Ask Aunt Fattie: Do I qualify for HAES?

Dear Aunt Fattie,
I’ve been fairly thin my entire adult life – between 120 and 130 pounds (I am 5′ 6″) from age 20 until age 34. Then I met my husband, and because we both love food, we threw caution to the wind and ate whatever we wanted for 6 months, and I gained 30 pounds. I now weigh about 146 pounds. Of course, I’ve had to buy all new clothes, and a stranger stares out of the mirror at me when I look at myself. My husband and I have since begun a very strict meal plan that incorporates about 1500 calories a day of organic whole foods, whole grains, lean proteins, lots of veggies and fruit, no HFCS, no trans fats, no partially hydrogenated anything. We both feel great, but the meal plan is not translating into major weight loss for me (I’ve lost about 5 pounds in 3 months). I would like to stop hating myself, but I fear I don’t really qualify for HAES the way someone who’s had a lifelong struggle with weight does. Surely 145/150 is not my new “set point” just because I managed to eat my way up to it? Should I restrict calories more and try to get back to my old “set point”, 120-130? If not, how do I get used to the way I look now? I feel terrible about myself. Thanks for any advice,

Used To Be Thin

It does seem sometimes as though only fat people have caught on to the idea that there is not a size prerequisite for health. This isn’t actually the case — prominent HAES proponent Linda Bacon is quite thin, for instance — but Aunt Fattie can forgive you for thinking that you must perhaps be THIS FAT to ride the HAES bandwagon. As effective as it’s been shown to be, sometimes it feels like we’re the only people who’ve noticed.

But that doesn’t mean we’re the only people who can practice it. Health at Every Size means health at every size; HAES is, quite simply, the idea that there is no weight limit on living as healthfully as you are able. Lose the acronym, and the question about qualifying becomes absurdly simple: Is there a set of things that are salutary for your body? Are you a size? All right, you’re in.

But you, Used to Be Thin, you aren’t really asking for permission to practice Health at Every Size. You’re asking for permission to diet. You are hoping that Aunt Fattie will applaud your “meal plan” and say that of course you should continue and intensify it until you’re the weight you’ve decided must be natural for you. You’re hoping Aunt Fattie will give you dispensation to second-guess and deprive your body. And Aunt Fattie is hoping that on some level you know perfectly well that she is going to say no such thing, and are really secretly hoping to be told to cut it out. Because that is what she is going to tell you.

Your current weight (16 pounds heavier than your highest “before” weight, I might add, not 30) may indeed be a natural weight for you, no matter what you’d like to believe; if the caution that you threw to the winds includes that calorie restriction you’re so keen to get back to, you may have been well below your set range before. You’re also not 20 anymore, and our bodies tend to change as we grow older. The important thing is this: you don’t get to decide that your weight surely cannot be right or natural. That’s something your body will decide — your choice is only whether to spend your life fighting its decision.

The healthy weight for your body is the weight it becomes when you treat it healthily, and that six months when you were eating whatever you wanted may be the closest you’ve ever come to that. (Assuming that you were also reasonably active, not binge drinking, etc.) Certainly, your current “very strict” plan does not qualify. Consider your wording: with whom is one “very strict”? With someone one wishes to control, subdue, and punish. You’re never going to stop hating your body that way, even if you did get back down to 120 pounds. When you can let go of the idea that you know better than your body what it needs and what it should look like, you can start treating it in a way that is nourishing and caring rather than “strict” and “restricting.” And perhaps you can even stop thinking of your body as a thing that is separate from you and realize instead that it is you; that’s not a stranger in the mirror.

As for getting used to the way you look — which, yes, might be the way you’re meant to look, the way you’ll continue to look — Shapelings are sure to have suggestions. Here are some tried and true ideas:

  • Take lots of pictures of yourself. Better yet, have someone else take them. Throw out all the ones you don’t like, or trust a friend to cull them before you even have to look at them. Look at the ones you do like, a lot.
  • Practice seeing the beauty in women of all sizes, even when you can’t see it in yourself.
  • Buy (or keep buying) beautiful clothes that fit, and get rid of clothes that don’t fit. Dressing for the body you have will make you feel more at home in it, rather than feeling like you’re waiting to move into a better place.

You qualify for HAES — everyone does. But only if you can call a ceasefire on fighting yourself.

If you’ve got your own questions on fat, fatshion, fatiquette, self-esteem, or body image, send them to auntfattie@gmail.com.

140 thoughts on “Ask Aunt Fattie: Do I qualify for HAES?

  1. I needed that this morning. I’m 5’6″ and hover between 155 (when I’m super active, like when I was running 7 miles a day) and 172 (when it’s winter and I’m really busy/stressed). Getting below 150, for me, requires that my whole life be about carefully NOT eating in BAD BAD BAD ways, and that leaves very little of me left over for — well, take your pick: my own mental health, my marriage, my kids, my students, my friends, my interests, etc. But it sounds like 146 is just right for you. Great! I do know the feeling of not being able to quite figure out how you look, though — the post-baby body is also a really hard adjustment — and I really appreciate Aunt Fatty’s advice for doing so. I’m maybe not so ready for the picture-taking, but I do know that I find such courage and JOY in realizing that it’s not a hard thing at all to see many different kinds of bodies as beautiful. At some point, that starts to be the *default*, even — the view that, hey! There are lots of ways to be beautiful! Of course! And also, yay! — with the Hollywood version of beauty seeming like some kind of weird, fussy, and toxic aberration whose appeal is a mystery.

    On a marginally-related note: I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to do this, btw, but I’m finally unsubscribing today from all the dieting-”encouragement” horses#it emails that I get because I signed up for them once. The last straw was getting one this morning that said, “You can be a success story!” I was like, “Uh, I already AM a success story. And you can be too! Ask me how.” LOL ;)

  2. I was like, “Uh, I already AM a success story. And you can be too! Ask me how.” LOL ;)

    A Sarah, that is fucking awesome.

  3. Ah yes, the former thin person who believes that her new weight simply cannot be natural. My mother is one of those. I used to be puzzled by her weight gain, too, but now I’m beginning to think that it was probably a simple combination of giving up calorie restriction and aging. It may have been my last step to full acceptance of the whole HAES concept.

    Also, awesome advice. :)

  4. (delurking) Thanks, Aunt Fattie. I needed to hear that. I’m coming up on my college graduation, and certain portions of my brain are insisting that I need to get skinny for the photos. They need a smackdown, because I don’t need to be strict with myself. Eff that.

  5. That was a really beautifully worded reply.

    The only thing I’d add, if anything, is an acknowledgement that intuitive eating is not always as easy as it seems – there’ve been posts along those lines here and there in the fatosphere, but it bears repeating for UTBT. It’s possible that “whatever she wanted” was somewhat affected by a disordered relationship with food. I’m projecting here: it certainly took me some time to realize that what *I* wanted was a variety of foods that made me feel good.

    But it’s totally irrelevant what and how UTBT ate when she was changing shape. The point is, as Aunt Fatty says, to be nice to the new body and make it feel good, not punished.

  6. I needed this today, as I’ve been dealing with weight issues.

    I too used to be thin, and somehow in the past 2 years have gained 40 pounds. For awhile my set point seemed to be at 155ish (I’m 5’3”) but over the winter I somehow gained another 15 pounds. I’m seeing a doctor because I think it’s a thyroid thing (seriously, 5 pounds a month with changing nothing about my diet and only slightly decreasing my activity level?), but I’m still struggling with the mental health implications of constantly and steadily gaining weight.

  7. >>But only if you can call a ceasefire on fighting yourself.

    I loved that last sentence, it’s so important– regardless if it is weight-related or not, we need to stop fighting ourselves. Negative thoughts just breed more negativity. We deserve better.

  8. What Aunt Fatty said.

    I would like to know that you won’t know what your set point is until you have let your body be for a while. If you have been in a diet and yo-yo cycle (and and ‘strict eating plan’ does equal a diet even if you have maintained for a while), then your body won’t know its set point from its elbow. Eat intuitively for a period of time – really intuitively – and your weight will stabilise at what is right for your body.

  9. “When you can let go of the idea that you know better than your body what it needs and what it should look like, you can start treating it in a way that is nourishing and caring rather than “strict” and “restricting.” ”

    This part just sang out to me…UTBT, I too have gained some weight in the last couple of years and am now 5’5”, 150 pounds.No, I’m not thin anymore, and sometimes it still bothers me, but I’m enjoying my new curvy voluptuousness When you are able to do as Aunt Fatty says, and stop thinking that you know what your body should look like, especially when your ‘knowledge’ has been completely shaped by a fat-phobic, sexist culture – you will begin to learn to love your body. And when you love your body you will feed it well, move it the way it wants to be moved, and dress it beautifully. We are all here in this journey together. Welcome!

  10. This reminds me of an ongoing conversation that my room mate and I have about the “Freshman 15.” We are both in our early 20′s and gained a significant, though not huge, amount of weight when we went off to college, which led to several years of diet attempts in both cases, though now we know better and are on the FA bandwagon. Thing is, I’m pretty sure in my case that changes in my diet and access to all-you-can-eat cafeteria food played a part in the weight gain, but seriously I’m pretty sure going from being a teenager to a grown woman played a WAY huger role. For the last 4 years I was convinced that my body “wanted” to be back at it’s high school weight, and after I got back there I tried to make it even lower…. and now of course I weigh more than I probably would have if I had just accepted my adult body, but at 5’2″ and 145 lbs my weight has been stable for at least 5 months and I’ve learned to accept that and be happy with that. The whole concept of the Freshman 15 is really sad and damaging because it promotes the idea that it is realistic to maintain an adolescent body throughout adulthood, which is so not the case (and really kind of creepy and disempowering.)

  11. I *really did* eat whatever I wanted as a young adult (still do really). Until I went on Depo-Provera, that meant I was 5’6″ and 120-135lbs. Post Depo, it means I’m 160-170lbs. Big hormone changes can very much affect a woman’s weight.

    Post Depo also means I don’t spend 7-10 days out of every month pounded flat by menstrual cramps. I have the energy to bike, walk, lift weights and swim. Before, having energy was always an issue. I spend less time being freezing cold now too, which is a plus.

    I try not to beat myself up over this change. Before, I was on the skinny side of normal for women in my family. Not skeletal, but definitely one of the skinny ones. Now, I’m about in the middle. My female relatives all tend to be pretty active – swimmers, hikers and rowing mostly. So I don’t think this is a horrific size to be.

    Sometimes tho, I wish I could have the *size* I had before, and the *function* I have now. I think that’s a pretty normal wish tho. Our culture rewards thin in some really unhealthy ways.

  12. Since I started practicing HAES about a year ago, I’ve gained 10 pounds.

    I think I’ve basically plateaued, or that I’m getting close, but I don’t weigh myself that often, and so when I saw that number, it was hard to stop the initial reaction of “I’ve been BAD! What have I done? I need to start dieting/excersizing/restricting calories! STAT!”

    When I started HAES I’d been dieting off and on since I was about 14, and tended to flux between 170 and 175 lbs. (I remember this one time my parents promised my sister and I that the first of us to lost 10% of our weight would get $100. Neither of us was fat, but we weren’t skinny either – and I did it, and I was so proud. But they never paid us, because we reached our goal at essentially the same time). And it’s funny but when I weighed myself after starting HAES and I was 181 pounds, that was totally cool with me. I was like “That makes sense” and was fine.

    But then when I weighed myself and I was 186? Freaked me out. It was like 185 was this threshold that I refused to believe I would go over or something. And I seriously had to calm myself down. Remind myself that this was basically the first time in my life I was eating a full healthy diet, and ask myself if this weight had in any way shown any effect on my health. Did I feel more tired? No. Was I weaker? Stronger, actually. Was I in any way sick? No.

    So this number wasn’t hurting me at all.

    But it was still hard.

  13. In my experience and to my understanding, large-scale bulimia (periods of starvation dieting followed by periods of rebound bingeing) can mess with metabolism so much that when one tries to eat normally, weight gain can happen.

    Each time I tried to just listen to my body, this would happen, and I’d panic and start dieting again. Which would of course make things worse. Eventually, though, I stopped the panic cycles, and though I did initially gain some, I did settle out as my body realized I wasn’t starving it anymore. I’ve now been within 10 lbs of my current weight for the last 10 years. It’s definitely a higher point than it would’ve been had I not spent the previous 15 years doing damage to it, but I’m not about to attempt weight loss per se anymore because I don’t want to start that cycle all over again and get even bigger.

  14. Tal, you bring up a good point. Intuitive eating can be difficult if impossible for someone recovering from an eating disorder, even years after ceasing eating disordered behaviors. For many people with an eating disorder, especially binging related disorders, the freedom to eat what you desire most can trigger binging related episodes. And while these should be taken in stride as part of the intuitive eating learning process, for someone with an ED, it can trigger the disordered cycle all over again.

    Not to mention, learning to eat again after an eating disorder is not only scary mentally, but the physical side effects can shock and scare someone right back into the disordered mentality. I gained 50 pounds in the first year after entering into recovery for my eating disorder and I’ve never lost it, even now that I eat healthy and moderately and exercise regularly. People with eating disorders (as well as dieters) have been shown to regain weight more rapidly after returning to a regular diet and normal eating patterns again. The body stores fat more rapidly and in greater amounts as a safeguard against future starvation.

    Even now after years of recovery, I have had to learn both to listen to and disregard my body’s cues on hunger and satiety. I’m on medication to treat ADD that as a side effect, stems my appetite. If I ate according to when my body was hungry, I wouldn’t eat at all through the day, and then when the meds wear off in the evening, I’d be ravenous and prone to overeating. I have had to learn to stop myself and eat lunch and even a snack, even if I do not feel hungry.

    My weight has never been stable throughout my entire life, but since adopting the mindset of intuitive eating (even if I don’t practice it perfectly), my weight has been, for the most part, stable and my mental health even more stable.

    As for the letter writer, her “meal plan” sounds much like the kind of diet my husband I regularly eat, but we practice ours without the expectation of weight loss. In itself, her strict and spartan diet isn’t disordered or unhealthy; it is rather the motivation behind such a plan that determines if it is unhealthy or not. As Aunt Fattie rightfully noted, the expectation that one will remain 120 pounds at age 20 and continue that weight throughout adulthood is unrealistic. As I noted in what someone dubbed my Fa(t)Q, body fat naturally doubles between the ages of 25 and 75 and accumulates in new places. Not to mention, the letter writer doesn’t provide enough detail about her personal life: Did she stop smoking? Has she had children or is she now on birth control? Does she take any kinds of medication? How fat is her family?

    The fact that she eats such a spartan and healthy diet and has yet only lost a handful of pounds indicates that one’s diet and activity level are the end all/be all in determining one’s body weight.

  15. We’ve talked about having a “best of” or “fat 101″ kind of tab wherein posts on the basics would reside for a quick info grab – when and if it does happen, I’d love to see an intuitive eating section. (Because I’m queen of the world and can decree what goes on my favorite blogs :lol: ) I understand intuitive eating, I’ve read a lot about it, but my body can’t seem to do it. I fucked myself up but good with disordered eating for a few years, and I have no idea what my set point should be, if I’m above it and how far, even whether my body really knows what it needs at the moment. I know that when I eat whatever I want, I eat too much crap because I have an emotional dependence on some foods that is not real hunger, but am still trying to figure out how to “reset” my body to understand itself. I’d love a space to hear more from people like Tal and Rachel on how to learn to practice HAES when your body doesn’t want to cooperate.

    [going into lurk mode, because this is screen-free week and I'm not supposed to break the no-screen rule after today]

  16. I just want to echo what others have said about expecting one’s 20 year old body to be THE body we keep throughout life. Bodies don’t stop changing just because we’ve “matured”, and this whole idea that we get to stay the same forever is more media claptrap. I’m dealing with some normal, starting of midlife changes that tend to happen regardless of weight, so it’s a big subject in my life right now. Change happens, and it’s scary.

    Regarding HAES: I always thought that the “every” in HAES really meant EVERY: small, big, tall, short, more abled, not as abled, older, younger…the whole idea was to do things you personally could for your personal body with the idea of adding to your personal health. It was the antithesis of big box medicine and BMI – not trying to reach an arbitrary standard, but being the healthiest you could be given your own circumstances, resources, abilities, and limitations – which may not be the same as anyone else even given the same situation. So given my understanding (which I freely admit could be dead wrong), EVERYONE can do HAES. (They don’t HAVE to, though.)

    Finally, the comment about hating yourself….you can do that at any size, too. Really. (See the wonderful entry on “The Fantasy Of Being Thin”.)

  17. I gained 20 lbs in one year after going on the Pill, and I’m not terrifically happy with it, but even *I* admit that gaining 20 lbs because I’m on the Pill is perfectly normal and pretty common.

    Because I do know one thing: no matter what I eat, my weight stays within about 5 lbs.

    I’d guess that if you ‘let yourself go’ and gained 20 lbs and didn’t lose it when going back to a ‘normal’ diet, then you were restricting too much in the beginning, or you changed another variable (like going on the Pill, or having a baby, or aging from 20 to 40) without telling us.

  18. I don’t want to be mean, but…FFS, if the heartbreaking sorrow of accepting life at a BMI of 24 (note: still not overweight!) is too much for you, could you please get your ass to a counselor specializing in body dysmorphia issues? Thanks.

