sarahmichigan: (Default)
I haven't seen the first three parts, but I watched the trailer for the series and all of part 4. I tortured myself by sitting through the whole thing just so I could report back to you guys! And also leave HAES-friendly literature behind for participants and organizers.

Here's a slightly modified version of what I just posted to Facebook:

Went to a showing of Part 4 of the "Weight of the Nation" (Obesity Epidemic Panic Oh My) documentary, followed by discussion, last night. It wasn't as bad as I expected, but I did write down at least 6 pieces of misleading to downright factually incorrect information, plus more subtle un-truths through graphics. And our tax money paid for this crap. I did like the discussion of food politics (farm subsidies, food marketing & advertisment, etc.) and the focus on shaping cities to be more friendly toward exercise.

Factually incorrect: The next generation of children will have shorter lives than us because of obesity. UNTRUE. We've been living longer and longer as we get fatter, and the next generation of children is projected to have a longer lifespan.

Factually incorrect: The people shown in the opening credits are typical of the average overweight or obese American. FALSE. The people pictured and quoted at the opening of each episode are well in excess of 35 BMI, some well over 50 BMI. Those people comprise 8 percent or less of all overweight or obese Americans. Most "overweight" Americans would have been in the normal range before the government changed the definition of "overweight" in 1998 from a cut-off of 27 to a cut-off of 25.

Factually incorrect: The number of calories consumed per person has skyrocked by hundreds from the 1960s to the present. FALSE. The numbers often cited by the anti-obesity crusaders refers NOT to calories consumed but calories PRODUCED and they rarely make it clear that many of the food calories produced are a) fed to livestock or b) diverted to industrial use (i.e. soybeans) and not consumed.

Factually incorrect: Most overweight and fat people are that way because they're out of control with food. FALSE. Many studies have shown that we have a set range of weight, and it's hard to eat ourselves much fatter or starve oursevles much thinner because our body clings to that set point/set range. Google "Ancel Keys" and do some reading.

Factually incorrect: Commentator points to all the fast food joints on a block and says "You could eat your way to obesity just on this block." FALSE. You cannot eat your way to obesity. Even the NIH's own info suggests that our genes account for anywere from 60 to 80 percent of the variation in body sizes and shapes.

Also, folks from the Association for Size Diversity and Health contacted the documentary makers, asking to include some information about "Health at Every Size" and were rebuffed. That's too bad, because an HAES approach has been showed to be effective in dealing with metabolic disorders regardless of how much weight is loss (even if it's none).

sarahmichigan: (Default)
I posted a couple days back my thoughts on fat acceptance/size acceptance activism and how it is not compatible with the pursuit of weight-loss through dieting.

I do have several folks on my FL who are pursuing weight loss through Weight Watchers or other forms of food restricting, exercise, weight-loss surgery or some combination of those things, and I love those people dearly and love many of their posts, even some of the ones that mention weight loss as a primary goal.Read more... )

There's too much Us vs. Them in the world already, and regardless of whether you're doing Jenny Craig or getting lapband surgery, if you believe that fat people shouldn't be treated like shit and that maybe the whole War on Obesity is a little out of control, we're really on the same side.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
Since most of my on-line debates about the overblown dangers of overweight and the idiocy of the War on Obesity have tended not to change any minds, it's nice to see a health and medical blogger examining the evidence and changing his mind about the "Fat is bad, fat kills, weight loss is always desireable" conventional wisdom:

"I do not claim to have found the last truth about weight and health. I'll continue to watch journals for new studies on the subject and I'll continue to deal with the results whatever they may be. But what I know for sure is August 2nd, 2007 being the date when I have stopped to take excess body weight for a disease that must be treated by diets and other weight loss attempts."
sarahmichigan: (Default)
The more I read at Alas, the more I like it!

The full entry has many charts and citations, but in summary:

1) No weight-loss diet has every been scientifically shown to produce substantial long-term weight loss in any but a tiny minority of dieters.

2) Whether or not a weight-loss diet "works," people who go on weight-loss diets are likely to die sooner than those who maintain a steady weight or who slowly gain weight.

3) For fat people (or anyone else) concerned with their health, the best option is probably moderate exercise and eating fruits and veggies, without concern for waistlines. In other words, Health At Every Size (HAES).

