got a question for my maintainer friends:  what was your basic body shape as a big person, and how do you think that affects your maintenance now?

(Note:  Edited after publication for accuracy.  Gary Taubes does not have a doctorate, and his books are published by more than one major publishing house.)

  1. I really feel removed from the protein vs. carbs debate. Just doesn’t move me, one way or the other.

    However, I did read Barbara Berkeley’s review of Taubes’s book and noticed that she had come to the same conclusion as the BBC documentary I watched on the Atkins system some time back (sorry, I can’t remember the details, you’ll have to search on the Internet yourself): Atkins devotees don’t eat huge numbers of calories per day. They actually do cut down the number of calories they eat because they are relatively limited in what they are allowed to eat, the diet does help to make them feel full and they just get bored with the limited choices and end up eating less.

    I’m not a fervid calorie counter either (though I do admit to doing it to a certain extent–the HORROR!), but calories do have a least a little bit to do with the whole complicated, horrible conundrum. At least as far as I can see.

    Full disclosure: Both my breakfast and lunch included both protein and complex carbs (and a little non-complex carb treat at lunch). I hope I’m not doomed……

    • You are sooooo doomed NewMe. I think maybe you need to throw a last big party before you just keel over. Free advice. Freely given.

      • OK, if I decide to throw the big party, can I count on you, Debra, and your marvellous readers to come? It just wouldn’t be the same without you!

        And what should I serve: water (sparkling or plain), fruit, grass-fed beef, cheese made from the milk of organically raised animals, organic veggies, whole grain bread…or just a big chocolate cake made with real white sugar and real white flour and real artificial lemon filling (that was my fave as a kid) with a big “au revoir” written in white icing on top?

      • You know, as I read your choices, NewMe, I am acutely aware of just how successfully I’ve “trained” my tastebuds. I want the health nut stuff.

    • I dont count calories either, but after reading this book I lost 44lbs in one year. However I should mention that this isn’t a protein vs carbs debate, its a fat vs carbs. Each diet maintains that protein should be eaten in moderation, but one extolls fat for energy the other carbs.

      I know this idea goes against everything we are taught, but give it six months and you will learn so much about your body that you’ll slap yourself. Carbs can of course be eaten in moderation with little or no side effects, but the scary point is that LARGE amounts of fat can be eaten with equally no detriment to your health, as long as carbs are not present you will not get fat, in fact you may loose weight if you are obese.

      You know the reason there are so many people who are unable to control their weight? It’s because they think fat is fattening, and whole grains are healthy. For anyone who wants to know how their body actually works, read this book, then Google ‘Livin La Vida Low Carb’ by Jimmy Moore.

      • Hi, Simon. I’m allowing your comment through reluctantly. It reads like an ad, especially the last paragraph that speaks with such authority for everyone. It makes me edgy. All of our bodies are different. I’m glad you feel good about something you have found for you. If I were you I would remain alert, especially since it sounds like you just lost the 44 pounds, may actually still be losing. Your own body is wiser about you than Gary Taubes is, and it contains many more hormones, peptides, genetic markers and other contributing factors than insulin and cortisol (which Taubes seems to think are the only relevant ones). Good luck in your future endeavors.

  2. I’ve been reading since the beginning, but I think this is my first comment. I find your blog very interesting to read. I found you via Shakesville via Fat Acceptance.

    I love what you’ve said about body shape. There was a lot of talk a few years back about how anyone with a waist larger than 35″ was X times more likely to get heart disease. I got so angry at that because I cannot control where my body stores my fat. I am an inverted triangle. At my thinnest, I was 48″-38″-38″. I am currently 48″-40″-39″. At my heaviest, I was 50″-45″-40″. I do not have very much fat on my legs or arms, it is all on my stomach and in my breasts [38F].

    I am disabled and participate in those communities and one observation that often comes up is this: is person X disabled because they’re fat or fat because they’re disabled. I am a mix. My thinnest isn’t particularly thin, but all the medication I ended up on made me my fattest and now I do what I can when I can but listen to my body and rest when I need to.

    • Listening to your body is a lot more reliable than listening to most other sources of “wisdom.” Welcome out of the shadows, Amy!

  3. Debra, I can’t wait to quote your “single-minded, foaming-at-the-mouth zealot” line on a Taubes post I’ve been working on for a while ;).

