Wait, Who Are the Crazy Ones?

So, I was inspired to write about the issue of control by some comments on The Fantasy of Being Thin thread, where people explicitly said things like, “My weight/eating feels like something I can control, even when I can’t control anything else.”

Oh, I have so many things to say about that. My first thought is, as you might have guessed, that the desire to control something is a classic explanation for disordered eating behavior.

My second thought is, “Man, we really need to get it through our heads that we’re all going to die.”

That might seem like a bit of a leap, but consider the hardcore calorie restriction folks – not mere dieters, but people who have chosen a lifestyle (CRON, or Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition) that puts a minimal food intake front and center, based on research (mostly on vermin) that suggests it might substantially increase our life spans. In his New York Magazine article about this phenomenon (linked above), Julian Dibbell writes about having a dinner party with some members of the Calorie Restriction Society, where the conversation inevitably made its way here:

“Kurzweil thinks we will reach actuarial escape velocity pretty soon,” says Don. “What do you think, Michael?”

Michael pauses to collect his thoughts, and while he does, let’s fill in a blank or two. Ray Kurzweil is an occasionally best-selling futurist, given to flamboyant but well-researched predictions about the “transhumanist” century ahead of us, in which hyperbrainy artificial intelligence, fiendishly intricate nanorobotry, genome-twiddling Frankentech, and other incipient techno-marvels combine to reinvent humanity in the image of the machine. Swirling in the midst of it all is the key concept of “actuarial escape velocity,” a transhumanist term for that moment in the acceleration of biomedical progress when, for every year you live, technology adds another year or more to your maximum life span. It’s a tipping point that, theoretically at least, never stops tipping.

In other words, these people — and there are more than a few of them — sincerely believe that severely restricting their calories could lead to immortality. If calorie restriction can expand their life spans long enough for them to see “actuarial escape velocity” come about, they’re home free.

That’s not even quite as batshit as it sounds. There is a lot of research, if almost none on human subjects, suggesting the possibility of increased life span through extreme calorie restriction. And the thought that medical technology could eventually improve at a fast enough rate to keep people living well past what we ever imagined possible for human beings is… well, not completely insane.

But.

Any discussion of “actuarial escape velocity” is incomplete without an acknowledgment that, just as vampires have stakes and sunlight and werewolves have silver bullets, human beings have and will always have accidents and violence. Lessons of the Futurama movie aside, it seems highly unlikely that technology will ever produce a cure for decapitation, for instance. Or for a knife or bullet or metal car part right through the heart. I mean, maybe, but… seriously? I’m not holding my breath. Or restricting my calories.

‘Cause if we’re only talking about an increased average life span — which is happening anyway — not bona fide immortality, then we need to talk about quality of life. Now, according to Dibbell, the CR folks will tell you their quality of life is awesome — they have better sex, the occasional hunger-induced bout of euphoria, improved vision, and a greater appreciation for food than those of us who aren’t fucking desperate for it have. But they also literally have to build their lives around their diets. They have to plan and weigh all their meals to a degree that would make someone who did Weight Watchers in the ’70s blanch. They have to be hyperaware of the caloric content of half a strawberry. They can’t go to parties and merely alternate wine with Perrier or strategize about which appetizers will best fit in with their program and how many hours in the gym it will take to burn them off; they can’t eat or drink booze they didn’t plan for at all, lest they fuck up their project and, you know, not live forever.

And still, the really sick part is how familiar it all sounds, isn’t it? The line between gung-ho dieting and immortality-seeking fringe behavior is a lot finer than you might expect.

Because of that, I know there’s no way in hell I could ever put myself through that, even if it really did mean living 25 years longer than I would have otherwise — let alone forever. I know what it’s like to be chronically hungry and obsessed with food, and Jesus, if you told me I had to do that for the rest of my life? Then the thought of an extra 25 years would just be fucking depressing. And the thought of immortality would have me hoping they never find a cure for decapitation, so at least there’d always be an out.

Oh, but wait — there are people telling me that’s what I, and all fat people, are supposed to do for the rest of our lives. Remember Robert Haddocks, who firmly believes “most people are overweight by choice,” and if you have the bad luck to be genetically predisposed to fatness, the obvious solution is to eat as little as it takes to be thin?

Never mind that for some fat people, there is no line between the calorie consumption required to be thin and out-and-out starvation. Reality check: when Dibbell decided to experiment with living an extreme calorie-restricted life, that meant 1800 calories a day — which is higher than where both Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers started me (1700 calories a day), let alone where they had me once I’d lost some weight (1200 a day). And one of the points he includes to make the CR people look less nutty is that they worried about him losing weight too fast and being too hungry — April Smith, the apparent queen of the CR movement, insisted he eat extra dessert after he stuck his finger in a bowl to rescue the last available molecules of ricotta.

Dibbell started out at 5’11″ and “an almost officially overweight 178 pounds.” I started out at 5’2″ and somewhere between 180 and 190 lbs., depending on which diet we’re talking about. On my second major diet, I naturally plateaued while still in the “officially overweight” category, on 1200 calories a day. Just so we’re clear.

The Calorie Restriction movement is not about weight loss. I’ll give them that. But it is ultimately about exactly the same thing as dieting “for your health,” and the endless campaign to make fat people quit being so goddamned fat, so as not to clog up the hospitals and hike up the good thin folks’ insurance premiums: it’s about a fantasy of control that goes as far — whether you consciously acknowledge it or not — as believing that if you eat a certain way, you will not get sick and die.

The CR Society fascinates me because they’re actually honest about it. And yet, those are the people we look at and say, “Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME?” Not the people telling us weight loss is, for every human being, a simple matter of calories in/calories out. Not the people telling us that losing weight has massive health benefits for all but the underweight. Not the people telling us that fat people are, without a doubt, a burden on the health care system (whether that health care system is government-subsidized or not). Not the people telling us that getting sick is almost always our own damn fault. Not the people telling us that the solution to all of the above, and myriad other problems, is to consume fewer calories.

All of those people are sane and rational and just telling a hard truth that fatties don’t want to acknowledge. But people who think extreme calorie restriction will extend their lives, maybe indefinitely? Cuh-RAZY!

I’m not saying they’re not crazy, mind you. I’m just saying all those other people are, too. They’ve bought into an equally insidious fantasy in which self-control leads directly to extraordinary good health — and we never call that crazy. (Well, we do, but most people don’t.) As far as I can tell, the main difference between someone practicing “Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition” and someone on Jenny Craig is that the former will say flat out they’re doing it because they don’t want to die, ever, whereas the latter will just make some noise about wanting to live to see her kids grow up — as if no fat person in history ever did that.

Also, the person practicing CRON might be eating more. There’s that.

Today’s Trib has an essay by Jim Sollisch about coming to the stunning realization that, according to BMI, he is damn near “obese.” My first thought about that was, “Must be nice to be a guy” — is there a middle-class, western woman alive who doesn’t know her BMI off the top of her head? My second thought was, man, this article is so close to being right on the money — Sollisch talks about how, by every measure of health other than BMI, he’s in peak condition, so it’s absolutely ridiculous to claim his weight, which hasn’t gone down despite his healthy diet and more than adequate exercise, puts him at extra risk of disease. Bingo! Except wait.

The last thing I want to be is an apologist for obesity. Obesity is a killer, a huge risk factor for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and a life of misery.

Bingo! The other kind.

The guy has just written an entire fucking article about how he is borderline “obese,” despite not appearing fat to his friends and having “a cholesterol score a vegan would covet and the blood pressure of a marathon runner” — and yet, he still repeats uncritically the assertion that weight is, in itself, a “huge risk factor” for everything up to and including “a life of misery.” IT’S SCIENCE!

The key is, of course, that there are actually fat people, who are clearly at risk, and then there are those “suffering invisibly” like him, who aren’t. Good fatties and bad fatties — you might have heard of them.

Any clues on how to tell those two groups apart, there, Jim? You really think it’s just a matter of who looks fat and who doesn’t, by your standards? ‘Cause, um, it’s not. Also, with regard to your standards, I guarantee you that if you put your photo in the BMI Flickr stream (I imagine you’d look something like a shorter, older Angelos), there would be plenty of trolls lined up to tell you the “overweight and nearly obese” designation is PERFECTLY ACCURATE UR JUST IN DENIAL FATTY. Trust me on that one. So how is it we’re supposed to tell the difference between “healthy, not-really-fat fat” and “ZOMG going-to-die fat” again? Who gets to judge? You? Me? People who think this woman really looks overweight? And what’s the penalty for flunking?

I mean, that’s the thing — if being fat really is the express train to early death, shouldn’t that be penalty enough? Shouldn’t all those good, disciplined people whose “healthy lifestyles” are clearly going to keep them chugging along to 120 show us a little mercy, since they’ll get to enjoy so many extra years that we won’t? Not to mention, shouldn’t they be thinking about how much social security they’re going to suck, living decades beyond the average life expectancy, and maybe keep their mouths shut about how fatties affect their health insurance premiums?

You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Which means the only explanation for those people freaking out about obesity is that they really do know, down deep, they’re eventually going to die. And if they die at 80 after a lifetime of abstemiousness, and a fat person dies at 80 after a lifetime of (supposed) self-indulgence, IT’S NOT FAIR! And you know what’s really, really not fair? When thin people get cancer and die at 50. Or have heart attacks and die at 60. Or get in car accidents and die at 40. IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO WORK THAT WAY! IT’S NOT SCIENTIFIC!

Hey, here’s a scientific fact: We are all going to die. And in the meantime, we all make decisions about the kinds of lives we want to live. Some people eat as little as possible in the explicit hope of outliving this silly, primitive limitation known as mortality. Other people eat less than they want to in hopes of living a little longer than people who “indulge themselves.” And other people eat what they fucking feel like eating, because to them, chronic restrained eating would — unlike obesity — indeed be a “huge risk factor for… a life of misery.”

And in those last two categories, at least? There are people of all sizes. People who are unequivocally fat despite consistently eating less than they want to, and thin people who seem to have the proverbial hollow leg. There are even, horror of horrors, fat people who eat whatever they want. Because they’re grown-ups, and they’re allowed. What a concept.

But wait, let me make sure I’ve got this straight. The CRON people — the ones who think that restricting calories will lead to immortality — are whackjobs no one should take seriously. But the rest of the world — the ones who think that restricting calories somewhat will stave off virtually every known disease and increase the average lifespan, whereas “eating whatever you want” will inevitably lead to obesity, which we all know is “a killer, a huge risk factor for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and a life of misery” — are perfectly sane and rational about food?