  19. I just went on BC for my skin, and along with the other crazy side effects is the urge to just eat and eat and eat the fattiest stuff I can find. I am usually an intuitive eater, but wondering whether something is ‘intuitive’ if it’s being controlled by a drug, and also causing me to lack variety in my diet. I want to continue to not judge my eating but it’s hard. Any advice from others in the same boat?

    And in general I find that ‘I don’t want to be x’ means you’re about to be x.

  20. >>I’d guess that if you ‘let yourself go’ and gained 20 lbs and didn’t lose it when going back to a ‘normal’ diet, then you were restricting too much in the beginning, or you changed another variable (like going on the Pill, or having a baby, or aging from 20 to 40) without telling us.

    I don’t think the last part is fair–it sounds like the anti-fat people who say, “You must be lying/not telling us something, otherwise you couldn’t be that fat.”

    Anyway, her body may just be taking its sweet time going back down to its old weight, because it wants to make sure it will have enough food to feel safe and healthy. It’s really too early to know if her weight will settle back where it used to me. I don’t think she her body would have changed from aging *that* much in such a short period of time. But the fact that she is older overall may mean that it takes a year (or five years!) to lose five pounds, instead of a month. Older bodies don’t rebound as quickly from neglect (whether it be inactivity, not giving it food with sufficient nutrients [junk food], starvation, anything).

    Even saying your weight might go back to where it used to be (in its own time, if you let it and don’t try and speed it up), HAES is still the only option. Accepting yourself where you are now is how to be happy now. Anything else is not being fair to your beautiful body.

  21. I should amend the above to say about the person I quoted, I agree that restriction could be a factor.

  22. Kimu: “I don’t want to be mean, but…FFS, if the heartbreaking sorrow of accepting life at a BMI of 24 (note: still not overweight!) is too much for you, could you please get your ass to a counselor specializing in body dysmorphia issues? Thanks.”

    Well, you didn’t want to be mean, but oops! you were. Go figure. I didn’t want to be a bitch and call you on it, but oops, I did. Again, go figure.

    Besides, I thought we’d all accepted that the BMI is a crock of shit in terms of deciding whether a person is healthy at their set point weight. One person’s natural set point can give her a BMI of 19, in which case the weight at which her BMI would be 24 may indeed be well over that natural set point. Another person’s setpoint may be at a weight which would give her a BMI of 32, and she would be unhealthily underweight at a BMI in the “normal” range.

    Yeah, the OP needs to learn to accept that she will not always have the body she had as a young adult, and that it’s okay not to diet and worry about food intake other than as a way of promoting good HAES. However, making fun of her isn’t the way to bring her to this acceptance.

  23. Seriously, don’t be mean. As someone who was fucking devestated gaining twenty pounds in the first year of college (and I totally call bullshit on the freshman 15 being due to open access to the cafeteria; the food was so nasty, I lived off spinach with oil and vinegar dressing, fruit and Easy Mac. I was eating way less than in high school, but my body was filling out), I totally empathize with UTBT. I worked out obsessively and ate virtually nothing to get back down but I only wound up gaining another thirty. But I plateaued eventually, and I am convinced that it is because I met my husband. We, too, love food. We also love working out. So I eat what I like (although at the beginning, that was mostly “forbidden” food, and I did gain another twenty, only to lose it as I started craving produce for its own sake) and we workout together. I’m still working on not seeing myself as past my prime at 25 years old, 200 pounds, 5’5″ tall and a size 16, but I look at the women in my family and I see that they are all fat too. And they are all extraordinarily beautiful. I am finally starting to recognize myself in the mirror; the family resemblance is striking.

  24. I agree with Rachel about how difficult HAES can be for people recovering from EDs.

    Goodness knows I’m still struggling with the concept and occasionally falling back into old patterns. But if you keep pushing through and being honest with yourself, you find a way to keep healing.

    Four weeks ago I had a huge freak out about some sudden weight gain (caused by comfort eating due to stress and inactivity due to depression), and for that day I just totally lost it. I swore I’d never eat again (I used to be anorexic), that I’d learn to throw up after eating (in recent years I’ve been prone to binge eating), that I’d exercise at all hours of the day. I cried, I tantrumed, I panicked.

    And then the next day I settled down and went right back to HAES whilst also being mindful of issues like comfort eating and binge eating (followed by periods of starvation) to soothe my emotional woes. I started exercising again, and I’m feeling so much better in myself.

    You have ups and downs naturally, regardless of your history, but as someone who has had some form of an ED for the majority of my life, HAES is about so many things: learning to listen to my body, creating a dialogue that isn’t based on emotion or pain or self-loathing; learning to love myself, learning to accept things I cannot control, breaking down moral implications of food, and generally being aware that my mind often tries to sabotage me; that it reads into food, eating, and exercise motives and issues that are not real.

    And. . . now this has turned into a ramble without a coherent point. ^^;; Can you tell I’m still working on this?

  25. This is something that I’ve been thinking about for awhile. I started my blog EAT A CHEESEBURGER a month ago and since, I’ve discovered a whole new world of body acceptance bloggers which I never knew existed. I am also fairly thin (I don’t like to give the numbers cause I think it encourages unhealthy comparisons) but I do find that there is a lack of thin women in this community and I wonder why. I don’t love my body just because it happens to look like what the mainstream is encouraging women to look like, I want to love my body because its MINE and no one else’s! That leaves me freedom to enjoy my food and relax when I gain or lose a few pounds here and there. I think that is the heart of HAES and it applies to EVERY woman no matter what her current jean size happens to be. So thank you for this post….it is a great discussion in the HAES community and one that I am striving to start on my blog.

    -Tiffabee
    tiffabee.wordpress.com

  26. Well, you didn’t want to be mean, but oops! you were.

    I-geek, thanks for getting there first. Kimu, it’s true that thin people, inbetweenies, and people on the smaller end of the fat spectrum don’t face nearly the magnitude of prejudice and social obstacles that fatter people do. However, self-loathing, eating disorders, and societal pressures come at any size. UTBT might have body dysmorphia issues, but then again, she might not — she lives in a world where the word “fat” is hurled as an accusation against almost everyone.

  27. I’ve been lurking on this site for many months, trying to learn more about FA and HAES, because I agree that discrimination is a major problem and I do believe that it is possible to be healthy regardless of one’s BS BMI stats. But this post really underscored the part that I’m not getting.

    Post after post, I see arguments about set points and the claim that you can’t make a fat person thin any more than you can make a thin person fat. I’ve read about the studies and I like the idea, especially in context with all the self-esteem boosts and freedom from self-hate that the notion engenders. However, I still haven’t seen the question raised by UTBT addressed in a satisfactory way. Like a previous commenter, I find the accusation that UTBT had an ED prior to her weight gain presumptuous (which, of course, doesn’t rule out the possibility that the diagnosis is accurate… just incredibly dismissive).

    Can we, for a moment, work under the assumption that no ED was involved? I don’t think anyone can quibble with the idea that if someone overeats for an extended period of time they will gain weight. So what went wrong with UTBT when she stopped overeating? Did the extended overeating shift her set point? If so, I think the idea of a set point and what it means needs to be reevaluated. Or was it that her overly restrictive diet regime shut down her metabolism?

    I’m not trying to be contrary – I just really want to understand. I’ve read dozens of papers in the scientific literature that leave me in no doubt as to the complexities of human weight, but I think if the FA movement wants to gain ground in the mainstream, there needs to be some resolution between “Everyone stays within their set point range” and the vast empirical evidence that people can gain a lot of weight and fail to lose it (even if they were at the previous weight for decades).

    I have been unable to find any scientific studies that address this issue, so if anyone knows of any, please share them. I’m a scientist, though not a physiologist, so I can’t take up the mantle myself, but a study similar to the one done by Sims on prisoners would be useful, especially if it incorporated abrupt vs. gradual calorie intake changes and gender variables.

    I think FA is incredibly important, and I love the philosophy of HAES. I just wish there were a more rigorous understanding of the set-point phenomenon, because it is difficult to sway doubters when their objective criticisms remain unanswered.

  28. Helena, part of it is that I don’t think you can tell from the letter that she was “overeating” for an extended period of time rather than simply *not restricting.* Big difference. And we can’t do more than speculate, but for me words like “throwing caution to the wind” and the apparent return to a “very strict eating plan” imply restriction prior to eating whatever she wanted, rather than normal eating followed by “overeating” or binging. But that’s just a guess.

    And yeah, I think most of us wish there was a more rigorous understanding of set points. But as far as I know, the research just isn’t there, and part of that is because of a general refusal of people who set research priorities generally to acknowledge the concept instead of focusing on calories out/calories in.

  29. You’re absolutely right, Lilah – that’s the problem with letters soliciting advice… there are so many gaps that need to be filled in based on cues in the prose.

    I wish my background put me in a position to conduct some research beyond ci/co, but alas it’s not my field. If I ever run into an appropriate person at a conference, though, I’ll float the idea by them. But like you say, it’s about people who set the priorities rather than those who do the research, and I’m afraid in the current climate the funding dollars will go to those working to combat the “obesity epidemic” rather than understand the nature of human weight. Sigh.

  30. tiffabee, on April 29th, 2008 at 12:06 am Said:

    I am also fairly thin (I don’t like to give the numbers cause I think it encourages unhealthy comparisons) but I do find that there is a lack of thin women in this community and I wonder why.

    I’m on my doc’s watchlist for being borderline underweight, and I read a few FA/HAES sites, but usually stay quiet, because I just can’t relate. I don’t want to go barging in on a discussion and getting my Skeletal-American privilege everywhere.

    Which is why I only de-lurked in reply to a comment that directly concerned me. ;P

  31. I kind of feel like this is a strange comment thread for Shapely Prose – some of the things written here are making me really uncomfortable, but I’m having a hard time sorting out why.

    Maybe it’s the idea expressed that the dietary habits listed in the original letter are somehow “healthy,” and that this has something to do (in part) with the virtue of food restriction to 1500 pounds. It sounds very holier-than-thou and out of place around here – I mean, no one agrees on what is healthy and what is not. Or maybe it’s the blatant assumptions being made about this woman’s body and how it works. But something feels… off.

    “I don’t think anyone can quibble with the idea that if someone overeats for an extended period of time they will gain weight. So what went wrong with UTBT when she stopped overeating? Did the extended overeating shift her set point? If so, I think the idea of a set point and what it means needs to be reevaluated. Or was it that her overly restrictive diet regime shut down her metabolism?”

    I completely quibble with that idea. I can overeat for an extended period of time and maintain my high metabolism and not gain weight, though I’ll feel like crap. The idea that something was going “right” until she “overate” and then something “went wrong” because she didn’t lose the weight post-”overeating” seems very pro-weight-loss and calories-in-calories-out to me. Whatever happened to the human-body-is-not-a-bunsen-burner thing? And I really don’t think the FA folks want to change their message to float in the mainstream, or to be more acceptable, fwiw.

    I admit I have been waiting for maybe a more articulate (than me) Shapeling to take on a lot of this for a while, but it’s been oddly quiet around here! My feeling is that we don’t know much of anything about how or why this woman’s weight changed when it did and then didn’t change again, and unless she decides that she doesn’t feel well and wants to make sure her weight changes don’t come from being *sick* in some way, then I thought the point was that her weight fluctuations are essentially *irrelevant*. If she decides that healthiness is her goal, what matters in achieving that is eating and living in a way that makes her feel as good as she can, mentally and physically. And those healthiness choices don’t become more valid because they are in line with some (but not all) nutritionists’ ideas about what is and is not a healthy way of living. But maybe I’m misunderstanding what’s been said…

  32. hm, “irrelevant” seems like the wrong word, not what i intended. but i meant, i think, that what ideally what a person eats should not depend on their size and shape.

  33. “The important thing is this: you don’t get to decide that your weight surely cannot be right or natural. That’s something your body will decide — your choice is only whether to spend your life fighting its decision.”

    This is the most helpful thing I have ever read as I’ve been on this path. Thanks, Aunt Fattie.

  34. Just to point out, in case it was unclear in my comment, I emphatically don’t think a diet with lots of fats in it is inherently bad. Nor did anyone else on this thread say that 1500 calories of a certain type are in themselves ‘healthy.’ I am in fact continuing to eat what my body tells me it wants. But I guess I am having a gut reaction that when something new I put into my body is giving me new instructions, they must be wrong…. That’s something that I’ve yet to see any ‘intuitive’ word on and I’m curious.

  35. Great question, great answer, great comments (except the mean ones).
    (Lynne, I’ll be sure to keep my food intake to under 1499.99 pounds per day.)

    To respond to the question about how to get used to how one looks at a higher weight, here are the things I try to do:
    As was mentioned, focus on appreciating the beauty in other women of all sizes.
    Wear things that I think look good on my at my current weight/size (such as emphasizing my rockin’ calves)
    Try to focus on physical activity that I enjoy (like swimming).
    Try to “enjoy” the extra weight with the idea that it might not always be there. This last one might not make a whole lot of sense to everyone, but a little bit extra isn’t always a bad thing — sometimes one’s partner can appreciate it more than oneself can.

    Sometimes, I try to keep in mind that weight goes up, and weight goes down. When it goes up, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and when it goes down, it’s not automatically a good thing. It just is.

    Of course, I feel like a hypocrite because I’m a little unhappy about my own weight going up a bit right now and sizing me out of some of my spring clothes, but I try to keep in mind that my health is pretty good, and I don’t have as much time for physical activity as I want, and I’m not eating as “intuitively” as I could be (as doing so takes more time than I have at the moment). So what goes up a bit may also go down a bit, or not. So best to enjoy my body at the moment, and treat it as well as I can, because either way, it’s a good strategy.

  36. I have had natural weight gains and losses over my lifetime. It just depends on my life situation. I’ve gained weight when I’m unhappy with life, career, school, etc… because I crave rich foods to comfort myself and I really enjoy my food therapy. I’ve fluctuated from around 110 to 200 lbs. over few years and I’m only 5 ’3′.

    My attitude is that if I wanna eat, I’ll eat whatever I damn please and if I don’t wanna eat too much and exercise, then I will. It’s all up to me!!!

    I’ve had friends be jealous of me when I’m thin and/or try to make me feel bad when I gained weight. I’ve dropped people from my circle for not respecting what I want to do and trying to force me to be what they want me to be. This weight thing really messes up even very rational good people.

    I don’t care what weight I am or you are, just be smart, caring, interesting, and be an all around good person. Having interest in new things/ideas, new and good food, and in fashion and makeup helps too. But I do have difficulty being friends with people who don’t appreciate good food!!

  37. Lynne, I really recognize your discomfort.

    I don’t eat 1500 calories a day – I eat more than that. I’m hungry for more than that! And I think that all of the practitioners of HAES would agree that hurting yourself with hunger goes against the goal.

    I’m going to use Rachel as an example – I trust her experience and philosophy, and think she’ll understand what I’m saying – but I’m not meaning to criticize. Just lay bare my own discomfort and my process of dealing with the messages in my head.

    I have indeed had ED of the anorexia/bulimia variety, and much of my dieting life I would consider strongly ED. And right now I appear to be struggling again with HAES, making me a bit more sensitive. Because of my own internalization of messed up messages about food, and my struggle with fat and food as if they were The Centre of Moral Choice and the reflection of my worth, I can hear things like Rachel’s description of her own journey for health, and my old disordered food thinking says: “Okay, it might not be for weight loss anymore, but I’m still not being a ‘good girl’ like Rachel is.”

    Now, 1500 calories a day, phew boy. Without size 8 as the pot at the end of the oh my god I’m starving to death rainbow, that level of caloric intake would feel like a lifetime of starvation to me. Because – and this is key – our bodies are each different. That may be sufficient calories in that nutritional arrangement may make Rachel feel full and happy, and she’s making health choices that feel HEALTHY to her, whereas those choices played out in my particular body sound like a diet without even the hope of weight loss.

    The thing that HAES means is that I trust Rachel the custodianship of her body, and that she is the best person to care for and listen to and make choices for it, and that her body’s choices are not and cannot be proscriptive for the relationship I have with my own body.

    Words like “overeating” can have many meanings. I do overeat, very occasionally, where overeating is not “eating more than is deemed acceptable by some external standard” and instead “eating more than suffices me, so that I feel sluggish and tired and unhappy in my body”. If Rachel says that she’s overeating, she likely means the second, but if I’m feeling particularly vulnerable, I may hear the first.

    It could be, in that scenario, that UTBT, when given “permission” to eat all she wants, OFTEN eats past her satiation point until her body feels sluggish and unhealthy. I don’t know and it’s hard to tell because real HAES suggests the only way to overeat is the second, but almost everyone else on the planet means the first.

    If the second interpretation is true — and I don’t think means an eating disorder, because there are a lot of social cues that can lead to eating to minor discomfort …. Christmas often gets me — and she has gained weight through eating past her body’s point of saying no more; or if for some reason she couldn’t hear her body saying no more due to any number of medical or psychological factors, then Helena’s point makes some sense.

    Is it possible that we intervene with diet and make our bodies to have a higher set point than they would otherwise have?

    (NB: IT is very very very common that couples gain weight together. I posit that this could be, at least in part, HORMONAL – I lose weight when I lose a partner, and it’s definitely in me a physical effect.
    It makes sense if partnering makes more likely childrearing, and the marriage 15 is at least as well known as the Freshman 15.
    So my working hypothesis – for both UTBT and Helena – is that it’s possible that the eating-with-partner-weight was hormonally driven; both eating more because the act of partnering, and steeping of self in opposite hormones of another, shown to have all sorts of OTHER hormonal effects, also could raise set point. It’s as good a hypothesis as “well, people let themselves go”. I have not so humorously joked that the best diet for me would be my husband’s death or our divorce, and it snaps me out of the worst of my “I’ll do anything to lose weight” insanity.)