    Do you follow Paul Jaminet’s blog? He just posted an article that mentions Taubes and addresses my concern with Taubes’ theories (that it can’t just be carbs) in a really plausible way:

    BTW, I’m not a cello, I’m more like a Pom bottle! I’m not at the point where I’m maintaining, but I can say for sure that balancing calories in and out has never worked for me. Now that I’m doing something pretty close to Paul’s diet, I’m in a pretty good place … both sustained weight loss *and* a clear and happy head. So for me at least, I’m finding it has to do a lot with the foods that keep brain hunger/appetite manageable.

    • Interesting stuff, Beth. I visited Jaminet, then I went to your site. Wowsa, girl, you’ve been workin’ the keyboard like a madwoman! Good stuff, too.

      A lot of the Jaminet stuff I have integrated for other reasons, based on body wisdom, if you will, over time. No HFCS or vegetable oils. I’ve not only limited wheat, but all grains. Recently, I have been thinking about re-evaluating the other grains and re-introducing them one-by-one and slowly. Perhaps I’ve thrown out a baby with my bathwater. The only place I think I may differ with your Jaminet friend, I’m an enthusiastic fruit eater, and I get the sense, he’s cautious about fruit. Oh, well. They give me a sense of well being, and I think there’s something to it.

      • I buy a lot of the paleo concepts re we should eat what we’re adapted to, but I also subscribe to the idea that we can/should include other foods that are net healthy for us. For me, that likely includes dairy and probably some grains (why I like Paul’s approach). I’m also paying lots of attention to the Weston Price folks, as I think if you’re going to eat grains, preparing them via traditional methods (e.g., as cultures have done for thousands of years) is a good idea. Ultimately, I really like Darya Pino’s position on grains:

        Re fruit, the Jaminet’s are moderate fruit proponents, so I don’t think you’re too far off. Me, I’m with Lustig on that one. When fructose is packaged in whole fruit with fiber, it’s nowhere near the problem that it is in products with added HFCS or other sugars. That said, I suspect higher fruit intakes are better suited to maintainers like you than to folks like me who still have a long way to go!

  4. I haven’t posted lately, but I’ve continued reading your blog religiously. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have much to contribute to the discussion since I’m really only a two-year maintainer (of 65 pounds). When I hear what many of the people here go through to maintain their loss long-term, I wonder if I can put that much work into it. The fact that I don’t now, I worry, has more to do with being in the coasting-at-the-bottom-of-the-hill stage (see, I am reading!) than with any maintenance method I’ve gotten right.

    Like NewMe, I don’t count calories in any detailed way. I also don’t avoid carbs, follow any specific diet, or (God forbid!) trust myself to eat intuitively. I’m a rule follower. I’ve posted on here before, I think, that I read and re-read the Kessler book. The only really empirically motivated part of the advice section seemed to bear out the idea that if you set unbreakable rules, you gain control over eating impulses. I’ve had some luck with that. I don’t eat “questionable meat” (any meat that might contain hormones or antibiotics) or gratuitous carbs (plain bread or pasta that just serves as a conduit for fats, like mac & cheese) or fried potatoes (specific, I know, but they’re a particular weakness). I don’t eat at all after dinner and wait two hours after each meal to eat again. These rules seem to work for me, for now.

    It seems like many of us who lost weight did it with different approaches – some focused more on working out and some more on eating habits. Some joined formal programs, some had surgery, some joined online communities, some went low-carb, some low-fat. There seems to be a great deal of acceptance for various means of losing weight. Your suggestion, Debra, that we may also find different methods of maintaining that work for us – and that these methods may be related to genetics – seems so logical that I don’t understand what could be controversial about it.

    Oh, and I’d say before I lost weight, my proportions were pretty much exactly what you described yours as.

  5. Good to hear from you, Jen. Two years is nothing to sneeze at, and listening to your body, as you do, without obsession, is a dandy idea. Over-confidence is no one’s friend, but terror is no picnic either. You sound like you’re balancing as well as anyone can. Moreover, from what I read of your posting here, your “natural” dimensions may serve you well for maintenance (just a private theory of mine) and nothing you describe about your eating will kill you. Keep your toe in the water here, and don’t be afraid to jump in the fray. Let us know what you learn, as you learn it.

  6. Hi Debra, I think I might have been an ‘ hourglass’ before I got old. Is that one of the choices? Like even when I was heavy, something like 56-44-5 6 ?? For obvious reasons I didn’t measure myself too often! But now that I’m older, I am heavier around the middle, or at least, that is where the weight goes first. When I was younger it definitely loaded onto my chest and my hips first.