And it makes sense to sneer at the former group but nod vigorously at the latter, even when the latter is saying, “I am borderline obese, according to the metric on which all the scaremongering about obesity is based, and I happen to be perfectly healthy — but I know that excess weight remains deadly because of, um, statistics based on that aforementioned metric that claims I should not be healthy at this weight.”

I’m sorry, but which one is the obviously batshit crazy group and which is the obviously rational one again? I mean, at least the CRON people have some fucking rat research on their side.

Y’all, I hate to be the first one to break this to the internet, but you are going to die, and you cannot control it. Everyone you love is going to die, and you cannot control it. You and everyone you love are going to get sick at some point in your lives, and you cannot control it. You or they might be in a terrible accident someday, and you cannot control it.

You certainly cannot magically control any of the above by fucking dieting.

There are things in this life you just can’t control, period. And it’s okay. Really.

140 thoughts on “Wait, Who Are the Crazy Ones?

  1. I remembered reading that New York Magazine article when it came out and feeling freaked out in a sci-fi kind of way. . . and not at all making the connection to the thin-is-healthy see-your-kids-grow-up arguments which slip so easily into the mainstream media, the articles that never freaked me out because they seemed, well, true.

    However. Sadly. For me, weight loss has never been about controlling my health or longevity. All I ever cared about was controlling my appearance :(. If I were to go on a diet tomorrow, that would be the reason. You could probably write a whole other post on people who tell others and themselves that they are dieting for their health when they really just want to feel beautiful.

  2. I hope this doesn’t come off as diet talk because I really don’t mean it that way. But if I could lose 20 lbs by eating 1,800 Calories a day like Dibbell… well when i was dieting 1,800 Calories would have sent me into OMG I’m such a pig and I don’t deserve to live mode in like a second.

    And you’re right, the CRON people are really not that much more crazy than the “healthy lifestyle” people. They just actually acknowledge that they are trying to do something that’s impossible.

  3. All right. This is the post that puts me over into the “slavish worship” category.

    I think there’s intersecting fears in fat – of age, death, and of poverty, too. I also have seen race figuring into the equation. Of course, how racialized fat-hatred intersects with class fat-hatred is a bigger subject than I could tease out with any intelligence.

    But all of these things, I think, make fat hatred so accessible. Start with a fear of death: add thinness as a marker of privilege on so many fronts – and of course, the privileged have an easier time avoiding early death with superior nutrition, health care, less dangerous and body breaking jobs, etc. – and then give it any hint of a medical reason for fat to be bad…

    Oh, and of course gender. Women used to be “allowed” to be 30% body fat. When I was a kid.

  4. In fairness, I doubt there are any CRON women eating 1800 calories/day, they’re probably eating as little as Jennie Craig would allow or less.

    I’m not going to criticize anyone on absolute calorie intake, since there are certainly days that I eat less than they do (if I’m just lying around in the house for some reason my appetite really down-regulates…I just assume that’s natural for me, just as it’s natural to eat heartily when exercising heavily)…but I just don’t get consistently eating so little as to be incapable of doing basic physical tasks, either on CRON or a conventional diet. It seems pretty obvious to me that starving yourself to the point that a brisk walk is a challenge is Doing It Wrong from a survival perspective. I can’t imagine it makes recovering from illness a picnic, either.

  5. Hey, KH, your Robert Haddocks link has an extra “http//” in it.

    And if they die at 80 after a lifetime of abstemiousness, and a fat person dies at 80 after a lifetime of (supposed) self-indulgence, IT’S NOT FAIR!

    Heh. That reminds me of my two grandfathers — one, a fat guy who never exercised and never ate a veggie that hadn’t been deep-fried or boiled to death, and the other a vegetarian all his life, who exercised hours a day and didn’t have an ounce of fat on him — and they both died at about the same age, early 80s. In fact, I think the fat no-exercise grandpa lived to be a little older.

    Yeah, love all this stuff about how fatties drain the health care system and Cost People Money, while the people who strive to be centenarians-plus get off the hook. They won’t cost their fellow man a red cent living that long, nonono. They won’t be taking an extra dime of benefits, they won’t have squillions of extra doctor visits and medications and procedures for all those 120 years they intend to be banging around. No way.

    I’m sorry I don’t get to join them for one reason and one reason alone: I’d love to have a chance to, on the occasion of my 120th birthday, write an article for the paper about how all those 79-year-old whoopersnappers out there just don’t understand my generation.

    Damn it, why is THIS not being published in the friggin’ Trib? (Oops, almost wrote “friggin’ Chron.“)

  6. I believe the whole health thing is a coverup for beauty. You can’t say it’s because of that because then you’re shallow and we can’t have that. So everyone jumps on this bandwagon so concerned about overweight people because of their health, when really I think it has more to do with having to look at someone that doesn’t fit your ideal of what beauty is and how dare you have to look at them. Call them weak, call them ugly, call them lazy, call them any name in the book, then make you you tell them it’s because you want them to be healthy. The biggest farce of all. Even worse is to find an attractive, happy overweight person. How dare they be happy and feel good in their skin when I obsess about food and exercise. They should have to suffer like me. So I’ll make fun of them, call them names, make sure guys feel like less of a man for finding them attractive, and then tell them it’s because I’m worried about their health. That’s really what all this comes down to. Since when did anyone care about another person’s health? When was the last time you made sure a homeless guy was eating all the food groups and exercising? When was the last time anyone told a naturally thin person to lay off the desserts for their health?

  7. Kate asked: “is there a middle-class, western woman alive who doesn’t know her BMI off the top of her head? ”

    Hi! 31-year-old, middle-class, western woman here completely unaware of my BMI or even how to arrive at it. I haven’t been on a scale in weeks (maybe months) – with my wedding in less than three weeks – and it’s in large part thanks to your fantastic blog.

    I love your writing and the eye-opening work you do here. Thank you.

  8. Great post, Kate. Thanks for calling out the Trib editorial – I was encouraged by its headline and disappointed by a bit of its content (SO CLOSE.)

    On top of that, we all know that fat people will die, uh, more than thin people. That’s it!

  9. I remember reading and seeing people being astonished and outraged when Jennifer Patterson died. (JP was one of the Two Fat Ladies.) She was 71, which is still a perfectly respectable lifespan. Only she had the audacity to have spent her life drinking, smoking, and eating plenty of lard and full-fat dairy products. And, you know, actually enjoying her life. The thin-is-best health nuts were all “Well, she would have lived to 90 if she had been good!! [secret jealous mumblings]” They all also assumed she died of a heart attack/clogged arteries/etc OMG LARD!!!!!), but it was lung cancer.

  10. Another great post. I think you’re dead on with the “it’s not fair” analysis. I’ve picked up on a lot of folks obsessing about other people’s weight and/or appearance when it seems like what they’re actually upset about is the fact the so-called fattie has the nerve to be having fun and enjoying life instead of going to Jenny Craig and suffering like a good little Puritan.

    BTW, I’ve never figured out the point of trying to extend life into the past 100 decades — those years are being added on the wrong end. Especially when extremely thin people are at high risk of osteoporosis. They’re going to discover It’s not much fun to be 105 with bones so brittle their ribs fracture when they sneeze.

  11. Why don’t people ever talk about how much it costs to save someone from EDs and ED-related things such as heart transplants?

    Besides, I bet there are at least SOME CRON people (like there are some vegans, and raw foodists, etc.) who are just using it as validations of their actual eating disorders.

  12. I can’t remember where I read it (maybe in the comboxes here somewhere), but don’t they keep these calorie-restricted lab animals from breeding? Maybe their long lifespans are related to that, if true.

    Seems to me the CRON people are a pretty self-selected group (as well as being crazy.) IOW, if you’re in that roughly 5% of the population who *can* knock around while in virtual starvation, what’s the point of that? So what, they’re genetically capable of starving. Fat lot of good it’s going to do them if they don’t pass their starvation-resistant genes on. And it may be that their starvation has rendered them infertile, anyway.

  13. Wow-I never thought about how mortality could influence view on weight and eating. Your thought processes never fail to impress me. I haven’t commented on your incredible fantasy of being thin piece because I’m still chewing on that “food for thought” a week later. I love how this blog takes a step further from pointing out the inequities regarding weight/size/health etc. and uses rational thought, good research, and incisive writing to argue against them. The academic in me just thrives on this stuff. Thanks for being a thinking woman’s blog!

  14. Maybe those calorie restriction freaks have an idea worth merit- you really only live as long as you would have otherwise, but it must freakin’ feel like eternity never having anything to eat!

    If science (and we know how *accurate* that is) were to proclaim 50 extra years from this regime, I still don’t think I’d want it. There is a natural pattern to eating, sleeping, working, playing, having families, growing older, etc. I accept it. They don’t- as simple as that.

  15. I posted a comment that didn’t go through, I think because it had a link in it.

    But Stefanie, I’ve seen at least one study showing that the reason calorie restriction increases lifespan in rats is because the low calorie intake rendered them infertile. Reproducing is very hard on rat bodies, so being infertile greatly increased their lifespan.

    That New York Magazine article was really interesting. And I think you’re absolutely right about the “It’s not FAIR!” thing.

  16. “it seems like what they’re actually upset about is the fact the so-called fattie has the nerve to be having fun and enjoying life instead of going to Jenny Craig and suffering like a good little Puritan.”

    Yes, exactly. People who eat what they want are not playing by the rules.

    I have to agree that there really is something oddly refreshing about a group of people going “Yes, exactly, we plan to do x, and then y, and then z, and consequently never die. If we do die, it will be because we did it wrong. That’s the plan.” The crazy is a lot easier to pin down.

  17. I laughed out loud during several parts of this, because it’s all so very true.

    When I was a teenager, before I’d ever heard of fat acceptance, I remember hearing a horror story about a widow I knew who’d gone to the doctor for a check-up, only to be told that it was her husband’s own fault that he died young because he’d been fat.

    I was disgusted by the story, and the first thing out of my mouth was, “That doctor really needs to get a grip on her fear of death.” Everyone looked at me like I’d grown two heads, but I completely see the logic, Kate.

    And, when I was dieting, practising something remarkably similar to the calorie restriction you mention here, I sincerely believe that I might make myself, through sheer force of will, live to be 100. The two mindsets — dieting and immortality-seeking — are NOT that far apart.

