Rules of Engagement

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on February 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm

In the comments section of my last post, it became apparent that I need to create a page, to appear with the Disclaimer and “About” pages, that establishes some rules.  Since we are a disparate community with two primary groups, weight-loss maintainers and size acceptance proponents, it is easy to see how something said by one may rub another wrong.   Actually, what I have found amazing is how we are on the same basic pages. 

 We agree that:    

  • Fat people, on average, are as smart and well informed as naturally trim people and people who are intentionally weight reduced.  
  • Diet culture has disappointed all of us, repeatedly. 
  • Science is incomplete and confusing, rife with arrogance and bias, and often does not advance health or well being, especially with regard to human body weight.  
  • The medical profession, which relies on science and is influenced by diet culture, does not give fat people equal regard to trim people.  Moreover, it has no idea what to do with body weight as it fits into the overall health picture, given its disease model, which promotes problem solving and fixing broken things, rather than nuanced lifetime strategies for dealing with issues that are not clearly broken.
  • Public policy has also been influenced negatively by incomplete and biased science, as well as diet culture.

This common ground has led to interesting discussions.  Perhaps these bullet points are the beginning of a set of site assumptions. 

Despite this common ground, our differences occasionally lead to inadvertent slights or well intentioned challenges that cross the line and become attacks.  Most of these kerfuffles, day to day, are manageable and can be gently set right.  They become more difficult when someone intrudes with an agenda that includes self-promotion.  Even self-promoters, however, can have good hearts and if they had a page to consult, they might not go so far astray.

My goal is to create a space where discussion is free but safe.  Both of the primary communities here are tender and vulnerable.   Social pressure to lose weight (always assumed to be permanent) has created enormous tension for all of us.  Fat people who embrace their size are told they are in denial, lazy or ignorant.  Weight-loss maintainers are lauded for a “healthy” lifestyle that they dare not question or critique (and God forbid their weight start to slide).  Both groups operate in a society that is happy with insufficient information and a glut of unhelpful opinions.  We must challenge the cultural mythology that makes all of us miserable, and here are a few of my thoughts on a framework for doing that. 

  1. It is always okay to challenge Debra, the convener.  I am the author of this blog.  I’m putting my ideas out there for critical examination.
  2. It is always okay to challenge cultural mythology from any public medium:  magazines, blogs, etc.
  3. It is always okay to challenge scientists – their conflicts of interest, their methodology, their conclusions, their assumptions.  Scientists are in the field to advance our knowledge, and if they make a bad call, we need to call them on it.
  4. It is always okay to challenge the medical field.  Our health may depend on it.  When we see the dietary equivalent of blood letting, for example, let’s go after it.
  5. It is always okay to challenge public policy that advances weight bias in place of good health practices.
  6. It is okay to correct one another on facts, or present opposing evidence, but opinions are to be handled with care.

Everyone here may self-define and we should all feel free to examine our personal assumptions in light of the topic of the day or the research in question (without fearing that our noses will be shoved into humble pie). 

Some of us are weight-loss maintainers who are only now stepping down from (or breaking free of) the lofty pedestals we stood atop (were mounted on) during our weight-loss phase.  Others have been struggling with maintenance for some time.  Many of us have chosen the difficult path of promoting size acceptance while practicing something other than the recommended health program of that movement, “Health At Every Size.”  Are we hypocrites?  Most of us are willing to entertain that idea in private, but we feel no need to make a fundamental change until science and medicine hands us better information.  We do know that yo-yoing is the least healthy thing to do, so many of us have dug in our heels, and we are watching to see our personal experiments play out.  Maintainers appreciate when our size acceptance buddies let us just go about our business, mostly unmolested.   In exchange, we may reveal something useful for respectful discussion in your other forums.

The size acceptance proponents here, especially if they are personally fat, have access to unlimited disrespect and disgust from mainstream media.  They don’t need to feel like they’re getting more of that here.  They don’t need to be subjected to any weight-loss maintenance cheerleading, and we maintainers are perfectly capable of talking about the process without pushing it.  If we want inspiration for ourselves, there are bazillions of sites that provide just that.  This site need not be one of them. 

In order to make sure that these assumptions and rules play out, I would add one more precept:  that the site convener (that would be me, Debra) reserves the right to limit the number of comments from any particular poster, or ban posters all together.  I would number that as “7.”

