A “Meta” Post About This Blog

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on February 14, 2011 at 10:35 am

In addition to adapting the Rules of Engagement post for a “page,” and looking into how to get rid of the vulture advertisements as cheaply as possible, I have been making my way through the Linda Bacon/Lucy Aphramor paper supporting a Health at Every Size (HAES) approach to weight management.  I hope to post on it soon, but it’s turning out to be more challenging and time-consuming than I’d anticipated.  I am unable to breeze through it without checking at least some of the sources.  I mostly support its premise, and yet it makes me uncomfortable.  I think Barbara Berkeley touched on it in the comments at her own blog.  It reads as a manifesto, and that rubs me (and her) wrong.  It’s kinder and better sourced than Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat (also a manifesto), but the Bacon paper is a manifesto nonetheless.  And, as with Taubes’s book, I have no place in it, really, or at least my place is awkward.   Barbara’s ultimate response (in the comments) indicates she will return to her position of promoting weight loss, which is appropriate for her.  It’s her job, her life’s focus, and she does it with kindness and circumspection.  I will likely end up somewhere else, though I don’t know where that is yet.

The good news, the Bacon article isn’t messing with my weight, as Taubes’s book did.  As I read Why We Get Fat, I found myself falling into his regimen, compelled to decline counting calories, trusting my satiety to keep my weight in check (since I was increasing my fat intake).  My weight crept to the top of its range and hovered for days.  Then it went over my current range by a pound.  Ack.  And then another.  Ack.  Ack.  I’ve returned to my own tried-and-true regimen, and have some days seen a number in my range.   I think I’ll stick with what my body has prescribed for me.  Please accept that as my “final answer” and I will accept carb control or size acceptance as yours, and we’ll look at various topics with respect for our choices.  How wonderful that we ARE different, because we are much more likely to see something original between and amongst our experiences, rather than in a fray of dueling manifestos that blind us by calling up our own pig headedness.

In my previous post’s comments I was led back to my “Why” question.  I still don’t have a good answer as to why I do this maintenance thing, given that my heart feels the strong pull of size acceptance.  There must be sufficient reward in it, since I continue.  I trust that.  Moreover, since it is rare for someone to be able to do this, if I am able to, maybe I should, and try to find the words to describe it accurately.  That might be of value.  I mentioned to my gentle challengers that I’d given up on leaving a legacy that would last for any significant time.  Most of us 150 years from now will be in no one’s memory, no one’s book.  Our possessions will be scattered, the stories behind them lost.  And that’s okay, and I’m okay with that.  But maybe I could advance some understanding of this interesting process and affect some change among others (smarter than I), even if that contribution would not be worthy of legacy status.  Well, I was called up short on that response too.   

Let it be known, I’d be happy to leave a literary legacy for this world, but I don’t think that’s in the cards.  I went to the prestigious Maui Writers’ Conference (now known as the Hawaii Writers’ Conference), with a book proposal and roughly 130 completed draft pages, and I was rejected by three editors and four agents, all who wanted me to be something I wasn’t.  Most wanted me to use the same language that we already hear, everywhere, but maybe I could be funnier.  Some also insisted I wasn’t qualified to have original ideas, that a doctorate or RD designation would add credibility.  And, of course, I needed to market myself, a prospect I find daunting.  (It shouldn’t surprise us that most nonfiction books today read as sales pitches or manifestos, because nonfiction writers, by requirement of the trade, are primarily marketers.) 

I looked into pursuing the RD when I returned home from the conference, but with my light-on-science undergrad and grad degrees, it would have been a crazy long process, and I don’t want to be a dietician in any traditional sense.  

Then I went to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference (the more literary writers’ conference).  When I used the phrase “weight-loss maintenance memoir” with those agents and publishers, you would have thought I’d said “Turd Casserole Cookbook.”  Really, it was stunned disgust.  Repeatedly.  Maybe if I’d offered to rewrite it in free verse.  Hmmm.

At both conferences I was told that these days breaking into the writers’ market is a dicey game and mere persistence and hard work, accompanied by a flawless manuscript, are not guaranteed to pay off any more.  That’s the mythology of a different era.  I have two friends who went the self-publishing route, with brilliantly written books (worthy of a Simon and Schuster imprint), and the time and energy they put into marketing, only to see disappointing results, is exhausting simply to watch.

So I blog.  I hand out free thoughts.  And I have found such a warm and supportive environment.  It has occurred to me that this is enough.  It is rewarding enough.  If I accrue enough followers to merit another run at Hawaii, I’ll consider it.  However, I have not regularly pestered my Facebook friends.  I have reminded them a couple of times that I do this.  But I haven’t marketed, and I failed, technologically, when I tried to set up a separate Facebook page for the site, and I wondered whether that wasn’t a sign.  If there is one thing this maintenance experiment has taught me, it’s to be careful what you wish for; it may not be the zippy thing you expect.  Big-time bloggers complain that the care and feeding of their sites is a full-time job.  Right now, Akismet (a service offered by WordPress) handles 99% of my spammers, and I have very few trolls.  Most of you have found me by way of the Size Acceptance network or through weight maintenance blogs where I participate (because they are intelligent, kind or both) as a commenter.  You have been vetted.  This is a good life and I am content.

And I’ve also been thinking, to leave a little legacy, I don’t need a big audience, a Simon and Schuster audience.  I just need the right audience.  I’m thinking that after a time, I may hit the print button, and cough out a “best of the blog” manuscript.  Especially the discussions.  (I’ll warn everyone before I do this, by the way, to give you the opportunity to opt out.  I can delete or edit comments, as instructed, though I hope not to.  Our “warts” give us character.)  And then I’ll take the pages down to my corner Office Max and make enough copies for each of the scientists at the NWCR (fewer than ten).  And I’ll have them three-hole drilled and I’ll bind them frugally but neatly – the pages (not the scientists).  Then I’ll mail them off.  I may even spring for the “gift paper” envelopes that the post office sells.

I think we have something to say here.  That we, the lay public, understand the issue of fat to be much more complex than we’re given credit for.  That, regardless of our size or weight-loss status, we want to participate in advancing our own health and well being, but the advice we receive fails us (roughly 97% of the time).  That the scientific community fuels both the media and the medical profession with regard to this issue, and it needs to grab the baton and whistle, and lead the parade in the right direction. 

As I’ve said before, the NWCR needs to ask its registrants more meaningful questions.  Our records need to be made available to empirical scientists as well as those who study behavior. And EVERYONE’s assumptions, throughout the Kingdom of Science, need to be thrown on the table and re-evaluated.

Enough with the dueling manifestos!  There is no single obesity and One True Way to deal with it.  People are fat in dozens (hundreds?) of different ways, for countless nuanced reasons.  Some may be able to lose weight and manage those losses (given more precise and individualized guidance than is currently offered), but most probably will not.  And everyone needs accurate information that distinguishes how health and weight are related, and acknowledges when they are not and when weight-loss, as a prescription, may be dangerous or futile.  Only when Science and Medicine choose to acknowledge the dismal success rate of weight-loss maintenance might they be able to improve it.  They need to regroup and approach this issue or some small aspect of it with the humility it deserves.  And Science goes first, before Medicine.  Woof!