    (Of course, I’ve since decided that a life spent constantly hungry and thinking and planning and missing food isn’t worth living, certainly not for an extra few years. )

    And as one of my favourite webcomics recently said, “Dear science, let me die, love Drew.”

    Amen to that.

  18. This is an absolutely great post.

    It reminded me of a comment I’d made to a friend today:

    “The only end result of all this (dieting and exercise) is how little strain you put on your family’s shoulders when they haul your casket to the grave.”

    Which is why I want to be cremated. With hickory wood, and holding bottles of barbecue sauce. Why -can’t- a crematorium smell nice? I’d love for my family during my cremation to be looking at each other asking:

    “Do you feel like take-out?”

    Lord knows I sure will.

  19. “I believe the whole health thing is a coverup for beauty.”

    You’re so right and I’ve thought that for a long time even before I was all FA. There got to be a period of time where the “if you’re fat you won’t be pretty” line of my grandmas’ time started to wear pretty thin, and I think that’s when it turned over to “well, it doesn’t matter if you’re pretty, but you won’t be HEALTHY” which I find kind of amusing because didn’t healthy used to be a euphemism for fat, or if not fat, kind of fat. “She’s a strong, healthy girl” sort of thing.

    Anyways, yeah, it’s never really been about health, because if it were people would realize that fat people can be healthy and Let. It. Go.

  20. I’d love for my family during my cremation to be looking at each other asking: “Do you feel like take-out?”

    Hee! Love it, Rowan.

    And Lexy, Lori, etc., yeah, I absolutely believe “health concerns” are a proxy for “I don’t like looking at fat people” a LOT of the time. And in a sick way, I respect the people who will admit that outright — like those who responded to the recent “the ‘overweight’ category is actually healthiest” articles with, “Who cares? Fat is still unattractive!” — the same way I respect the CRON folks. At least they’re not disingenuous, you know?

  21. After I hit 30 my mortality really hit me, but I didn’t quit smoking and I didn’t quit eating. I am well aware of the fact that I have a history of congestive heart failure in my family as well as breast cancer. Whether or not I am 110lbs or 210lbs will likely not factor into what will eventually kill me.

    I was driving home around midnight on Saturday and a out of control mini-van barely missed my car and eventually wiped out a fence on the side of the road. I mean that could have been it for me, a person who was literally too drunk to drive, but it wasn’t.

    I just don’t get how calorie depravation can extend your life, as people can literally DIE from starvation. I recently read a book about a kid who walked into the Alaskan back country with the hopes to live off the land and discover himself. Eventually he makes a mistake of eating a type of moss(the author theorizes) and this moss literally stops your body from processing food properly and the kid gets weaker and weaker and eventually starves to death.

    In my opinion a lot of the obesity scare has some to do with a society that over consumes and is guilty for it. However, I think it is even more selfish to knowingly starve yourself in the hopes of an extended life or to achieve an asthetic ideal. There are people out there who are starving, for real, not for control, not for a longer life or because they want skinny thighs, but because they cannot afford food.

    These people on CRON or any type of calorie restriction diet are not controlling anything, they’re letting food, immortality or society control them.

  22. When I first started to seriously diet several years ago, I discovered websites dedicated to extolling the virtues of fasting. They weren’t the CRON kind of folks, but they recommended water and juice fasts as spiritual practices.

    I got turned on it, and as my diet quickly evolved into an eating disorder, the fasting became more intense and more frequent. I went 12 days subsisting on water alone; I even reused the same piece of chewing gum for 12 days because it had 5 calories in it. Yet, the possibility that I had an eating disorder never really crossed my mind at this time, because what I was doing was touted as “healthy” and “spiritual” by these sites.

    I know a few Buddhists who engage in fasting or semi-fasting for spiritual reasons, and I think it is perfectly acceptable to do so for reasons like this. Personally, I felt my creativity was the most heightened when I was in a literal state of starvation – of course, the same altered brain chemicals responsible for this feeling also made me depressed to the point of suicidal.

    However, these groups must also keep in mind that in marketing and promoting this approach to others, they run the risk of people who are susceptible to disordered behavior adopting such measures. People like this aren’t using fasting for true spiritual means; they’re worshiping at the altar of unattainable beauty standards.

  23. I can’t say that I would want to live forever. Just imagine how it would be to live for a thousand years……..after a while, life would come to be pretty boring because you’d have seen it all, done it all several times over. And do people really change all that much in several centuries? I don’t think so, since we’re still making the same mistakes our parents made, their parents made, and on back for generations. There aren’t very many people who learn from others’ mistakes, they have to make the mistakes themselves and learn from it (and some don’t learn even then), so what is the point of living forever? Even if one could be guaranteed a good quality of life for the majority of a very long life span, I don’t think our earth has room for all the people who would live that long and all of their offspring.
    This brings to mind a science fiction story I read about 20 years ago. The story was about all these babies that were being born, they were alive, but no one was home; they were born without souls (premise being that there were a finite number of souls, and because the earth’s population had soared from people living longer, before a baby could be born with a soul, someone had to die). I don’t remember who wrote it, it was a short story in an anthology, but, as you can tell since I remembered it 20 years later, it made a hell of an impression on me.
    Personally, I’ll take whatever length of life I’m given and I’m going to enjoy as much of it as I can, and it’s not going to matter a hill of beans to me if I have to do it while I’m fat. I’m not going to waste my time worrying about how much, what, and when I eat. I’d rather spend that time reading, enjoying my husband, my kid, and my grandkids (and great-grandkids if I live that long). I’m going for quality over quantity.

  24. Ok, I guess my point is, should any of these CRON people or restrictive diet people be faced with a real survival scenerio, they’ll likely be too weak to make it. Modern society allows for vanity starvation and that’s what is it, vanity.

  25. Eventually he makes a mistake of eating a type of moss(the author theorizes) and this moss literally stops your body from processing food properly and the kid gets weaker and weaker and eventually starves to death.

    How long until the drug companies reverse-engineer this moss and market it to us as a miracle weight loss drug?

  26. Fantastic work (as usual) Kate!

    Are you no longer posting to Shakesville? This post and Fantasy of Being Thin and you in general belong there!

  27. Ugh. What a wanker.

    And jebus. . .you’d think these CRON people have been chatting with the people at Sparkpeople. (ps I kept reading CRON as CORN and thinking, yes they are scary zombies like the Children of the Corn). I recently though I’d try and use sparkpeople to keep track of what I’m eating in part because I have gotten weird cravings lately and want to be able to go “Damn, I’m craving sugar like nothing else this week. Oh. . that’s why, I’ve been eating a lot of citrus lately. Hmm I guess my body is telling me it’s time for an apple or a pear!”. Let’s just say I immediately deleted my account when it told me I should only eat 1000 calories a day. My fat isn’t going to lead to death, but eating that few calories may make me pass out and whack my head on something. Of course, I could have just bought into that “created by Harvard educated doctors” crap if I didn’t know better. Because you know that Ivy League education means they know all and can easily squish you into a box *rolls eyes* I fight the urge these days to plant my foot in the backsides of people who go “OMG you’re fat, that just can’t be healthy!!”

  28. Re: Health & Weight.

    Here’s a few things my mom said to me when she saw me on Friday:

    “You did seem to be losing too much weight too quickly. I KNEW you were sick. A mother always knows when her child is sick.”

    “You’ve lost so much weight! You look fabulous! I wish I were could be skinny like you.”

    and finally….

    “I can’t wait for you to get better and gain weight. Then I won’t have to be so jealous of you!”

    But remember folks, it’s all about your HEALTH!

  29. Like hilary said, when I was dieting, I would give lip service to the “so I can live to see my children grow up” saint, but if I’m going to be TRULY honest, losing weight for me was all about the way I looked. I believed that I couldn’t even be “okay looking” if I was fat, and to be condemned to being ugly was the worst thing in the word to me at the time. Low self esteem? Nah. NO self-esteem.

    I just don’t get how these people can actually believe this stuff. Rats aren’t people. What happens in rats ain’t necessarily gonna happen to people. And I’m with vesta… living forever would seem like a curse. To watch every person you’ve ever loved die and be alone for thousands of years (if not more)? Horror.

    And Buffy, I’m with you as well. I learned from a very young age that life is precious. When I was 12, my grandfather nearly died in a car accident, and then when I was 14, my cousin (who also was my best friend) drove her car into a tree. (Not on purpose, she lost control.) I realize that I could die right now. My house could blow up from a gas leak or something. I just choose not to dwell on it. It’s a possibility, and I know I have a limited amount of time on this earth anyway, so I’m going to make the most of my life as I can.

    Starving myself? Pointless.

  30. I know a few Buddhists who engage in fasting or semi-fasting for spiritual reasons, and I think it is perfectly acceptable to do so for reasons like this.

    I guess it’s just part of being a Morlock, but I can’t imagine doing this myself as I turn into a ball of fury and bad nerves if I don’t eat every five hours – four if I’m busy. Part of my thin fantasy is that I’d become one of those, “Oh, dear, I forgot to eat lunch…” people, but that isn’t going to happen. And I’m still going to die! Geez, thanks Kate!

  31. Are you no longer posting to Shakesville?

    Lucizoe, I’ve been taking a bit of a break, because comments have started going so nuts over here, staying on top of the comments at both sites just started to seem like too much. But I am still a Shaker in theory (and in my heart) — thanks for the encouragement to return!

  32. As a scientist, I’m confused. On the one hand we have data that seems to show pretty clearly that dieting has a negative impact on our health. On the other hand, we have data that seems to show that CRON works somewhat. Isn’t that contradictory? Is it because dieting is actually more restricted than CRON? Is it that CRON studies have only been done on rodents? I really wish we had some hard science on all this. It is really confusing. I guess the first point of order would be to clarify the term “diet,” which encompasses such a variety of eating patterns.

    On fear of death, my dad used to tell me that he would live forever because if you believed in it hard enough, it would happen. It was the power of the mind! Even as a seven year old, I didn’t find this convincing (as much as I would have liked to believe it).