What am I leaving out, with regard to assumptions and rules?  I know I couldn’t have possibly thought of it all.

  1. once again i find myself feeling gratitude and deep respect for your (debra’s) sensitivity, wisdom & grace under pressure. i appreciate the link to haes article, which is one of the most succinct & compelling explanations of the haes perspective (that gets muddled too often.)

    these are good rules. 🙂 the “seven” limit comment thing left me scurrying back to check how many comments i’ve left at previous posts.

    if i ever step out of line with an inadvertantly insensitive or harsh comment, i hope to be told, and i hope to respond kindly.

    however, i feel shallow when i refer to the rewards i experience (for now) related to weight loss…sort of like my newly uncovered fascination with fashion (looking, alas, not purchasing). so, i am an unemployed working-class socialist harboring admiration for expensive frivolities, an atheist with an appreciation for many spiritual ideas, and a haes advocate pursuing first hand knowledge about the process and consequences of weight loss. in other words, a bundle of human contrasts. looks like im in excellent company. 🙂

    • You and DeeLeigh can make me nervous sometimes, RNegade, but you take care of yourselves pretty well, and keep your boundaries. I don’t think you’ve abused your comment license.

      In some ways, I feel a little guilty that you found my site, because, clearly (if weight loss and maintenance may be compared to a marital commitment that frequently ends in divorce), I’m ruining the wedding reception, and may also ruin your entire honeymoon. I am the sloppy drunk sister-in-law with the runny mascara who found the microphone and announced that I married into this family and I AM what your future holds. (Burp, weak smile, passes out.)

      • maybe that’s one of the most seductive aspects of weight loss, the honeymoon, that is, because the beginning apparently can feel so fabulous, but sooner or later one discovers the ugly truth about one’s avowed-for-life lover.

        is this all an evolutionary mistake, then, this pleasured phase…with no warning offered (or heeded) to turn back before the lust turns to regret? does it become self fulfilling prophecy if one goes into the partnership knowing fully the odds? yet if one does not believe it is possibile to beat those odds, then why does anyone (sane) try this?

        to experience the process and describe it? to prove it can’t be done long-term, or at least done without putting forth an extraordinary, near crazy-making effort?

        i dont know. actually. i only hear the stories in my consciousness.

        my entire life has been an experience of…struggling, to survive mostly. of not having any certainty. of facing down monsters. of seeing the world as a potentially good place to live, in spite of the monsters…while knowing that no one escapes unharmed.

        with all the horrors on the globe, i doubt weight regain will play any significant role in my painful confrontation with reality. the death of loved ones…yes, huge. but becoming obese again? *shrug*

        weight loss/weight regain is not a battlefield. it is not a site of major drama. our culture tries hard to make it one, yet that is another distraction from more critical issues–such as the number of tent cities forming across the land, global climate change, growing prison populations, shrinking retirement funds…

        yes, it plays an important role, like the role of a shadow memory.
        thus, it is interesting. but not nearly as interesting as the real drama behind the shadow.

        i am not in control of my fate, not in control of what i eat, not in control of how i will die…not in control of anything. i find myself along for the ride. im not driving the car.

        anything can happen. anything. isnt that remarkable?

  2. Debra,

    As usual, you are brilliant. When I read your blog and the comments of readers like RNegade and others I so wish we could have a mini meeting in real life. I feel have a great deal of respect and affection for many of the people who are regulars on this site.

    I’m totally on board with the parameters you’ve laid out. Just kick me if I cross the line.

    And BTW, I’m part way through a post where I mention blood letting too as a previously valid, widely accepted medical intervention. Dare I say, great minds…

  3. Very well-balanced and nuanced guidelines. Thank you.

  4. Debra, may I gently suggest you get rid of the google ads? I strongly suspect they are going to alienate your audience (currently there is one for “slim band” on the site–whatever that is.) It just seems to impinge on your integrity.

  5. Alana, do you know how I can do that? I notice on my home computer, which is on Internet Explorer, I get no ads, but there are some “automatically generated” links that WordPress (or someone) thinks might be of interest to readers. When I look at the page on my I-phone, however, I see the ads/links. My I-phone is loaded with Safari. Needless to say, I haven’t invited those ads and have received no remuneration for them. I figured they were the burden of having a mostly free blog (I now pay so that people may type in rather than the longer If there is a way to get rid of the ads, that would be spectacular!