The NWCR would have the power to start that Renaissance, and since I’m one of their (mixed feelings) participants, maybe one of them will feel some obligation to read our thoughts and bring them up at a staff meeting.  It’s the best leverage I’ve got, given that I’m unqualified to have original ideas.

  1. I’m sorry you’re getting such a lousy response from publishers. I’ve been finding you fascinating to read.

    Unrelatedly, what’s up with those dudes at the NWCR, anyway? They rejected me! I started losing weight at 227 lb. in 1999, and I weigh 168 now. Now, in between I’ve been as high as 187, and as low as 160, but in a very long flat cycle. And even so, 227 minus 187 is still 40 pounds lost 10 years ago that never, ever came back.

    Don’t they want to know how I did it? Jerks.

    • Interesting, Cynthia. You meet their stated requirements. No doubt about it. Are they trying to hide that some people fluctuate by as much as 27 pounds? I don’t know what to make of it. If I were in your shoes, I’d write them a letter. The only time they didn’t respond to one of my US mail letters was the lengthy one I talked about here. They have gotten back to me on all other postal correspondence. They did mysteriously shut down email communication that we had established for a time. At first, I thought they were torqued about my starting this blog, but now I think it has to do with understaffing.

      Nevertheless, we maintainers are what they’re supposed to be studying, and I’m curious as to why you were shut out. I see you have a blog. Tell them you want to post about them and why you were rejected. That is worthwhile information for your readers to know, lest they waste the NWCR’s time with inappropriate applications. And when you do make that post, send me the link, lest I miss it. If you don’t hear from them in six weeks, that’s a post topic in itself.

      By the way I have visited the Fab blog, and while an NWCR post would be off topic, I still think you should do it.

  2. Debra,

    What a post! It sort of leaves me breathless.

    I know what you mean about getting carried away with Taubes. I think I did the same thing as you and now my clothes are definitely tighter. I’m going to go back to the way that I eat best and weigh myself in a few weeks’ time. Right now, the prospect of weighing myself is just too frightening. (RNegade, we’ll talk about this via e-mail soon.)

    Ah, the confusion. The “eat this, don’t eat that”. The admonishments. It’s enough to…make you gain weight.

    I just want to say a few words about Barbara Berkley. And please keep in mind that I’m just giving my own personal impressions after only having read a very little of what she has written.

    Dr. Berkley’s writings made me extremely depressed. She very clearly (at least to my mind) said that you will have to live a life of deprivation and despair, making yourself into your own private food police on duty 24 hours a day if you wish to keep the weight off. Perhaps that is your message too, to a certain extent, but you say it with a lot more understanding and compassion. I cannot read what BB writes. It makes me swing between anger and despair.

    As for Linda Bacon, I wrote a very imperfect post about her latest article (with Aphramor) last week. Yes, I too see it a manifesto, but it strikes me as something that, if truly heeded, will be a lot more helpful to many more people than anything else I’ve seen. I’ve been asked to give my spin on HAES as a guest poster at another blog next week and it’s waking me up at night just thinking about it. Literally.

    Honestly, I think you need to convene a “Debra’s Just Maintaining” conference where we can have an in-depth, far-ranging yet free-wheeling discussion of all these questions. If I were wealthy, I’d pay for all the travel costs for everyone, but sadly, I only have enough money to take care of myself and even that would be a bit of a splurge! Barring a DJM summit (lol), maybe we can organize an on-line, real time discussion. That would be just amazing.

    And finally, as for your writing goals, just keep trying. I have no particular advice to give you aside from saying that I think you’re certainly one of the smartest writers on the whole topic of weight that I have read anywhere, at any time. When it comes to weight, you help to keep me sane. Thanks, as usual.

    • NewMe, what I like about Barbara is that she acknowledges that this isn’t the zippy walk in the park that other doctors in her line do. Most doctors who concentrate on obesity are fronts for diet products or they are dedicated to pushing weight-loss surgery. And they are happy to abandon their patients once the “loss” part is done. She actually accompany’s her patients on their life journey. And she keeps her mind open. She truly gives me hope for her profession. But, yes, her 12 tough rules provide no sugar coating (pun intended) for weight-loss maintenance. In her recent posts I feel her struggle. Isn’t it great that a doctor actually struggles?! I’ll read her so you don’t have to, and I’ll try to alert you if there’s something you might like in what she says.

      Oh, and I read your post on the Bacon/Aphramor piece, and I plan to revisit it. (Indeed, great minds — blood letting — that’s the state of obesity related health care now.) First, I actually need to get THROUGH the Bacon/Aphramor piece myself. Who knew reading was such hard work!

      With regard to a conference, my fantasy would be that we’d find an AAAS conference, or some other conference, where we might get a ticket to go watch one or more NWCR scientist(s) present a paper or some such. Introduce ourselves. Then go drink wine and talk about them. If Robert Lustig or Katherine Flegal or Barbara Hansen any other rock stars of obesity research was talking, that would make it all the better. I did go see a panel once at an AAAS conference that was held in St. Louis, where my sister lives. Since I wasn’t going to the entire conference, the organizers gave me a free press pass. I told them I wanted to see that panel for the sake of a book I was writing (true).

  3. “Some also insisted I wasn’t qualified to have original ideas….”

    Do you know exactly how much that burned me up just to hear it? You’re qualified to have original ideas by virtue of being human and having a brain. Really.

    I recently found your blog through an FA post and have added it to my regular reads. Your voice is needed. You’re right — obesity is so much more complex than many want to make it. It’s not one experience for everyone and it’s not one solution (and I include FA and HAES as solutions) for everyone.

    What we have been doing is clearly not working in terms of supporting people’s health.

    • Welcome to the site, K.sol. Yeah, it burned me up to hear it too. I even tried to fight it and justify myself, along the lines of eight percent of people who enter college end up with doctorates and only three percent of people who enter radical weight loss end up where I am. (I figured that made me some kind of tenured professor of maintenance.) They didn’t buy my figures. And it wasn’t that they tried to debate with me. It was kind of a hand patting reaction. I think they thought I was a nutjob. But who can blame them? They’re reading their own author’s books and the women’s magazine articles that spring from them. Science, medicine and other media are doing very little to disabuse them of their ideas. The bell would ring and my flash appointment was over. (That’s how Hawaii works. You get a certain short amount of time to speed date an editor or agent).

  4. I’m thinking very hard about doing a serious critical analysis of the Bacon/Aphramor paper when I’m recovered enough from my surgery to sit at the keyboard for longer than a few minutes. With all my heart I want to support HAES, for masses of reasons, but I seemed to see the flaws in it in a way similar to your view of Taubes’ position, Debra.

    In other words, if this is the best data and analysis they can come up with to support HAES (I also read the book last year but not with a very critical eye, back then), I fear more harm than good could come from it. My perspective is complex. It isn’t so much what is INCLUDED in the HAES data and analysis (although there are some problems in that regard too)–it’s what (research) has been EXCLUDED, as if the other (very unpleasant) data is somehow not relevent…Not relevant because there is not solid enough research yet to know how to fix those serious symptoms and health problems. Because there is no causal link (obesity does NOT cause these other illnesses, problems, risk factors), the authors come close to disassociating from causal links altogether…even the link that could (eventually) show that a direct cause of one kind of obesity is also the cause of the increased risks for a cluster of serious health problems.