    And I would say to Helena for the other point – is it possible to eat our way to higher set points? Maybe? I think the only answer is MU, though. I have no doubt that each diet I went on that got painful, up to the plateau place where I’m weighing myself every half hour to remind myself why I’m not just bloody eating something and making the nattering OCD obsession with the next bite that goes into my face, each time I went there my set point ratcheted up some. Maybe someone it does so with poor diet…. I’ve found that if I eat more junk than my body likes I’ll gain weight, but then I’ll crave salads and apples and water and the weight goes away, no work involved. So I’ve only set my set point up the hunger, not the full, route.

    But IF UTBT did eat her way to a higher set point, what in the name of medical science can anyone do about it? In my body, the setpoint Humpty Dumpty couldn’t be put back together again. If I could go grab my 11 year old self and yell, for the love of god, DON’T GO THERE!, maybe I’d be thinner today. And maybe if I could tell myself of two weeks ago today’s lottery numbers, I’d be richer. There seems no *solution*, if this extra weight is a problem. Unless UTBT is in the 5%. I’ve never been in that group, so who knows?

  38. Wow. I managed to write an almost entirely opaque comment dealing with Helena and UTBT’s question. Apologies. I went from personal to scientific.

    What I was attempting to say was way simpler than I made it.

    First: I’d like to see research on the hormonally driven weight gain effects of partnering. Since hormones directly affect weight, and our hormonal state changes through partnering, I suggest this is a non-frivolous possibility.

    Second: I can confirm that for my body certain patterns of food intake have made an immediate impact on my setpoint. These patterns, in my body, have been food restriction, not food overconsumption – where overconsumption is eating to my own physical cues. However, I do not deny that the other possibility exists.

    Second the Important Caveat: I also am a data point of one, and I do not have an identical twin who never dieted. Therefore, it is quite possible she would also be the weight I’m currently at, only over a smoother trajectory – that my lost weight+5 after a diet
    was really the phenomenon of “regression to the mean” and I would have gained 5 pounds over that 3 year period anyway.

    Third: Although I confirm – and imagine many Shapelings can confirm – that they can screw with their set points by dieting, the majority, statistically and in our self-reporting data here – have never found any process, diet, procedure, exercise, drug, supplement, hypno-therapist, talk-therapist, acupuncturist, or snake oil salesman that has allowed us to adjust our set point downward. Up seems to be the only direction for many of us.

    Therefore, other than preventing the gain – which in my case would have looked a lot more like people NOT fretting about weight and diet – what does the question mean?

  39. This might sound really simplistic but I think we should be at the size that we are happy with that’s based in a healthy reality. If being size 14 is tough for you than something has to be done.

    What messes us all up is that society tells us we should be 0, 3, 5 not 14, 20, or 22+. Many women wearing sizes 7, 9, 14 + consider themselves unacceptable. There are penalties for being bigger and rewards for being small.

    The only thing that we can do in this irrational toxic enviroment is to really dig into our psyche and sort our what is real and what is imposed. If being size 14 makes you miserable and suicidal, you should do something about it. Either come to terms with it or lose the weight.

    The choice is if you can’t lose the weight and/or keep it off while living a healthy and happy life, you have to consider the alternative and deal with the reality of your body. Therapy is a good place to start. It is sad when many women find it preferable to starve and harm themselves to be at an ‘socially acceptable’ weight. That’s the messed up part that pain and suffering is preferred over a bigger body.

    I have compassion for women including myself at any size, I’ve known abused women who see themselves as dirty and grotesque though they are physically stunning and socially acceptably skinny. I know how differently I’m treated in society depending on what size I happen to be at the time and understand why many girls and women make the choices that they do.

  40. I’d like to see research on the hormonally driven weight gain effects of partnering. Since hormones directly affect weight, and our hormonal state changes through partnering, I suggest this is a non-frivolous possibility.

    That is a brilliant idea. I would love to see that investigated and tested.

  41. I second that about throwing away clothes that don’t fit. It is hard, because some things are gorgeous, but having small clothes around will encourage you to get into the mindset of “I’ll just lose enough weight to fit into this again”. I make it a rule to never, EVER have any clothes that are too small for me so that I don’t fall into that old trap. However, I do keep some clothes that are slightly too big for me around, which is potentially worse because I’ve overeaten junk food in the past to try and put on some more weight for two reasons: the first was that I was sick of the unfounded ED accusations and the second was that winter down here is FUCKING FREEZING and I’d heard that people with more body fat get less cold.

  42. Some thoughts:

    Then I met my husband, and because we both love food, we threw caution to the wind and ate whatever we wanted for 6 months, and I gained 30 pounds.

    This is a particular way of putting it that is current, but what does it actually mean? If it means that previously, UTBT was on a constant diet, then rebound always hovers, waiting for the best moment to swoop.

    Weight is metabolic, that includes appetite and hunger signals, they are part of the options open to the nervous system to manipulate to regulate weight.

    As we do not have a more complete understanding of what leads it to make these adjustments-we tend towards turning mere surface observation into cause- can we say age should make us fatter.

    It’s interesing that Aunt F tellsUTBT to accept the ageing process, when so many talk about fatness being caused by effcient metabolism, is middle aged weight gain a sign of ageing that makes the body more efficient as opposed to less?

    I think we ought to be told.

  43. Thanks for posting this. I was never a fat kid, and while I gained weight during puberty, I also gained 50 pounds from the aftermath of a nutritional deficiency (long story). I also don’t have fat parents – my dad is a little chubby, but my mom’s body shape is completely different from mine (she was once mistaken for my older brother). So even though I was healthy at the weight I was at, I wasn’t sure whether I qualified for HAES. I recently made a decision to stop my weight-loss diet, but I’ve been fighting myself over it.

  44. Oops, hit “submit” too soon. I meant to add that reading this made me better able to accept that I can practice HAES, and be both healthy and fat, even though I gained weight for a specific reason and don’t come from a fat family.

  45. I think perhaps UTBT is missing the point of a set point – it is not something you can diet towards, it is the weight you naturally weigh when eating normally (ie intuitively). If her lower weight was not due to restriction (but it sounds like it may have been) and her higher weight is due to excess (but it sounds like it was only excess by society’s standards which are, well, insane) then if she began intuitive eating perhaps her weight would gradually stabilise at her original set point.

    Dieting will, as I understand things, actually make this less likely to happen, as the body will go ‘argh, what are you doing to me??’ and if she diets down to the weight she wants to be at, she is likely to find her weight creeping up again when she stops.

  46. Guys – I just wanted to thank all of you who addressed my question with such thoughtful responses (and, Arwen, I really *liked* your “opaque” comment – it went straight to my little scientist brain :)

    Lynne – I apologize if my comments made you uncomfortable. Just to clarify a few points: I definitely didn’t mean to imply a 1500 calorie diet was healthy… I even called it “overly restrictive”. And my vague use of “overeating” was intended in exactly what Arwen described – eating way past the point at which you are full. I do that occasionally, and I feel awful – not because of guilt or self-hate or worrying whether I’ll fit into my jeans the next day, but because my body just feels gross on the inside for several hours afterwards. (This happens any time I eat more than 1500 pounds of food ;)

    And what I meant to imply by bringing FA to the mainstream is to make society at large recognize their misperceptions about obesity and health. I think that’s an important stepping stone towards reducing fat discrimination. I was by no means suggesting that an FA army start going to airports and handing out baby donuts to raise awareness or anything…

  47. I gained about 50 pounds in my first year of eating disorder recovery. I gained the last 15 pounds after meeting my husband.

    I never realized how miserable and lonely I was until I met Brandon and had someone who loved me unconditionally and who told and showed me daily that he loved me, found me desirable and sexy, and appreciated me as I am. I began eating foods I hadn’t ate in years and I resumed, for the most part, normal eating patterns again. His love and acceptance finally gave ME the self-love and acceptance I needed to get past some of my food-related fears. Perhaps this is the same for the letter writer.

    People in treatment for depression sometimes gain weight as depression therapy results in mood improvement and appetite returns. Meeting a partner with whom you are deliriously happy has much the same effect, I wager. The letter writer doesn’t make clear what her diet was before meeting her husband, nor does she reveal sufficient detail about her life for us to come to any definitive conclusions. The fact that she wrote to an anti-dieting site for advice and permission to diet indicates to me that she has experience in this department already and really doesn’t want to go back down this route.

    For some people, even a modicum of weight gain can be terrifying. Throw in body dysmorphia and eating disordered issues, and the problem is compounded. I can understand why the letter writer is now so anxious and worried. To Aunt Fattie’s awesome list, I would also add:

    - Exercise (and not for weight loss). It helps me feel strong and powerful and the endorphins also help with mood and depression. Oh yes, and as a fellow newlywed myself, sex totally counts as exercise (not that you should think of it as exercise, per se)

    - I once threw away my scale and it helped immensely. It’s now back in the house but I weigh myself sparingly and sometimes I forget its even there.

    - Get a stylish hair cut that better flatters your face.

    - Stop counting calories. They only make you obsess even more about weight and body image.

  48. I’m in my mid fifties and have never dieted (or even restricted my eating) because even the *thought* of restricting my eating makes me so anxious and miserable and *hungry* that I was sure that restriction could only lead to weight gain! (I’ve had my share of self loathing but not restricting!)

    So I’ve always eaten intuitively. My weight has bounced around all over the place. But when it goes down, it always comes back up again to more than before. Even though I am not dieting. My first major weight loss was when I lived in an impoverished, tropical country and I was sick much of the time. My second major weight loss was after I went off the Pill, so that one might have had to do with hormones.

    Other than that, it’s been a steady creep upwards.

    I, too, have wished that people would study normal, expected weight gain.

  49. Hmm, I’m not sure how to articulate this but, being in a relationship with a man can be absolute hell on intuitive eating. Dudes eat way more red meat and carbs and a lot fewer veggies, and while relationships are supposed to mean compromise, it usually entails adapting our way of eating to suit their tastes. UTBT might be eating perfectly tasty foods that aren’t in line with what her body really wants and needs because her hubby is into them. This doesn’t mean that UTBT has to restrict her calories, but she might want to examine if she’s really eating what she wants and needs or is making too many sacrifices for the sake of her husband. Negotiating for more of her own nutritional needs in the relationship might help her feel better, though she should do so without the expectation of losing weight.

    Meanwhile, it’s the perfect excuse to go shopping for new clothes that will show off all of the, ahem, obvious benefits of gaining adipose tissue.

  50. This is a great conversation, y’all. One thing Aunt Fattie didn’t mention but that I thought I’d throw in there: when we talk about set point, we don’t mean one exact number, we mean a range (I think people often talk of a range of about 30 pounds, but I’m too lazy morning-y to find a link right now). So it’s also possible, in fact, that UTBT is still within range of her setpoint, and she’s just experiencing (because of not restricting, being in love, what have you) the upper end of that range. When I’m moderately active, cooking my own food, and not ill, I almost always end up within a range of 15-20 pounds–sometimes at the top, sometimes at the bottom. I’ve never had an ED; that’s just the range my body works within when I’m not dieting.

    The point of this is to further encourage UTBT to stop restricting her diet, stop beating herself up, and start listening to her body instead of punishing it.

  51. Arwen, I agree 100% with your comments. Thank you for exploring all of those issues; I too feel like there is so much we don’t know about setpoints. (On a related note, Lynne, I totally hear you on the comparing myself to others, and the “I’m not as good a HAES practitioner as [whoever posted some kind of lower-calorie or 'healthier' typical diet]“, so thank you so much for speaking up because some parts of this thread felt “off” to me too and I think it’s good to bring that up when it happens.)

    UTBT, I hate to “diagnose” you because only you can really know whether the “throwing caution to the wind” that you describe constituted intuitive eating or disordered overeating. And then if you’re me, even you can’t know what your own eating “means.” :P It is so hard to disentangle what’s right for your own body from all of society’s messages to diet and eat less and less and less on the one hand, and on the other the availability of food and portioning can make it easy to eat more than your body needs and wants. At least for me. And overeating is nothing to beat yourself up over either, but like I say sometimes it is just difficult to “hear” my body’s signals over the other food influences out there in society.

    So I don’t know, but mainly I just wanted to say that I am really impressed that you are practicing HAES. It’s hard enough for me to wrench my brain around to that mindset, much less (I would think) someone who knows what it’s like to be quite thin and who was that way for quite a long time. But I think you are following the right path. Life is too short for any of us to spend our lives “fighting [our body's] decision” to be a certain size (I agree, awesome line there). And I think you will be physically and mentally much healthier in the end without the restriction and calorie-counting. As I said, I agree that there is much we don’t know about setpoints, but once you eat 1,500 calories a day for several months and don’t really lose any weight, it would seem that you are up against yours right now for sure–perhaps it has shifted from when you were younger.

    Do you find that your family tends to put on a little weight in their 30s? I’m not saying that writes your own setpoint in stone, but you could not keep weight on my husband before he was 25 no matter what you did. In fact at 6’3″ and 150 lbs., it almost seemed like his body was waiting for any excuse to lose weight; he normally eats heartily but once during a period of stress, when he was having trouble getting food down, he went down almost to 140 in a scarily short period of time. Now he has been gaining gradually for the past few years, into the “average” BMI range, without really changing his eating habits. (I mean, I guess you could argue “sedentary lifestyle,” but he is still pretty active and was not excessively active or anything in his youth, so I’m skeptical. Not, to go on a tangent, that this stopped our doctor from asking him a few years ago if he was a distance runner because of his naturally low weight, low blood pressure, and slow pulse. Meanwhile if either of us could be called “a runner,” it’s me, and she was busy making all kinds of much more negative assumptions about my “lifestyle” because I’m fat. Not that I’m bitter.) Anyway, the exact same thing happened to his dad so I think there is a setpoint shift in that family that tends to occur sometime in your late 20s.

    I guess I would chime in as the 12039487th commenter to agree that you definitely need to get some new clothes that fit your current body–and, as choochoobear said, get rid of the ones that don’t fit. If funds are tight then Target or Kohl’s or Penney’s (esp. the sale racks) can be good options IME. I remember one of the times I was actively trying to follow Overcoming Overeating, and gained a lot of weight. I was miserable until I shelled out for just a few nice pieces at Lane Bryant that I could mix and match. All of a sudden, without clothes that pinched and made me uncomfortable, I felt OK (and on some days, even really cute) again. It made all the difference. If you hate to get rid of clothes because they might fit again (and assuming this is true–it is of me so I’m speaking from my own mindset) you might want to remind yourself that you buy yourself new clothes over time anyway, so you won’t necessarily be spending “extra” to replace the smaller clothes if you do eventually have to buy some more. In sort of the converse of that, I find that anything I do save that doesn’t currently fit me will often end up being out of style or not so nice by the time I revisit it. I finally got that through my head and now I find it easier to get rid of stuff that doesn’t fit me right now.

    The other thing that helps me, especially if we’re talking about career clothes, is to remind myself how excited I would be to find functional, stylish career clothes in my size at the thrift store, and how much more use someone else will get out of them if I donate them. When I think about that it seems kind of selfish to hoard clothes that don’t fit me and that are just sitting in my closet, and makes it easier to let them go.

  52. I’m someone who has never “dieted” (though I’ve occasionally dabbled with eating a little less overall for a few days when I’ve felt particularly fat). My weight has gone up and down over the years, for a net gain on a moderately constant curve. I was thin as a child, around a size 18 to 20 in high school, and hit an adult low of 14/16 my freshman year of college when I was too busy to eat and getting lots of exercise. I was a 20 again by graduation, a 24 about five or six years ago, and a 28 today. All that time, other than freshman year, I was practicing a type of what we now call intuitive eating (a.k.a. eating what I wanted except for negotiating shared meals with my family and boyfriend->fiancee->husband). I don’t believe that I’m eating significantly more or differently than when I was younger, or exercising a different amount. And yet my weight is significantly higher. I’ve been a 28 for at least three years, so this appears to be my current set point. But I have no doubt that my set point at age 20 was an 18. I think that the term “set” point falsely gives the impression that the point is set the same for your entire adult life – to the contrary, most people gain at least some weight as they age.

    Interestingly, I’ve noticed that my body likes to spontaneously reshift my fat distribution every few years. I usually end up looking thinner even though I haven’t lost weight. I recently went through one of those, and even though my doctor’s scale tells me I’m a good 15 pounds up in my normal range, I’m down to a 26 in most tops, approaching a 26 in some pants, and I think dropped a cup size (I need to go get measured and buy a bunch of new bras).

  53. tiffabee, on April 29th, 2008 at 12:06 am Said:
    “I am also fairly thin (I don’t like to give the numbers cause I think it encourages unhealthy comparisons) but I do find that there is a lack of thin women in this community and I wonder why.”
    Carolyn: “I’m on my doc’s watchlist for being borderline underweight, and I read a few FA/HAES sites, but usually stay quiet, because I just can’t relate. I don’t want to go barging in on a discussion and getting my Skeletal-American privilege everywhere.”

    I’m also a thin person. Again, I’m not going to give numbers but with intuitive eating and moderate exercise my setpoint weight and height give me a BMI in the low end of the “normal” range. That said, I don’t think there’s a woman alive who hasn’t been made to feel bad about her weight or other aspects of her appearance. HAES/FA/body acceptance is for all of us.