4) The model on which most weight-loss diets are based - in which fat people eat like fat people and must learn to eat like non-fat people - is probably a myth.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
Diets do not work long-term. They make you fatter and crazy. You will take the weight off and put it back on again. If commercial weight-loss plans really worked, you'd do them once, lose the weight, and you'd have corrected your "bad habits" for life.

But they don't work that way. They give you an unrealistic standard to live up to so you'll fail and keep pumping more money into the multi-billion dollar Weight-loss Scam industry.

And dieting often leads to disordered eating, compulsive eating, compulsive exercising, compulsive obsession with food and being "good or bad."

If you still think you're going to change your life through dieting, fine. I just don't want to hear about it. If one more person tries to convince me that Weight Watchers is a wonderful way to "modify your lifestyle" and it's not a "fad diet" I will start screaming like a crazy woman. So, please. Just. Don't.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
This Geneen Roth column won't apply to everyone on my list, but it will to many. If you ever eat chocolate/ice cream/chips/comfort food when you're stressed or depressed, likely this will apply to you.

The more I read of Geneen's columns, the more I like her, though I don't agree with her 100 percent. She uses the term "natural weight" a lot and never defines it, and while she's against dieting, she seems to think that anyone who stops eating emotionally will automatically lose weight. I don't think that's necessarily always true.

My personal goal isn't to develop a better relationship with food so that I will lose weight; my goal is to develop a better relationship with food so that it will eventually become a non-issue in my life and I will be even more mentally at peace around food, body image, and related issues. I'm in a much better place than I was even two or three years ago with these issues, but family and holidays tend to re-trigger old patterns and worries.


"Most of us use food for emotional and spiritual sustenance it can't possibly provide. Or we use it to keep ourselves from experiencing the full range of our feelings. But it ends up keeping us from feeling truly alive. What happens if you just let yourself feel sad, or stressed, or angry? You might say that feeling sad will rip you apart, and you can't afford to be ripped apart--you have a job, kids, a life. Or you might say that you learned early on that feeling sad is self-indulgent and that no one likes sad people."


"Emotional eating is not about lack of willpower, and it won't be solved by dieting. While overeating (as well as undereating) can become a life-threatening health concern, the roots of the problem are rarely physical. We eat when we are lonely. We eat when we are sad. We eat when we are bored, angry, grieving, frustrated, frightened. We eat because we don't know that our feelings won't destroy us--and because food is everywhere, as is the message that it will fix whatever's wrong."

Sarah's notes: the example of the woman who has gained ten pounds even though she's happy made me automatically think, "Yeah, sure she's happy about the recent positive changes in her life, but even POSITIVE changes are still stressful! Stress alone can account for her weight gain without having to get into talk of self-sabotage."

While I think that many people, fat AND thin, use food for emotional reasons, I don't buy that all fat people are fat because they're emotionally traumatized or are protecting themselves with a "barrier of fat" as she refers to in another column. That may be true for her and for other fat folks, but not for all.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I read this "Prevention" column by Geneen Roth when I was on the exercise bike earlier this week at the gym, and I thought at the time that she sounded very anti-diet and pro "demand feeding."


"Sometimes I think that if I could've done one simple thing for myself--eat a hot meal every day, no matter what--I could've begun to teach myself that I was worth that much. I was worth the time it took to prepare and serve myself something hot and nourishing.

Learn from my mistakes. Before you embark on your next last-chance diet, give yourself the gift of believing that you're worth it. Start eating one hot meal a day, no matter what. And this is why..."

Turns out she IS anti-diet and in favor of demand feeding, very much so. She has written several books about how to feed yourself lovingly and mindfully instead of mindlessly bingeing or allowing the Diet Police to tell you the "right" way to eat.

