darkemeralds: A falcon taking flight from a falconer's arm (Wings)
[personal profile] darkemeralds
I seem to be undergoing some kind of mental revolution. I've changed my mind on things before now--I try to stay flexible--but this feels like it's a different order of magnitude.

Do you have that experience? Where you catch an idea from a book or an article, and it blooms and expands until it takes over your brain, and changes major beliefs, and makes you re-examine tons of stuff you haven't examined in years? And then you start deliberately reading more, and taking new actions based on the new thoughts in your head, and pretty soon you're leading a different life?

I have barely begun to articulate this change to myself, so this post is mostly an attempt to start mapping it, and find out if anyone else is in the territory.



The first big way-marker was Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants, which I read in October and have been through four times since. Among other things, it made me reconsider my rejectionist stance on certain technologies, notably in medicine (I'm getting my first-ever flu vaccine tomorrow as a result).

Perhaps more importantly, it stripped away--completely and probably forever--my "magical past" or "golden age" thinking, my entirely unexamined assumption that there was some better time in the past when food was pure and people were naturally healthy and in touch with the physical world--and that it would be good or even possible to return to it.

Visiting Kevin Kelly's blog led me to The Quantified Self, whose ideas dovetail well with my natural tendency to log, track, and quantify the things of my life. The idea is that we can see trends and evaluate what is through data.

From TQS I found Joe's Goals, Your Flowing Data, The Happiness Report, and a bunch of other reality-based self-tracking tools to supplement what I was already doing with calorie-counting at Livestrong.

Last Friday I ran across Greta Christina's Blog and in particular her challenging post Skepticism as a Discipline. And that was it, man. The turning point. Suddenly, whatever remained of my own magical thinking about one of the overarching problems of my life (being fat) just crumbled.

And there behind it was this new idea:

Human beings almost certainly evolved to eat ALL THE FOOD in anticipation of winter and drought and bad hunting. We still eat ALL THE FOOD, but thanks to technology, winter and drought never come.

So there are two choices: keep doin' what comes naturally and continue to get bigger and bigger till my joints fail, or exercise discipline, employ technology (I bought a bathroom scale yesterday), believe the science, accept responsibility, and face reality: 1900 calories a day is never going to feel as yummy and "natural" as the 3700 or so I've been eating.

Well, going to work every day doesn't feel that terrific either, but I do it because I accept that it's necessary. Reading, writing and math didn't come naturally either: I had to be carefully taught. Good things have resulted from those "unnatural" disciplines, however, and I'm ready to take on a new one.

I expect I'll be writing more about this subject, and I apologize in advance to my friends who are annoyed or troubled by it. Please feel free to skip.

(no subject)

5/12/10 20:58 (UTC)
tehomet: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] tehomet
In a nutshell, I disapprove of so-called weight loss dieting and of so-called weight loss surgery on many grounds. I'm a feminist, so I disapprove of the beauty standard, on the grounds that we are all of equal value, regardless of our appearance (or our state of health, come to that). As Naomi Wolf wrote, "Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women's history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one." I'm a fat acceptance activist, with all that implies in terms of accepting that fat is a normal part of the human body's diversity, as well as challenging the political and social injustice issue that is fat oppression. I have extensively reviewed the science, and I do not think that fat is necessarily bad for one's health, provided one eats well and exercises; (in fact, it may have a protective effect). (Please note that of course I think fat people who are unhealthy for any reason are entitled to the same respect as any other human being.) And finally, I practice Health At Every Size, which is to say, I eat healthily and take regular exercise with a view to enjoying life and being as healthy as possible (but not necessarily thin). I think diets and WLS are, to one degree or another, designed to hurt us and keep us in our place, under a cover of being good for our health, all while servicing the patriarchy and making a profit for the companies involved.

With regards to your plan of restricting your calorie intake in order to lose weight, I note from the research, as does Greta Christina, that the majority of diets fail. What she fails to mention is that, having reviewed the scientific evidence regarding dieting, I wouldn't see the point of someone going on a diet unless he or she actually wanted to get fatter.