  54. Maybe it’s the idea expressed that the dietary habits listed in the original letter are somehow “healthy,” and that this has something to do (in part) with the virtue of food restriction to 1500 [calories]

    I can only assume Lynne’s and spacedcowgirl’s comments are not so thinly veiled assumptions to my assertion that the letter writer’s diet in and of itself isn’t all that strange or unhealthy. So, in acting on that presumption, I will clarify further:

    There is nothing inherently wrong nor unhealthy in consuming a diet based on “organic whole foods, whole grains, lean proteins, lots of veggies and fruit, no HFCS, no trans fats, no partially hydrogenated anything.” And for some people, 1,500 calories a day is a perfectly normal daily caloric intake. For the most part, my diet is attuned to that of what the letter writer describes, except I don’t eat meat. The vegetables and grains my husband and I consume are naturally lower in calories than meat, so the fact that I would consume, on average, 1,500 – 1,700 calories a day (my husband consumes more) is not unnatural nor is it unhealthy. Each person burns calories differently, and each person’s metabolism is individual and relative to their activity levels and lifestyle. For those who remain doubtful such a range is healthy, I can even show you the results of a metabolism test I paid a registered dietitian to have done a couple years ago which shows my own individual metabolic needs.

    The difference between myself and my husband and the letter writer is, our dietary choices are based on our ethical beliefs and environmental concerns, as well as a concern for our overall optimal health. Weight loss is not a quotient in what it is we eat. And for those who feel I am somehow holier-than-thou because I like and eat a primarily plant-based diet, I will add the obligatory qualifier that we also eat chocolate and French Fries and baklava from time to time, though I really do think this to be a moot point.

    One’s dietary choices become unhealthy only when you look at the motivations behind such food choices – this was my entire point in bringing in my own anecdotal evidence. I eat vegetarian because I am Buddhist, feminist and believe in a cruelty-free lifestyle, not as a cover for an eating disorder or because I see it as a way to lose weight. I abstain from HFCS and partially hydrogenated oils and eat organic because I am an environmentalist, can afford to do so, and because I am concerned about the effects of such processed chemicals on my body and health, not because I think and hope it will help me lose weight. My daily caloric intake is based on the foods I like and choose to eat and by how full or hungry I am, not out of an attempt to manipulate size.

    For me, my dietary choices are wholly intuitive – in touch with not only my body, but my mind and soul. I am not a perfect HAES practitioner (I doubt anyone who says they are), but this is what is healthy and intuitive for me. Your definition of what is healthy and intuitive for you will no doubt differ and vary, which is one of the reasons why I don’t evangelize my own personal food beliefs on my personal site. I think Arwen nailed it on the head:

    Because – and this is key – our bodies are each different. …her body’s choices are not and cannot be proscriptive for the relationship I have with my own body.

    Once again, my point is not to make others feel as if they aren’t “as good a HAES practitioner” as I am, but to illustrate once again that it isn’t about food; it’s about our relationships with food.

  55. I found that once I got married, I gained a significant amount of weight for me. My set point normally has a very narrow range, but cooking new delicious things for two, more alcohol, more meat & carbs threw off my body a little bit, and I was lingering in bed instead of running off to the gym meant that I gained some weight and felt weak and out of shape.

    I’ve never dieted, so the weight gain wasn’t because this was the first time in my life I gave myself permission to eat. (That was the reaction to the letter that bothered me.) It’s just that having another person around all the time threw off my routine.

    I wonder if the same thing happened to the letter writer. And I’ll give her the advice my dad gave me: enjoy your new life. And for me, that meant continuing our new cooking experiments, but returning to my usual routine otherwise. I’m not sure what I weigh now. I think it’s less. It might be more. I’m stronger and feeling more fit. But I’m happier than I would be if I’d decided to restrict calories.

  56. I, also, needed this today.

    Screwing with my preventative meds has done things to my metabolism I don’t even understand; from disappearing into the void six months ago, I’m now at my highest weight since high school. (Yes, I’m still thin…but my body-hatred brain-worm is wailing at top volume.)

    I keep beating myself up over not being my itty-bitty eighteen-year-old self anymore, and my mother keeps pointing out that I am (a) not eighteen; (b) possessed of numerous angry neurological conditions; and (c) menopausal. And of course I know both Mom and Aunt Fattie are right, but I know it intellectually, not brain-worm-shutting-up-ily.

    Note to self: proper “am I healthy?” questions include “Are my headaches improving?”, “Can I work a full day?”, and “Will my body keep up with my love of skating/yoga/Pilates?” Improper “am I healthy?” questions include “What’s the number on the scale?”, “Do these pants still fit?” and “Would the cat let me put tiny rollerskates on him?” Tiny cat rollerskates are as relevant to my health as the number on the bathroom scale, and much more entertaining.

  57. Rachel, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to just provide a counter-example to this: “The vegetables and grains my husband and I consume are naturally lower in calories than meat, so the fact that I would consume, on average, 1,500 – 1,700 calories a day (my husband consumes more) is not unnatural nor is it unhealthy.”

    Not because I disagree that’s good for you, but just as a data point. I think many of us have been on low-calorie-density diets of one sort or another, and for many of us all the fibre bulk doesn’t fill the hunger if there’s a calorie deficit.

    So just as another anecdotal point: I have also been vegetarian for vast amounts of my life, and was born and raised as such. For full disclosure, I’m not vegetarian now, but I’d say that at least 2/3 of my life I was vegetarian, and I was vegan for about a year.

    Growing up, veggies, beans, fruit, tofu, nuts, and whole grains were my whole life, I didn’t eat out, and I had very few sweets. And even during the time that I was vegan as an adult, if I wasn’t dieting I was eating more than 1700 calories per day. Mmm mmm peanut butter! Avacado! Banana! — There’s lots of calorie dense options for the Vegan or Vegetarian folk.

    I’m just hungry at a higher rate of intake: if I don’t get a certain amount of higher calorie density foods, I’m hungry and for me, at least, the where I get them from part has far less effect than the total number of calories – unless I’m suffering an imbalance. I can eat 800 calories from veggies and brown rice (drizzled with sesame oil and soy, arm narm narm) or 800 calories from steak or chocolate cake, and the satiation is about the same if I’m not deficient in one area or the other. (Which is privilege that I own – I am surrounded by and can afford nutrient rich food choices .)

    Which, I want to be really clear to everyone, is not to say this diet doesn’t satiate Rachel at that level, and it’s her listening to herself and doing what is best. That’s HAES.

    It’s just that vegetarianism or veganism won’t necessarily cause calorie consumption to drop, all other things being equal. It is, however, a great choice, as Rachel points out, for many reasons.

  58. i-geek, on April 29th, 2008 at 3:07 pm Said:

    That said, I don’t think there’s a woman alive who hasn’t been made to feel bad about her weight or other aspects of her appearance. HAES/FA/body acceptance is for all of us.

    Bleh, I sat her with a comment box open for like 20 minutes trying to phrase my reply and I can’t come up with a graceful way of doing it.

    HAES, etc. just don’t resonate with me. Society does not hate my body. The movement isn’t for me. I’m not saying it should be, either. I’ll happily be an ally, but the banner’s not mine to carry. I suspect it’s that way for a lot of thin women, hence the absence tiffabee noted.

    As an analogy: white folks and racism. I’ll call my (white) friends on racism, but when PoC are speaking on the topic, I’mma shut my white ass up and listen.

  59. Rachel, I didn’t mean my reference to your calorie counts to be “veiled” at all (like wanting to sneak it past you somehow)–it just seemed overly blunt to call you out by name. But that is indeed what I was referring to.

    The folks in charge can do with me as they wish for this–and I respect you and your site and your writing and what you have done for FA so much, so in some ways I hate to even say anything negative–but you have in my opinion kind of a pattern of defending your low-calorie way of eating to an extent that I personally feel is not helpful, and which makes me a little uncomfortable. Someone says 1,500 calories is a strict, sparse regimen and you always point out that that’s what you eat and there’s nothing wrong with that. Which there isn’t for any individual person, but for the average person that IS a small amount to eat and I don’t think there is anything wrong with someone saying so.

    In other examples I recall, someone might post about a diet-obsessed person getting fanatical about how snacks should consist only of items as low-calorie as, say, fat-free pudding cups, and you say that you and your husband eat the sugar-free ones so the person eating the fat-free ones may feel holier-than-thou but they aren’t even eating the lowest-calorie ones. Someone says people in general skip breakfast because they are dieting and that’s sad, the human body generally needs several hundred calories as an initial fuel source, and you respond that you do not need those morning calories, so this is not true for everyone.

    Again, none of these observations are “bad” IMO but over time it sort of comes off as a pattern of cheerleading a low-calorie, ultra-healthy diet. It’s like saying “there’s nothing wrong with being Christian”–everyone knows “there’s nothing wrong with eating healthily and sparsely,” god do we know it, so it’s not like anyone is oppressing those whose HAES involves fewer calories, more exercise, more veggies, etc.

    I know I do kind of the opposite, counterbalancing discussions like this by seemingly always feeling the need to point out how much I eat. And for that reason I think we actually agree completely on the crux of the matter–EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.

    But there is so much existing mainstream pressure to eat 1,200-1,800 calories a day, sugar-free, low-in-”bad”-fats, minimal meat, natural diet that I feel that your tendency to describe the details of your “different” can contribute to this pressure. I mean, we already know that some people prefer not to eat breakfast and there is a sort of “moral high ground” in diet-land for not eating breakfast despite lip service that is paid to . We already know that some people prefer to eat less–there is a similar “moral high ground” in diet-land for eating 1,500 calories. Nobody really needs to have that choice validated. You get praise both from mainstream society AND FA/HAES for eating the way you do! There is no need to defend your choices because they are the “good” choices. Yet you do it anyway, and fairly often. I wonder what you are defending them against because god knows nobody is going to look down on you for eating healthily.

    Whereas I tend to think that when I reveal my relatively hearty diet or my other “shameful” practices, I am validating something that can be very hard for women to talk about and saying “It’s OK, some of us eat a lot.” Sort of like liberating yourself just a bit by admitting your true weight. I understand combating stereotypes by describing your healthy diet in the context of a discussion about “all fat people are lazy gluttons” but I just don’t see how your personal daily caloric intake is relevant to this particular discussion unless you want some kind of credit for being “good.” The only “utility” I can possibly see it having is making the writer feel bad for considering her diet strict or spartan, and I don’t see any point in going there. That is what I have a problem with.

  60. “My husband and I have since begun a very strict meal plan that incorporates about 1500 calories a day of organic whole foods, whole grains, lean proteins, lots of veggies and fruit, no HFCS, no trans fats, no partially hydrogenated anything.”

    If I had to put this much thought into everything I put into my mouth, I would breal out in handcuffs. This would be after killing everyone in the room with me.

  61. Rachel, I did forget to thank you for spelling out and reinforcing that there are other reasons for the food and lifestyle choices you make. I think that is true for a lot of people and can get lost in the shuffle of health (at least the version du jour) at any cost, so it bears pointing out. Kind of like HAES itself… “health” is not just calories, fruits/vegetable servings, minutes of aerobic exercise and pounds lifted. There’s a lot more to it than that as you point out.

  62. I think the major difference between Rachel’s diet and UTBT’s is that for Rachel, it’s not a strain for her to eat that way. That is what comes naturally to her, that is what makes her feel and function optimally — she’s not hopping on the scale every morning to make sure she’s “doing it right.”

    Some people do naturally have smaller appetites and everyone does not crave the same things. Rachel (as far as she’s told us) does not feel like she’s missing anything by eating the way she does and is not trying to force herself to do so in order to fit some social definition of “good.” But bodies and brains and what each individual needs for optimal fuel are all different, and UTBT needs to ask herself: If you were thin, would you think there was anything “wrong” with wanting to eat your fill of what satisfied you and gave you the most physical and mental energy? I’m guessing not.

  63. I am glad Rachel spoke up, because I had been feeling that the HAES crowd was suspicious of people who *like* not eating junky foods (because they don’t make us feel good) or make ethical considerations when choosing foods, that *don’t* feel restricted by these things. And I have been tired of hearing that anyone eating under 2000 or 1800 or 1500 calories is starving themselves. Yes, some people need 3000! *I* feel like I’m starving on 1500 calories. But I do not like how I keep hearing that people eating a low number of calories are starving themselves. It’s a good way to make people who eat for hunger doubt themselves. It’s not about praising people for eating a certain way, but really being open and letting people listen to their bodies.

  64. To clarify: My post about breaking out in handcuffs is merely a reflection of my being allergic to being as intentional about my diet as the letter writer. I aim for fruits, veggies and lean protein. I don’t “clean” eat, though. It’s crazy-making for me. I applaud Rachel and all those who eat “clean” and don’t mind it a bit.

    (Clean = abstaining from processed foods & additives in my mind. Beg pardon if I’m bastardizing that term from somewhere else.)

  65. I guess this is a difference in perception. I never say that anyone who eats less than x calories is “starving themselves.” That’s a case-by-case thing. I DO say that on average, people need more than 1,500 calories because I believe that to be true and it’s not something you ever hear; it’s like a dirty little secret.

    Is this necessarily going to help any individual person in her HAES/intuitive eating journey? No. You’re absolutely right, you have to do what’s right for *you*. But I can easily see someone feeling like she’s doing it “wrong” because for some reason, 1,500 is about the highest number anyone online will ever cop to when explaining how they eat. The rest of us just sort of keep our mouths shut. If that person does need more than 1,500 than my statements will indeed help her. If she needs less, well, then there is validation all over the place for that. Call me skeptical but I just can’t imagine anyone feeling “guilty” for eating 1,500 calories or fewer if that’s what her body needs. God knows I wish I weren’t such, and pardon the hurtful word but this is what my brain chastises me with all the time, a pig. It would make my life a great deal easier if my “IE” consisted of 1,500 calories a day.

    I guess many of us on either side are just defensive about our choices because I can’t imagine feeling like the “HAES crowd was suspicious of people who *like* not eating junky foods.” What *I* feel like is people are on the whole ashamed to admit that they like anything that’s not traditionally considered healthy–unless it’s some kind of gourmet locally made organic cheesecake enjoyed after a “good person” meal of fish and vegetables, or a small piece of really expensive chocolate after a workout. At some point it really doesn’t sound that much different to me than the more “sane” dieting web sites, frankly. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think at some point the desire to lose weight is not the only thing that should separate us from dieters. The good food/bad food mentality should too. This is well-known around here but it’s not so well-articulated elsewhere.

    Anyway, I can only conclude that it’s a matter of me being pretty oversensitive about this issue, which I know it is to some extent.

    But the fact remains that this is very tricky. It is real easy to convince yourself that you need to restrict calories, types of foods, fruit/veggie servings, blah blah blah because “it’s HAES” when what you’re really doing is trying to be a good girl and conform to what society tells you is “good for you” or to otherwise be “moral” or ascetic in your choices. I am specifically NOT saying that anyone here is doing that. (This time, I am not calling anyone out. :) )But I think it is a very easy trap to fall into for new HAES practitioners and I think those folks benefit from both perspectives, those who eat very healthy and those who don’t always.

    The thing that’s stupid is that *I* generally eat in a way traditionally considered “healthy.” I limit meat consumption and eat lots of fruits and veggies and try to buy local and exercise and all that crap. So this isn’t really about my diet except for the part where I try to be open about eating fairly heartily.

  66. spacedcowgirl, I just want to say how much I value your contributions to this discussion (and others, too! Your comments always make me think!). I agree that for a lot of people, and perhaps particularly for people new to intuitive-eating, HAES can get really intertwined with “eat lean, clean, socially-approved foods in small amounts while exercising vigorously and smiling the whole time because IT FEELS SO GOOD.”

    Of course, HAES isn’t that, and those of us who have been hanging out in the ‘sphere for a while recognize that, but I think your honesty about what HAES is for *you* is really helpful to people who feel like they’re missing the mark because they need to eat more or differently.

    As for me, I’m generally consuming over 2000 calories a day and part of that is generally in ice cream and wine. That’s HAES for me.

  67. HAES can get really intertwined with “eat lean, clean, socially-approved foods in small amounts while exercising vigorously and smiling the whole time because IT FEELS SO GOOD.”

    Yes, that is what I was trying to get at.

    Thank you also for your kind words, and I’m not very good at this (HAES) so I really do appreciate hearing what HAES means to various folks who feel like they have arrived at a place where they are comfortable in their bodies and lifestyles.

    Anyway, I really didn’t want to hijack the thread (I promise–though I suppose I did kind of go “me me me” thinking “gosh, what shame I would feel if I had written that letter and got the feeling that I shouldn’t even consider 1,500 cals. a small amount, and that in fact maybe I should just stop whining, keep depriving myself and on top of all that accept that I’ll never lose the weight) so I will shut up now unless anything further comes up that really needs a response from me. But thanks again.

  68. I’ll try to address your points by issue, spacedcowgirl:

    Someone says 1,500 calories is a strict, sparse regimen and you always point out that that’s what you eat and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    I always point this out? Always? I think I’ve only commented here at SP one other time on my own caloric intake and again, it was used to illustrate the point that we are each relative in our dietary needs and that it is our relationships with food that are key, not the food itself. If I have mentioned this more than once, it is because I feel the latter point has been lost on some commenters.