    • Hourglass, I think is pretty much like cello, except that the waist is even more pronounced. By older, do you mean post-menopausal? Is that when I might plan for shape change to set in?

  7. Debra- I’m very close to your measurements before you lost weight.

    I notice that a couple of other people have posted to say that they’re built similarly. I’ve been told by others in the fat acceptance community at various times that I have “shape privilege,” that I’m “not really fat,” (even though my BMI is well into the obese range), and that I don’t know what it’s like to experience real weight bias (because of how I look).

    And, this is sort of true. For the last twenty years, I haven’t been able to stay single for more than a few months, and as far as I know, I haven’t experienced any weight-based discrimination in the workplace. I get nagged by doctors, and that’s pretty much it. Years ago, I stopped posting pictures of myself anywhere but on dedicated fatshion pages because so many people reacted negatively to them.

    So, I tend to think that it’s easier for me to be size accepting in a personal sense than it is for many others. My size is offset by my shape, socially.

    I guess my question is, if you’re a healthy fat person who’s physically active and who has a conventionally attractive figure, is losing weight and spending the rest of your life micromanaging your food intake and exercise really worth it? How so? Because for me, I don’t see how it would be.

  8. From a health standpoint, with no co-morbidities, you’re right, there’s probably no reason to be the food hound and exercise nut that I am. (Though I did have one “bad” and one “borderline” cholesterol reading in my bigger body — high LDL, low HDL, 220 to 240 overall. Now my cholesterol readings are ideal. Whether that’s enough to justify what I do is questionable, still.)

    What I notice regarding acceptance and thin privilege is that now I get to wear whatever I want, and I’m taken seriously. Before, if I wore a power suit and put on tasteful make-up, I was on pretty even footing with everyone else, regardless of size — my ideas were taken seriously, I got decent treatment in stores, etc. Now, I’m taken seriously in sweats and jeans too, and without make-up. So a little bit of the time trade-off for exercise, etc. is compensated for with a less strenuous body prep routine.

    I can remember a dramatic example of when I was marginalized in my larger body because I was dressed for necessary grunge work, but also needed to command some respect — I was managing a theatre building at the time, running a bridal show, and an incident of fat discrimination was so obvious to me. This clown refused to move her cake display from the fire exit, and just wasn’t going to take instructions from me, and somehow I knew it was because I was a fat chick (maybe she bodychecked me or something). I could have kicked her out of the show, but that would have created bad will with the other booth holders. I ended up enlisting the help of one of the other booth holders (a trim woman friend of hers) to get her to do what she needed to do. It just made me seethe that I had to do that. There were other times in that theatre setting where a particular male colleague would listen to me when I was dressed for success and treat me like dirt when I was not. (That was fat discrimination tinged by sexism. Oh, boy!) He even offered me fashion “pointers” to enhance my assests, and would compliment me when I wore my red power suit. What a guy.

    Mostly, I do this now because it’s become my passion. I see a society that has been screwed up by weight issues (society has a “weight problem,” in my opinion; individual people do not). For some dumb reason, I’m one of the people who can maintain weight loss. I am driven to pick this apart and figure it out, and I have the luxery to do that.

  9. I don’t think I’ve got as much of a problem with getting treated disrespectfully as you did. It’s only happened to me a few times, and only when I was dressed like an absolute bum (sweats or shorts and tee shirt). Or, who knows. Maybe I don’t notice it because I’ve never been thin.

    No. Actually, I think it’s my attitude. I think I’ve got sort of an air of authority (or perhaps bitchiness 🙂 Friends have commented on how I tend to get good service, and I feel really comfortable directing people, to be honest. Maybe it’s because I’m an oldest child, or because my parents were well educated and were in positions of authority when I was growing up, and I copied their behavior. Maybe it’s because I went to fairly snotty schools (in spite of being from a struggling single parent family) and learned how to act entitled from my classmates.

    But I think you’re from a similar – and perhaps more stable – background? Hum… it sure would be interesting to study how that works.

  10. As far as respect goes, there are other factors that cannot be forgotten. For me, it’s height. I’m well under 5′ tall and shrinking (degenerative joints in the spine). I KNOW that I have to project a huge sense of control and competence to be taken as seriously as a somewhat dingbatty woman. To be taken as seriously as I deserve is a constant effort. That’s why I like the phone–and fortunately, most of my first (and sometimes only) contacts with clients are on the phone, a place where I shine.

  11. I’m mostly a lurker, but I wanted to address a couple of things in this post since I have lost and maintained for 8.5 years with a low-carb way of eating (and am also a participant in the NWCR).