Fat acceptance activists look at the research on dieters five years after they have initially attained their goal weight. The vast majority have regained all the weight, plus some. If Greta Christina wants to lose weight because her knee hurts, dieting will almost certainly make her fatter five years down the line, and her knee will hurt more. This is why FA activists have been recommending anything other than weight loss to her, to remedy her knee problem. It's not "denialism," it's practicality. Despite being 400lbs plus, I've never had joint problems, thankfully, but just off the top of my head, instead of dieting, she might be better advised to look at strength work to support her knee, and low or no impact exercise options to prevent damaging it further, as well as conventional medical treatments for joint problems, such as osteopathy. And, of course, I'd recommend that she practice HAES for her health!

Weight loss sustained over a shorter period than five years after attainment of goal weight isn't of significance. The situation after five years is the medical 'survival' or 'success' rate for other treatments, so it is the standard yardstick used by medical researchers and obesity experts: you're probably pretty familiar with the 'five year survival rate' being quoted for various cancer treatment options, for example. Anyone can spend a year on a strict diet, lose two pounds a week as recommended, and regain it all and more - that's pretty typical behaviour, in fact. A year is nothing. So, keep the five year rule in mind when you look at NWCR. If, as they say, "Registry members have lost an average of 66 lbs and kept it off for 5.5 years.", then even my limited understanding of statistics would indicate that the average length of time that the weight loss is sustained is considerably shorter than five years from attainment of goal weight.

It would be interesting to look at the NWCR's data if the five year rule were applied.

There's also bias to deal with, not to mention commercial interest. Greta Christina provides this link as evidence of a so-called "mountain of research" that being fat is bad for one's health. I would question whether a surgeon who makes his living from carrying out bariatric surgery is really unbiased as regards the evidence for fat's effect on health, in the same way that I don't ask the company running the nuclear reactor if radiation is bad for humans, I don't ask the butcher if she thinks vegetarianism is the way of the future, and I don't ask men or white people what the definition of sexism or racism is. :D I will not get into discussing how incredibly bad bariatric surgery is for one's long-term health or how ineffective it is right now, but I don't understand why a blogger whose headline is 'Skepticism as a discipline,' (or even a ten year old child) could fail to see the conflict of interest there, just as I don't understand why a blogger who claims to value evidence would disregard the five year rule or the many published studies, such as the UCLA paper linked here. Society says that weight loss diets work, but that's society, not science. In the face of the actual evidence, thinking that going on a diet will make one thin is practically the definition of magical thinking.

What you said, that you plan to 'exercise discipline... believe the science, accept responsibility, and face reality' seems to indicate fairly clearly that you (consciously or unconsciously) think that fat people like me are undisciplined, don't believe the science, don't accept responsibility for our bodies, and refuse to face reality. I don't agree. I have read the studies and accepted reality, I behave in a disciplined way, and I do accept responsibility for my body. If I had a wand to wave, I would like to be thin for social reasons, such as never getting assaulted again for walking in public while committing the crime of being visibly fat. I just don't think that weight loss diets are likely to work for me (or the vast majority of humans), I think dieting itself is unhealthy, and I don't see why I should conform to the social conventions. I'd rather accept myself and honour my body by eating healthily with an emphasis on reasonable amounts of good quality nutritious, delicious and unprocessed foods (rather than calorie restriction), and getting some daily exercise with an emphasis on fresh air, the fun of movement, and feeling the wind in my hair (rather than calorie burning).

I respect your right to do what you choose with your own body, of course, and considering fat oppression, like every other oppression, is undeniably unpleasant to deal with, I think that it's entirely understandable that you want to lose weight, so although I don't advocate dieting, I wish you the best with it. There are many social advantages to being thin in this society - for as long as that thinness lasts. There are even social advantages to being fat and complying with the social convention of being unhappy with it, i.e. doctors will be nicer to you if you are fat but on a diet, even if you're still just as fat! But I don't think I would personally choose to collaborate with my oppressors by dieting, since dieting is going to hurt my body. And I don't think that it's "extremist" or "crazy," despite what Greta Christina may claim, to say that diets don't work, since anyone who actually looked at the studies, rather than the social conventions (even when those social conventions are enforced by the medical profession) would say the same. I think with me doing HAES and you doing what you're doing, we are probably going to eating similar amounts of similar foods and taking similar exercise, with totally different motivations and aims. Isn't it funny? But there you go! I'll stick with HAES. That's my choice. I respectfully wish you good luck with yours, and of course I will always look forward to your posts. :D


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