What Fat Women Want

Wanting to be thin is only part of the story

The Idiot Factor

Who is the fool in weight loss studies?

It’s ironic, at the age of 57, in the midst of a long-running weight loss relapse, that I have found my fourth career, doing social media for healthy lifestyle and mind/body experts. While I still have to draw pictures of hormones and neurotransmitters in order to write about them, and I can’t quite tell the difference between Buddhist and Hindu yoga, I am exposed to a lot of headlines every day.

Sometimes the headlining news is practical. We should and can get up from our desks every 55 minutes to take a small stroll or engage in brief physical activity. Enhance that avocado’s vitamin A by eating with carrots or tomatoes? I can do that one-handed.

Sometimes the breaking news is amusing. Two years ago the Super Fruit was blueberries; now raspberries and guava have surged to the fore. Two months ago we were obsessing about our overweight pets but this week we’re worrying over our obese zoo elephants.

Sometimes it’s scary. Japan is attacking its overweight problem with mandatory counseling, diets and fines. All of the obese – Japanese or otherwise, even those with normal blood sugar and pressure and cholesterol – are shortening their lives by ten years.

Sometimes the news trends are simply bizarre. Some American fundamentalist Christians believe that being fat is a sin and that yoga is a pagan religion with a one-way ticket to hell.

But it’s the headlines that grow out of somebody’s stupidity that make me ponder whether I should make something of the story or run out on the street to collar a stranger in complaint. Earlier this year I wrote about the Mayo Clinic’s findings on obese women and exercise that left some very big considerations out of the picture. And last week, stories called “Increased fruit and vegetable intake has no discernable effect on weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” originally published in late June by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, started to flood the Internet.

Dieters who add lots of papaya and bananas, kale and Brussels sprouts, are, by golly, failing to lose weight because they aren’t controlling their overall portions. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry because I don’t know who the fool in the story is: the average weight watcher or the American Society for Nutrition in thinking we don’t know this.

Is there any magazine or book that doesn’t tell you that blackberry pie is not, really, a fruit? Do they publish diets in which pork chops are breaded and fried? Are we this stupid?

Or is the Society for Nutrition overlooking something? Are fat people adding more healthy food to their meals for the sake of the healthy benefits of fruits and vegetables, maybe not worrying about weight loss? Or are these diets the sneaky kinds, with cheat days and Skinny Squirrel ice cream sandwiches, allotments of bread and glasses of wine? What is the diet this study is based on?

I am, frankly, so physically sick of cruddy food and so tired of the limitations of being fat, that I am, yet again, taking on my old 12-step food plan. It’s very specific about proteins (4 ounces) and carbohydrates (6 ounces). It’s even specific about vegetables and fruit, including when, what and how much (grapes and bananas are off the list), and exclusions (sugar and flour, which include wine and all those paleo-pastries I also come across on the `net every day). It’s a food plan of plenty because of its salads and vegetables.

If I stick it out a while, I’ll lose weight, but that weight loss will be predicated as much on the continuity of my boundaries around food as it will be from being careful about the amounts of protein and potatoes I eat.

I’d really like it if the various societies, clinics, and labs asked one question of their trial participants before starting a new study: will this insult a reasonable, fat person’s intelligence? If the answer is yes, then why? If I was trying to manage a diet that let me have a slice of toast (oh heavenly, undeniable call from hell!) and a trail bar snack, all the new move-over-kale wisdom of kelp, cauliflower collard and mustard greens would be healthful but not healthy.

Frances Kuffel is the author of Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self.

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