  33. The immortality people freak me out a little. I’m reminded of reading what the late Timothy Leary said. He believed that pretty soon, we’d make the triplicate discovery of exponentially increasing our intelligence, indefinitely extending our lifespans, and migrating off-planet to live in space. It sounds an appealing theory, until you read that he believed, and I quote, “the poor and the stupid” would be left behind to live short, brutal lives on a scorched planet while all the rich, smart immortals whoop it up in space. No thanks. There’s definitely a religious air about this – the ‘saved’ and the ‘damned’ – and exactly the same strikes me of the longer-life-through-starvation lot. Simple logic – we can’t ALL be immortal or we’d soon have no planet left (heck, we’re tending that way anyway) – so immortality, in whatever form, has to be for a chosen elite.

    vesta, you make some good points about whether living longer would be worth it, and here’s another that scares me. Character development…or not. Habits get entrenched over a lifetime. Someone who’s mildly unpleasant at twenty will probably, if they don’t make an effort to change, be crabby at forty and (as I know from the people I spend time with on eldercare forums) pretty horrendous at eighty. What would they be like at 200..or beyond? (Added to the crabbiness that I’m sure long-term food deprivation would produce in any case.)

    Did someone else mention, on another thread here, the theory that it’s not food deprivation per se that makes the rats live longer, but the fact that it makes them infertile? The point being that breeding ages rats in a way it doesn’t age humans. Forgive me if anyone already said this, but these people may be barking (or squeaking?) up entirely the wrong tree anyway.

    I have a large button collection, and one of my absolute favorites is ‘Eat well. Stay fit. Die anyway.’ I don’t think I can add much to that really.

  34. Rose, your mother contains multitudes! Wow, I would find that kind of dialogue exhausting. Perhaps you should give her “The Obesity Myth” (I did that to my mother and haven’t heard back either way yet).

  35. Brilliant connections in this post, Kate. I’m amazed at the way some people sublimate their fear of death; I mean, we’re all afraid of death, and it’s okay to just say it: “I am afraid to die.” But to follow that up with “Therefore I will be as abstemious as possible so I can pretend that everyone else will die but me” is so…unhealthy. I mean, you can be afraid of dying in a sort of existential way while accepting the fact of death.

    ‘Eat well. Stay fit. Die anyway.’
    BUTTON ENVY

  36. Artemis: The one that confuses me now is intermittent fasting, which is apparently The Thing That Will Make All Right In The World in some circles. Personally I remember when this was called “skipping meals” and was considered an unhealthy practice. Now all sorts of self-righteous people are doing all sorts of IF regimens without a shred of meaningful human evidence.

  37. Perhaps you should give her “The Obesity Myth”

    I thought about giving my mom The Obesity Myth, but (and it sounds like Rose’s mom might be the same way) my mom doesn’t want to lose weight for her health. She doesn’t delude herself into thinking she does, either. She wants to lose weight because she thinks fat=ugly. So giving her a book saying obesity really isn’t all that unhealthy would just get a: “So? I’m still an ugly cow.”

  38. Becky – give her some fat-positive art, like Leonard Nimoy’s latest book? Sadly, I don’t think that would work unless she’s open to the idea, and it sounds like she’s not.

    Kimu – I haven’t even heard of that one. You’re right, it sounds like a fancy name given to legitimize an old behavior.

    OK, I did some moseying around the CRON website, and found this:

    Though the lifespan enhancing effects of calorie restriction have been known since the 1930s, it was also known that if adult mice were suddenly put on a calorie restricted diet, their lifespans were actually shortened.

    That might be one step in explaining the dieting/CRON contradiction.

    I also read the whole NY article, and if someone eats precisely 639 calories per meal I’m sorry, but there are some mental issues going on there (BTDT). I wonder how upset that person will be if they ever discover that calorie values can be off by up to 10%?

    And finally, if we take the science presented by CRON seriously, why aren’t people in starving countries living the longest? Because they don’t have the right nutrients? Possible, but improbable. It sounds just like my father’s magical thinking to me.

  39. “I just don’t get consistently eating so little as to be incapable of doing basic physical tasks, either on CRON or a conventional diet.”

    Kimu, from what I’ve been able to suss out, it’s on a par with the footbinding thing — the more useless (literally) the woman in the economic class in question, the richer the man she “belongs” to.

    Five and six-inch stilettos (the almost-nothing-soled kind, not the stripper kind you can dance in b/c of the adjusted platform height kind, apparently), skintight pencil skirts that don’t stretch or have a walking slit — same thing.

    Plus, not to derail unduly, but you can’t get away from the guy if he wants to abuse you. (Not that he would, you understand — just that he has the option to do so. /sarcasm) You can’t move fast enough because either your movement is restricted or you’re too weak.

    (I’m talking about subconscious reasoning, of course; I can’t imagine anyone actually admitting to having any of it as a motivation.)

    D**n, what a bunch of Puritans in denial in this society. If they’d just shut up and leave the rest of us to whatever, it wouldn’t even grate. If they just didn’t feel the need to harangue.

  40. I have a large button collection, and one of my absolute favorites is ‘Eat well. Stay fit. Die anyway.’ I don’t think I can add much to that really.

    That is the most awesome badge ever.

  41. Pingback: Avoiding death: Can’t be done « Fatadelic

  42. Re: Health & Weight.

    Here’s a few things my mom said to me when she saw me on Friday:

    “You did seem to be losing too much weight too quickly. I KNEW you were sick. A mother always knows when her child is sick.”

    “You’ve lost so much weight! You look fabulous! I wish I were could be skinny like you.”

    and finally….

    “I can’t wait for you to get better and gain weight. Then I won’t have to be so jealous of you!”

    But remember folks, it’s all about your HEALTH!

    Rose, I am either your sister or your clone.

    Or that rhetoric is taught at a required course at Mother School for 21st Century America.

  43. As a couple of people have pointed out, one of the most comical things to me about the whole “immortality” thing is that they have to disallow everyone from having children. Even if you’re only eating minimal calories a day, an immortal population would be one hell of a strain on food resources…not to mention all other resources.

    I had never heard of CRON before this, but dang they sound creepy. Yeah, they are at least honest for their aims…but… It sounds like a lifestyle in the same way that being a member of Heaven’s Gate was a lifestyle…

  44. What really gets to me is that it’s called Calorie Restricting when they’re eating something close to two thousand calories daily!

    2000 cals!! I eat roughly 1500 a day and get scolded by my family and friends about my shameless overeating.

    Just… argh.

  45. For those interested in the science and are capable of slogging through a medical piece, Flegal’s 2005 article says that those in the underweight category have a tendency to die in their 60s-70s ( 2.3 times more likely than “normal” weight). Those in the overweight catagory are 5% less likely to die in their 60s than normal weight and 9% less likely to die in their 70s.

    I’m trying to write a layman’s interpretation of 4 longevity and fat studies for a paper due in a week. I have not gotten to Flegal’s 2007 article yet, but that should explain what they die of.

    Flegal, K.M., et al. (2005). Excess Deaths Associated with Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity. JAMA, 293.15, 1861-67.

  46. There was a couple doing CRON on the news a few weeks ago and I said to my mother, If looking like that is the price of living an extra 20 years, give me the ice cream NOW.

    I’m guessing these folks were in their late 50′s or early 60′s, but they were so thin, their skin looked like paper, they moved slowly and appeared to be so fragile – to be honest, they looked like they were close to the final stages of having cancer.

    I felt tremendously sorry for them.

  47. Kate, thanks for providing yet another fabu blog link to send to people who need to get with the program. I am trying to put my thoughts about Actuarial Escape Velocity into words but I’m flummoxed. That’s some mighty strong crack they are smokin’.

  48. And finally, if we take the science presented by CRON seriously, why aren’t people in starving countries living the longest? Because they don’t have the right nutrients?

    Yeah, that’s what they would argue — that they’re all about maximizing nutrition in minimal calories, not simply eating less than the average body needs to function. But I still think you’re right on about the magical thinking.

  49. luckyliz – I don’t remember the details that well, but the book “The Trouble with Lichen” by John Wyndham tries to address the practical problems that come with an immortal population. In the book, people discover a lichen that has strong anti-aging properties. They keep it a secret, but one of them sets up a beauty clinic and covertly gives her clients lichen (after all, she can’t be sued, her advertising is entirely truthful).

    I remember it being a pretty slow and almost boring book, but with some really interesting concepts.

    Lonie Mc. – yes, that seems to further contradict the CRON findings, although interestingly, even the CRON website says that not everyone who follows CRON will end up thin. Seems like they are more honest than most diet articles.

    Orodemniades – I know what you mean, I went to get some chocolate after reading all that CRON stuff!

  50. I’d like to say that, for those of us scratching at CRON today… major sanity watchers on the CRON blogs.

    One that I went to had a post about how bad she felt for the fat lady at her office and how lonely she must be and blah blah it made me want to puke.

    I kind of want to know somebody who religiously practices CRON IRL so I can see who lives longer. Not that I would wish ill health on anyone, I’m just saying that extreme calorie restriction regardless of nutrition sounds like a recipe for heart and lung problems at an early age.

  51. littlem: I can kind of grok the “self-mutilated woman demonstrates man’s status” thing, but the thing about the CRON people (or, say, folks on the Sonoma Diet or other mainstream diet plan of similar calorie range) is that the men compromise themselves to that degree as well. That’s certainly not a socially reinforced thing (except maybe within the CRON subculture).

  52. When I was seriously orthorexic, the CRON people were who I emulated. The spreadsheets making sure every nutrient was accounted for, that nourishment of food was maximized while calories were minimized, the idea of a day’s energy being puzzled out like an algebra problem.

    I never got to the point of keeping spreadsheets, but I did piece through what I’d eaten earlier in the day when making food choices. I still do, since I’ve noticed that if I’m not careful, my blood sugar or digestion get wonky, but my god, moderation of the obsession is hard.

    When it was bad, I don’t think I ever thought that it would make me live forever. It just seemed like something to do, something that would put me beyond reproach. The funny thing is, since I’ve finally broken free of the obsession with my weight and my eating, I’ve been overcome with a mildly paralyzing fear of death. It’s become very obvious that even though I didn’t buy the mythos, obsessive eating served as a distraction for the fact that we all die eventually, or sometimes a way of hating myself even that I didn’t care.

  53. Wait, 639 calories per meal is CRON? Are they still going on 3 meals a day? I know someone upthread already mentioned this a bit, but I’m still boggling: you mean that extreme calorie restriction is 1917 calories a day? In other words, only 83 calories fewer than our “recommended daily allowance” (for everyone!) of 2000? What. The. HELL.

    Apparently I’ve been doing CRON all my life. I can has imurtallitee now plz? kthxnobai!