    In other examples I recall, someone might post about a diet-obsessed person getting fanatical about how snacks should consist only of items as low-calorie as, say, fat-free pudding cups, and you say that you and your husband eat the sugar-free ones so the person eating the fat-free ones may feel holier-than-thou but they aren’t even eating the lowest-calorie ones.

    It really isn’t fair to draw in comments I write at other blogs and speak of them as if I have made those comments and a preponderance of them here. And for those of you not privy to this conversation which took place at an entirely different site, here’s the context: A blogger posted about the popularity of the new and expensive 100-calorie cups of pudding. I commented that I found it ironic that dieters were suddenly going gaga over the diet pudding cups when the cheaper 60-calorie sugar-free cups of pudding not marketed as diet products have long been in existence.

    Someone says people in general skip breakfast because they are dieting and that’s sad, the human body generally needs several hundred calories as an initial fuel source, and you respond that you do not need those morning calories, so this is not true for everyone.

    I still maintain it isn’t true for everyone but more importantly, I think you again read my comments out of the context in which they were intended. What I recall commenting is that since I’ve begun practicing intuitive eating in which I eat when I am hungry, I often do not feel hungry in the morning and eat later when I am hungry. I continue to maintain that we should eat when we’re hungry, and not at certain prescribed times in which it is socially acceptable to eat.

    Again, none of these observations are “bad” IMO but over time it sort of comes off as a pattern of cheerleading a low-calorie, ultra-healthy diet.

    So, those of us who happen to have what you would consider to be a low-calorie, ultra-healthy diet should just shut up about it, even as others are free to add their own personal contributions of what it is they eat? I’m not trying to be snarky here, but I’m generally confused as where I and others like me fit in around here if that is the case. By your standards, are we only allowed to post here if our diet consists of donuts so that others won’t feel bad?

    You mention that what I reveal is common knowledge in “Diet land.” But, I am not a resident of such a place nor am I actively dieting. I think herein lies one of the problems: Since when are eating veggies and grains and organic considered to be exclusively “dieting” behaviors? Sure, they’ve been appropriated by the diet industry, as have many things that are good for us, but they are by no means dieting domain just as one who eats a salad is not automatically a dieter. I really do think we need to reevaluate and reclaim foods and food practices from the clutches of the diet companies and their followers and stop labeling foods as diet and non-diet foods – just as I promote there to be no “good” or “bad” foods.

    I also see a selective use of my comments here, although, I hope, not a willful dismissal of other comments I have made that niggle your objections. I don’t see mentioned at all where I have commented, on numerous occasions, that I am recovering from an eating disorder and that I, at times, still struggle with. Nor do I see addressed those comments in which I reveal that I am fervently vegetarian and Buddhist, both of which strongly dictate my food choices. Would you fault a Jewish person for commenting that they eat kosher foods because they happen to make you feel bad or guilty for eating non-kosher foods? In that case, I should feel personally slighted anytime anyone mentions eating a nice juicy slab of animal carcass or extols their love of alcohol.

    Also, I do see a tendency for people here and elsewhere to put down and dismiss those of us who do eat and like to eat what is considered to be healthy foods as delusional dieters. In case you haven’t noticed, my “low-calorie, ultra-healthy” diet hasn’t resulted in weight loss nor do I promote my choices as weight-loss tips and recommendations. Rather, I am highly consistent in my insistence that we need to separate the issue of food itself from our relationships to food, and my anecdotal evidence is almost always used to reaffirm this belief.

    Nobody really needs to have that choice validated. You get praise both from mainstream society AND FA/HAES for eating the way you do! There is no need to defend your choices because they are the “good” choices. Yet you do it anyway, and fairly often. I wonder what you are defending them against because god knows nobody is going to look down on you for eating healthily.

    Actually, you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter how healthy I eat, I will never be praised for my dietary choices from mainstream society unless those choices result in weight loss. And since I am actively seeking neither, I feel no need to defend or justify my food-related beliefs. And aside from the fact that there exists no uniform or monolithic HAES movement, compounded by the very individualistic nature of HAES itself, I don’t see how I can be praised by a movement that exists largely in the minds of its sparse followers.

    I don’t defend my choices because they are “good” choices, although I do believe a healthy diet is best for those recovering from dysfunctional relationships with food, If I appear defensive in my own food beliefs and choices, it’s because it seems as if too many people continue to myopically focus on food as the issue, instead of our relationships with food that I see to be the more key and crucial component here. And since it is this key concept that lies at the core of intuitive eating, which is readily discussed and promoted here, I have always felt that my contributions and experiences were applicable to the relevant discussions at hand. But if they are not welcome, the blog admins should let me know so that I don’t waste any more of my time contributing to discussions in which I am not welcomed, needed or valued.

  69. SCG and GoodWCheese, I appreciate your voices.

    There are two things going on, here, I think:

    1) Someone like Rachel whose body doesn’t lose weight at a lower rate of calories isn’t going to be scolded for her diet, but she is going to be DISBELIEVED. She is guilty of Being Fat, and therefore she MUST be scarfing Ding Dongs. We all know this is not true, but there is something to be said for the reminder that some of us eat a small amount relative to that 2000 calorie per day RDA on cereal boxes and are still fat.

    2) People like us who eat more than the bullshit RDA or Jenny Craig or whatever, and yet are still eating to our body’s cues, have often gone through numerous disengagements from our body’s cues in order to be more like Rachel. We carry around “Piggy Moo-Face Do You Really Need That?” in our heads. Remember the fridge toys that oink? Christ almighty. And 1500 is a pretty standard “sane” diet (lifestyle choice!) number. It’s a trigger, in other words.

    The answer is ” yes, we do need to eat more than that, you big fuckin’ losers.” When we learn that Rachel – or anyone else – *doesn’t* need to eat more than that, the Piggy Moo diet freaks in our heads who have trained us so well point her out.

    Of course, Rachel’s still not SKINNY – she might have to go to 800 calories. No doubt she’s got her own Screamin’ Diet Freak berating her.

    Etc.

    I don’t count calories any more, but I imagine I’m eating 2600ish when I eat until I’m satisfied. Last time I did any ‘research’ on myself – which after years of failed dieting, was my approach – I monitored my average diet and was stunned to figure out that I was eating +/- 50 calories around a baseline. I mean, those are pretty darn precise messages that my body’s sending out.

    And folks here probably eat 3000, and some more, and if practising HAES they’re doing it because they’re hungry, and there is NO absolute number that makes sense.

    My mom, after years of eating like me, hit menopause and her appetite slowed. Now, she’s the same shape as me but eating more like 1700 calories, even with exercise. Weight loss? Some, but not much. She’s still fat. And she has to deal with the assumption that she’s not finishing what’s on her plate but she goes home and eats a whole Cake.

    Both sides suck. Up with Shapelings!

  70. (( And I say bullshit RDA not because there’s an absolute standard that’s better, but because there is no standard, only a range. 0 calories – too few, 50,000 calories, too much. That’s as far as I’m willing to go. *G*))

  71. This is interesting, it has been good to hear everyone’s views. I had always thought of 2000 calories as an average everyone knew, since that’s what the “Nutrition Facts” labels use, but I also have never lived in dieting land–I can see how that would give someone a much different point of view.

  72. VegChb – I have been scolded roundly for having that view of 2000 in dieting support groups. Didn’t I understand that was for Powerful, Handsome Men? Whereas I was a weak, fat girl who could lay claim to no more than 1800 calories, justifiably, and probably more like 1400, to undo the damage I’d already done? 1200 to get to bikini season? Gawd.

  73. Arwen, they full of shit because 2000 calories is for a moderately active women, for moderately active men (or very active women) it’s 2500. Of course I agree with you that it depends hugely on the individual and there’s no magic right number of calories.

    Also – yeah, exactly, when I see somebody talking about how they eat 1500 calories a day and only healthy, lean, organic foods – it’s triggering. It makes me feel like… okay, it’s okay for her to be fat because she eats so healthily and gets so much excercise etc. etc. but it’s not okay for me because I eat junk food and large numbers of calories and I don’t excercise enough. And I know that’s not at all at all what Rachel or anyone else who talks about their spartan eating habits is getting at, but that is how it makes me feel. Of course, that’s my issue, but I doubt I’m the only one here who has that issue. But we’ve had this conversation before *shrugs*.

  74. But if they are not welcome, the blog admins should let me know so that I don’t waste any more of my time contributing to discussions in which I am not welcomed, needed or valued.

    Rachel, to say the least I am sure this is absolutely not the case.

    As to your comment I concede to you that I perhaps overstated my point a little by saying you “always” point out your caloric intake, and the reason I didn’t make examples of comments just from SP were because the ones I mentioned were the ones that I remembered off the top of my head, and happened to be from elsewhere. But I also concede that maybe this wasn’t overly fair.

    I can at least swear to you that I am not selectively picking your comments apart with the purpose of trying to win some kind of argument, though. I really do feel like at times you mention your sparse food intake in discussions where I feel like its only function is to remind readers exactly how little and how well you eat. Or at least that’s how it ends up functioning to some. I know I am a little trigger-happy on this issue, but in the past I have found that others on the thread also see a disdain for “unhealthy” HAES choices and may also be feeling uncomfortable but afraid to speak up. So I’m not entirely just jerking my knee here.

    However… I totally get Arwen’s and your points that it pays to speak up to remind folks that we as fat women are NOT lying when we say we eat x or y. People must be trusted and respected and the baseline assumption must be that they are telling the truth about what they eat–and that that intake is right for them no matter what it is. I do know this and with this reminder, will try to view comments like yours through this lens for a while, and see if it doesn’t help me feel less defensive.

    I apologize about the tone of my first comment; though I did mean the general thrust of it, I posted in a moment of irritation and probably shouldn’t have. Like I said, I do respect you a lot, for what it’s worth.

  75. I monitored my average diet and was stunned to figure out that I was eating +/- 50 calories around a baseline. I mean, those are pretty darn precise messages that my body’s sending out.

    Wow, that is really interesting.

    Both sides suck. Up with Shapelings!

    You’re right. Thanks for the reminder.

  76. Anyway, I can only conclude that it’s a matter of me being pretty oversensitive about this issue, which I know it is to some extent.

    SCG, I don’t think so, necessarily. Quite frankly, I agree with a lot of what you’ve said.

    Rachel, of course you’re welcome here, but what people are telling you is that–as Becky eventually said–your comments about your diet can be triggering–not just to those in recovery from EDs, but to those of us who still have to fight the urge not to start dieting again. The fact is, 1500 calories a day is what many of us were encouraged to eat on diets–and while I am NOT disputing that it could be plenty for you, or any other individual, that number rings big diet bells in MY head, let alone in the minds of people who don’t fully accept themselves yet.

    So let me tell you right here: it is the official policy of Shapely Prose that 1500 calories is not a lot of food. It may be plenty for any given individual, but in the context of this blog, it represents dieting quantities, and I really don’t feel the need to discuss how it can be normal for SOME people every time that number comes up.

    As someone who’s suffered from an eating disorder and studies these issues, you must know that talking about your 1500-calorie, low fat, organic, vegetarian diet is not a politically neutral act around here. Plenty of us talk about eating vegetables, whole grains, whatev–and I have defended those people from others who would argue that ANY mention of healthy eating or exercise is potentially alienating to those who feel they’re not “good” enough in those respects. But there is something in your posts, specifically, that frequently sounds as if you’re bragging at best and judging the rest of us at worst.

    SCG is not the only one who’s noticed this pattern. (And I think it is indeed fair to mention other comments we’ve seen in the fatosphere, since many of us read lots of blogs within it.) I’ve seen the same things she’s talked about Rachel–you talking about calorie counts and how little you eat seemingly every time you get the chance. I’ve also seen you talking about wanting to lose weight again, wishing you could get down to 150, etc. Quite honestly, it worries me given your ED history, but I’ve also been bothered for a while in terms of how it affects other people on these blogs, who come here in part to have one space where they don’t have to hear how awesome it is to eat low-cal, low-fat diets, or hear people–especially the bloggers themselves–talking about how they want to lose weight.

    So again, let me reiterate that you are always welcome here, and your contributions are valued. But yes, when it comes to talking about your dietary choices on my blog, I would like you to please check yourself in the future.

  77. Becky: “Also – yeah, exactly, when I see somebody talking about how they eat 1500 calories a day and only healthy, lean, organic foods – it’s triggering. It makes me feel like… okay, it’s okay for her to be fat because she eats so healthily and gets so much excercise etc. etc. but it’s not okay for me because I eat junk food and large numbers of calories and I don’t excercise enough. And I know that’s not at all at all what Rachel or anyone else who talks about their spartan eating habits is getting at, but that is how it makes me feel. Of course, that’s my issue, but I doubt I’m the only one here who has that issue. ”

    You’re not the only one with this issue, not by a long shot. I’m a thin person who has struggled with disordered eating for the majority of my post-pubescent life. 1500 calories was the number I used to write at the top of my food log pages. When I hit that number, I was done for the day, even if it was 4 pm. I chose that number because all of the online calorie calculators told me that at my height/weight/activity level, if I ate over that, I would be OMG TEH FATZ. So even though I have a fast metabolism and need at least 2000 calories per day to feel sane and not light-headed or homicidal, there’s part of me that still says “well, I’m smaller and less active. Therefore I should be able to get by on FEWER calories than 1500, and I sure as heck should cut out the meats and fats.” Again this is not true, and logically I know this, but the DIET DIET DIET voices are hard to silence.

    Rachel, I know that you are not doing this to be mean or competitive or anything else, and I can definitely see your side of the story, too. I think your point of view is valid and if you left it would be our great loss.

  78. Gee, Kate. The way you frame it, the majority of my posts here are comprised of boasts of my dietary choices and are all I seem to offer to the larger conversation here. I mentioned ONE time (and I’m not entirely sure it was here) that I would like to get back to 150, but like SCG, you also seem to have selective amnesia: In that comment, I also said that I don’t want to have to go crazy again or diet to get there. And as I recall, I was among dozens of commenters who shared the same sentiment.

    Frankly, the last place I expected to come to and be judged for or disbelieved about my informed food choices (which are not disordered nor unhealthy nor in pursuit of weight loss) is a fat acceptance blog. I think it best I just refrain from further “bragging” and “judging” people by just checking myself out of this community entirely.

  79. Rachel, no one is judging or disbelieving your choices. The general discussion of 1500 calories not being a lot of food is NOT ABOUT YOU and your choices as an individual. It’s about the way our culture talks about that number in general and about “healthy” eating.

    I think you do comment about your intake a lot more than you realize. I think you are doing it because you want to make sure your individual experience is represented but I think at this point we all KNOW your lifestyle. That isn’t judging you for your lifestyle, just saying that it isn’t typical and it causes other people actual harm to see you bring it up again and again.

    No one is asking you to leave.

  80. It would be really nice, too, if we could disagree and debate — even vehemently — and not risk people leaving. Sometimes, saying that you are going to take your toys and go home feels more like a power play that what it is — voicing real pain over real criticism. (Which I think was respectfully delivered.)

    Let me be clear: I am a big ole Rachel fan. Don’t eat like her, but appreciate reading her a LOT. Wish I didn’t feel like her last post was sort of threat-to-abandon-ish.

  81. Rachel, I hope you don’t go because I really enjoy reading most of what you have to say. I would just personally appreciate it if before talking about your healthy, organic, sugar-free, low-cal diet, you would pause and think about how your words might affect people who are trying to break free of the good food/bad food mentality.

  82. I am a bald average sized man with bad teeth. The two people I love most in this world would consider themselves to be “fat”, my mother and my wife. I’ve never viewed either of them in this way. I do not know what it is like to be a woman; I do not know what it is like to be “fat”. I do know how it feels to be lonely to be disillusioned to feel that the entire world is against you. To believe that every open hand is there to strike you down rather than pick you up. Some things are bad for you, some things you will do even though you know they are bad for you. Sometimes we feel guilty for the bad choices we have made; we close ourselves off and deny common sense. How much energy do you waste hating yourself, how better would the world be if you spent a quarter of that energy helping someone else rather than only focusing on yourself? Rachel offered you a helpful open hand and you spit on it, shame on you.

    Rachel’s husband,

    Brandon

  83. Well, of course Rachel’s discussion of her eating habits isn’t politically neutral.

    When you’re fat, talking publically about your eating habits is never a politically neutral act – doesn’t matter if it’s salads, baby donuts, french fries, nothing but ears of corn, et cetera. We are fat! We are not supposed to eat at ALL! Well, at least we’re not supposed to do it without enough guilt to start three religions. So talking about it at all is a political act.

    And if we’re to start making political judgment calls about someone else’s subconscious intentions regarding food? I won’t say i’m gonna leave, but i will say i’m gonna get a whole lotta popcorn ready – cuz it won’t be long before things start getting real ugly, real fast. Ii’d far rather watch from the sidelines than be involved in that kind of hot mess.

    p.s.: i find this discussion to be a fascinating parallel to previous discussions regarding how some folks with chronic health issues find “fat and fit” to be triggering.

  84. It isn’t about me, Marianne? Really? It’s not about me, at all? Maybe to you it’s not about me, but the comments here sure do seem highly personal and targeted when you’re the subject of attack.