    They are missing a chance to heal illnesses linked with some types of obesity by suggesting that it is okay to focus on reducing some health problems (& symptoms) associated with obesity–without getting at the root cause of those problems. That is just not ethical in my world. In my ethical system, one does not leave one group to suffer from diseases just because help may be available for THAT group but not for others who have always been grouped together with them.

    That is not HAES, that is health-for-some-obese-people but not for those with diseases that are caused by the same thing that is causing their obesity.

    I believe you were absolutely right, Debra, when you suggested we should not be talking about “obesity” but about “obesities.”

    We need to understand which are the factors that are making SOME people very very sick while simultaneously increasing their weight (or their *risk* of obesity)…not because obesity in itself is something bad, but because the sicknesses associated with some kinds are very serious and damaging to people’s health.

    Even if we simply start with sub groups of sick people, who also happen to have any form of obesity, such as those with metabolic syndrome (resistance to insulin), we can show that curing (or greatly improving) some of the illnesses in a subgroup of sick people also happens to reduce weight in this subgroup. The goal is not the weight reduction…it is the health improvement. Now THAT is a more honest, ethical HAES.

    Again, it isn’t about the weight, for me. It is about the illnesses, particularly diabetes (and its host of progressively morbid symptoms) and cardiovascular disease of the types which are specifically associated with obesity, but not CAUSED by obesity.

    It makes me sick at heart to realize that I would have kept clinging fast to HAES forever, if I had not performed my own stubborn experiment on myself and proceeded to lose the high blood pressure, borderline diabetes (fasting BGs consistently over 110), fibromyalgia, chronic back and foot pain, dismal lipid panel values (triglycerides from 268 to 38!), GERD, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and so forth.


    Not a single medical professional or nursing text ever suggested to me that there just might be, FOR SOMEONE WITH MY SPECIFIC CLUSTER OF SYMPTOMS (metabolic syndrome), a direct causal link between A) consuming sugars and starches and B) many if not all of my health problems, increased risk factors, and symptoms. All that any professional ever advised was to “lose weight…with a low-fat reduced calorie diet” and take half a shot glass full of pharmaceuticals. Everyday.

    My god. I mean it, my god. Can anyone fully grasp why I am so livid right now?

    It’s not about the effing weight.

    Yes, my obesity came with a social stigma, a terrible one for sure, but the health problems and multiple serious risk factors that happened to accompany my specific form of obesity were severely damaging my quality of life, every single day, and those health problems were hurting the people who love me but could do nothing to help me.

    I had to be desperate, I know, to try what I did because it goes against *everything* I learned in my nutrition classes and nursing classes. Against everything every health care provider told me. And I had never heard of Taubes or his theories! I was at the end of my rope, emotionally and physically, NOT BECAUSE I WAS SO FAT, but because I was so SICK.

    The obesity didn’t make me sick. The problematic functioning of my body’s endocrine systems (and undoubtedly other systems), which led to my particular kind of obesity, also resulted directly and indirectly in my poor health.

    Obesity is not a health issue in and of itself.

    The other times I lost large amounts of weight I did not feel better during the process, or afterward. There was no actual payoff (other than gaining social approval and privilege. Big wow, considering the cost.) I did not have more energy. I did not have less pain. I did not have more stamina. I did not have greatly improved BG or lipid numbers. I was still depressed. In other words, the risk factors for serious diseases stayed the same or only improved marginally, and the symptoms that made my life so difficult did not get better.

    It was a bitter pill…to be left with a smaller body, greatly increased hunger, and no significant improvements in my health or my life in general…

    The previous time I lost weight I was walking 8 miles a day to try and maintain.

    My weight is stable now with no struggle at all and no exercise at all (that’s not my choice, by the way, I’m in rehab from surgery.)

    The previous time I lost weight, I was eating about 1200 calories a day, in addition to all that walking.

    Tracking my calories, now for research documentation sake, I am eating about 1800-2000 and maintaining my weight with no struggle at all. None. No hunger except before eating (whenever I want). And no exercise.

    I have never, ever been in this situation previously after STRUGGLING to lose weight many many times, and after sometimes managing to lose–only to regain because it was such a burdensome struggle with so little payoff.

    This current process has been a challenge, but mostly from the standpoint of trying to wrap my head around being duped for so many decades. Otherwise, it has NOT been a struggle EXCEPT during the phases when I was trying to eat a low calorie and low fat diet, as I had always been advised by professionals. Now THAT really was a struggle.

    Yes, by BMI standards I am still fat (BMI 27). I do not care.

    For me it is not about maintaining any particular weight. That may explain why I have no desire to be or to see myself as a *maintainer*. It’s not about the weight.

    It *is* about remaining without serious health problems, pain, chronic life-sucking symptoms, frightening risk factors, and so forth. THAT is my goal. And the only way I know how achieve that goal is to keep eating all the fats and protein-rich foods I want, while eating very small amounts of sugars and starches.

    I just don’t see where the downside is. I’m “fat”, healthy, and very happy.

    I wish that all serious health problems were this easy to cure.

    • RNegade, first of all, good Karma for you as you recover from surgery. I wasn’t aware you had surgery. You may have said something and I just spaced it out. At any rate, I never issued you your fair portion of my worry. So now I will give you a double dose of my good Karma.

      I think you do need to do your analysis. The good thing about this horribly tight writing market: if you aren’t married to the idea of getting paid cash money for your work, a lot of newspapers will cheerfully accept op-ed pieces. Your thoughts will make it into the marketplace of ideas. (And, since you have that RN, I think you are qualified to have original thoughts!) The hard part will be getting your analysis to under roughly 700 words. Maybe you could break it into a series of essays, 700 words each.

      “That is not HAES, that is health-for-some-obese-people but not for those with diseases that are caused by the same thing that is causing their obesity.” Agreed.

      “The obesity didn’t make me sick. The problematic functioning of my body’s endocrine systems (and undoubtedly other systems), which led to my particular kind of obesity, also resulted directly and indirectly in my poor health.

      Obesity is not a health issue in and of itself.” Also agreed.

      As a cello-shaped person (with slightly larger “bouts” than “shoulders”/boobs) with pretty good blood analysis numbers (a couple of anomalous cholesterol readings) and an otherwise symptom-free life, I probably should have been advised down the HAES path. Joyful exercise alone would have taken care of those cholesterol numbers. Instead, my OB/Gyn pulled out her pocket BMI calculator and “educated” me, and then handed me a one-page summary of how to “analyze” my diet by journaling for five days, then cut 500 calories per day. Oh, and exercise. My Internist didn’t say anything, but a poster-sized BMI chart was mounted on the inside of the door to my exam room. I’m happy to say that chart has disappeared (or maybe they give me a BMI-free room now, since I’m no longer “at risk”).

      Yes, indeed, do your analysis. Maybe in several forms. Is there a nurse’s journal that would take a heavily foot-noted version? It seems a waste to do this for only the popular press, though that may be the most helpful/influential.