    Maybe that 639 figure isn’t quite right, but I’m still having trouble deciding which side has more Crazy to it, oy.

  54. Yup. It’s all about beauty, really.

    I went to college with a girl who was a print model for Levis. She ate cake for dinner every night. She never exercised. She just looked perfect and lithe with no effort.

    Don’t think I ever heard anyone give her a stern moral lecture about what she ate or how much she slept.

  55. “Or that rhetoric is taught at a required course at Mother School for 21st Century America.”

    ROTFLMAO!!! Littlem, I do believe you’re onto something there!

    I’ve spoken to my mother about FA. Since she’s very PC she isn’t openly hostile to it. But she’s been nuts about her weight almost all her life and I doubt she’s that open to being able to embrace being chubby. I will give her The Obesity Myth, maybe it’ll educate her in ways I can’t.

    My late grandmother used to go on and on about how fat I or my mother was and then would wonder why we were eating more! She’d do the “But I slaved over a hot stove all day!” guilt trip. It was pretty crazy making.

    My granny took the required course in Mother School for the 20th Century!

  56. There are things in this life you just can’t control, period.

    You’d never know it from the mass media this holiday season. Is it my imagination, or are they even more joyless and lecturing than ever? — don’t let your diet slip! keep a food diary! bank calories! don’t forget your exercise routine!. And today, a new low: remember that it’s heart attack season!

    Whatever happened to, you know, comfort and joy and all that?

  57. My theory on CRON and living forever? It just *seems* that way. I mean, really. Screw the extra 5 years, hell, the extra 5 *months*, and let me have some cupcakes.

    I spent most of the past decade being totally batshit crazy about food. I have gone through phases that would make even the most dedicated CRONie look decadent. And I guarantee that has messed with my health and well being far more than obesity ever would have.

  58. Heqit – yep, that’s right, the article independently confirms that the 639-per meal guy eats exactly 1900-something per day. The other two men in the article are around 1800-2000 also (although actually I think the national RDA for men might be 2500). The woman eats 1300 per day. Not much, but not what I expected when I started reading an article titled “The Ultra-Extreme Calorie Restriction Diet Test.”

    Hey, perhaps overweight people live longer than average because they spend their lives dieting?! (Just kidding, but I can come up with crazy theories with the best of them.)

    Jessica – that fruit fly study is hilarious in a sad way. I wonder what the CRON people would make of it? Perhaps they’ll cut off the heating, since apparently fruit flies live longer at lower temperatures.

  59. My friend’s mom died from cancer a few years ago. She was a lovely, wonderful, caring woman. And she was thin and small-framed, and she got regular checkups and exercised and did everything you’re supposed to. And yet she still got cancer and died. My mom was misdiagnosed with a terminal illness and thanks the gods every day because she never thought she’d live this long. She never exercises and eats in a bizarre fashion that I honestly don’t know how it keeps her upright. (The woman can subsist for three days on pistachios. Seriously. I don’t get it.)

    It’s the luck of the draw, ultimately. We can minimize risk as much as we like, but who the hell knows? There were 22 car accidents last night in my area because of freezing rain. A diet’s not going to keep you living any longer if you spin out on black ice.

  60. Apparently I’ve been doing CRON all my life. I can has imurtallitee now plz?

    Heqit, this was my reaction too. I was like “hunh, well, I’ve been calling it ‘stomach problems,’ but I guess I’ll live to 1000 now.” It’s true that I’m not fanatical about vitamins and minerals the way the CRON people are, though.

    I’m guessing that insofar as they’re healthier, it’s because they actually end up with more nutrients than people who eat more — less food, but higher nutritive load per volume.

    I happen to like bland food, and I can’t really eat in quantity, so their diet didn’t sound at all bad to me, and I was kind of excited to learn that you can get Quorn on this side of the pond. But it still reminded me of a calculation my uncle did a while ago; he figured out that if you exercise x amount a day for y number of years, you could add z years to your lifespan (obvs I don’t remember what the variables were) — the point being that z worked out to be exactly the amount of time you would have spend hating being at the gym. I like the gym, but what I don’t like is weighing and measuring and calculating calories and nutritional information. What a waste of my newfound longevity that would be — since in the absence of complete immortality, I’m sure I’d spend just as many years tabulating as I added to my lifespan.

    Now, that said, I have a deeply overblown sense of mortality, and if I really believed it would make me NOT DIE, you fucking BET I would diet. Which is how I know that Kate is right on. The fear of fat is twofold — we all know about the fear of ugliness (disingenuously couched as health concern), but there’s also genuine health concern in the form of terror of mortality. Mortality fear is a free-floating anxiety that will gladly attach to any base you provide for it, including (quite happily) superstition and magical thinking. The attachment of mortality fear to fat and eating is just a particularly successful marketing campaign. It could have been, and sometimes is, just about anything — fat just fits the bill well.

  61. “is there a middle-class, western woman alive who doesn’t know her BMI off the top of her head”

    yes, many, including me.

  62. I admit that I genuinely DID believe that I would die if I didn’t lose weight. Until I was at least 25 I didn’t have access to anything but news and magazine articles. No internet, no Junkfood Science. I didn’t discover FA until last year. I had no idea that I was being lied to, had been lied to my whole life. I grew up with my family hammering at me to lose weight and live longer, I internalized it, and I brutalized myself.

    There are millions of women out there who are still in that place and genuinely believe that being thin will buy them more time in this beautiful world. That is what makes it TRAGIC. They aren’t misguided in their desires. They are just misinformed, and that is causing them needless suffering.

    When I learned that “fat = certain death” wasn’t true I felt worlds better, because I knew that the fact that I couldn’t sustain that weight loss didn’t mean that I was going to die sooner. Voila! A huge source of guilt, gone forever!

    I DID also feel scared because if being thin wasn’t going to help, then I had no way of avoiding dying of cancer or a stroke or whatever other bugaboo is lurking in my genes waiting for the calories to flush it out of hiding. I don’t want to go like my mom went, or my grandmother: slowly, with great suffering and loss of self. That idea gives me panic attacks. The theory that I could stave it off if I just didn’t eat was understandably comforting. I just accept that it’s not possible to do much about my health that I am not already doing, so I am no longer starving myself sick to try to become healthy.

    And I no longer hate myself as much. What is left is socialization, indoctrination, bullshit, and I can plainly SEE that it’s bullshit. Without deadly fat threatening dire consequences, the reasons to starve myself have faded a lot.

    That’s why I wish everyone knew that deadly fat is a horrible lie. It underlies so much fat hatred, or is used to justify it. Without that cornerstone, the whole damn thing starts to fall apart — both for those who hate people who are fat, and for people who hate themselves.

    Know what? I LOVE not having to fear for my fat friends just because they are fat. And also, when I learned they weren’t going to drop dead from it any more than I was, I suddenly found I really DIDN’T give a shit whether or not they were fat. What a relief that was!

    See, it meant I could probably learn to love myself, too.

  63. It’s the luck of the draw, ultimately. We can minimize risk as much as we like, but who the hell knows? There were 22 car accidents last night in my area because of freezing rain. A diet’s not going to keep you living any longer if you spin out on black ice.

    Exactly. Last year a friend of mine died in a car accident, and really, that can cement a lot of things for you. It broke my heart when my grandparents died, but being in their eighties…it wasn’t a tragedy, you know? Losing my friend made me realize that (cliche) I needed to live my life to the fullest…and how did I decide to do that? Dieting of course! Because never eating dessert or potato chips again would surely lead to a much more rewarding life.

    Now I’m trying my best to appreciate what I have a little better. Still working on learning to eat normally (ie, not diet/binge or starve/binge), and developing a more loving relationship with exercise, but I know that this is going to lead to a lot more fulfilling place.

    I think my grandfather was the best example of this. He loved life. He made friends and had a good time wherever he went, even in the army. He never worried about anything. He was a model intuitive eater without ever having heard of such a concept. It was just common sense to him; eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and stop when you’re full. He was the same way with money. He paid his bills and after that, he liked nothing better than to buy things for people or give money to kids (my grandfather was famous in the neighborhood because he would talk to everyone, and so whenever he saw one of his many friends with their little ones, he would give them money to “buy themselves an ice cream.” He went out almost every day so long as the weather was good and he didn’t feel too badly (and most days he didn’t). Otherwise he stayed home, listening to his music, watching TV, napping, visiting with us, or talking on the phone.

    He always used to say that he wasn’t worried about dying because he couldn’t have asked for more in his life. He lived to be 86 and he died after a small health scare, not seemingly because there was anything diagnosably wrong with him, but because he was ready to go; he missed my grandmother so much and didn’t want to restrict the life he loved.

    I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to turn this into a long post on my grandpa (can you tell, I miss him? *lol*), except to say that if there was ever anyone who knew how to live, it was him, and I would consider myself lucky to know half the happiness he did, even if it meant I wouldn’t live to be 100.

    I guess the saying that it’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years became cliche for a reason :)

  64. After all that careful dieting we are supposed to do comes the chance that our sun goes supernova and it will not matter who dieted, who gorged, who hugged a tree, or drove a hummer. That is unless one of you has a hidden spaceship in your garage or shed. I agree, we are all going to die and merely adding a few years on the end will mean a lot less if they are miserable years.

  65. I went on my first diet at 10 years old, back when my 33-year-old mother was still trying every kind of diet out there. Back then we went on Weight Watchers together. I’m sure I didn’t need it, but of course they added in extra eggs and milk and stuff per day for kids on it, so it made it all right. *snort* So I grew up with the idea that my body was never good enough, from hearing that from my mother complain about her own from as far back as I can remember, and getting that message at 10 years old that there was something wrong with me when basically I was just a ten-year-old who had stored up some fat but hadn’t get hit the growth spurt that would even it out yet. By seventh grade my weight was average for my age but the damage was done and I developed a full-blown eating disorder by eighth grade, and was so proud of myself for dropping back out of junior sizes into girls’ sizes again. I clearly remember shopping at GapKids when the store first opened (this was back in 1987 or thereabouts) and being so happy with myself that my 6-year-old sister could buy clothes in the same children’s stores and that my 10-year-old brother’s clothes fit me.

