I’m still thinking about…

I'm still thinking about all this fat acceptance / HAES stuff. I think this is what I believe right now -- that may well be subject to change. It's not exactly a manifesto, but it's something.

  • I believe that there is much more to weight gain and loss than simple calorie intake. The human body is very complicated, and we only barely understand bits of it.
  • Sometimes the body is very resistant to changing its weight (either to lose *or* gain weight). We don't yet understand why the body acts this way, nor are we certain how to minimize the body's resistance to change.
  • For me and my body, I tend to stay at a fairly stable weight unless something concrete intervenes to make me gain weight. (undiagnosed thyroid condition, broken heart, pregnancy). This is emphatically not true for everyone.
  • When I count calories, either eating 300 calories less than normal, or exercising to burn 300 extra calories has so far caused me to lose weight reliably. Not as fast as one is supposed to, according to the current medical science, but that may be attributable to the thyroid condition. Or to a host of other biological factors, since the human body is a complex and mysterious thing. Still, I do generally lose weight dieting by cutting calories.
  • I really don't enjoy cutting calories. It means I'm a little bit hungry all the time. And cutting 300/day is a bit dramatic, and there's no real need for trying to lose weight fast.
  • If I want to lose weight right now, and I do, then I think the best plan *for me* is to eat a little bit less, and try to exercise every day, either aerobic or weights. Build muscle, build endurance, build flexibility. So that even if I don't lose weight, or don't lose much, I have a stronger, healthier body.
  • In general, it seems that for many, if not most, people, dieting may lead to small short-term weight loss, but generally leads to additional weight gain over a longer period of time. Some of the FA folks use this as an argument for not dieting, saying it'll actually make you gain weight. I'm not convinced of that -- I don't see how you can tell whether those people who lost 15 and gained 20 over five years (a net gain of 5 pounds) wouldn't have possibly gained a lot more in that time if they hadn't been dieting. But regardless, it seems like most people (and myself included) should understand that dieting may not result in the weight loss they desire, and that they shouldn't let this make them crazy.
  • It's very hard to avoid getting crazy about this subject, given how pathological our society is about weight. It's just not that big a deal if you gain a little weight, especially as you get older. Trying to hang on to your eighteen-year-old body when you're forty is a little unrealistic, not to mention narcissistic. We should all get over ourselves a little. (Myself included).
  • Gaining a lot of weight, however, is likely to be hard on your body. Try to avoid it if you can, and if you can't, do talk to doctors about your best course of action. I don't know much about living with serious weight gain, or about what medical conditions it may or may not exacerbate; apparently, a lot of that is currently contested ground. Educate yourself. Read reliable sources, and watch out for politically-motivated or economically-motivated bad science.
  • If you do decide to try to modify your body, keep the focus on health. I'm okay with having weight loss as a goal (unlike some of the FA people), but I do think weight loss shouldn't be the primary goal, since there's a good chance you won't succeed at it. If your primary goal is to get healthier, stronger, etc., that's almost certainly something you can do.
  • We should all try to resist the culture that brainwashes us and tells us that only one very thin body type is beautiful. Many body types are beautiful. We should all work on appreciating a variety of sizes, shapes, textures, and so on. It can only be good to see more beauty in the world.
  • Politically, I think it's dangerous to biologize (is that a word?) fat acceptance (or queerness, etc.). I understand the utility of the argument (I have no control over this, so don't punish me for it). But I think we should be committed to taking care of each other, whether our not our choices have led us into socially difficult situations. To that end, I'm in favor of adding wider seats on airplanes, theatres, etc. -- doing what we can to make those of us who are fat comfortable and able to function well in the world.
I don't know whether any of the above makes me a fat acceptance activist, an enemy of fat acceptance, or something in between. But it's where I stand right now. Feel free to try to convince me differently.

One thought on “I’m still thinking about…”

  1. In case you are interested, Mary Anne, on Steven Barnes’ blog for the past year there has been a lot of discussion about intermittent fasting (every other day or some variant) for general health and weight control. It seems that there may be a lot of value in it, in part since it probably mimics the way our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago ate, so we are likely adapted to it better than we think. And on eating days that there is no restriction, although people tend to automatically eat more healthy food, and lots of it. The taste for unhealthy stuff pretty much disappears.

    A lot of the people who comment seem to have lost a lot of weight. I have been doing it fairly consistently for about eight months. My weight has come down, but not as much as others.

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