      • Ah, shucks, Debra, you are one of the sweetest “imaginary friends” (a *real life* friend’s term for my online buds) whom I have encountered here in cyberland. Really. I always feel your support no matter how much we may disagree and no matter how much anger or pain i am feeling which is also getting spilled into my on-screen thoughts.

        My critique of the HAES literature would be book length, and would result in demonstrating reams of support for much of its philosphy, humanist/feminist underpinnings, and its perspective on the terrible damage done by size discrimination, including serious damage to people’s health (both those who are fat and those who are not). I believe it is critical to show the impact of fat discrimination on nonfat people, not something insane like the cost to nonfat people in terms of money, good grief no, but the social costs of their support for prejudice and widespread discrimination…the costs to their own emotional well being and their ability to think clearly (beyond ugly prejudice) and to love unconditionally. (Yeh, this stance aint “but what about the menz?” no matter how much some critics will try to shove it into that category.)

        The past year has been a wipe out for my family, in surfing terms. I’ve mentioned elsewhere the catastrophic health issues (resulting from a car crash) of my beloved, the unemployment, loss of medical insurance, near homelessness, scraping by on goodwill from friends and family, FEAR looming until I was forced to confront, personally, the reality of just how effed up this whole U.S. social structure plays out when truly good people who have always worked hard and contributed to the world around them can be driven to dark desperation as a result of one too many bad events (rolls of the dice), events which hit like meteors (or like cars running through stop signs.)

        So. It has been a wonderful year. I’m not kidding. I have reunited with my inner goddess, lol, or personal sense of strength and integrity, and I’ve learned to see how kind and caring people can be even when they are mostly powerless to offer any *practical* help. I have come to some decisions about what I want to do with the rest of my life, no matter how brief or long it turns out.

        I want to find a way that heartily supports FA and simultaneously faces, with full integrity, the serious health issues that are linked (in some forms of obesity) in ways we do not yet fully understand.

        Of course, having just read Taubes’ reporting for the first time I am left biased and angry and aghast. His discription of “how we get fat” fit my health symptoms, health history, eating history, and objective lab results as if it had been written specifically for me. I wasn’t projecting onto it, but reflecting the stunning accuracy of his reporting of what I have gone through physically in the past year and a half as I struggled to improve my health. There is so much that Taubes DOESN’T examine very closely (in his recent book, that is, I don’t know about his other writings), especially the damaging changes in brain function linked to insulin resistance in brain tissues, probably because this is far too controversial and so little research is there for support. I can only compare the increased clarity of my thought and focus to one who has been squinting deep underwater without goggles then surfaces to gaze on a clear blue sky and miles of stunning scenery.

        The doctors just explained that it was normal for adult ADD to get progressively worse for women during perimenopause and after. And that’s exactly what I was experiencing while plowing through science and math classes that stretched me beyond anything I had attempted in my life. You know, I have never been fond of reading about conversion experiences. They make me uneasy, especially if they imply (as does Taubes) that the lived experience can become a universal one if only each person tries hard enough. Arrgghh!

        I hope I don’t come off that way.

        I have one more surgery, in about 3 months, followed by 3 months of rehab, before I can hit the world of *actual* employment. Lots of time to meditate and wonder and write.

        I’ve never been convinced that things happen for a reason, but whatever *reason* resulted in me stumbling across your blog, I am truly grateful.

        You have attracted a most fascinating, interesting, and charming group of writers here, and we are all in the process of “writing our lives, righting the world.”


      • As I calculate it, RNegade, you have six months to pound out a draft of that book, and you’ve got a really good start already. A little copy and paste from your comments here and a few other places you’ve been visiting and you’ve got a really solid outline to work with.

        You don’t come off as Taubes does. You are clearly in romantic love with your new found regimen and the resultant body it has given you, but I think you’re mostly avoiding sounding dogmatic. Given how dramatically better you feel, you’re actually doing great NOT to proselytize more (though I’d whallop you if you did).

      • Debra, you just need a research and writing partner with credentials. Paul Campos is now publishing in medical journals (with partners who are MDs and scientists, and he’s a just a lawyer who has taken a huge interest in this topic. There’s a link to his newest article here.

      • Ah, DeeLeigh, from your lips to someone’s ears. I went to KU Med to explore their RD program and really thought I’d hit it off with their obesity expert. She even proofed the two weight-related essays I did for the Kansas City Star. But when I tried to explore a deeper writing collaboration with her, I kind of scared her off, I think. Since my vantage point is so odd, it may be hard to find a collaborator. Campos, of course, is a god. I flatter myself to think I’m in his league (and I do flatter myself from time to time).

      • The main problem I have with the new paper is that it’s looking at all studies that look at HAES – which had varying methodologies and not all had control groups. The strongest HAES study, it seems to me, is the one Bacon did with Stern and a couple others, where they compared HAES with dieting in obese women.

        What I’d LIKE to see Bacon do would be to repeat the HAES-vs-dieting study in men and women, possibly with a non-intervention control group. That would probably be even more expensive than the original Bacon/Stern HAES-vs-diet study, though, and Bacon’s been pretty frank that IT only got funding because Stern was listed as the primary researcher.

        That said, as the new paper is a survey of studies to date, it does bring up what has been seen across HAES research and shows some of the holes in current research (none involve men, for example).

      • I snuck over to your blog to see whether you’d posted on it, Living400. So much to think about/synthesize.

  5. Wow! RNegade. Your comment is incredibly moving. I empathise with your anger. Heck, I’m angry on your behalf. At the same time, I’m thrilled you found a solution.
    Debra, I’m still giggling like a schoolgirl about your “Turd Casserole Cookbook” comment.

  6. You’re a wonderful writer! I can only guess the rejection has more to do with publishers on the lookout for the next Snooki than with your proposal in general.

    I’ve only given a brief skim to the HAES paper but I have read the book and the two seem similar. For me, HAES has multiple components, some of which get lost in the overall message of body acceptance. For me, HAES is not about resigning myself to be whatever size I’m going to be, rather it’s about putting the emphasis on health and engaging in behaviors that foster health, rather than putting the emphasis on weight.

    For a lot of people (not everyone! – no generalizing here!), exercise is done with the goal of losing weight. When the scale doesn’t budge, or doesn’t move fast enough, or grinds to a halt, or (dread!) moves upward, the exercise is abandoned. But exercise does bring real substantiated health benefits! So, becaue of a number on a scale, the person no longer can get those benefits because their focus was body size instead of health benefit. I think Bacon would like for the emphasis to be put on health instead of size, so people continue exercising because it’s good for them, or opt for the apple over the Oreo because it’s good for them, even if they don’t lose any weight.

    HAES, for me, equals finding an eating style that makes brings you to an optimal level of health, whatever that may be. For some people, eating the Taubes way does bring them to that state (like it did for RNRenengade) – they feel better, they see their labs improve, their BP lowers, their physical symptoms improve, etc. For some, it doesn’t. For some, eating the Taubes way makes them gain weight (even though he thinks that CAN.NOT.HAPPEN). For SOME, maybe it’s eating a vegetarian diet that does brings them to an optimal state of health and wellbeing – or a low-fat, high complex carb diet, or a Paleo diet. It’s the person who decides – by monitoring how they feel physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – how to eat, not the diet industry. It’s possible when we overly focus on those outside ourselves to tell us when, how, what, and how much to eat, some of us run into trouble, becoming (in a sense) divorced from our bodies. I think Bacon’s trying to correct that.