    I’ve been accused of ‘bragging” about my holier-than-thou diet and “judging” other people and making them feel awful about themselves. My comments have been deliberately and purposefully taken out of context by people I called friends so as to paint me as a diet-minded person who has a deliberate and habitual pattern of posting about dieting and weight loss, completely ignoring the fact that I rarely mention caloric intake and weight loss in the context indicated and that any such talk ranks very low on the long list of things I have contributed in discussions here. It’s been suggested that my dietary choices couldn’t possibly be informed or healthy now, because of my past struggles with a mental illness. I’ve been told that I make people feel bad and that I force them back into harmful and destructive behaviors simply by posting what I thought to be innocuous and relevant issues from my own life that I feel are pertinent to the larger discussion.

    Look, as an eating disorder activist, I am highly cognizant of how influential words can be on one who is struggling in their relationships with food. If I have ever posted anything that indirectly makes others feel bad about them and the choices they make, I apologize. It certainly wasn’t intentional or even conscious. But I also think I am being portrayed unfairly and disingenuously here. I have never posted judgment on what it is one eats or the choices they make. I have never suggested to anyone they eat healthier or advised them on what it is they should be eating. I have never even suggested anyone go vegetarian even though meat eating disturbs me on a profound and visceral level. I have never discussed thoughts on my own personal weight loss interests outside of one post made by one of the blog’s own authors on the very subject itself. I offer up my own anecdotal experiences almost always to illustrate my point that food itself is irrelevant; it’s rather our relationships with food that matter most.

    I refuse to feel ashamed for admitting to eating and enjoying a healthy diet. I’ve had disordered eating for much of my life and only recently have I enjoyed the sanest, stable, and healthiest relationship with food I have ever enjoyed. For me, saying I enjoy a healthy diet without the expectation of weight loss is an achievement of immense proportions. But instead of encouragement or support, I am made to feel guilty and ashamed to post my own food experiences even as they apply to the larger conversation, because they might potentially make others feel guilty or ashamed of their own choices. If one feels that by me saying I eat vegetarian or organic or healthy is somehow a personal indictment on them and the choices they make, there isn’t much I can do about it outside of refraining from commenting altogether. I don’t want to have to be apprehensive before every post I make here for fear of potentially disturbing and harming others.

    I’ve had more hurtful comments hurled at me here than I ever have by trolls who visit my blog and wished me dead. They’re more hurtful because here I thought I was an active member of a vibrant, empowering community only to be told I am destroying that community. Not exactly a welcoming invite to stay and participate, is it?

  85. I’ve subscribed to the comments feed here at Shapely Prose, and used Google Reader’s search feature to check a few things.

    # of times the number “1500″ has been posted in a comment here (between now and October 2007)? Twenty-four.

    # of times the number “1500″ has been posted in a comment here by Rachel? Excluding this thread? One, back in February. (Linked for context.)

    “Always”? [citation needed]

  86. Rachel, no one wants you to feel ashamed. The initial comment used you as an example but it was not about you personally. It was an EXAMPLE. I know very well how it feels – but I also know that angry defensiveness in response to valid concerns and, yes, criticism isn’t going to get anyone anywhere constructive. Has the Amanda Marcotte debacle seriously taught us nothing?

    You ARE an active member of a vibrant, empowering community but that does not mean you will never make a misstep. I will make missteps. Kate will make missteps. WE WILL ALL FUCK UP. And it is to our amazing good fortune that we belong to a community where we will be called on those fuck ups and allowed the opportunity to do better next time.

    There is plenty you can do about it if your constant – because when one reads many blogs it DOES feel constant – commentary about your healthy diet is triggering to others. Not commenting at all is one option but it really does read as the taking your ball and going home option. OR you can take people seriously and put a little more thought into how you are discussing your food. Instead of jumping to the immediate defense of people who eat 1500 calories a day, you can sit back and listen to the experiences of other people who have been caged by that number all their life. You can jump to the defense of fat vegetarians who are called liars – any fat people who are called liars (because no one is calling you a liar) – because “fat people only eat gallons of lard” or whatever the reigning sentiment is that day.

    Your anecdotal experiences are not coming across as you have intended. When someone tells you that, it is an opportunity to figure out what wires were crossed.

  87. Look, I’m hardly the longest tenured poster around, so filter this as you see fit, but in Rachel’s last post, I think the light finally came on about what she hears herself saying and what others hear her saying, and it boils down to one word: healthy.

    I don’t mind that Rachel’s vegetarian or eats organic. I don’t choose those things because I don’t care to or because I can’t afford to. So I have less of a negative response to those things. But, forgive me Rachel, if you look at your earlier posts, you link those things directly to eating “healthy.” I expect that’s because, in your mind, your healthy eating habits have come in conjunction with your choice to eat vegetarian and organic (and, perhaps only coincidentally, in lower caloric numbers). On this side of the fence, though, it can read like a statement that only eating the way you do is “healthy,” and I think that’s what people are responding to.

    If we learn anything in the SA/HAES environment, it’s that people eat differently and have different activity levels, and are truly healthy. We need to remember that presenting details of our lifestyles can be done factually, and by allowing others to attach any evaluations regarding whether that’s “healthy” for them.

  88. Rachel, I understand why you feel attacked, I probably would too. And I know you’re not intending your comments about your diet to come across as bragging or looking down on people who don’t eat as healthy as you. But several people are telling you they are coming across in a way you don’t intend. It is something to think about. And nobody is accusing you of “ruining the community”. I certainly appreciate your comments, overall. Your blog was one of the first fat blogs I started reading after this one. But what’s wrong with recognising that your comments about your diet make people feel uncomfortable and taking a second thought before posting them? Why is that so much to ask?

  89. Dude, I remember when (female) dieters were recommended to eat only a THOUSAND calories a day. When the recommendations were bumped up to 1200 in my teens, I remember thinking, “I can eat THAT much? That sounds like a lot! I’d better stick to 1000, just in case!” And of course, I never did for more than a day or two, because 1000 calories a day is not even enough to feed a 1-year-old, let alone a 14-year-old.

    But I had no idea. If they’d told me 1500 calories a day was a “diet,” I’d have said, “Get real, nobody can lose weight on that!” The calorie number shit is just crazymaking — no matter what number they give you to eat, it’s crazymaking. It’s saying, “You should trust anything but your own instincts and best information about how to feed yourself.”

    That’s why it’s so loaded when someone says, “Well, *I* eat that little and it’s not a problem for me.” In a larger, non-SA context — when someone is talking about the alleged gluttony of all fatties — it’s instructive to point out that not everyone fits that mold, not so we can separate out “good fatties” from “bad ones,” but so that people can see that it’s just not that simple. Rachel, when you go on TV, with all those dunderheaded hosts going, “But can’t people just cut calories and avoid discrimination?”, and you tell people what you eat, it’s a public service, I really believe that. Because in that context, you’re telling people, “No, you CAN’T avoid anti-fat discrimination by ‘eating right,’ it doesn’t work that way.”

    Unfortunately, back in SA-land, most of us have known the calorie count of every goddamn thing we eat or drink since we were kids, and it’s really difficult to get that crap out of your head already. “I ate a WHOLE slice of Tillamook cheddar when a half would have done! How could I do that? I am BAD!” To some degree I have succeeded in unlearning it all; I honestly don’t know anymore how many calories I eat every day. It probably varies a lot from one day to the next, depends on hunger, finances, time crunch, etc. But even I catch myself thinking, “Did I really need to eat ten cashews, wouldn’t five have been plenty?” or “Maybe I’d be thinner if I just drank water or plain tea with ALL my meals.” AAAARGH! The point is, though, I catch myself and it’s not just part of my mental wallpaper anymore.

    It’s hard because I can see both sides of it. I can see how being told only wanting 1500 or 1600 calories a day isn’t “normal,” especially when you’re just really relieved you’ve finally learned to calibrate your intake to how you function and no longer have an active ED, could drive someone stark raving mad. On the other hand, society just loves to club us women over the head for our greedy appetites and has a really hard time recognizing that we are not all the same and do not need to have the same intake, and that’s why those celebrity diet stories have such self-flagellatory power for so many readers: “SHE doesn’t have any trouble sticking to X number of calories a day, or not eating carbs, or wev, so why can’t I? I just SUCK!” So I can also see why people don’t want that measuring stick thrown at us on a SA board. Damn, sometimes I hate being a Libra.

  90. We have such a range of experiences. I left a vegetarian lifestyle entirely in healing from my ED, whereas Rachel, you redefined your relationship with food to include vegetarianism in your healing. You joined an ethical philosophy and understanding for your healing process, and we crossed at the threshold — I left as part of my healing. I’m an apostate: I grew up reading Diet For a New America and eating Moosewood and Diet for a Small Planet foods, and I know about the moral considerations.

    I think, when you brought up the kosher idea, that’s not so far off – it may be that keeping kosher HAS been involved in someone’s particular ED or dieting process, because it’s another morality/food intersection.

    I can’t speak to positive or negative kosher experiences, obviously, but it wouldn’t surprise me if both existed. Food is family, culture, religion, and morality, as well as the stick used to beat us fatties up.

    I think the low-fat, high veggie, organic view is often presented to us as a weight loss option – because we’re all just scarfing big macs, and baby donuts, so says society – and (gently) I don’t think you’re totally clear of that idea yet in this thread, or those of us who are apostates are, in our heads. You attributed your lower calorie consumption to your dietary choices — and yes, you know no weight loss comes from it! — but it’s not universally true, anyway. I grew up with a LOT of fat vegetarians with big appetites. Really really big appetites. Even when not stoned. Communes! Yay!

    So I came swooping in with a counter example. I grew up on that diet, fat — and today I’d eat 2600 calories on a vegetarian diet just as I do with meat in the mix.

    If someone here is vegetarian or vegan and eating a lot – they’re normal too.

    Lower calorie, in and of itself, is often a dietary goal: our bodies are so subversive, so outside the accepted, that *failing to try* is as big a moral failing in a fat person as failing to lose. I think there was a post somewhere about this experience: and I’ve been asked if I’m really “giving up on myself” after years of yo-yo dieting. A diet that I can hold up and say: “SEE?! I’m TRYING!” also would suggest that I have accepted myself as being less than optimal, as it should be.

    Again, I know that’s not what you’re *trying* to say, but it’s in the cultural mix. Our relationships to food will each necessarily be different due to cultural, economic, aesthetic, and moral factors, but society’s relationship to our bodies is monolithic.

    So the discussion of our relationship to food is necessarily fraught, I think, whereas we can all proudly say that society’s response to our bodies is Full Of Fucking Shit.

  91. But what’s wrong with recognising that your comments about your diet make people feel uncomfortable and taking a second thought before posting them? Why is that so much to ask?

    Becky, I certainly can’t speak for Rachel, but I can tell you why I actually think that is a problematic request.

    I think it is problematic, in a community that promotes intuitive eating, and doing what is right for you, to tell someone that they cannot be frank and open about what is right for them. I read this blog and Rachel’s blog regularly, and yes, Rachel does often mention her diet, but I have never seen her so much as suggest that it is the right one for anyone but her. If she were suggesting that we should all only be eating organic, or 1500 calories a day, or whatever, yeah, she would be out of bounds. But how can a community built on acceptance tell someone that her experience, her life, is not fit to be shared with others? That she must hide the way she lives her life because it makes others uncomfortable? I know no one is trying to say that here, but I think it is there under the surface. I think it’s pretty problematic to ask someone who is recovering from an ED to, in a space she considered safe, once again hide her eating habits.

    I totally understand that hearing about someone who eats a diet that is stereotypically “healthy” can be triggering. When Kate talks about doing yoga, or water aerobics, or other types of physical activity, I alway feel a twinge, and think, “man, I suck. All I ever do is work and read blogs.” But that doesn’t mean that Kate shouldn’t be able to talk frankly and openly about her reality. It means I still have work to do to on my feelings and attitudes towards myself and my lifestyle.

  92. Rachel, when you go on TV, with all those dunderheaded hosts going, “But can’t people just cut calories and avoid discrimination?”, and you tell people what you eat, it’s a public service, I really believe that. Because in that context, you’re telling people, “No, you CAN’T avoid anti-fat discrimination by ‘eating right,’ it doesn’t work that way.”

    YES. I totally agree. I think this and what TR said about discussions of “all fatties eat gallons of lard” are areas where it is so important for counterstories like yours (complete with details about your diet and exercise to the extent you feel comfortable sharing them) to be heard. I have never had a problem with that, and I wanted to reiterate that since I know various points can get lost in my mega-comments sometimes. I just thought the comparison of your diet to the letter-writer’s strict eating plan was not helpful and maybe harmful in this particular context. And this at least felt to me like it was part of a pattern, for the reasons I gave.

    Lindsay, I think your last comment was a little unfair. I already conceded the point that “always” was an overstatement, and it seems I am not the only one who is triggered by this kind of discussion nor the only one who has observed it here and elsewhere, so.

    (Meowser, WW still thinks grown women should subsist on about 1,200 calories per day (24 points) so I’m not sure we’ve come all that far. But 1,200, 1,500, whatever, they are all destructive, harmful numbers if they are wielded as some kind of standard to hold ourselves to–as you pointed out.)

  93. Colleen, I think there are several parts to this issue:

    a) There is no such thing as a safe space, not truly, on the internet. Some spaces can be safer than others, but there is always going to be something in a space that serves a lot of people, that is going to be problematic. Does this mean we should abandon trying to create welcoming spaces? Absolutely not. But it does mean that we have to choose what atmosphere we are trying to create.

    b) As I think several comments have said, no one thinks Rachel is advocating that we all eat like her and no one is saying Rachel needs to sit down and shut up or go away. We agree that Rachel is great.
    But Rachel is responding as though people are suddenly hating her. And I get that most of that comes from defensiveness but at some point you have to grow beyond acting from defensiveness if you’re going to speak out in public at all.

    c) I think Meowswer, as usual, made a HUGELY important point – when Rachel is doing activist work on television or talking to other people, the notion that she can eat the way she eats and still be fat is a radical one. That’s an important message and I am always glad to see her out there, representing Fat Acceptance. But. Just as I don’t go to the blogs of people of color and make it all about me being an exception to the “white people” they are talking about, I don’t think it is useful to bring up a healthy diet (and this goes for everyone) every time. It comes up, it is important, but enough people have identified this as a pattern to Rachel’s comments (not just in this blog but in others) that, you know, maybe it isn’t imaginary.

    d) Asking Rachel to more fully consider her wording is not asking her to hide her eating. No one has suggested she lie about it or never mention it again. Just to give a little more thought to how she presents it.

  94. Marianne:

    Since my comments have been blown drastically out of their original contexts and intentions, I think a little perspective is needed. Here is my original comment that has sparked this debate. I want you to tell me exactly how I came across as inconsiderate of the experiences of others “caged” by 1,500 calorie a day diets or how my anecdotal evidence here can be construed or interpreted as promoting low-calorie diet plans and/or for weight loss. Please do tell me how promoting healthy relationships with food is harmful and destructive so I know in the future how to better phrase my posts so as not to appear insensitive or contribute to the suffering of others.

    As for the letter writer, her “meal plan” sounds much like the kind of diet my husband I regularly eat, but we practice ours without the expectation of weight loss. In itself, her strict and spartan diet isn’t disordered or unhealthy; it is rather the motivation behind such a plan that determines if it is unhealthy or not. …The fact that she eats such a spartan and healthy diet and has yet only lost a handful of pounds indicates that one’s diet and activity level aren’t the end all/be all in determining one’s body weight.

    If I appear angry and defensive, it’s because I am. Eating disorder activism is my passion – hell, I’m spending $13,000 a year out of my own pocket to go to graduate school to study the subject further so I can help more people with absolutely no expectation of ever having these loans repaid through commercial endeavors or in ever pursuing a professional career in the field. I spend countless number of hours on my blog each week trying to battle eating disorder stereotypes and ignorance. I reply to tearful emails from girls and women and their mothers who write to me because their health insurance turned them down for ED treatment and they don’t know what to do. I appeared on national television to battle weight-based discrimination even though the very thought of it literally terrified me. I have voluntarily given up my anonymity and subjected both myself and my husband and my professional career to ridicule and threat and travel 500 miles to Chicago every quarter on my own dollar so that I can help promote a better quality of life for fat people everywhere. When I post very honest and painful memories of my own struggles with eating disorders, and people whom I considered as friends use those experiences against me to impugn what it is I believe and say, it’s personal and it’s also downright cruel. I don’t post these things details of my life because I am proud of them or because make me feel good – often times just thinking about my life before makes me cry. I post them because I hope others will realize they aren’t alone and will find some degree of comfort in what it is I write.

    For people here to accuse me of being pro-dieting and pro-weight loss, it’s personal. You saying I shouldn’t take this personally is like MeMe Roth in the greenroom after the M & J Show telling me I shouldn’t take it personally when she says and writes that fat people are like alcoholics and should be avoided, that they are ugly and squander national resources, and that people should ditch their fat friends. Of course, it’s personal. Have we learned nothing here? These things are personal. They are highly personal. If they weren’t so personal, there wouldn’t be hundreds of comments on each blog entry here.

    The initial comment used you as an example but it was not about you personally. It was an EXAMPLE.

    I’m not referring about Arwen’s example of me; I’m talking about those comments which were addressed directly and indirectly to and about me. If it’s not about me, why do all these posts contain my name and what it is I have written? If it’s not about me, why do my anecdotes here matter at all?