    I believe that the reason that the NWCR has found more calorie restricting maintainers than low-carb may be due to their own low-cal/low-fat bias. When I first filled out their forms it was very difficult for me to accurately describe my diet with the choices that were given. Things have changed over the years, and I hope that the intake forms have changed to include a wider variety of strategies that people use to maintain their weight.

    That being said, I think all long-term maintainers, whatever their strategies, are outliers. Whether fat or thinner my body shape has also always been a “cello”. I spent years “successfully” calorie counting and low-fat dieting only to rebound horribly. I could only contain my hunger for so long before it became overwhelming. Low-carb/high-fat was/is the only way for me to eat without feeling hungry all the time which is unsustainable for me.

  12. Hi, Sweet Tart. I find the NWCR forms difficult/confusing too, so I don’t know that it’s a bias against low-carb. Sometimes they provide really aggravating choices, like not even OFFERING the largest portion size to describe certain foods we might eat. I wish they’d just give us a box for an essay where we could fill in the missing pieces. Since they don’t, I write them memos in the margins or full-blown letters to go with my responses. I hope you inflict your thoughts on them too. Who knows whether they read them, but they should.

    So you’re a low-carbing cello. I find that interesting. Thanks for responding to my question. You’re a cello nonetheless. Hey, people, are there any reduced apple maintainers out there?!

  13. I haven’t read Taubes’ books (either of them), so I can’t fairly critique his rhetoric or comment on his review of the available research. However, I am familiar with the ketogenic diet that has been shown to effectively treat about a third of children who experience seizures. The extremely low carbohydrate intake, moderate protein and high fat diet (actually very high fat; it varies somewhat depending on the specific professional’s recommendation, but often 4:1 ratio of fat to protein/carb combined) changes the lives of young patients (and their families!) in a significant percentage of those treated with the diet. Yet another third seem to show measureable improvement (fewer seizures) but not the complete elimination of seizures, and about a third (unfortunately) show either no improvement at all or the diet is abandoned because it is too difficult to follow long term (social and cultural barriers against a strict low carb/high fat diet, evidently, are enormous even for children and well-motivated parents).

    Now, I realize that I am writing here about a completely different cohort. Seizures are not related to obesity, right? The thing is, science cannot yet explain exactly why a very low carb diet works so effectively for some patients (children) with seizures and yet remains ineffective for so many others.

    But for the parents of those children who no longer suffer seizures after being treated with the ketogenic diet, well, the diet must seem like a godsend. I would imagine that those parents are ecstatic and want to sing praises about this unusual treatment, even though it is very difficult to follow (difficult to prepare special meals, plan, and so forth.)

    For people who have weighed over 300 or 400 lbs or more, who then find a solution that leaves them feeling good and satisfied (say, at 200 lbs, for instance), and their new size allows them to be rid of their back pain, for example, and allows them to participate in activities that they had once loved but given up(such as water skiing or back packing), well, even though the percentage of those folks may be much smaller than Taubes claims, I imagine they sing the praises of the diet quite loudly.

    Personally, I am still in the experimental stage. I seem to be maintaining right now, but it is at a weight much higher than the number of calories I eat should yield (theoretically, based on calories in vs. calories burned concept). *sigh* Mostly, I remain certain of one thing: good research is lacking and science can tell us little (still!) about the complexity & diversity of human bodies. Okay, maybe that was 2 things. 🙂

  14. Can someone tell me what I am, besides short and plump?

    I definitely don’t think that there’s one part of me that takes the brunt of my avoirdupoids more than another. I’ve got fat thights, a round tummy, fairly generous breasts, a good tush and a chubby face. I’m always surprised to note how many people have what I would term a “thin” face while their bodies are quite generous.

    When I lose weight, you can see it first in my face and my thighs but I’ve never in my sainted life lost the round tummy, though its size waxes and wanes with my weight changes. I do have a definite waist though.

    Help! Can anyone tell me what I am?

  15. Sorry, NewMe, I don’t know what shape I am either! I’ve never taken measurements (well, not since I sewed a hideous dress for myself at the age of 13!). When I was obese, my face and neck area show the fat much more than some other women of similar weight and height. (My mom was heavier for awhile, for instance, yet her face remained angular. Head shots of her did not reveal any difference in body weight.) If I gained 20 lbs, in the future, it would show in my face. That is one thing I disliked about being obese. On the other hand, I don’t have a gaunt look in my face even after massive weight loss.