    Overall, though, for me (and this is not meant to be insulting to anyone in any way) I am somewhat uncomfortable with Bacon’s minimization of the effects of overweight and obesity on the individual.

  7. I keep trying to find time to comment again, and writing my comments in my head, and then coming back and finding that there is more to respond to! And I just have a few minutes now, so I’ll just say – thank you for your thoughtful and comprehensive response to my rather forward and OT question on your last post, Debra!

    I’m starting to understand your ‘why’. It occurs to me that, if you were, say, training for a marathon, something that could also be difficult and painful and might cause a heartsick reaction if it doesn’t go as planned, I probably wouldn’t question ‘why’ you were doing it, even if it wasn’t something I wanted to do myself.

    Weight is a fraught issue. OBviously.

    I do think you’re leaving a legacy. I think you – and the collective we – are pushing forward and inventing a language, inventing a new way of talking and thinking about these things, even, perhaps, bending a train of thought that was going consistently along one track and.. derailing it just enough so some original ideas and new knowledge can squeeze in there. Very important and powerful.

    Btw, I didn’t mean to compare you to Jesus – not that I think you’re UNChristlike, but just, I don’t know you well enough and it would probably be inappropriately gushy. But, Socrates, probably, yes, in how he challenged the existing paradigms. The ‘gadfly’ persona. 🙂

    The response you got from publishers – oh, I have a few thoughts about that but not time enough here to go into them. I’ll try and formulate what I want to say, at a later date.

    I’m enjoying the blog, comments and ideas.

    • I always appreciate a good functional metaphor, Mara, and I will, no doubt steal your marathon training metaphor. That’s exactly right.

      With regard to being compared to Jesus, that does make me a bit uncomfy — setting the bar, uhm, kind of high. But I am flattered, nevertheless. I’ll take Socrates. We accept the ancient Greeks despite imperfections. My mission statement for my writing is “tell a truth; advance compassion.” I don’t know where that fits into the grand scheme of things. I also try to avoid dangling my modifiers.

      • I like your mission statement. And I think Socrates fits. 🙂

      • I know this comment is a little late, but I thought it could add to the conversation…

        I don’t think I’ve commented here before, but I’ve stopped by every now and then when I’ve been in a comfortable place with myself so it won’t be too triggering–not that your website is inherently triggering, but you bring up issues that can make lots of different kinds of people uncomfortable. I’m coming from the Fat Acceptance side of things, as a fat woman who has not always been fat but who has always thought she was. So I am very familiar with thin privilege, in a way that many fat people who were never in an “acceptable” weight range cannot be.

        I actually found this post (and the related ones) by searching your site for “why I lost weight”, because I couldn’t see how being such a supporter of size acceptance and keeping such a controlled weight-maintenance regimen could exist together without some other BIG FACTOR, and I wondered if you’d written about it. I have to say that I was pretty uncomfortable not to find a big factor. I really liked the comment that Mara left on the other post, and her “I’m starting to understand” comment on this one made some sense to me too, but I think my discomfort is a “She shouldn’t get to have her cake and eat it too!” kind of feeling. It seems unfair that you get to have the body that our society finds acceptable while embracing and empathizing with those who don’t have that. I only have the opportunity to embrace my body, and like I wrote above, I know what I’m missing out on by not having thin privilege. Anyway, I hope you won’t be offended–I’m not saying I think you’ve done anything wrong; I respect your right to live your life as you choose to, and I am so happy that you DO embrace the size acceptance community and also are out there as the real face of weight maintenance.

        That said, I had a similar kind of stumped feeling when people used to ask me why I was a vegetarian. I definitely worried about mass-production meat processes, but that didn’t really explain why I didn’t eat meat that wasn’t from terrible conditions. It wasn’t for health or animal rights concerns. One day I had just thought about it and decided that most meat wasn’t my favorite thing, and I could probably not eat it without too much difficulty, and a lot of people DID seem to care about animal rights, so why not? It was kind of a challenge that I was pretty sure I’d be able to conquer. I was a strict vegetarian for five years, and for many years after that I only rarely ate meat. I hung onto vegetarianism for a while, but I think I just stopped needing it… Looking back now, I think that I was trying to take control of my life, but specifically my food life. I became a vegetarian as a teenager in a home where my food habits were constantly policed in an effort to get me to lose weight. My parents–and mother especially–wanted to have control over every aspect of my life, and they expected perfection. I think that becoming a vegetarian was an unconscious strategy to put myself back in control of my life (or at least my food). If I had my own “food thing”, then it would be my thing and no one could question decisions I made in accordance with it. I’m the oldest, and I actually also saw both of my younger brothers make food declarations at certain points in their lives, so now I wonder all three of us were using similar methods of coping with our situation. Anyway, I’m not suggesting this as an exact analogy necessarily, since I don’t know you, but it seems possible that maybe there’s more to your “why” that you even realize right now. I wonder about things when we don’t know why we do them. Anyway, I hope I haven’t offended you–I just wanted to share my thoughts.

      • E, thanks for taking me back to February 2011. It took me a while to respond, because I wanted to review my state of mind then to get my bearings on your comments. And, actually, while I’m in a different state of mind, emotionally, I am in the same place intellectually. You are right. There is no BIG FACTOR. I support size acceptance, simply, because it’s the right thing to do. It’s factually right, morally and ethically right, patriotically right, completely right. I’m a weight-loss maintainer, simply, because I can be. But, of course, there is a cost. Your ironic comment that I get to have my cake and eat it too made me grin. I have radically cut my grain-based carbs. So, I guess I get to have my cake, look at it, exercise all around it, and hope I don’t blow out a joint (which would start an inevitable weight regain in motion). Sadly, I don’t actually allow myself to eat much of it. A bite or two is all (or else the inevitable weight regain will begin). See, there it is, possibly the “BIG FACTOR.” I know how tenuous weight maintenance is after radical loss. I have yo-yoed in the past. I was not dumber then than I am now. I was not less disciplined. I was not under the misperception that I could diet my way to a goal weight and then “return to my old ways” without consequences. I had heard the word “lifestyle.” What is different now is that I have latched onto this maintenance thing with a tenacity that goes far beyond what the magazines tell you that you’ll need to have. I also have so many blessings in place that make radical maintenance possible — a financially and emotionally stable life, a physically cooperative body, an analytical mind that can navigate me through the mounds of bad and good information. Nevertheless, at any moment, the weight regain may begin. I accept now that this is not paranoia; it is fact. Will the trigger come from my own endocrine system pushing me to eat? Will it be a joint blowing out so that I may not exercise? Will it be a complicated family crisis that precludes my keeping all the pieces of my maintenance in place? Who knows? I do know that when the weight regain happens (and I’m postponing as long as I can) I’ll want a soft place to land, and that is in the bosom of size acceptance. Right?