    And in all fairness, shouldn’t such insistence that it’s not personal be reciprocal? My dietary choices have absolutely nothing to do with others here and I’ve never suggested they should. Readers here shouldn’t take my comments about my personal food choices as condemnations on them, just as, for example, I don’t consider the food diaries posted by others listing foods I neither enjoy nor choose to eat nor even believe are morally and environmentally ethical as condemnations of my own life and my choices. I don’t read someone’s comments about cookies as “Oh my god, I should totally be eating cookies, too! If I don’t eat cookies, it means I’m disordered!” If we are to be non-offended, let’s all be non-offended equally, shall we? In critiquing and silencing the food choices of people like me (which are not disordered or unhealthy), we become exactly like those who demonize the assumed food choices fat people make.

    And I also find it ironic that the onus of acknowledging one’s missteps seems to be placed on my shoulders alone, while others are relieved of any such burden. Could it possibly be that I am being made the bear the brunt of the complex and diverse psychological make-ups of others? Is it easier to point our collective fingers outward than inwards?

  95. The Rotund:

    There is no such thing as a safe space, not truly, on the internet. Some spaces can be safer than others, but there is always going to be something in a space that serves a lot of people, that is going to be problematic. Does this mean we should abandon trying to create welcoming spaces? Absolutely not. But it does mean that we have to choose what atmosphere we are trying to create.

    That’s a really good point, which is going to totally distract me while I try to study for my finals now. (It’s what I get for taking a break to check out blogs – I should really know better :))

  96. Sorry for the italics mess-up above. I wanted to further clarify: I didn’t even mention calories in my original post. As Lindsay so kindly noted, I have mentioned calories exactly once before now and it was months ago. I also do not set out to end up within a 1,500 – 1,700 daily caloric range; this is often how my diet balances itself out and it is an average. Because it’s nearly impossible to “forget” the caloric counts of foods you’ve memorized like Bible verses, I am more acutely aware than others of how many calories are in what it is I eat. And lastly, if my husband and I knew how to actually cook, my caloric intake might be higher. As Arwen rightfully noted, a vegetarian/vegan diet should not be considered a low-calorie diet it itself; it just so happens that those foods I enjoy and know how to cook are often lower in calories, while being as dense and nutritionally satisfying.

  97. Rachel, dunno if this muddies the waters at all, but what I’m getting from this is that the vegetarian, clean food “palette” you choose from is triggering, somehow, to some people.

    Should you be responsible for the triggers of others? My recovery process would say absolutely not. Dealing with my triggers is part of the ED cross I bear.

    I did go back to the comments policy, and it doesn’t appear that you’ve violated the spirit or letter of the policy. But it also says this is kate’s sandbox, kate’s rules. Since Kate hasn’t said more, seems like she’s not rescinding her request. Perhaps we should all exercise more caution when we comment about our food choices?

    And for what its worth, I’m feeling a lot of love and respect for you in this thread.

  98. Oh, crap. I apologize if my example was a spark here.

    This is all about all of us, Rachel. Seriously. No one wants you to leave. Your lifestyle choices are yours and they’re good. They’re a little more loaded for some, but so are some of my choices.

    So the relationship to exercise is a good idea to explore, actually. Because I am one of those that LOVES the exercise. Love it, go to the gym. Makes me feel healthy.

    That’s definitely a more socially accepted choice, though — even if I get mooed at the gym. I can be more righteously angry at the mooer in the gym, if I’m pulling through the shame of being fat: being fat at people while exercising may piss them off, but no one calls exercise the stereotypical Fat And Lazy choice.

    So, I need to claim exercise as my own against the gym mooers and to negate the stereotype, but I also have to understand that Colleen is under the You Must Exercise gun and that it is being applied to her with unfair pressure. Every time she doesn’t feel like exercise, it means more than every time my thin friend doesn’t feel like exercise.

    And some of us have been so abused by the exercise/fat connection that enjoyment of moving our bodies for movement’s sake will be layered. And some of us will have medical issues that prevent us from exercise. Etc.

    I doubt I’ll stop talking about exercise. But it’s still fraught with you shoulds, even if I don’t mean to put them there. No doubt I’ll stumble through someone’s pain, at some point.

    That’s the difference between veggies and cookies. Society’s judgement.

  99. Rachel, I know you are feeling angry and defensive. But I will point out once again that no one has suggested you leave or that you are harming people or that you are advocating your lifestyle for everyone. People have talked, very honestly, about their responses to your comments and how your comments have made them feel but no one has said that you are here to destroy us all.

    I read your comment, when you first made it. At the time, I thought you were kind of missing the point of the letter, which to me reads as someone asking permission to diet and still claim HAES. I read your comment as you being very involved in making sure your lifestyle is respresented and, to some extent, seen as accepted by the community. I don’t think that is an unreasonable desire, but it gets complicated.

    Several people here, more than have commented asking you to be a bit more sensitive even, have spoken up to indicate that you and your comments are of value here. No one, not one person, has suggested anything other than that. And, if you reread the comments just above this, you’ll see that your work as an activist is considered extremely valuable. You aren’t alone in your situation either – I think anyone blogging on this topic, particularly blogging under their real name (and while I don’t publish my name on my blog, they are not difficult to connect), has shared some of your experiences.

    I think, again, that you might be misreading what I’m meaning by saying it isn’t personal – so I’m going to frame it a little differently.

    I have read a lot of entries talking about White Feminists lately, and how they are fucking things up. I could certainly comment with plenty of examples of how I’m not fucking things up and I’m a white feminist and so and such isn’t fucking things up and she is a white feminist and so on. But the fact in that situation is that White Feminists ARE fucking things up and my defensive reaction, my need to distance myself from that category, would also fuck things up if I were to comment by making it about me. When it never was about me – it was about the White Feminists who ARE fucking things up.

    Similarly, the diet industry that tells us we should never eat more than 1500 calories a day if we want to lose weight is fucking things up. Saying that is not an attack on your lifestyle. It’s perhaps way more precise to say the diet industry that tells us we should never eat more than 1500 calories a day is fucking things up except for the people who really do only require about 1500 calories a day. But that isn’t going to be said because we’re pissed off at the goddamn diet industry – that is where our anger is directed. It is not directed at you, so your comment making it about your lifestyle being the healthy thing for you kind of derails things. This is why I try to talk about what I eat in my own blog – it is my platform for talking about my personal food choices without overriding any other conversation – or in conversations that are specifically about that sort of thing.

    The comments here HAVE personally addressed you but that wasn’t what I was talking about.

    And, as I have said before and will say again, no one is denying the validity and value of your personal experience. It IS valuable. It is especially valuable when it isn’t derailing – though I know you would never intentionally do that – the conversation.

    You say readers shouldn’t take your comments to mean anything about what they should or should not be eating and in an ideal world I would absolutely agree. But we exist in a certain context. A context where the way you eat IS considered the right and healthy thing to do and that is going to bring up some baggage for people.

    Now, obviously, there is no such thing as a safe space on the internet. There are always going to exist triggering comments. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t mention it when it happens. Someone brought up to you that your consistent discussion of your own food choices raises issues for them. Other people have agreed. It’s been compared to the recent discussion about people who are fit bragging about it in comments. I don’t believe for one hot minute anyone thinks you are trying to make life harder on anyone. No one is questioning your intentions.

    The request is just that you think about how your comments might come across. I don’t think that is an unfair request. It has nothing to do with your psychological makeup, and everything to do with the dynamics of all of us trying to sort out our baggage in a public space.

    Other people are not relieved of the burden of their fuckups. But spacedcowgirl apologized for using some hyperbole and everyone else has done nothing but remind you that you are valued but this one aspect of your comments is problematic. I’m not entirely sure what we’re supposed to be calling other people on here.

    As shoutz said, I think it’s important to recognize that these discussions are always going to be fraught. Flouncing, though, isn’t going to help anyone.

    So, again, everyone here values your contributions. Quite a lot, actually. Some people just wish you might consider your comments about your personal food choices a little bit more before you post them.

  100. Rachel, I am glad to see you back here. Not like “oh goody, she’s back and we can fight some more”–I hate fighting. Just that you are still here in general.

    I want to reiterate one more time, to me the reason someone posting about cookies (in the example you gave above) is not triggering and not usually taken as an indictment of non-cookie-eaters is because it’s sort of radical even to admit you eat cookies this day and age. “Admitting” you don’t eat cookies is no more than the same behavior society pressures us to conform to.

    It may not seem fair or right but I think mentioning a low caloric intake is often taken as an indictment; mentioning a higher one is not. Mentioning not eating breakfast may be taken as an indictment and tends to upset me; mentioning eating breakfast would not. Mentioning eating organic or completely eschewing fast food can be taken as an indictment; mentioning that you finally got over your guilt of going to McDonald’s and had the Big Mac combo and boy, did it taste good is unlikely to make anyone feel bad because they didn’t go to McDonald’s today or this month or this year. Of course all this depends on how the comment is phrased too.

    To me a lot of this has to do with whether the message is aligned with what we would normally hear from mainstream society about what we have to do to be good little girls (or good little non-resource-wasting fatties, in that stupid new paradigm that is becoming more prevalent these days). If it is aligned with those moral , it will probably be problematic, triggering, or guilt-inducing to more people than if it is not. That may not seem fair if you eat the way you do–that you would be asked to seemingly “keep your mouth shut” about it more often than, say, I would–but I think that’s the way it is.

    I don’t participate in eating disorder communities so I am probably going to cock this hypothetical up completely, but let’s say you are in recovery yet you happen to eat only 600 calories on a given day, and not in a disordered way. Maybe you were sick or just weren’t hungry or whatever. You probably wouldn’t mention that number on an ED message board, right? Even though it’s morally neutral to you and did not constitute disordered eating in this case, you might think twice about mentioning it–you might bite your tongue even if you thought it was relevant to the discussion–solely because you would know that it might trigger feelings of guilt in others reading. That’s sort of how I see this–on this thread, anyway, I didn’t find the reference helpful and found it triggering. On other threads where people are bashing greedy fatties, I do think it is helpful for stereotype-busting. The difference seems pretty clear to me but I could be wrong about that.

  101. Colleen – it’s something we constantly wrestle with as mods over at Fatshionista on livejournal. On the one hand, we want an inclusive community, on the other we have to direct the community where we want it to go. And even with that direction, there are way too many people for it to be truly safe.

    Rachel – no problem on the italics, I figured it out. spacedcowgirl has rescinded the claim that you always mention 1500 calories here. But I’ll tell you, I already knew that number because you’ve mentioned it elsewhere, maybe in my blog. So, I think it is fair to say this conversation has moved beyond the original number and on to the more general way a lot of people are all super aware of your lifestyle choices. I don’t know that you have more thoroughly remembered the caloric value of the foods you eat than anyone else. I can tell you the points value of half a lunchsize portion of Chicken con Broccoli at Olive Garden if we really want to get down to it and that’s not even something I ever calculated for myself. And that’s really the crux – some people still hear that diet voice really, really loudly and, for them, it is encouraged by some of your comments.

    I think it is impossible to completely avoid triggering all people. But I think it is possible, indeed, it is incumbent upon me, to be sensitive to those around me if I value their contributions. I value the people here. If they say something bothers them, I try to keep that in mind and find a different way to express it – there is no need to stop talking about healthful foods or exercise or whatever. We just need to be more aware of how we talk about it.

  102. I am de-lurking now because I want to say that I hope Rachel continues to participate in this and other FA/body acceptance/feminist/self-loving blogs.

    It is very hard to hear criticism, particularly if one is a thoughtful, concerned person putting forth a personal contribution. Pretty much every prolific blogger is this community has come under fire for something they’ve said, or a trend that’s perceived in their postings.

    Off the top of my head I can recall Kate needing to clarify that her fairly common mentioning of her yoga practice is in no way intended to shame or judge those of us who are less mobile and/or do not exercise as much for whatever reason. It’d be great if this reassurance wasn’t necessary, but in the highly-sensitive world of eating and wellness behaviors, it was. Clarification and reassurance seem to have been in order here as well, and you’ve supplemented your original post very well.

    I strongly believe that as women (men too) who want to take ownership of our bodies and love them and care for them as best we can, fat or thin, we need this community and others like it because they provide essential outlets for feelings and bastions of support. Discussions like this are thought-provoking and emotionally resonant. This makes them both extremely valuable and challenging to navigate.

    Rachel, I hope you will still offer your unique and intelligent voice to these posts.

  103. I read your comment, when you first made it. At the time, I thought you were kind of missing the point of the letter, which to me reads as someone asking permission to diet and still claim HAES.

    I made the comment I did because the responses that came before, including the advice given, seemed to myopically focus on the food itself, judging it to be unhealthy. How else do you expect me to react when I see comments suggesting that the letter writer’s “strict plan” doesn’t “qualify” as healthy, especially when my diet closely resembles hers? Of course I am going to speak out and correct what I see to be a big, fat glaring error: It’s not the food that is unhealthy; it’s the letter writer’s motivation for eating such foods that is unhealthy.

    A context where the way you eat IS considered the right and healthy thing to do and that is going to bring up some baggage for people.

    Herein lies the difficulty though: Even if I leave, the problem doesn’t leave with me. There will always be people with baggage here who get offended by or personally slighted by things others say. Because of the nature of this blog and movement, there will continue to exist a wide and replenishing spectrum of dysfunctional relationships with food exhibited here, which may be triggered by any fleeting mention of one’s personal dietary habits. And you cannot ensure that people will not interpret an otherwise innocuous comment by someone else as hurtful and harmful for them.

    Case in point:

    Commenter: “Oh, man, I had this totally awesome salad last night with avocado, pine nuts and olive oil…”

    Reader: “Oh, my god. I should have had a salad too and not that humongous piece of pizza. I am so bad. She practices HAES much better than me, sigh…”

    My original post was not meant by any stretch of the imagination to be a glorification of “healthy eating,” but how many people have interpreted and distorted it as such? How many people here have completely overlooked or dismissed the other contributions I have made to this blog and movement, while overly focusing only on those few and sporadic comments I make about my own personal food choices?

    I completely understand the nature of triggers and the need to create as safe a place as possible even online, but I also do not believe our triggers should be a crutch or an excuse to not change or confront issues. Instead of telling someone to just shut up about their healthy diet, why not encourage people to examine why it is such mention should personally offend and bother them so they can work to overcome those triggers? This is not to say we should intentionally or maliciously post those things which may hurt people, but it’s also not like I’m extolling the virtues of weight loss or low-calorie diets, no matter how some here try to make it seem as if I do. I encourage intuitive eating and I share the ways in which it has worked for me. In this regard, my comments about how I eat breakfast later in the day when I am hungry are no different than someone posting about how they ate and enjoyed a huge piece of cake without a side of guilt. Is it intuitive eating only if you eat your body weight in donuts?

    It’s not that I don’t respect the request to be more sensitive in my posting, it’s that I think my comments have been greatly exaggerated, cherry picked and distorted by some people, perhaps in attempts to project their own guilt and shame onto me instead of questioning why it is they feel such feelings. What is gained when we avoid the real issues? I also wonder where the line will be drawn. Will Kate ban all anecdotal evidence? Or just that of readers who happen to share what, in the minds of many, have been erroneously interpreted as and pigeonholed as diet(ing) foods and behaviors?

    I get that no one here is asking me to leave. I understand that people may not even want me to leave. I get that I am valued here, ad nauseum. I’m not out to play the martyred victim or am I doing some sort of “power play” game. I’m too old and have far too little time for games like that. But I do not think I want to be part of a nanny community in which I have to actively and overly censor myself and walk on eggshells before posting my opinions. I already do exercise a great deal of restraint – and if you knew the extent of my spiritual and ethical views on food you would realize how much I keep myself in check already – and I also do not want to inadvertently hurt anyone, as others have repeatedly insisted I already do. In turn, I am extremely hurt by what I see to be an unfair and disingenuous characterization of me and my beliefs and the use of my past eating disorder to question how rational my food choices are now. And I am puzzled as to why Kate, whom I thought to be a friend, chose such a public and humiliating way in which to castigate me instead of sending a more appropriate personal note.

    But most of all, there is absolutely no way I can structure my comments so as to accommodate the diverse psychological complexities of every reader of this blog. The mere thought of it is exhausting.

  104. Holy crap, I haven’t looked at this for a day, and I feel terrible that I contributed to you feeling so attacked, Rachel. I was referring in part to you, but also thinking about the whole thread, including the things you were responding to – the previous posters making assumptions about the letter writer’s diet as described and not sounding sympathetic, for instance. I agree with a previous poster that the big reason I think I felt your comment sounded, in some ways, “holier-than-thou” (boy do I regret using THAT phrase now, how insensitive of me!) was the way you use the word “healthy.”

    You quoted this part yourself:
    “As for the letter writer, her “meal plan” sounds much like the kind of diet my husband I regularly eat, but we practice ours without the expectation of weight loss. In itself, her strict and spartan diet isn’t disordered or unhealthy; it is rather the motivation behind such a plan that determines if it is unhealthy or not. …The fact that she eats such a spartan and healthy diet and has yet only lost a handful of pounds indicates that one’s diet and activity level aren’t the end all/be all in determining one’s body weight.”

    This is actually what caught my eye and the only reason I referred to you in my comment. I think the phrase “such a spartan and healthy diet,” for example, came off somehow sounding like you thought her diet was virtuous. I was *not* triggered or personally offended by it, and instead I was [perhaps badly] attempting to point out that the idea of what is a good food and what is a bad food is not agreed-upon and can be really problematic. Your follow-up reminds me (unlike a lot of people here, I don’t regularly read the fatosphere as a whole, so I forget a lot of the personal details about people) that you have spiritual and religious beliefs that motivate you to see morality in what you eat, and that that ties to feelings of health for you, but maybe the link between morality and food/health is what made me mention this.