    But somewhere along the line, Mom decided life was too short to diet. She realized that she liked her own cooking too much to eat Jenny Craig cardboard entrees while the rest of the family ate the meal she had cooked, and she got tired of eating squares of WW cake that she said tasted like the color brown, not like chocolate. So she stopped buying them. It didn’t stop my unhealthy relationship with food and weight as that had taken hold years before, but my younger sister ended up without the body image issues like I have. Sure, she still sees the imagines of tall skinny blondes in the media and looks in the mirror and knows that her five-foot-tall, size 12, Jewish-woman self is not the American ideal, but she’s really okay with how she looks and I don’t think she’s ever dieted. I know she went to the gym a lot before her wedding because she wanted to look feel like she looked good in her dress, but she goes to the gym anyway so that wasn’t a real stretch for her and it’s obviously not turning her into a size two. It’s something she’s been doing for ten years since she had to do rehab on her knees and she never stopped because she enjoyed exercising.

    I hope I one day get to that place of body acceptance. I’m currently the same size as my sister and I don’t do WW or Jenny Craig or anything or write down what I eat, but I know very well that my relationship with food and with my body is not a healthy one. I’m glad my sister grew up without the messages from Mom that I did about my body not being just fine the way it was, but I’m also jealous that I didn’t spend my childhood hearing that there was nothing wrong with me, and with a mother who had stopped caring if her body was fat or not as a role model. I’m really glad my own struggles with weight did not seem to affect my sister’s acceptance of herself as just fine the way she is. Fortunately for her, I went to college when she was 10, so she didn’t have my self-hatred around on a daily basis, and I think I was too busy being belligerent about one cause or another (as college students are wont to do) to focus on my own weight during those breaks.

    My mom was in a serious car accident last week. She’s going to be ok, but it certainly made the whole family think a lot about what’s important in life, and it sure isn’t if any of us is fat or not. Mom is having surgery this week to repair shattered bones. I know she’s glad they can be repaired, and I’m glad she’ll be able to function independently in a few months because it would frustrate her to be dependent on others for so much. But it made me think about how little I care about the physical bodies or abilities or anyone I love. I’m just glad for side airbags and other safety features and that I still have my mom, whatever size she may be now or in the future.

  66. I’m not sure the author of the Trib article had it so right. I mean this comment was pretty ugly:

    I have a beautiful, very non-obese wife.

    Because fatties never have beautiful wives. And how the hell does he know she’s not obese? Maybe she’s a “silent sufferer” just like him.

  67. Great post, Kate.

    I’m kind of in two minds about the CRON thing. I think people should be encouraged to seek quality of life and enjoyment of food however it works for them: for me, the ability to have a giant sampler platter at the sports bar and then lay around for the rest of the football game groaning is a big part of my happiness, but for some, the pleasure comes in eating sparsely and trying to increase longevity. For those people, I say go for it! But for the ones who are only doing this out of fear of dying, or a desire for control over themselves, or because they’ve bought into the myth that eating less = being more virtuous, I hope they’ll find something to help them out of that mindset soon.

    The amazing writer Robert Anton Wilson once wrote an essay, “13 Choruses for the Divine Marquis,” which ended thusly:

    I dreamed I called D.A.F. de Sade on the phone and asked him, “Jesus told me that he and you agree on at least one thing and it explains freedom. What is that one thing?”

    “Quite simple,” he replied, “…The fear of death is the beginning of slavery.

    And the line went dead with a triumphant click like a barred door falling open.

  68. Oh yes, I also wanted to mention how spot on this was:
    And you know what’s really, really not fair? When thin people get cancer and die at 50. Or have heart attacks and die at 60. Or get in car accidents and die at 40. IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO WORK THAT WAY! IT’S NOT SCIENTIFIC!

    An online acquaintance of mine is a cancer survivor, and complained about how often people would give her the third degree when they found out her diagnosis. “Surely you must be a smoker, or drinker, or you eat crap, or you work with dangerous chemicals, etc etc etc.” She’s thin, incredibly fit, eats (literally) pounds of blueberries and spinach every day, drinks (literally) gallons of green tea a week … and it happened anyway. The people asking her always seemed so scared, she said, that she was proving there’s no perfect set of rules to live by and escape death forever.

  69. Or there are things you can perhaps somewhat control but not enough to warrant all the hassle.

    My mother is obese and is a 20-year lung cancer survivor. She now has COPD and can hardly walk from the parking lot tto a store without stopping to rest. She is still smoking. Her heart, blood pressure, and cholesterol are fine. But despite never “taking care of herself”, she is 80 and shows no signs of departing any time soon. Her husband was slim, enjoyed doing physical work around the house and walked a great deal. He ate in moderation and died of thyroid cancer at 75. Her mother, who was slim, didn’t smoke, and ate very little, lived to be 92 and had Alzheimer’s the last few years, so assuming she goes even two more years, how much time is she really losing?

    My sister has fought with her weight her entire adult life. When she was younger, she taught aerobics and worked her life around working out so that she could stay slim (or as slim as those of us of Eastern European Jewish ancestry can manage). Now she is in her mid-50′s, her feet and knees are shot, and it’s harder than ever for her to maintain her weight.

    I was talking to her about a conversation I’d had with a co-worker who’s a nurse, who said that the weight gain, especially the loss of waistline, that occurs around menopause, is almost impossible to lose until the hormones settle down. She refused to believe this, instead insiting that it’s all attributable to the loss of muscle that accompanies age and that if we just keep our muscle mass up, we can avoid that weight gain.

    Of course exercise is good for you, and of course you feel better if you get up and MOVE, whatever form that movement takes. Of course it’s good to not live on a diet of sweets and candy (even though my mother has lived to 80 with a candy stash so huge that she needs an entire cabinet to store it). But that doesn’t mean we should define ourselves by what we do or don’t eat, nor does it mean that we have to knock ourselves fighting this losing battle.

  70. Oh my god…this is just scary and sad. A couple denied their attempts at adoption because of obesity…and resorting to risky surgery to solve the “problem” and adopt a child they love.

    (Sorry, I don’t know how to do links..)

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071130/ap_on_re_us/adoption_obesity

    An apparently growing trend to denied “obese” people adoptions…because the health risk of making a child fat is apparently worse than the frequent abuse and neglect children experience when they are raised in foster and group homes!

  71. Jill – I’m so with you on this. Eastern European + Jewish+short = round. Period.
    We could live on wood chips and still be round.
    It’s teh genes, folks.
    My father, who was a doctor (and was therefore subject to just as much delusional thinking as anyone else) believed, deep down, that if he was “good” and did not eat a lot of red meat and walked and did not drink or smoke, he’d avoid everything. He had, naturally, low BP and cholesterol. But he ended up having to have a quad bypass at 71 because he had polycythemia — too many red blood cells (think of his circulation as being like the Mississippi River) precipitating out in the linings of the his arteries. This is actually a pretty common syndrome among men from Eastern European Jewish ancestry.
    It’s genetic. And yes, he was short, and round.
    My mom, who was very tall and skinny – inherited her family’s cardiac disease (her grandmother died at 55; her mom at 62; her sibs all died, except for one, from heart disease between the ages of 55 and 70) – but through really really hard attention to her cholesterol and BP, lived long enough to get multiple infarct dementia in her 80s and ended up dying from COPD.
    Tall and thin; short and round – death takes us all.
    My sister, who is also tall and thin, is deathly afraid of fat – I think she believes there is some sort of Van Allen Belt of adipose out there in the atmosphere, just waiting for her to slow down long enough to settle on her. She doesn’t pay attention to the fact that because she eats so little, her digestive tract doesn’t work very well. Or, that from the same reason, she’s broken her ankle and foot several times and probably will end up being one of those older ladies with a broken hip (and my doctor told ME that more older women have died from the consequences of broken hips than people would like to admit). But, she’s thin, dammit – and so she’s safe – from what, I’m not sure.

  72. Well, my great aunt never followed CRON. She’s been “overweight” and even “obese” most of her life, and she’s 95 years old! Never had any form of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or really, any serious illness at all! So surely there is more to living a long, healthy life than crazily watching what you eat.

    Maybe some of us have genetics on our side, and some don’t. Either way, I’d rather eat and be happy, maybe living 100 years than to be miserable about not eating for 100 years!

  73. While we’re sharing random family longevity stories, I’d like to hold up my 105-year-old French Canadian farming peasant great-great-great-aunt. (I forget how many greats.) The sum total of her concession to age was a hearing aid. She danced with everyone at her 104th birthday. I doubt she ever heard of a diet in her life. I know she never met a casserole she didn’t like. I want to be her when I grow up. (She died a year or so ago.)

  74. My sister, who is also tall and thin, is deathly afraid of fat – I think she believes there is some sort of Van Allen Belt of adipose out there in the atmosphere, just waiting for her to slow down long enough to settle on her.

    Toby Wollin, that cracked me up!

    And yes to everyone with the family/genetics stories. I’ve already outlived one of my grandparents, who died of an aneurysm at 31 — shit happens, and you cannot control it. The other three lived into their eighties and nineties, one with diabetes and one subsisting pretty much entirely on bread, gravy, and VO for years. The last one had Alzheimer’s for ten years before she died, which is the only end I’m really afraid of, as far as my genes are concerned. And although I’m sure SOMEONE has correlated Alzheimer’s and obesity, I certainly don’t think losing weight will save me there.

  75. Not to be a total downer here, but from my spends-too-damn-much-time-in-doctor’s-offices perspective, the “eat less, live longer, feel great” line makes me want to punch someone. Spend enough time around people who get all their nutrients from feeding tubes and/or IVs, and the ability to eat anything the old-fashioned way starts to look like God’s greatest blessing.

    Of course, if I’ve learned anything recently, it’s that no matter how “virtuous” your lifestyle, Shit Happens. Sometimes it’s the decapitation/bullet/horrible car crash Shit and sometimes it’s the lurking genetic mishap Shit. In any case, whatever particular brand of Shit Happens to you, it is not your fault. At least, I’m damn sure I did not get this sick by eating.

  76. Spend enough time around people who get all their nutrients from feeding tubes and/or IVs, and the ability to eat anything the old-fashioned way starts to look like God’s greatest blessing.

    Excellent point, Dani. And I’m still hoping you get a diagnosis and some relief soon!

  77. Kate: I saw the anesthesiologist last week. Still don’t know what’s going on, but it hurts a lot less, which is awesome. Also, I’m back to eating three meals a day. Woohoo!

  78. vesta44 – “I can’t say that I would want to live forever. Just imagine how it would be to live for a thousand years……..after a while, life would come to be pretty boring because you’d have seen it all, done it all several times over.”