    I guess it hasn’t occured to me before now to analyze my body’s shape! Other than my formerly fat chin/face, my body shape just seems proportional to me, maybe because it is the only body shape I’ve ever had.

  16. To NewMe, how do your clothes fit? Not any one thing, or even in one single style era, but do you have problems time and again with certain sizes fitting certain areas? That’s how I know I’m cello-shaped. Whether it’s at size 20 or at size 10, my waistband is gaping in order for me to get my butt/hips/thighs into pants. In fact, when I was pregnant a few years ago (before my weight loss), I never had to buy maternity clothes. Because of some godawful morning sickness, I didn’t gain too much weight and the baby bulge just sort of filled up the extra space I had in the waists of my clothes.

    • I’m probably replying too late for this to actually help anyone, but…
      The way clothes fit isn’t always accurate in judging your shape. If your pants waistband is gaping, it’s probably safe to say you’re a cello/hourglass. But most clothing manufacturers seem to assume women will have a moderate cello shape, so if everything seems about equally tight, or even if clothes are a little tighter in the waist, you may still be a cello. It’s probably better to take bust, waist, and hip measurements if you really care about figuring out your shape. From what I’ve been able to figure out, your “natural” waist is the narrowest part of your body that’s between your chest and your hips–this may be different from the waist measurement you’d take to see if clothes will fit.

      I would describe myself as a pear-ish cello/hourglass. My measurements are something like 40″, 31″, 44″. Pants that come up somewhere below my belly button are tightest in the upper thighs, loosest in the waist. On high-waisted pants (ones that come up a little above my belly button) they’re actually tightest in the waist. This may be related to the fact that my waist is kind of high. It’s midway between my belly button and my chest, about 4″ above my belly button. Back when I was a kid, someone taking my measurements also said I had a high waist, so I guess it’s always been that way.

      • Late, schmlate. Comment away. It’s interesting. Some days, even in defunct mode, I’m getting more than 250 “views.” Not of this one specific post, of course, but it’s a popular one. Taubes is a hot topic.

  17. I find the observations about faces interesting. My husband and I show our weight in our faces first too, and have noted other people who can readily lose and gain weight without it showing at all above the neck (which we find vexing). As far as observations go, it may be nothing, or it may also be indicative of a particular type of endocrine profile. Wouldn’t it be nice if some scientist took interest and studied this?

    NewMe — Jen’s on to something. What say you? I, too, am a confident cello, since I can fit a melon in the waistband of most brands of pants if they fit my bum.

  18. Yes, I think I’m a cello. Thank you, Jen.

    Debra, thanks for confirming that I’m not crazy and that you too have noticed those people whose faces never seem to change. Interesting that you would chalk it up to an endocrine profile. Hmmm. Hey, you scientists out there!! Help us out on this one.

  19. Hee. I am balanced, but not quite like you. I eat only when I want to eat, and only for as long as I can taste the food I’m eating (something I learned from a naturally slim friend, who is a super-taster). If I don’t love it, I won’t eat another bite. I’m also gluten-free.

    But, since I’m also an FA advocate, I don’t diet, and I don’t count calories (except to occasionally look at processed food “dinners” and marvel at the nasty ingredients that produce bland-tasting food). I also don’t exercise much, because I hate exercising, and can’t keep a schedule of exercise when I have better things to do with my time.

    But, I’ve maintained my weight loss by eating carefully. That is a kind of balancing act – being aware of what my body wants and what my mind wants and differentiating the two have allowed me to maintain the weight loss for over 15 years now.

  20. Oh, and I am an hourglass. I look smashing in 1940s and early ’50s “New Look” fashions. Interestingly, in 1940s sizes, I’m a perfect size 16 (Marylin Monroe was a 14, which, since I’m currently a size 10, makes her a size 8 in modern clothes).

    • Laurel, I believe you are the archtype “intuitive eater.” Another curvy, waist-defined person too. We seem to outnumber our apple friends in this pursuit. Hmmmm.