    • What probably makes the difference in your home computer is that you’re logged into WordPress when you see the page, and WordPress doesn’t show the ads to logged-in account holders. A quick way to check would be to log into WordPress on your iPhone and then check for the ads.

      WordPress will eliminate the ads for a fee (I think maybe $30 per year?).

      By the way, I just discovered your blog and am finding it fascinating. I’m a fat woman who stumbled into size acceptance a couple years ago, just as my husband was joining Weight Watchers. He proceeded to lose close to 100 pounds and is in his first year of maintenance. All the while, we’re pretty militant about keeping body-negative, pro-diet messages away from our young kids. We’re a blended family, I guess.

      • Welcome, Bobbini! If you don’t think it will strain the marriage, invite your husband to join the fray. (Or hoard us for yourself. That’s okay too.) Thanks for the advice. I think $30 would be worth getting rid of the triggering/inappropriate ads. I’ll look into that.

  6. Hi Debra, thanks for setting out these guidelines, but mostly thank you for your articulate posts that bring such an interesting community of commenters together! I’ve just emerged (blinking) into the light after ending a long-term relationship with WeightWatchers and I’ve been looking for some new perspectives on weight/life/food. This site been really helpful, and I hope you don’t mind if I stick around, even if I’m not sure where (or even if) I fit in! Thanks again.

  7. I am again, impressed and grateful.
    I long for dialogue with people who are grappling with making their own rules work best for them. Thanks for setting the parameters.

  8. I’m totally impressed with the rules. They left me with a good, secure feeling. You are a very good writer, IMO and I’m very glad to be able to “lurk” and absorb the good things that happen here. Thank you.

  9. Yep. Thumbs up. I do love a good debate, but just as a way to hash out truths.

  10. WordPress generates those ads–and you have to pay to get rid of them? My word. I hadn’t known, though I confess I was surprised to see the ads on your site. I use Blogger and (so far) ads are something we may opt into, not out of. (fingers crossed it stays this way.)

    Bobbini–I love your expression you are a blended family.

    And yes, please let me add my heartfelt gratitude that you have such a welcoming blog. It’s important, too, that you define the rules for the conversation. Well done. I haven’t a fit where I “fit” into the conversation, either, just really glad there’s a safe place to think and learn.

  11. I agree – I think those are perfectly reasonable rules, and should help set up safe boundaries for conversation.

    Re: the ads – I can’t help DebraSY remove them from the site, but I can recommend a way for (at least some) users to avoid seeing them. If you’re running Firefox or Chrome, just install the AdBlock extension – it works like a charm! I’d imagine – but don’t know for sure – that there are similar apps for other browsers.

  12. Debra, your illustrations crack me up–that one about being the sloppy drunk sister-in-law at the wedding reception is priceless.

    I promise you will never have to worry about me making more than seven comments LOL.

  13. Debra, this is OT for this particular thread and is more of a response to the entire blog – I came here via The Fat Nutritionist (you were mentioned in comments) and, you know, initially, I feel like i had a protective shield of sorts which – not exactly repelled what you said, no, but sort of made it bead up like rain on one of those plastic raincoats we had as kids – at least I did – the kind that got all stiff in cold weather.

    And then I guess I gradually began to take off the rain coat because I kept reading and .. oh, I feel like I get it and don’t get it at the same time. The “why”, I mean. Oh, I guess I should have put this comment on your ‘why’ post, but I didn’t want it to get buried.

    From the little I know of you from your blog, you are .. extraordinarily.. intelligent and frank and reasonable and reflective. And it’s in light of all those qualities that I found your explanation of ‘why’.. odd and inadequate. More specifically, I felt like there is something you’re not saying. You came closer to it, maybe, in one of the reviews of Taub, when you talked about not being taken seriously, professionally, as a larger person. It feels very arrogant of me to say “closer to IT” as though I must know what the mysterious ‘it’ is. I don’t mean that. What I mean is..

    Okay, I know that you DO contribute to the dialog about weight and maintenance. Definitely. Hugely. I know that your guiding philosophy is one of interrogation, not capitulation. And, it’s working. You are very eloquent and clear. You are making me think. You are.. adding to the knowledge.