    Imagine saying that in 1900. Do you really think you would have been bored – moon landing, quantum physics, fall of the Berlin wall, IMAX movies, and so on?

    I’ll freely admit – I would LOVE to live until 2100. There are a few things I’d like to know how they turn out. No way is following this program worth it though.

    I do know someone who has been on CRON about 6 years. He’s done the Badwater race in California twice so he’s not the weak pasty type you’d think of when you read the article. Plus he’s 58 and looks like he’s mid forties so that must count for something. But then again I have NEVER seen anyone eat a quarter banana and then put the rest in aluminum foil for later – so bizarre…

  79. Imagine saying that in 1900. Do you really think you would have been bored – moon landing, quantum physics, fall of the Berlin wall, IMAX movies, and so on?

    Yeah, except in between all that, you’re working every day, doing the same stuff over and over, struggling with all the usual life stuff and — as you get older — watching everyone you love die. There are tons of historical events I wish I’d been around for (including the moon landing), but I wouldn’t want to be immortal just for that.

  80. MikeyT, I’d like to visit 2100, Futurama-style, but I sure as hell don’t want to live every day of the 100 years in between. Especially if I am hungry for all 100!

    Dani: yay for three meals a day!

  81. MikeyT, I’d like to visit 2100, Futurama-style, but I sure as hell don’t want to live every day of the 100 years in between. Especially if I am hungry for all 100!

    Well put, Sweet Machine.

    Maybe we just need to do CRON long enough for time travel to be real, then we can entertain ourselves going to different historical periods until we die. :)

  82. GOD ! this is so disordered ! Isnt the root of most ED’s based on the premise of controlling one’s body because the rest of their life is out of control?
    From personal experience, i am amazed i was able to get thru a college degree and starve myself, as all the studies show your brain doesnt function properly without proper nutrition. I see these folks on some sort of starvation high. It reminds me of the great starvation experiment by Key’s. Anyone who is interested, here is the link to one of the books that outlines this study.

    http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ean=9780743270304&z=y

  83. MikeyT, I’d like to visit 2100, Futurama-style, but I sure as hell don’t want to live every day of the 100 years in between. Especially if I am hungry for all 100!

    I do, totally. If I really thought it worked, if I really thought you could remain sharp and spry indefinitely just by eating under 2000 calories a day, you fucking bet I would buy the computer program to make sure my 2000 calories (which is usually the most I can manage anyway) would have maximum nutrition. I’m even willing to eat 90% less cake if it would extend my life indefinitely.

    But I’m not doing it because I don’t believe in magic.

  84. So I poked around on the CRON sites and for me (25 y/o 5′ 7″ female) it seems my allotted calories would be about 1350.

    Funny thing, last time I was dieting (sorry, making healthy habits I mean) I was so totally tracking like 10 of those nutrients and my daily Caloric goal was 1290… how many years do you think I gained? Or does it all get negated once I go back to the donuts and babies. Speaking of babies, do you think they’re a good source of Zinc? Or vitamin B(aby)

  85. …and she got tired of eating squares of WW cake that she said tasted like the color brown, not like chocolate.

    onejewishdyke, that’s THE best description of the taste of any ‘lite’ confectionery I have ever read.

    The amazing writer Robert Anton Wilson once wrote an essay, “13 Choruses for the Divine Marquis,” which ended thusly:

    I dreamed I called D.A.F. de Sade on the phone and asked him, “Jesus told me that he and you agree on at least one thing and it explains freedom. What is that one thing?”

    “Quite simple,” he replied, “…The fear of death is the beginning of slavery.”

    Nice one, Ellie. Odd that Wilson, gods rest him, used to be in on the idea of immortality – for the few – being a good and achievable thing. (It was in one of his books that I read the Leary stuff.) He seems to have accepted his death pretty philosophically, in the end. Funny, but most of the immortalists I’ve heard of who become terminally ill seem to reach an acceptance of their situation, however insistently anti-death they used to be. It’s coming face to face with reality.

    Anyway, re that recent ‘OMGbacongivesyoucancer!’ headline, my husband pointed out that he is an honorary Celt, and to the Celts a) death was a natural part of the life cycle and b) pigs were sacred, and therefore giving up the latter to avoid the former is kind of against his religion. So that’s all right.

  86. I was kind of excited to learn that you can get Quorn on this side of the pond

    FJ, I forgot to mention that this article was the first I’d ever heard of Quorn (when I read it ages ago), and I’ve since become a huge fan. Had Quorn nuggets and horseradish mustard for lunch yesterday, in fact. (It helps if you have a perverse thing for frozen chicken nuggets/cutlets, which I do.) Around here, you can get every permutation of Quorn imaginable at Wild Oats, and I think Whole Foods usually has some.

    And really, everything at that dinner party sounded good to me — except the whole “precisely X calories” thing. That’s kind of key.

  87. “Never mind that for some fat people, there is no line between the calorie consumption required to be thin and out-and-out starvation. Reality check: when Dibbell decided to experiment with living an extreme calorie-restricted life, that meant 1800 calories a day”

    That’s extreme now?

    Back when I still dieted, I went straight from normal 2000cal per day to 1000cal per day. More than that and I don’t lose ANY weight. In fact, during one attempt at slower weight loss at 1200cal per day I PUT ON a lb a week. Mostly, if I want to diet I need to go down to 900 cal per day and put up with suddenly shedding anything up to 5 lb a week. I just can’t physically balance.

    So yeah… That’d be me being one of those diet=starving people.

  88. What if we were all told tomorrow that there was a study done which proved reliably that holding every single breath we take for an extra 30 seconds or so before exhaling it would not only extend our lives indefinitely but also save the planet from global warming by reducing carbon emissions and increasing our bodies’ oxygen efficiency?

    AND MAKE US SUPER SEXXY .

    Kate, thank you for putting calorie restriction into perspective.

  89. Part of my thin fantasy is that I’d become one of those, “Oh, dear, I forgot to eat lunch…” people, but that isn’t going to happen

    Hah – mine too, Sniper! (Says the girl who was forced to eat “lunch” at 10:30 today and “dinner” at 4:00 because she was so damn ravenous.) Incidentally, I also intended to be one of those “Oh, I just forgot about this box of chocolates sitting in the fridge. Go figure,” people. Yeah, no. (Although ice cream and other sweets often don’t hold much appeal for me.)

  90. Part of my thin fantasy is that I’d become one of those, “Oh, dear, I forgot to eat lunch…” people, but that isn’t going to happen

    Yeah, that’s like my fantasy of being a social smoker. If I could be one of those people who only occasionally wants a smoke at the pub, I would die happy. Not gonna friggin’ happen.

  91. Being one of those “oh dear I forgot to eat lunch” people is so overrated, you guys. Especially if you’re prone to stomachaches and can’t tell the difference between hunger and regular stomach pain. It can get to be a pretty vicious cycle.

    Remember how I was talking about how awesome Terry at the gym is? Part of why he’s awesome is that if it’s 3 or 4 before I get there and I mention not having gotten around to lunch, he always has a fruit to give me.

    (Being a social smoker is not overrated but completely genetic, so it’s a little like my wish to have naturally full gorgeous hair. Which, hey, Kate has! Let’s all envy each other!)

  92. Part of my thin fantasy is that I’d become one of those, “Oh, dear, I forgot to eat lunch…” people, but that isn’t going to happen.

    Yes, I would def. add that to my thin fantasy as well. I work a regular 9-5 job and I eat quite a bit during the day. I bring my breakfast, a decent snack (ie, more than an apple), lunch, and another afternoon snack. Why? Because this is what I need to function. However most of my coworkers come in sans breakfast most days (I hope they’ve eaten at home), and eat lunch, and that’s all. But if I don’t eat something every couple hours Robert Goulet’s ghost* comes and messes up my desk.

    I’m sorry, but the foods? I needs them.

    *That’s only mildly amusing if you remember those nut commercials he was in).

  93. (Says the girl who was forced to eat “lunch” at 10:30 today and “dinner” at 4:00 because she was so damn ravenous.)

    Hah! I grabbed half a sandwich from my lunch and scarfed it down in the hallway while a class was in session because I was getting dizzy.

  94. That’s only mildly amusing if you remember those nut commercials he was in

    FALSE. It is TOTALLY amusing if you remember those commercials. Those commercials were awesome.

  95. Hah! I grabbed half a sandwich from my lunch and scarfed it down in the hallway while a class was in session because I was getting dizzy.

    That just reminded me of sitting in class while I was on Jenny Craig, being mortified because my stomach would ALWAYS rumble like a friggin’ truck in this one afternoon class — and thinking everyone was looking at me thinking, “Well, of course the fat girl’s hungry.” I even started eating my daily JC snack bar (ugh — talk about brown flavor) right before class, and I’d still rumble. Every. Day.

    The thought of eating something substantial never crossed my mind. GAH.

  96. Kate –

    I love this! And I went to the article from the New York Press about the CR people, and I was totally floored. It never occured to me that 1800 calories was restricting calories. That used to be a bad day for me. I was on WW off and on, Points and Core. I lost weight on both and gained it all back. Points made me obsessive and tried to see how little I could eat without passing out. Core, you could eat until “satisfied” but only fat free cheese, sugar substitute. brown rice, you get the idea. Gained it all back.

    Yesterday I went to an old website that I used to go to alot for weight loss support and such, and I was reading the journal titles “sue is at it again”, “Jane is going do it this time” “Losing it for good the fourth time around”. Then I came across one that was a little shocking. “I want to be a skeleton, not a pumpkin”. Really? Are you so dissatisfied with your life, that you think that being able to see your pelvic bone sticking out beneath your skin is going to make it better.

    When I did not accept myself, and dieting, I would obsess about food, think about, write it down, analyze it, figure out how I could eat less of it, when I got to eat it next.

    Now, now that I have accepted how I am, right now, the size I am, food is not an issue. I don’t feel like I have to really control it anymore. It is such a relief. Thank you Kate

  97. You know, circling back to the people who were talking about how they really did think that if they ate less/dieted/weighed less/conformed more/whatever they would live longer…it reminded me of the flip side of the whole bogus fat = death logic.