  8. I’d like to see a HAES study for fat people who, specifically, have metabolic syndrome/insulin resistance and related symptoms (high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL, high fasting blood glucose, chronic fatigue, etc.) or another cluster of serious health problems. Instead of pitting HAES vs. a low calorie weight loss diet, which has already been done, why not HAES vs. HAES which includes a low carbohydrate, eat all you want approach?

    Because, really, who cares what the weight outcome would be, if weight is not a health issue…I want to see the HEALTH outcomes.

    According to HAES research, since obesity/overweight is not a health issue, and since obesity is far more benign than it is typically portrayed, then WHY would anyone pay for a HAES study on obese people who DO NOT have serious health issues? Why compare HAES to a low calorie weight loss diet when WEIGHT is not the health issue?

    What am I missing here?

    Leaving aside any goal of weight loss, of course, how–specifically–would the above health issues and risks be addressed with a HAES approach? (Metabolic syndrome, for instance.)

    Because HAES is what I thought I was practicing with the help of an excellent counselor, doctors, and assorted enlightened, supportive care providers…for over 6 years. Of course, much of the time I didn’t think of it with that name (HAES) attached, because in my mind it was FA, feminism, self care, and self love, without the weight loss b.s. thankyouverymuch.

    So, for over 6 years I willingly followed a HAES-type philosophy to the best of my ability, and I ate so-called nutritious foods (fruits, veges, whole grains, lean protein, low fat, etc, and moderate amounts of sweets), without dieting or attempts to be restrictive, AND I included moderate exercise (mostly walking but a little strength training), AND I practiced intuitive eating, AND I improved my sleep hygiene practices, AND I got physical therapy from a variety of practitioners, AND I got regular check ups and did all the non-weight loss interventions recommended.

    AND I grew sicker and sicker and sicker. (see above symptoms & risk factors, plus many others I’ve mentioned elsewhere)

    Incidentally, I went from a size 22 to a size 32, and then to a 5X (nursing scrubs) during that time. I loved myself, I loved my body, and my lover loved my body. Didn’t improve my health.

    (I know, I know: this is only anecdote and correlation. Not scientific or statistically relevant. Good ol’ science.) 🙂

    In fact, I became so much sicker as time went on (and I suffered so much increasing physical pain and worsening fatigue) that I finally turned to alcohol for several months near the very end of that great health improvement endeavor. I tried to self medicate when “healthy living,” self love, self acceptance, and extremely expensive pharmaceuticals weren’t helping . (Actually, very cheap vodka helped, for a brief time, with pain management and with motivation issues. Go figure.)

    What finally turned around my downward spiral into worsening health and pain: a low carbohydrate diet that people typically use while hoping to lose weight. There are no restrictions on calorie amounts, only restrictions on starches and sugars, and no weight loss goals. A goal weight IS NOT something I aim for with this way of eating. Eventually I was surprised to learn that I can consistently eat to satiety. Every day. And feel amazing.

    Of course, the whole transformation didn’t happen immediately. It was months before all my symptoms were completely gone.

    I still believe in HAES. But I also believe in questioning all assumptions, and I believe in seeing what I see, and knowing what I know…seeing through rhetoric that distorts reality (even if from well-meaning people). And seeing through rhetoric that is driven by ideology.

    Just to be clear, the above statements are not criticisms aimed toward you, Debra, or toward any of your readers.

    But the following is a problem I see with your “maintaining” philosophy and maybe even your blog.

    Even though you go to great lengths to avoid recommending dieting to others…

    I don’t think it is healthy for you to focus on what is required for you (and for other people) to maintain significant weight loss, when that kind of “maintaining” has more to do with staying focused on a particular weight range than on reducing actual health risks or maintaining optimum health.

    Doesn’t your approach buy into, and then feed, the paradigm of the status quo, which automatically equates smaller with healthier or better? Is your “job” really the position that HAES followers who are truly unhealthy (and obese) hold as the OTHER alternative to remaining very unhealthy (and incidentally obese)?

    There is something disingenuous and even harmful about equating the extreme things that you and many other people do to achieve and then “maintain” a certain small size, with what may actually be required to become healthier (and perhaps even lose some weight in the process.)

    When a low carbohydrate diet is constantly framed as “weight loss” diet, and then HAES folks follow along with that view, it inherently creates a straw man argument. Since, by definition, weight loss diets don’t work, then a low carbohydrate diet doesn’t “work.” But what if we take HAES at its word, and weight loss is not the goal, but better health outcomes ARE?

    But what if it a low carb diet drastically improves the health of many obese people (such as myself), and in some of us there is a weight loss side effect? Wouldn’t that still be HAES, with an intervention that helps a certain percentage? (Similar to the way a ketogenic diet helps a significant number of patients with epilepsy.)

    If HAES research is valid, then you (Debra) might very well be healthier at a bit higher weight, a weight that would allow you to eat more and exercise less…in other words, in fact, a weight that would not be much of a “job” to keep up with. Not even something to be frightened of, truthfully.

    But then what message would THAT send to people who are absolutely convinced that they are much better off without that burdensome extra “job.”

    And I see this perspective a lot, Debra. I see commenters on on blogs saying things about you, specifically, to the effect, “Debra is so awesome. A great FA advocate. And she tells it like it is…shows us what it REALLY requires to try and maintain after losing weight!”

    But is reality actually THAT black and white?

    Perhaps a lot of people have an all-or-nothing mindset about weight, in general, because they internally buy into the BMI b.s. about lower is always healthier. So, if they can’t achieve “healthy weight BMI”, then screw it, who wants to work their ass off for something so elusive…even if it might help them become healthier?

    So. Yeah. Of course I support HAES, but I think many HAES folks are still focused on the issue of weight. Not necessarily on health. They hear the word “diet” and it is like Pavlovian signal to stop listening since we all know that “diets don’t work.”

    I will be starting my own blog soon, when I figure out how. Thankfully, I won’t be hounding this lovely site (and others) leaving massively long comments like this one!

    Just a few “normal” sized ones. 🙂

    And I will forever be grateful for the chance I’ve had here to publicly work through a bunch of thoughts and conundrums.

    And you, naturally, remain brilliant and awesome, in my mind and heart.

    • I don’t see it as a HAES vs. HAES with a low-carb approach for insulin-resistant people. I may be wrong, but to my mind, they are both the same thing. HAES is not about advocating a particular eating style, rather it’s about finding the eating style that brings the individual to an optimal level of health and wellbeing and pursuing that eating style because of those health benefits, not with a goal of reducing weight. For you, that approach is low-carb.

      For me, HAES is not a low carb approach because that style of eating doesn’t bring me to my optimal level of functioning and causes weight gain, which to me is an unwanted negative side effect. That’s probably because I’m not insulin resistant. So for me to function well, feel vibrant and healthy, and have good labs and other health indicators, I have to follow a lower fat, higher complex carbohydrate, low to moderate protein diet. Your style of eating is my Krytonite, my style of eating is yours. HAES is about honoring both styles of eating. It’s about finding what works and sticking with it, again with the goal of health and not weight as the priority.