    But what I wonder at is – the cost to yourself that is involved in this. The fact that maintenance IS a job, as you say. And, more than that – the fact that it’s an .. oppressive job. A job that seems to .. if you’ll forgive me for saying so.. hurt. That you would feel ‘heartsick’ at the thought of a regained pound. That you force yourself to wait for a snack that your endocrine system is crying out for. Those things seem like they would HURT. And it seems self-inflicted, for little or no PERSONALLY compelling reason. An intellectually or philosophically compelling reason, yes. But.. oh, maybe it’s just that you and I are different, and for me, those are not the same.

    Frankly – and I hope I’m not sounding too much like a concern troll when I say this, because honestly I’m not – I don’t think I’ve ever written such a thing to anyone before, actually – frankly, you worry me a bit! Not because of the lifestyle and the ‘job’ – it seems healthy enough, in its way. But because of the.. mental and emotional self-punishment, I guess I would call it.

    But, it strikes me that that there is something very existential about all this. Like, maybe there IS no higher meaning, but just the meanings that we make ourselves. That’s it, isn’t it? You aren’t claiming a higher meaning – you aren’t saying weight loss is good, fat is bad – you are just saying: this is what I’m doing, there is meaning inside of it, there is something to be learned from it. Yes, there is. I admire that.

    I think it’s just that I fail at existentialism. Maybe part of me feels we are, ideally, “meant” to love our bodies and ourselves. Society seeks to take that away, but the most effective way to counter that seems to be to re-connect with and re-establish the love. The love – where is the love in what you’re doing? I know it must be there – I can feel it. But I can’t find it and I’ve been looking.

    And I just.. again, this seems extraordinarily forward of me, but I just feel worried at what seems to me like a degree of self-attack. Not that you’re saying you hated yourself as a fat person or anything like that – no. It’s in the little comments, like about feeling heartsick at the thought of gaining a pound. It’s like.. it makes sense within a closed system, yes. But it doesn’t really make ‘sense’, in a global sense. And I know enough of you to know that you, yourself, DO make sense.

    I feel like you are sacrificing yourself to something. And I wonder what could be worth that.

    But then, of course, we all sacrifice ourselves to something, knowingly or unknowingly. Maybe it’s all meaningful or unmeaningful only because of the meaning we imbue it with. Existentialism again.

    Even writing this silly rambly message has been educative to me; I’ve realized that I am much more a touchy feely ‘love yourself’ person than a philosopher.

    I probably would have been one of those urging Socrates to escape rather than follow the laws of Athens and drink the hemlock. Ditto Jesus. And then where would we be as a civilization, if Jesus/Socrates had listened?

    But even so – I don’t like to see people drinking hemlock, and I do hope you are getting some joy out of this, Debra. You seem to be a beautiful woman, from both your pictures and your writing – I hope that you can feel joy in that. I do think that in itself is the best resistance to all the crap-laden messages society gives us about the body. And please believe there is not an ounce of condescension in that statement; no, I am much more in awe of you than otherwise.

    • Wow, Mara, thanks for being so honest and for trying so hard to figure it all out.

      Here’s the best I can give you at this time: Close your eyes and imagine the world 150 years from now. It’s not that long, really, and yet it will be a very different world, technologically, culturally, and everything I own (and you own) will be dispersed and mostly decaying in landfills. Most of the homes we have lived in will be replaced or unrecognizable. Every person we know now will be dead. Even our children. Perhaps our children’s grandchildren will have a knick knack on a shelf that belonged to a crazy great great (or is it great great great?) grandma. But they may not even remember our name.

      I have pretty much accepted that I will have no real legacy. My name will appear in no books. I tried to sell my writing. It didn’t fit anyone’s mold. The editor at Rodale and I just went in circles — she insisted that I was living some inspirational “lifestyle” (though I really needed a doctorate to be published) and I would “get” that if I really thought about it, and I insisted that I did not. It’s funny, really.

      So, how then shall I live? For the time being, I seem to have this ability that only 3% of the population can master. Can I find the words to express it, accurately. Perhaps that will be of value. To someone. I struggle with the words, and they aren’t always internally consistent. I am, mostly, a joyful person. Except when I’m not. I am beautiful (thanks for that adjective). Except when I’m pig headed. There may be no meaning to my pursuit, my struggle, my hobby, my “job” at all. Indeed. But 150 years from now, will it matter? Maybe not. Nothing ventured; nothing gained. Nothing ventured; nothing explored.