    I’m sure I wasn’t AT ALL the only person to go this route, but even before I found FA I spent several years defiantly Not Dieting and eating whatever the hell I wanted to or even the “worst” things I could find. I was convinced that being obese (as I was, and am, and always will be) would shorten my lifespan by DECADES. I was struggling (or, sometimes, not struggling) with depression, brought on in no small part by body-hatred issues, and while I’d given up the idea of suicide I hadn’t given up on “self-inflicted early death by fat.” I said things like “I don’t care if you think I’m too fat; life isn’t worth living if I’m on a diet” but what I was really thinking was “Maybe if I’m this fat I’ll die before I’m 50. Maybe I’ll die before I’m 40, I’m so fat. Eat more!”

    People — especially family members — would always try to “scare” me into losing weight (“shame” not having worked terribly well when they tried it on me during my childhood) by talking about how I would Die So Young. And I would listen and think “…yeah!” I was convinced that I would live longer if I ate less, so I ate more and hoped to die younger. Incredibly fucked up, but I was A) depressed, and B) convinced that FATKILLZOMG. A + B = “subtle” suicide by non-dieting.

    And the really fucked up part was that when I found FA, and realized that fat would not necessarily kill me all by itself, I was disappointed. My infallible remedy for not having to keep on living so damn long was suddenly gone, and what the hell was I going to do? So, in addition to the insidious effect anti-fat propaganda has on those who fear their own mortality, we can add the damage it does to those who welcome it. Instead of thinking “The fact that I don’t want to see 50 is fucked up and I should seek help,” I was thinking “But if I’m fat and don’t diet and die of a heart attack at 45 it’ll be my fault but it won’t really REALLY be my fault the way it would be if I jumped off of a bridge and my family will be sad, you know, but they won’t feel so guilty or think it’s their fault; it’ll just be ‘she was fat, she had no self-control’ so it’s not really suicide and I can do it yay!” Which says more about me than it does about anti-obesity campaigning, perhaps, but still.

    (Note: 1. I don’t think 50 is old; this is just what I was thinking a few years ago when I was 20 or so, and the prospect of living another 30 years or more was dreadful. 2. I have gotten help and am no longer depressed, and now not only expect to live a long life, accidents and so forth permitting, but look forward to it.)

  98. Being one of those “oh dear I forgot to eat lunch” people is so overrated, you guys. Especially if you’re prone to stomachaches and can’t tell the difference between hunger and regular stomach pain. It can get to be a pretty vicious cycle.

    Not to mention that it can actually be really bad for you to “forget to eat lunch” if you have any form of insulin resistance. Makes your pancreas work too hard and all of that. If I “forget” I get reminded PDQ by my shaking hands.

  99. After finally reading all of this, two things struck me.

    1) Those saying fat people are killing themselves, on average, how fast are we doing it? Am I going to croak three months younger than my grandmother did? Or 30 years?

    2) Everyone bitches about the growing cost of healthcare and many want to attribute it to obesity. Did anyone ever bother to say, um, OUR POPULATION IS GETTING OLD? And when you get old, you usually gain weight and/or develop health problems. Why? Because that’s what’s aging does to you. Your body breaks down. And now we have all this fabulous medical technology to prolong life (or stave off death) — and it’s NOT CHEAP.

    Just food for thought.

  100. Actually, I can answer #2 (I don’t know if anyone can answer #1) — people have posited that an “aging population” is the reason for growing health care costs, to the point where it’s become sort of a chestnut, but the CBO has recently released long-term projections that show that it’s got much less of an effect than previously realized. Looks as though the major culprit is new technology that significantly increases costs without significantly improving outcomes. (Sorry, this is my beat.)

    Not to mention that it can actually be really bad for you to “forget to eat lunch” if you have any form of insulin resistance.

    Oh. Really? I do, in fact. Um, maybe I should work on this.

    (I do remember to eat lunch eventually most days, even if I’m feeling pretty bad.)

  101. FJ, that must be quite the double whammy, having insulin resistance and tummy trouble at the same time. Ouch. But even some broth or yogurt or a Balance Bar (whatever you can stand) is better than nothing.

  102. FJ: Don’t apologize. I get all technical when talking about new jersey’s crap. Literally.

    So if they say technology is the major cause of increased costs, why the hell are they still blaming fat people for all their health care woes?

  103. Actually, it’s okay really…insulin resistance doesn’t bother me now that I’m on Metformin, and I’m used to the tummy trouble (though I’m going to the doctor next week anyway — I think I’m just noticing it more because all my friends are having serious issues, but I dunno). It is kind of a bad cycle when I don’t want to eat and then I get shaky and muzzy-headed, but I’m okay at making myself eat a banana or something. And when I get really whiny my boyfriend makes me do it instead. :)

    Sarah, it’s different “they”… the people who are blaming fatties a) haven’t read the CBO report or anything like it and b) wouldn’t want or be able to process real information even if they had.

  104. Another thought about the CRON people, what could they be doing with the time they spend on their spreadsheets? Imagine that instead of making a spreadsheet of nutrients you made spreadsheets of donations for your favorite charity, a group that could probably use the accounting help. Or you wrote a 1000 words a day of what might be the great American novel. Or you read all the position papers of the presidential candidates so you could find out which one is the most toxic. Why is this kind of behavior never described as overwhelmingly selfish and self-indulgent?

    It reminds me of people who say that athletes are heroes for being able to spend their entire lives obsessed with their own physical prowess. I don’t get it.

  105. So if they say technology is the major cause of increased costs, why the hell are they still blaming fat people for all their health care woes?

    Hey, maybe the fat people are inventing all the technology! It’s what we do instead of shopping or going on dates.

  106. Pingback: Newsflash: It’s fitness, not fatness » The-F-Word.org

  107. I’ve seen a bunch of references here to 1800 calories/day for CRON. I’ve paid quite a bit of attention to CRON in the past, and I feel a need to point out that 1800 calories/day (there is a more specific number, which I don’t know off the top of my head) was the number for Michael Ray, who happens to be male and over 6′ tall. The calorie counts for people smaller than that would be significantly less.

    Folks, there is no magic formula for finding the right amount of calories that you can take in over a day, it is different for every person and depends on more variables that can be plugged into a simple web form. Those formulas are so you can come up with a best guess. If you gain weight while following your magic number, then I think the formula was wrong (which I find it to be for almost every number I see).

  108. fillyjonk, I think you’re 100% right about the technology being the main reason for increased medical costs.

    That’s why this “actuarial escape velocity” is so scary. If we get to the point where very expensive medical treatments can prolong life significantly, we’re going to essentially have a ruling class of very old people. If $200,000 per year in some exotic cell treatment can reasonably guarantee an extra year of life, the people in power will stay in power because they will never run out of money.

    I don’t think it’s as farfetched as most people think. There are a lot of industries out there overdue for the next big thing, and any number of them can lead to the big breakthrough.

  109. If you gain weight while following your magic number, then I think the formula was wrong (which I find it to be for almost every number I see).

    Oh my god, you guys, if you don’t lose weight eating 1200 calories a day, try 800! IT’S SO SIMPLE WHY DID NOBODY EVER TELL US

  110. IT’S SO SIMPLE WHY DID NOBODY EVER TELL US

    They did, but we couldn’t hear because we had donuts in our ears.

    And yeah, as other people have noted on this thread 1800 cals. was only the prescription for one male. But the one female was on 1300, and plenty of us have lived on less than that for substantial periods of time.

    Reading is fun.

  111. They did, but we couldn’t hear because we had donuts in our ears.

    I read that as “donuts on our ears” and for some reason immediately visualized a pair of those big foam donut headphones… made of REAL DO
    NUTS!

    Which then had me going on to fantasize a header graphic, perhaps created by apricotmuffins, showing a woman in her house, wearing headphones, holding a book, sitting on a chair, across from a table with a lamp on it… but everything in the room including her clothes is MADE OF DONUTS!

    I am strange today.

  112. Well, that was an impressive amount of sarcasm.

    I had this whole speech of congratulations prepared, but I fear the donuts in your ears might prevent you from hearing it. Especially if they’re a rather heavy donut, as i suspect they would be much better at soundproofing than a lighter style of donut (for instance, one of those donuts the store always used to call “French”). This does beg the question, what style of donut would be best used for sound insulation? My money is on anything that is custard filled (but what tasty, tasty sound insulation it would be).

    I guess it must be completely obvious by now that I am a secret ninja spy of the CR Society. I was sent here in disguise (eating those sound proofing donuts at every possible opportunity), to infiltrate this thread and preach our mission of world domination and submission to the rule of gaunt and slightly orange people eating large salads.

  113. This does beg the question, what style of donut would be best used for sound insulation? My money is on anything that is custard filled (but what tasty, tasty sound insulation it would be).

    Too messy. Crullers would probably be better as you could get them in quite a distance.

  114. My question for the cronies is what happens once we’re all able to escape. The earth will no longer, as they say, need to be peopled. Will pro-creation be frowned upon or outlawed? Do we decide on a master race? People another planet? What about evolution?

  115. They did, but we couldn’t hear because we had donuts in our ears.

    Yup, I’m getting a picture of Princess Leia. May the custard be with you…

  116. What people don’t want to admit is that most longevity is genetic. If you want a long life, be born to long-lived people who had long-lived parents. That is the easiest way to have a long life.

    Remember the Howard Foundation that popped up in Methuselah’s Children, Time Enough for Love, Number of The Beast, The Cat Who Walked Through Walls…? Heinlein posited a foundation that encouraged the adult children of long-lived families to marry and produce lots of babies – who in turn would be encouraged to marry other adult children of long-lived families, et cetera. Makes more sense that CRON.

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  118. Speaking of creepy starvation plans to live forever, have you ever heard of bretharians? They believe that people do not need food or water to live. that food and water are just tools to make people fall in and fulfill their role in society. The suggest instead getting all of your nourishment from sunlight and the universal “life force”. I could kick myself for not saving the website I found about it but a quick google search brings up some shocking information.

  119. The other day, I saw someone posting on a forum that she was trying to lose weight because her goal was to never get old. It reminded me of this post. It also made me kind of sad, because no matter how much weight she loses, she’s never going to reach her goal.

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  121. Right now,after reading this, all I can think is…

    I would rather die happy and satisfied than to die wishing I had worried less about the calories in the food on my plate and more about the people around the table.

  122. I know that I’m about a year late in commenting on this, but after reading all the comments (yes, I probably should have been working instead!) for some reason I find myself reminded of the Buddhist monks in Japan who practised self-mummification (tried to anyway)! Google it… or here’s one to get you started:

    Seriously, why?

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