  21. I’d love you all to indulge me in a couple of observations.
    *think* I’d be an hourglass, though one of the sure signs that worried me and caused me to start losing weight was my waist measurement started creeping precariously close to my bust measurement. now zi have the reverse problem – a 20 cm discrepancy in between each of bust to waist and waist to hips.
    On the face front, I thought nobody had noticed increase in weight in my face until I was confronted with some before and after photos by my husband. I say confronted because I wasn’t seeing any difference in appearance in the mirror. in the before photos I look I’ve just had my wisdom teeth removed!
    I’ve also come to realise that I’d rather eat fresh fruit than make a cake using fake sugar, flour, butter etc. If I’m going to do something I’ll regret, I’d like to regret it with reckless abandon!
    Lastly, Debra, and everyone, I’d be interested in your thoughts on this article that appeared recently in the Australian press: It made me angry that the author spent half the article those who spruik products whilst hiding a conflict of interest, which she herself seems to be harbouring. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    • I don’t think Ms. Turner sees her affiliation with an eating disorders program as a conflict of interest, but as a credential. While I am, er, less enthusiastic about the benefits of HAES than she is, I don’t think it’s as dangerous as pharmaceuticals and surgery, so I’m not as uncomfortable with this article as I am with many. Her tenor is that of a sales rep, which is discomfiting, but at least she avoids “war” rhetoric.

  22. Gah! Typos galore. Curse the iPad keyboard…

  23. Well, Debra, I’d have to say that I…


    [cue crickets]

    • Okay, so you know I couldn’t leave it at that. 🙂

      I think it was a combination of both food choice and calorie control. You’re right, because of my type 2 diabetes, I follow a somewhat adapted diet. I went with more of a carb-counting approach – but even following a plan based on food servings, the number of food servings per day *is* based on calorie count, albeit indirectly.

      I’ve done some tracking, and my ratio of calories averages about 50-60% fat (about 1/3 of the fat is saturated), about 20-30% carb (I aim for at least 20 grams of fiber daily), and about 20-30% protein. I eat about 2000-2500 calories per day. When some unwanted pounds creep in there (*cough* holidays *cough*), I aim for about 1800 net calories. (I’m hoping this works, because I have some truly stubborn holiday overage hanging around my middle currently. Your comment about the lifestyle of body parts cracked me up!)

      So while I’m not exactly low carb (I eat about 110-120 net grams daily), I’m more of a “moderate carb” eater. I don’t eat much grain product starches, maybe 15-30 grams of my total carbs. (When I eat more of those, I tend to regain pretty quickly – see “holiday overage”.) The rest of my carbs come from veggies mostly, with some through dairy (usually 1 serving per day), fruit (2 or less servings), and some from nuts and legumes (just about any nut – I’m a squirrel) and seeds (flax & chia, which are mostly fiber and fat).

      And yes, maintaining apples do exist! (Or not, if you go by Taubes’ criteria.) Well, at least for a couple of years so far. I lost most of my inches from my bust, but I’ve noticed that the reason pants don’t fit me well is because I have consistently had a 5″ difference between my waist and hips. If you look in clothing catalogs, most pants are sized with a 10″ difference. So my choice is either go tight in the waist, or go baggy in the butt. (Usually the latter – I hate pants that are too tight in the waist.)

      Whew! Maybe TMI, but all the good discussion here got me going.

  24. Hooray, Pubsgal! Not only do you exist and maintain (and balance), but you are an apple. A lovely fruit, indeed.

    I appreciate the TMI. It helps me roll ideas in my head.

  25. I just heard an interview with Gary Taubes on the radio yesterday ( Click on the Jan. 25 program and go to around minute 30. The interviewer, Jian Ghomeshi, is a bit of a lightweight (pardon the pun), but the interview is interesting nevertheless.

    Some of what he has to say sounds interesting and some, well…I really don’t like it when someone compares food to cigarettes (i.e. carbs are the food equivalent of cigarettes for some people).

    The one thing that I can really agree with him on is that lean people are physiologically different from we weight-challenged shlubs.

    Anyway, I’d love to hear what people think of this interview.

  26. Thanks, NewMe. Everything, all the examples, in the interview, are in the book.

    What kills me is how Taubes acknowledges, in one breath, that it’s a complicated equation — that it’s hormonal, there’s a genetic component, people are different (at least he acknowledges that lean people are different from fat people). BUT the solution is SIMPLE: drop those carbs like a cigarette addict must drop cigarettes. So what if it’s hard?! Do it anyway. And calorie balancers don’t exist.

    Then, he doubles back, it’s not a complicated equation: obesity is merely the biochemistry and physiology of fat regulation.

    In the book, he’s even more confusing and contradictory.

    Your interviewer, Jian, was actually better than most. He questioned, played devil’s advocate, quoted some other contradictory opinions and even brought in Yoni Freedhoff for a guest quote, with which I completely agree. Essentially, Freedhoff said that in his attempt to simplify, Taubes’s ideas are dangerous. Yoni didn’t get specific. I will. ONE SIZE FITS ALL is dangerous.

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