      So now who’s the existentialist?

      Off to bed. Exercise time will come early tomorrow. And I’m still struggling to get all my tax info organized. Bleh.

  14. Wait a second here. I have seen a lot of selling-oneself-short in my time but I think that last comment of yours must take some kind of twenty-tiered cake.

    So let’s take this one step at a time. You start a blog that obviously connects with and means a tremendous amount to a large group of people. They laud your honesty, your intelligence, your rigor and perceptiveness. They clearly see you as a leader.

    Then you state that your only worthwhile “legacy” or “value” will be your anomalous ability to maintain weight loss.

    That might be unusual, but we all know it’s not a moral accomplishment. Which would translate to your entire life’s legacy being nothing more than a fluke: is that how you view yourself?

    How about your clear ability to inspire someone as obviously cool and sensitive as Mara to compare you to both Socrates and Jesus??
    No one has ever compared me to either. Someone compared me to Shelley Long once, but it’s just because I’m annoying and use big words.

    How about the fact that comments on this blog have steadily increased as people are coalescing around you, to the point where you need to set rules?

    You, my dear, are not a 3%-er. You are a great deal rarer than that.

    • I love this discussion between Mara & Debra & now Charlie’s daughter. It makes me happy to see people asking for more clarity about the “why?” That has bothered me too. Has humans we want things to be rational. We want there to be “good” reasons for our actions. So, often, we sort of come up with reasons that seem to explain what is going on, or explain the “choices” we seem to making (at least I think that is what I do), because dammit there SHOULD be valid reasons for what we do…in our culture anyway.

      But that perspective totally negates the part of our minds that lacks language to explain its world, that functions not from pure logic or conscious reasoning, but synthesizes massive amounts of data, so to speak, from feelings, impressions, unconscious awareness of our surroundings and non verbal communication, subtle cues, and so forth.

      This is why I say *I* do not control anything. The *I* about whom I am aware is only a part of the functioning person who writes, sings, laughs, cries, loves… The other part or parts are equally amazing. *grins* These parts are not separate personalities, in any dysfunctional sense, but a way of be-ing that humans have set aside in out demand for rational proof of everything…the enlightenment gave us great things, but it took some things from us as humans, I believe. Science is fascinating, but it is anything but pure and objective. It is a tool. It does not tell us the truth about anything.

      I love this blog because it allows me to think about and write about very different kinds of ideas, and feelings, and impulses, things we don’t even have adequate names for in our language of words. This blog has been a gift to me. I don’t worry (anymore) about sounding weird or crazy. I’m okay with what others think because I know I won’t have to waste my time defending my position about anything. No one here to attack it or to DEMAND rational explanations this instant.

      We get to wonder about phenomenon together, in a friendly site. What a rare treat!

      What a gift.

    • Whoa, Charlie’sdaughter, RNegade you flatter me. I am humbled.

      Here’s the deal. . . .

      I just cut and pasted a lengthy response into a word document. I think this deserves a thread of its own. Thanks for the inspiration, and support. All of you.

  15. Oh my gosh! A weight-maintenance blog where people talk about free will and existentialism and consciousness and meaning. Our bodies and what we eat are usually treated as such shallow eat-this do-that think-this-way topics, but not here. This is fantastic! Thank you everyone (and happy Valentine’s Day).

  16. You know, now that I’ve read some more around here, I love the idea of the cheesy weight-loss ads dropped down in the middle of a blog like this. It completely subverts the purpose of the ad. Rather than finding an audience full of people eager to lose weight right this minute, they’re being read by a collection of weight-loss maintainers (who have already figured out a workable system) and size acceptance types. It’s also a very subversive contrast to see the “easy weight loss” promises bump into Debra’s no-holds-barred, water-gulping, weight-vest-wearing accounts of maintaining her loss.

    And I did point my husband to the NWCR, thanks to this blog. I don’t know if I’ll share this blog or not–maybe let him get a little further into maintenance.

    • You know, I’ve been looking around at how other people handle the ads. I noticed that Living400lbs has a statement on her front page to help people reconcile them, and I was thinking that might be the cheapest way to deal with it. Now, I grant you, I’d been reading her blog for quite some time before I noticed that feature, so I don’t know whether it’s effective or not, but I may try it.

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