Turns out she has a regular column in "Prevention" and it's available on-line. I'm reading through her archives right now.,5763,s1-21-0-0-308-0,00.html
sarahmichigan: (Default)

This is especially outrageous considering there are some health BENEFITS to being fatter than average and maintaining or gaining weight as you age. There's also some evidence that losing weight as you age puts you at increased risk of certain health dangers. Among the dangers of losing weight as you age are HIP FRACTURES!!! People who are fatter generally have more dense, and therefore less breakable, bones.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
Most commercial weight loss plans have no science to back up claims that they can help you lose weight. In the few cases where there are peer-reviewed studies, the results still aren't so great. Drop-out rates are around 50 percent. For the people who do complete the program, they lose about an average of 10-15 pounds at first. Three to five years out, they're lucky to have maintained a total loss of about 6 or 7 pounds. Read more here:
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I'm fairly skeptical that there's any ONE reason that Americans are fatter these days (though, statistically speaking, this horrible rise in American's weight is about 8 measly pounds over the last 15 years or so). It's blamed on soda pop, fast food, poor urban planning that limits exercise and encourages car use, etc.

I'm fairly convinced, though, that our rush-rush lifestyles, high stress, and lack of sleep are at least one factor. I think if we all slept better and took some time to destress, we'd probably eat better and exercise more.

A few links about sleep debt and obesity:
from webmd:
a more scholarly link:

Stress and overweight/overeating:

Learning to eat from hunger:
sarahmichigan: (Default)
When you finally stop dieting, what happens next?

Many people find that they go through a stage of "reactive eating." You might find yourself wrestling with the aftermath of all those times you learned (from the process of dieting itself) to ignore your body cues. The foods you eat may be the very foods forbidden to you on the diet, whether you are really hungry for them or not. You might feel out of control but defiant, and then you might panic and consider going back on another diet!

read the rest here:
sarahmichigan: (Default)
Weight Watchers wanted to pay Renee Zellweger to lose enough pounds that she would officially be below the range they officially deem as being healthy:

From the comments:

WW claim they are promoting health. How can they claim this and pay Renee to lose weight?

Renee is 5'5" right? And the heavy weight [for the "Bridget Jones" movie] is 145 or so? She plans to drop back down to 106 lbs, right?

Take a look at WW's height/weight table. Look at the healthy weights for a 5'5" in person. 120 lbs to 144 lbs. Remember: Those are THEIR numbers!

What bothers me about Weight Watchers campaign is this:
Renee is being paid to drop her weight from a level that Weight Watchers themselves lists as just one pound above the healthy maximum for people bewteen 25 and 45 to a weight WW considers to be 14 lbs below the healthy minimum.

WW is paying her to diet down to a weight they officially think is unhealhty!
Is WW trying to send the message: Our numbers are upper bounds? (But we don't quite want to come out and say this... because.. well,...?)

My BMI is 21. Based on my reading this is 1-2 BMI points below the value that correlated with optimum longevity for groups of American women near my age.
Am I supposed to see the WW ads, hear WW is paying her and think: Oh... Renee is intentionally aiming for 17, I should too? BMI of 17!

Ed. to add: I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with having a BMI of 17 (slightly below the "ideal" range), anymore than there's anything inherently wrong with having a BMI of 32 (a few points above the cut-off for being labeled "obese"). But I do think that it's hypocritical of Weight Watchers to encourage someone to lose weight to the point that they are 14 pounds below what WW considers, by *their own policies* to be a healthy weight.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
This Big Fat Blog post is mostly about being appalled that some journalist is saying that Fat Acceptance is "disempowering" and that higher body self-esteem in minority populations is misplaced and dangerous. However, the very long discussion in the comments about eating disorders, dieting, and the "intuitive eating" approach were incredibly fascinating to me.

Many people hear about the Overcoming Overeating Approach, or even try parts of it, and think it doesn't work because they still overeat, even after they "legalize" all food and stop dividing food into "good" and "bad" columns. They feel the MUST have some food restrictions, calorie-counting, etc. in place or they'll overeat. My contention, and that of several other commenters, is that you're not seeing the full picture if you believe you'll be "out of control" in your eating habits without outside, arbitrary limits. "Legalizing" foods is just part of the process-- you also have to understand when you're eating for emotional reasons rather than for hunger. You need to examine the politics about weight, fat, food, and gender in this country (Fat IS a feminist issue). Legalizing all foods is just one of many steps to undoing all the sick cultural conditioning we all have pounded into us about food, fat, weight, and morality.

The comments by the registered dietician working with eating disordered clients who was a binger herself are incredibly touching.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
Some people might think I'm cynical when I say commercial weight-loss diets don't work, and that WW and other weight-loss franchises are more interested in your money than your health. But apparently the facts are on my side.