      I think going forward we’re going to start seeing more of an emphasis placed on body types and eating patterns that promote health based on those types. Interesting, in a health magazine I recently read there was a blurb that said something along the lines of “If you’re apple-shaped eat a low carb diet, if you’re a cello eat a Mediterranean diet, if you’re a pear eat a low-fat diet.” I wonder if we’ll be hearing more of such advice as time goes on? I wonder if it will make a difference? I know for me, when I’m very clear about following a low-fat, high complex carb, very low/sugar/processed diet I’m at my best physically, mentally, etc.

      • Great points re: diet suited to cluster of symptoms (or “body type”! Which is why I specified at the start of my comment about researching groups of people who share specific clusters of symptoms. The HAES participants would all get the HAES support, which I think is crucial, but nutritionally one group would have the diet feature tailored to address the specific health problems. Low carb is really getting a bad rap for that very reason…it doesn’t seem to help some folks at all, and may even be harmful.

        We need more reasearch to find out why low carb works so amazingly easy and happily for someone with my health issues. I haven’t heard any HAES folks willing to talk about low carb diets for specific types of health problems (accompanied by obesity.)

        And finally, I think you and I mostly agree with each other on this topic! 🙂

  9. RNegade, I’m not advocating. My life is my life. It’s not an “approach” to anything.

    I am a failed HAES practitioner, but a foaming-at-the-mouth Size Acceptance proponent.

    I don’t recommend my life to anyone. I just try to present it honestly, so that people may see an alternative view of how life is post weight loss, a challenge to the commonly accepted “Biggest Loser” mythology that holds that once you lose weight, maintenance is just a zippy, healthy “lifestyle.” I think there’s a place in the world for my view.

    When I bristle against you, it’s because I’m perceiving that you’re pushing low carb at me. I don’t think that would be a good fit.

    • I’m so grateful for your views, Debra. Prior to reading your blog, I really did believe that if I just kept on exercising and making healthy food choices, I would maintain my loss. I exercised a lot and believed that was going to be the key. I cooked all my meals from Cooking Light magazine. I (sort of) honestly thought that’s all I had to do. When I experienced some regain, it just, well, blew my mind.

      Thankfully, I’ve been able to arrest the regain and started making my way back downward. I prefer not to think of this as yo-yo’ing since I’m not drastically restricting calories, rather I am paying very close attention to mindful clean eating and exercise, but if we call a spade a spade, I guess I do qualify.

      I’m still down 30 lbs. since 2008, and if this is where my body needs to be that’s OK. I really do appreciate your perspective on weight maintenance.

  10. Yikes. I don’t want to push low carb on you. Just want to start expanding the dialog so it doesn’t fall into the trap of all-or-nothing thinking. HAES or “failed” HAES. I don’t think you failed, I think you are just dealing with the health issues that are most important to you…and maybe that includes emotional health. Maybe you do better emotionally when you maintain a certain weight. I would imagine that represents successful HAES…unless you were more miserable now than when you were fat. It doesn’t sound that way.

    BTW, I don’t feel you bristling against me. Ever. Maybe I’m thick skinned. (Or just thick, as my British mates might say.)

    I don’t think what YOU do or say is harmful to others, just the way that your words are sometimes used by others as a warning about what ANY potential post weight-loss experience would be like for them, too. Gosh, none of us, including you, can control how others will use our words or our experiences to support their own beliefs…which may or may not be helpful to them.

    I’m talking about a specific set of symptoms and health problems, which I have never seen you describe in your own health history. So, I have no idea if anything along the lines of lower carb would be helpful to you. No data to support that.

    I just hope to eventually reach the people who are suffering from the same cluster of serious, life-threatening problems as I was because they may be helped without worrying about whether they lose weight or not.

    You’ve made it pretty clear that you don’t include yourself in that group.

  11. “Maybe you do better emotionally when you maintain a certain weight. I would imagine that represents successful HAES…”


    I like this idea. HAES doesn’t necessarily have to mean settling at the top of one’s range. Weight loss or maintenance doesn’t necessarily mean insisting on or even aiming for the range deemed acceptable by the BMI charts. We each come to a settling point based on what we come to know, want, feel, intuit, decide.

    My own progression, up to this point, has been the opposite of many of yours. I used to be thin – I was around 125 pounds for years, and later, after giving birth, around 130. I think in a warped sort of way I was a maintainer – or maybe there’s a different word for it? – before ever being fat, before ever losing weight. What I mean is, I simply always maintained a (for me) artificially low weight, up until a certain point. I grew up doing that. I was raised to do it. My mother did it too (still does). I didn’t know anything different.

    I was never extremely thin – I don’t really think my body is capable of being extremely thin, barring some sort of catastrophe – but I realize, looking back, I was underfatted, probably under nourished, certainly underfed, for me. There was one stage when I was a teenager when my hair was falling out; my mother took me to the doctor and he told her to feed me whole milk and egg milkshakes every day, and she did for a while, and it stopped. So that was good. But my periods were always all over the map – sometimes there, sometimes not – and, most tellingly, for me, I was obsessed with food and weight. I craved food – carbs mostly – all the time. I wanted to be able to eat like the kids in the books I read: regular, full meals, and snacks. But then, I felt guilty for eating, for wanting to eat, a ‘lot’, which was really just an average amount, very likely.

    I know this all sounds very disordered, and it was. But I honestly think it was a sort of imposed disorder, brought about by simply not having enough food. It’s like .. thinness bred a sort of desire for greater thinness. At 125 pounds, I thought I had a weight problem because i couldn’t get down to under 120. It seriously preoccupied me.

    The last year that I was thin, my husband had just died of cancer, so I was considerably stressed, and I used to walk for about three or four hours a day as a stress reliever, and I was breastfeeding, and I was eating .. astonishingly little. I only know this because I was enrolled in a nutrition class and for one assignment, we had to track what we ate every day. My totals worked out to astonishingly little – one day was 500 calories total – some days more than that, but never over 1000. This wasn’t a goal – I remember being embarrassed by it and actually lying on my assignment, making up foods. But that amount of food was what felt normal for me.

    And still, the interesting thing is, I never got ‘very thin’. I settled at about 130 pounds, which is, I think, right in the middle of the supposedly ‘healthy’ range for my height, just under 5’5.

    Then, what happened next was that my life settled down, I relaxed, and, for the first time, I began feeding myself more, and my weight went UP, and settled at a much higher range of between 175 – 190. I think. I no longer weigh myself more than once a year or so, but I think that’s what I am and have been for about the past 15 years.

    As you can probably imagine, it was a bit surprising. I didn’t know where this extra weight was coming from. The first time I saw 165 on the scale, I thought the scale was broken. Literally. I laughed it off – I thought I couldn’t possibly be at those high numbers, because, very ironically, I didn’t ‘feel fat’.

    At 125, I felt ‘fat’. At 165 and above, I didn’t – I still don’t – I sometimes forget that I am, much like those middle aged men who really shouldn’t be wearing speedos.

    Of course, I did ‘problematize’ the weight for a long time.. not all the time, but when I remembered to. I did that right up until I encountered FA and HAES, a few years ago, and then some things began to make more sense.