Weight Watchers does not work. After decades of refusing to publish outcome data, a report has finally appeared (JAMA, April 9 2003 isssue, volume 289:1792-1798). 400 women were randomly assigned to Weight Watchers or to "self-help", which consisted of handing them a brochure. After two years of weekly meetings, weekly weigh-ins and one-on-one consultations the WW group had lost 2.9 kg (6 lbs). They had lost 4.5 kg at the end of the first year but were progressively regaining. Based on the $11 price of the weekly meeting alone, each pound of weight lost cost the experimenters $180.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
Paul Campos has his biases, but he's certainly passionate about debunking the hype about the so-called "obesity epidemic" and pointing out how much of our purported interest in people's health is really just distaste for the way big people look.


re: The Centers for Disease Control recently revising figures claiming that obesity was responsible for anywhere in the vicinity of 300,000 or 400,000 deaths a year, numbers that were grossly exaggerated.

Campos: Well in one sense, the revision didn't surprise me. It didn't surprise me in the sense that if they were actually going to do an accurate and honest evaluation of the epidemiological literature, there was no way that the earlier 300,000 figure from 1998 or the 410,000 figure from 2004 could stand up to scrutiny.

The epidemiology on this issue is extremely extensive and what it shows is that there is no significant difference in relative risks or early mortality between the so called normal or ideal weight category on the one hand and the so called overweight category on the other. When you look at the obese category you do not begin to see significant increases in relative risk until you start getting to really high levels of obesity. What's more, you see similar levels of relative risk associated with only slight amounts of so called underweight that are similar to what you see with very high levels of obesity.


[I]f you actually look at the median weight gain in the population over the course of the last generation, it's probably been about eight pounds. The mean is higher than that because you have some real significant weight gain at the far right end of the tail of the bell curve. But the median is probably only about eight pounds or so. Such a weight gain, when you look at the actual epidemiological data, has absolutely no significance in terms of increasing relative risk for either mortality or morbidity in a way that any epidemiologist would ever pay any attention to it.


I really think that what's fueling this [obsesity panic] on a basic level are these anxieties about decadence and over-consumption and laziness and that somehow we've got something wrong with ourselves as a nation. And this is always being projected out on to this matter of weight.

It's a way of using ideology to turn an aesthetic and cosmetic preference into a medical matter and then to moralize that medical matter. So we are medicalizing and moralizing essentially matters of fashion.

The claim that weight is an important medical issue is not completely false, it's just largely false. At the statistical extremes of thinness and fatness, there's no question that weight has some relevance. But for the vast majority of people in this culture, and including the vast majority of people who are classified as weighing too much -- especially this completely phony overweight category -- it doesn't.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
Just as the recent Flegal study by the Centers for Disease Control put the nail into the coffin of the obesity crisis myth, one published this week in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association buries the dieting myth. While it's popularly believed that dieting and weight loss improve health, this study found the greatest improvements are among women who don't diet.

"You can make significant improvements in both metabolic and psychological health without ever stepping on the scales or counting calories," said lead researcher Linda Bacon of the University of California, Davis. "You can relax about food and eat what you want."

This was a randomized clinical trial, universally recognized by the scientific community as the strongest type of experiment to test the efficacy of medical treatments and the least susceptible to bias. This study clinically followed the segment of the population which diets the most, and is most targeted by the weight loss industry: fat women ages 30 to 45. For six months, half of the women participated in a traditional diet and weight loss program, complete with social support; standard nutritional guidance to moderately restrict calories, on how to count calories and fat, read food labels and shop, maintain food diaries, and monitor their weight; and were given information of the benefits of exercise and behavioral strategies for successful dieting. The other women were instructed to let go of restrictive eating habits and not weigh themselves, were counseled to eat according to their natural appetites, given standard nutritional information about healthful foods, and participated in a support group designed to help them become more accepting of their larger bodies, develop a positive self image, and enjoy their bodies. The second approach is the medical paradigm known as "health at every size." After six months of weekly group interventions among both groups, they were followed monthly thereafter.