    Mostly, I didn’t get very far in the problemetizing of it, because I realized at some point that I felt … better. Mentally and physically. No more hair falling out, regular periods, no more deep tiredness like I used to get, and, most shockingly, I stopped feeling obsessed with food. I mean, I ate – I eat – quite a lot of it. I don’t know how much. I would guess, probably around 2000 calories on an average day, sometimes more. But I don’t obsess about food. I can leave a chocolate bar half eaten. I don’t binge – I always used to think I was a binge eater, but I’m not.

    FA has been enourmously illuminating. For one thing, it was through the FA blogs that I realized I was fat! I had been thinking ‘voluptuous’. I am hourglassy, so I suppose that helps. I haven’t encountered much fat discrimination that I’m aware of. Men don’t randomly hit on me as much as when I was thin, but I’m also almost twenty years older than when I was thin, so that might have something to do with it, and anyway, that’s a good thing.

    But there were certain things about FA I didn’t agree with, or questioned. Like the notion of the near-impossiblity of maintaiing weight loss – I know it is unusual, but I could never quite believe it was impossible, because .. I know I CAN be thinner, because I have been. But I also know that it would be, for me, as well, a difficult and demanding ‘job’.

    I also question whether I could, would, be so fat- accepting of myself if my body settled at a significantly higher weight.. 250 or 300. Would I, could I, still feel that that was ‘right’ for me? Would it, or could it be? I don’t know.

    I don’t know if I’m an anomaly, or if many people are healthy at what would seem to be a high weight. I don’t know why I would probably have to be half dead to weigh anything below 130, whereas my daughter eats as much as I do and is 110. But it seems very apparent that we are not simple machines, and that wellbeing is a complex balance of mental, physical, social and experiential factors. It’s like the butterfly effect, maybe – we don’t know which little thing will ultimately affect the outcome most.

    I’ve rambled on much longer than I meant to – if anyone is still reading, apologies and thank you for indulging me!

    • I love your story, Mara. And the questions you leave open about self-acceptance and size accepatance are important. We are compelled to leave these questions open by a never silent culture that impinges on us. We are also compelled by our own conscience and humility.

  12. Sometimes I think that people take the phase “Health at Every Size” to mean that for every individual, ideal, optimal health is possible at every imaginable size. And that’s not what it is about.
    For me, I would put health at the center, and apply a “my body is my own personal laboratory” practice, experimenting with what works in terms of many possible variables, and the measures of success also determined by the individual.
    I am not interested in judging what someone does or does not do to lose, gain, or maintain weight. That’s their body. And this, all of this, over here? My body.
    I have had a terrible couple of weeks at work, and some of it actually relates to a privilege-denying formerly-fat person who is a few strata above me and is convinced that for every single person, it’s calories in = calories out, damn it!
    You are so not like that person, which is partly what brings me here. I am hungry for conversations like these.

    • A hug to you, AcceptanceWoman.

      A few years back I worked in an environment made toxic by a single person. It’s amazing how much power a toxic person can claim. And it’s NEVER as simple as ignoring the person or declining to “give” them power, as someone NOT in the situation may suggest. (That’s the same “sticks and stones” philosophy that didn’t work on the grade school playground.) And going to HR or the supervisor can create more troubles than it solves. Very dicey.

      Hug. Hug. Hug.

  13. @Mara and Acceptance Woman: Wow.

    I am grateful for both of your perspectives. And I am left wondering: is “feeling fat” a state of mind, and if it is, does it always/necessarily mean something positive, such as contentment with life or satisfaction with one’s body (or negative, such as…)? Is feeling “fat” ever just neutral?

    I’ve been thinking about all this stuff, and much more the last couple days, and I’m not sure where I fit in anymore. I think I’ve been trying to make myself fit in, here, for instance, as someone who has lost a lot of weight yet still carries strong FA advocacy. I don’t know where my weight will end up because I stopped dieting awhile ago (stopped restricting amounts), and I eat to satiety. Since then, I’ve lost another pound.

    Weight also stopped being an issue for me when I realized that my health has been completely restored, and I feel better than I can ever remember…better than I have in decades. In fact, better than I have ever felt as an adult or as a child.

    I have energy that I thought was gone forever, gone from about the time I began womanhood (as a young teen.) I thought the severe-low-energy aspect of my existence was some kind of post traumatic thing from a crappy childhood, or the result of experiencing chronic sex discrimination…or just chronic low-grade depression. It didn’t matter how happy I was, or how content with life, the low level of physical energy remained a reality for my body.

    (Of course endocrinologists and doctors have never found anything out of the ordinary with me physiologically. Other than blaming my *excess* weight. Grrr.)

    And I sleep long and hard at night, waking fully only once before drifting off completely again in less than, say, 30 minutes. Again, I don’t ever recall a time when I didn’t have insomnia.

    It seems like everything is different for my body now. It happened gradually. I don’t hear anything resembling my own experience being shared on the so-called weight loss blogs. I don’t hear my experience shared here (although I feel a kinship with Mara’s story!)

    The HAES paradigm appeals to me because it emphasizes size acceptance, and nondiscrimination, and health. But the information about health doesn’t always jive with what I *know* from my own experience and intuition. Because of what I *know*, I don’t like discounting terrible health issues (and quality of life issues) that sometimes accompany different sizes.

    So… I don’t feel like I *fit in* with dieters or maintainers because I don’t experience my existence as any kind of struggle, or battle, or work, or reason for vigilance, or cause for concern that I will regain. Yes, life is very hard sometimes, but the difficulties don’t have anything to do with weight, or weight loss, or eating, or spending time on exercise.

    For a long while, I kept thinking there would be some internal reaction as if a switch was thrown inside me, and suddently or slowly I would start to get nervous about gaining weight or start to worry about how much I *should* eat. Or start to want to *overeat*. I don’t even know what that word means any more. Many days I find my hunger is greater, so I eat more, and then I notice that my hunger is lower, so I eat less. It doesn’t worry me, either way.

    The fear is gone.

    P.S. I’m working on setting up my own blog. It is about epistemology and paradigms and adventure. And, maybe, transformation.

    • If there is one thing I know, RNegade, “fitting in” is not a venerable goal in itself. You are just fine not “fitting in” anywhere.

      When I was quietly living in the shadows at Big Fat Blog, before I’d come out of the closet, I wondered about where I fit in too. Who am I, really? Am I some kind of fraud? I agree with the philosophy here, but if they really knew me, they’d be horrified and disgusted. That’s probably why I found my mission statement. If my purpose is merely to tell a truth and advance compassion, then I can let the chips fall where they may. I came out of the closet at BFB on that precept, and lo, they didn’t find me horrifying or disgusting. About a year later, I (like you) was possessed to open my own blog for biz. Someone may point out where I fall short of the truth, they may teach me better how to be compassionate, but I don’t need to “fit in” anywhere, and that is freeing. When I say I’m failed HAES, for example, I am not expressing any emotion. It’s just fact. I tried that; I couldn’t do it. (I even turned intuitive eating into a diet mentality.) But I’m fine that I couldn’t do it. I do something else instead and let’s see what that may tell us about the bigger picture, and how we may make that bigger picture more truthful and compassionate.

  14. I left the discussion room for a few days and am now back to see so many incredible, moving and intelligent comments. Thanks to all, though it makes my head reel.

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