The just-released findings show that while the dieting group that had initially lost weight, it had regained almost all of it two years later, while the nondieters' weights had remained stable. Both groups had initially lowered their systolic blood pressure but it had rebounded among the dieters, while the nondieters had sustained their improvements. The dieters showed no change in their total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol, while the nondieters had significantly decreased theirs by the end of the study.

read the rest here:
sarahmichigan: (Default)
There was an interesting but too-brief article at a few days ago about how highly restrictive diets for young people often backfire. I really liked this nutritionist, Joanne Ikeda, who was quoted.

From the story:

"Ikeda began the session by explaining that she joined the fat acceptance movement "mainly because I was tired of lying to people that weight loss was a realistic goal." After working for years with fat girls who were trying to lose weight, Ikeda concluded that the children hadn't kept the weight off or improved their health, and their self-esteem had suffered terribly. From that point on, she decided that following the edict to "first do no harm" meant taking the focus off weight in kids and putting it on overall health.

"So Ikeda, who in addition to teaching nutrition at UC-Berkeley is a consultant to the HMO Kaiser-Permanente, promotes the idea of "health at any size." That's the notion that a fat person can be metabolically fit -- with healthy blood pressure and levels of glucose, insulin and lipids -- while still having a body-mass index indicating that they are overweight or obese."

Here's a link to an article about the study mentioned in the paragraph above:

"Joanne Ikeda, co-director of UC Berkeley's Center for Weight & Health ... said the survey results are particularly troubling, as other studies have shown that dieting during adolescence results in weight gain, not weight loss.

"There's a myth out there that calorie restriction on the whole is a positive way to lose weight," said Ikeda. "But studies have found that high school girls who said they were dieting were at greater risk for becoming obese three years later."

"Several respondents in her survey said they were not significantly overweight when they started dieting as young teens. "My concern is that there is a subsample of the population that is particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of yo-yo dieting," said Ikeda. "Many women in the study said they wished they had never started dieting in the first place."

"Ikeda cautions that her survey was not a randomized sampling of obese women in the United States and that this limits her ability to generalize the findings. In addition, there was no comparison group of women with BMIs of less than 30.

"Nevertheless, the survey provides some key insights into the dieting experiences of a significant number of obese women, said Ikeda.

"I suggest that dietitians and obese women shift their focus from weight to metabolic fitness," said Ikeda. "They should look at ways to improve blood pressure and levels of glucose, insulin and lipids rather than what the scale says."

"Ikeda admits that her anti-dieting views on weight and health put her in the minority among nutrition and health professionals. "If people have already seriously tried to lose weight three times and regained that weight back all three times, I'd say stop dieting and live with the weight they've got," said Ikeda. "At some point, you've got to say, 'This is not working for me.' You need to find an alternative. Adopt a healthy lifestyle, and let the weight stabilize."


The survey was co-sponsored by the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

*italics are mine. I'm pointing out that she has her biases and the people funding the study have their biases. I still found it interesting, if not definitive.
sarahmichigan: (Default)


"Those who gain and/or lose at least 10 pounds in a yearlong period at least five times over a lifetime may be setting themselves up for heart problems after menopause.

"[E]ven if a woman in our study was now thin, getting there by yo-yo dieting was shown to have a negative affect on the blood flow to her heart," says Duvernoy, who is director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at the VA/Ann Arbor Healthcare System and an assistant professor of internal medicine/cardiology at the U-M Medical School. "This is important because reduced blood flow to the heart could be an indication of a blockage in coronary arteries, or in the small blood vessels of the heart, which could eventually trigger a heart attack or stroke."
sarahmichigan: (Default)
When I was doing some interest searching on LJ, I was hapy to find there's a "Health at Every Size" community. Right now, it appears to be one person mostly posting articles about obesity research and health and fitness advice for larger people. I hope the community grows. The principles of the "Health at Every Size" philosophy are:

1) Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes.

2) Recognizing that health and well-being are multi-dimensional and that they include physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual aspects.

3) Promoting all aspects of health and well-being for people of all sizes.

4) Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger, satiety, appetite, and pleasure.

5) Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss.

This is very close to my own health and fitness philosophy. I believe that taking the focus OFF the numbers on the scale and focusing ON eating right and getting exercise no matter what size you're at is the way to go.

I think that focusing on weight-loss as a goal, rather than as a by-product of a healthy lifestyle, is extremely mentally and physically unhealthy.

and this is why )

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