    I in no way thought you should leave or were unwelcome, and I certainly wasn’t trying to shut you up. I was trying to point out that the connection that seemed implicit in your words between virtue and dietary choices was something that sounded off to me, and I was wondering about it.

  105. I think Rachel’s initial comments in this thread were calm and polite. It seems like some – most? – of the response is not from this thread, but from her blog and/or comments elsewhere. In a community, it’s rarely only about the issue at hand. I’ve noticed this about other online communities I frequent – you never live anything down and the fight you had a year ago comes back to haunt you.

    Some of us have a very frail peace with food that is based on “everything is okay”, and when someone thinks everything is not okay, this threatens many of us in a way that maybe it shouldn’t. I think some people here are genuinely bugged by the fact that Rachel eats a vegetarian diet, doesn’t eat a lot of processed foods, etc. It’s an understandable emotional response because of the way our culture privileges people who make choices like hers. However, if we attack her for it, we’re playing into those values instead of fighting against them.

    When I first read some of her comments, I also felt this way, but I’ve thought it over in the past few months, and I think it has more to do with my own food issues than Rachel. If I feel offended by her stance on processed food or meat, it’s not Rachel offending me personally, it’s me feeling threatened because of my own issues. As long as she didn’t say “Deniselle should totally only eat plant-based foods”, I can’t really say much. And it doesn’t matter what choices I’d make if I were her, because those are her choices, not mine. If I think it’s OK to eat all junk food, all the time, it should be equally OK to eat exclusively “healthy” foods. Can we really define HAES or intuitive eating by “must eat following food groups” or “normal eating is xxxx calories”? Isn’t that going the same way as the other side?

    I think acceptance should be less about “I’m OK because others are eating everything too” and more about “I can eat meat and she can be a vegetarian, and we can both be right”. It’s a long journey to get to that, and I think few of us are that far in our acceptance. Blogs like SP where eating everything is encouraged are absolutely crucial, but there’s room for other lifestyles and different blogs too. It gives a more varied view of fat people’s lifestyles and views on food.

    I think any comments about Rachel’s personal relationship with food or caloric intake should be kept private. I won’t comment on her lifestyle here, since it’s none of my business, but if I wanted to express concern, I would do it via private messages or email. I don’t think it’s helpful to single out one member of the community and question her personal choices.

    Rachel has a good voice as a writer and an important viewpoint as an ED survivor, and I enjoy reading her well-argumented posts and comments. I don’t agree with her about food, but it’s a side issue. I don’t have to share my life with her and sit at the same dinner table, but I can engage in an interesting and challenging conversation about fat acceptance and eating disorders. Personally, I think she’s one of the most intelligent and insightful bloggers and would be an immense loss if she left the community. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, so I’m a bit baffled by the lack of response in her defense.

  106. *sighs*

    Here’s the thing. I see Kate and FJ talk about eating salad and going to excercise class. I see TR mention that she has trouble eating and usually eats a fairly small number of calories a day. These things don’t bother me… well, they do a little, but I recognise that they are my own issues. But with Rachel, I always get the feeling she’s holding up her way of eating as the most healthy way for everyone, not just for herself. Something about her tone. And it seems like several other people feel that way as well, so it’s not just my personal issues although it’s undoubtedly partly that. And I just don’t see what’s wrong with asking her to recognise that and work on it. Saying: “Hey, could you work on changing this one thing that’s upsetting to several people on this site” is really, really not the same as saying: “Please tailor every single one of your posts on every topic to ‘accommodate the diverse psychological complexities of every reader of this blog’”

    I don’t know how helpful this comment was. I think I’m probably just repeating myself at this point.

  107. Rachel, from my seat it looks like you are dismissing a pattern noticed by multiple people because you feel picked on. Oh, you are saying, it is not me, it is them and their food baggage.

    Can you are how that might be problematic and kind of unanswerable? People have raised a concern and you are dismissing them without even bothering to engage with anyone other than me. If you were not someone I genuinely like and respect, I would have cut out of this conversation by now because I don’t know if you are going to stop deflecting and consider that maybe your posts have tended toward a certain larger pattern that you haven’t realized. As for people projecting their guilt and shame – I actually see a lot of thoughtful discussion about why your comments are triggering, which is really valuable. Far from projecting without thinking, people are analyzing why your comments prompt them to feel a certain way.

    I can’t speak for Kate, but I imagine she answered you here because this is where the discussion is. But I do understand that it might be uncomfortable for you.

    From my perspective, you have a ton of people lauding your excellent work but that doesn’t matter because you don’t want to hurt anyone. At the same time, you think asking people to be sensitive to triggers in a blog full of wounded people is a crutch. I feel like there is a disconnect there and I am trying to understand how “think about what you write” has become a nanny state situation. I am missing that leap.

    I DO have some inkling as to how strong your feelings are about the ethics of food – we discussed some of it during my Intuitive Eating posts. This came up then, too, a little bit. Given how strongly you feel, I think it is admirable that you are able to refrain from pushing that as an agenda. You recognize that this is not the space for that which some people cannot seem to manage (not specifically referring to food choices here, this is general).

    I don’t want an adversarial relationship with you. I don’t think anyone here does.

  108. Here’s the thing. I see Kate and FJ talk about eating salad and going to excercise class. I see TR mention that she has trouble eating and usually eats a fairly small number of calories a day. These things don’t bother me… well, they do a little, but I recognise that they are my own issues. But with Rachel, I always get the feeling she’s holding up her way of eating as the most healthy way for everyone, not just for herself. Something about her tone. And it seems like several other people feel that way as well, so it’s not just my personal issues although it’s undoubtedly partly that.

    I agree.

  109. Becky, I don’t think her tone is that bad. I think the difference is that she doesn’t usually post about eating chocolate cake or hot dogs, which Kate and FJ and The Rotund do. I also think Rachel has a right to think that her eating habits are right for others as well as her. We don’t have to agree, but she is entitled to her own opinions and values. I know there’s a fine line between believing something and imposing it on others, either knowingly or subconsciously, but I really don’t think she was doing that here.

    I think the offensive element for most people is not that Rachel says things about other people’s food habits, but that her lifestyle is based on conscious ethical choices, not dictated by disease or allergy. Ethical choices are always a statement against the choices of others. The fair way to deal with it is to believe in your own choices.

    As a Christian, I’ve been attacked by atheists because, as they say, I think they’re going to hell. I’ve never said or implied this to anyone, but people assume this intrinsically because I am a Christian. It’s baffling and frustrating to be faced with that. Maybe that’s why I can sort of see the other side here.

  110. I hit submit a little quick there. I guess I should have said, I agree with the caveat that I don’t necessarily feel it goes as far as Rachel holding up her way of eating as the most healthy for everyone. But I do get the same feeling you get, Becky.

    I agree with Becky, Rachel, I’m just repeating myself at this point. You haven’t engaged my points about how eating less is AUTOMATICALLY less loaded than eating more and therefore may bear a little more caution when discussing, nor have you addressed my example of whether you would mention a 600-calorie day on an ED board even if there was nothing disordered about it, and those are the best illustrations I could come up with so far to explain how I feel. If what I have said so far isn’t resonating with you, or if you don’t really want to talk to me since I was the one who kind of started all this (which is understandable), then there’s not much more I can say.

  111. I think the difference is that she doesn’t usually post about eating chocolate cake or hot dogs, which Kate and FJ and The Rotund do

    I think the offensive element for most people is not that Rachel says things about other people’s food habits, but that her lifestyle is based on conscious ethical choices, not dictated by disease or allergy

    These are NOT my objections–I have said what my objections are–and I don’t want my personal points to be argued from this baseline so I just wanted to say as much for the record.

    In fact I posted earlier in this thread that I appreciated Rachel reminding us that there was more to health than calories, veggies, and miles run. It may have been kind of opaque but what I meant by that was that for some people, their food choices do include ethical, religious, or other restrictions on what they eat and that’s fine. I don’t feel as strongly as vegetarians do about meat-eating being problematic and wrong, but I admire their principles and I have admired Rachel’s principles, without a twinge of being bothered or triggered by them, when she has touched on her Buddhism, vegetarianism, and eco-consciousness before. I promise you this is not my issue here.

  112. No, it’s not the ethical thing. I know Rachel is a vegetarian for ethical and spiritual reasons, and I admire her for that. It’s the health thing that bugs me. When Rachel talks about how she only eats organic and unprocessed foods, the message I strongly get is that non-organic and processed foods are unhealthy and bad bad bad. And to somebody who is trying to break free from the good food and bad food idea (and the idea that I’m fat because I eat too many bad foods), that message is harmful.

  113. To all:

    On a blog lacking the benefit of audio/visual stimuli, much can be lost in interpretation. If you have felt personally offended by what I’ve shared of my intuitive eating gains and revelations, again I apologize. It was neither intentional nor conscious.

    That being said, I’ve already addressed numerous instances brought up by people here as examples of my so-called insensitivity to the pain of others and holier-than-thou food ideology. I have explained how such comments have often been misinterpreted and/or deliberately or mistakenly taken out of their original contexts altogether and placed in a pejorative context in which they were not originally intended. My dietary choices have also been greatly exaggerated and assumed and words have been placed in my mouth – I “always” post about healthy eating; I “only” eat organic and unprocessed foods; I repeatedly discuss my 1,500 calorie a day diet, etc… Sadly, it appears that nothing I do or say will change the minds of those who have already made up their minds about me.

    If I have not addressed your particular points, it is not personal. I find myself in the quite unexpected position of suddenly having to defend myself against multiple commenters posting long and in depth comments to and at me during a time in which I am technically supposed to be working. I fear that while this debate might be fruitful for others here, it and my participation within the community is no longer constructive or healthy for me. I have a bathroom remodel to attend to, three books to read for class, a garden that needs planting, and a husband to make a holier-than-thou, low-calorie, ultra-healthy, vegetarian, all organic, unprocessed dinner for.

    I appreciate those who have spoken up in my behalf and all those who have added to the debate. I hope you will apply the energy and passion you have shown here in singling me out to addressing and combating the larger and more looming issues affecting women beyond Shapely Prose than in what one woman defines as healthy and intuitive eating for her. For those who don’t think me to be a smug, arrogant bitch, you can continue to find me on my personal blog and select others within the fatosphere.

    Regards,

    Rachel Richardson

  114. I wasn’t necessarily talking about you personally, spacedcowgirl. I’m sorry if it came across that way. What I wrote about was my problem initially, and I think some people find ethical/health-based lifestyle choices more threatening because they are more societally accepted/privileged choices.

    I think that the balance between posting about eating healthy foods – which reinforces the idea that fat people can live healthy too – and eating unhealthy foods – which reassures the reader that this is still ok and not some “bad fatty” mentality – is necessary for many readers. Rachel’s lifestyle is more tilted towards “healthy eating”, which means there will be less of the reassuring “I ate cake because I felt like it” posts, and I think this might be one reason why some people find her threatening.

  115. And Rachel, I’m sorry it worked out this way. I didn’t want you to leave and I don’t think you’re a smug, arrogant bitch or any of the rest. For what it’s worth.

  116. becky, sorry, I should have said ethical/health-based. I initially felt the same way about the processed food thing specifically. But I think that even if Rachel added more processed foods into her diet, the problem wouldn’t go away because it’s my problem with the idea that processed foods can be harmful, an idea that is in contradiction with my “eating everything” principle.

    In the end, it’s up to me to decide if I make an exception with processed foods (I haven’t because it would be too difficult to live in that way right now) or decide to eat everything and take what comes with it. If Rachel has the time, money and commitment to avoid processed foods, and this is something that works for her, it’s fine by me. I can still eat processed foods and not see my choice as intrinsically inferior because I made that choice based on my life situation and personality, and it suits me. It’s not based on “chemicals are healthy” but on “not eating chemicals would make my life too complicated, plus I enjoy the flavor of many processed foods”. That’s why her thinking chemicals are bad for you doesn’t have to be a threat to my lifestyle.

  117. I really hope this conversation hasn’t gone too far for my comment to be relevant — it took me a long time to catch up.

    I just wanted to ask this: Rachel (and others like her), would it be cool with you to continue your posts exactly as they are, but add a trigger warning at the top? Sort of like, “Hey, this might be unsettling if you’re struggling, read with caution?” And, uh, everyone else — would that also be cool with y’all? Because I really think the trigger burden should be sort of… rest with the person being triggered, to a point; i.e., if you find discussions of low-calorie foods or lots of fun exercise unsettle or shame you, maybe you should be working on your own issues and recognize that they are your issues. So. You could avoid triggery comments because they’d be labeled, but people who do end up eating “healthy” foods or working out “right” could still talk about it — it seems kind of win/win.

    Of course, I’m crazy. So, you know, whatevs.

  118. Sarawr – For me the idea is that the triggers are actually a political and societal issue, and not simply a personal issue. Of course, this got really personal, and I’m sad for that.

    Even still, I would move to defend all of us – ALL of us – that these discussions and triggers are because of the society we live in. To me this really ISN’T an individual problem or even an interpersonal problem — this is about how we are each expected to conform in a society where our bodies and habits are viewed with suspicion.

    Rachel and SCG and The Rotund and you and me and Kate and Deniselle and UTBT and whoever else has been caught reading this thread while fat are all eating and making choices in a culture that views us and our choices and our bodily cues as suspect. And I believe that underlies, in different directions, *each* of the frustrated comments here.

    We each have unique and sometimes oppositional ways of dealing. I don’t think there are sides, here, not really. Just different coping strategies that have bumped up against one another somewhat painfully.

  119. Okay, this seems to be over now, and there’s not much more to say. I haven’t commented again, because I was on a bus all afternoon, but I think The Rotund has said pretty much everything I would have said. I’m sorry you felt the need to leave, Rachel.

  120. Rachel defended herself in her last post better than I ever could. I sign on to most of what she said there.

    But this thread reminds me. I once witnessed a train v. pedestrian accident. It was horrific and I’m pretty scarred by it. I still ride the train, but to this day I’m routinely “triggered” by random reminders that conjure it all up.

    The point is, nobody could possibly make a train so safe that it won’t “trigger” me. And I can’t make the world free of reminders. Not while living in it. If I were to blog about trains it would “trigger” me all the time. Forever. That’s because, like I said, I’m scarred.

    Fat phobia and fat hatred is scarring too. Profoundly. I read this thread and that’s what I keep hearing. Not a few people have dropped out of f.a. and/or the fatosphere altogether because they can’t think about these issues at all – even in an empowering way – and feel ok.. Is it any surprise that talk about fat and food that’s just neutral can also be triggering?

    That’s the fault of the hatred, the fault of the culture. It isn’t Rachel’s fault. Rachel is a wonderful, thoughtful blogger to whom I’m grateful for a thousand contributions. I don’t agree with everything she writes, but that’s true of every blogger I know. Maybe she’s a health food nut. I have no idea. I haven’t read that in her posts. But if she – or anyone else here – were, so what? Are there to be no more fat health food nuts? How sad for us.

    Unlike the people who drop out, people here have chosen to think about and read about and write about fat and food. In the hope that by understanding more and confronting more, things might improve. And that’s just incredibly brave and incredibly hard.

    But I don’t think things can improve, for ourselves – and certainly not for anyone else – unless we can tolerate a little bit the random triggering that’s the inevitable result of growing up and living in a culture that hates and fears fat.

  121. I’m new to the fat acceptance community since I recently stumbled onto it while checking out healthy lifestyle websites. I am so impressed and warmed by thinking and opining women on these blogs that it is a joy to read comments and yes disagreements and arguments. No way we can have a genuinely evolving and open community without heated exchange of ideas!!

    My take on healthy life style: What’s healthy for one person is not for another. I don’t mind reading about Rachel’s diet and her lifestyle because it should be each to his/er own comfort and life. It’ll show those idiots who are always claiming that fat people don’t exercise and don’t eat veggies or fresh fruit.

    But it is ok if you are a fat person who don’t eat veggies and fresh fruit nor exercise even if you know it’s not as good for your body according to what I know. Your choice was made for whatever reason and it isn’t anyone’s business what you do. I feel sad about people whose fat is preventing them from walking, moving, or physically living a full life but that is also their life choice. We should be ready to help people improve their lives but not judge them for ‘falling short of our expectations’.

    I don’t know if Rachel mentions her lifestyle too much or not because I haven’t read other blogs with her comments on them. But it’s nice to hear different pov about lifestyle and how people live their lives. The message that I hear from the media, friends, doctors etc… is that there is one right way to eat according to scientific research.

    I intellectually agree that eating veggies, fruits, whole grain, eating small serving of meat, and eating organic is probably good for your body but it feels like a barren lifestyle to me.

    I go into ecstasy when I see and taste amazing foods, rich foods, fattening foods, and also low fat hi fiber ‘healthy’ great dishes. I adore my black Intelligentsia coffee with dark toffee/caramel chocolate or breakfast bagel or donuts but I can’t eat too much of it because I get sick.

    I contain my eating not to conform to societal expectations or to lose weight but because I enjoy my foods more when I haven’t been eating too much. I periodically eat very little for days or a week so that I would refresh my palate and enjoy my food even more.

    I love eating, period. I personally feel it is weird to stick to a very constant pattern of eating, for god’s sakes it is boring. I prefer to talk to people who share this pov but different people have different needs and that’s ok. I think the point is that it is ok if I don’t want to do bootcamp and eat bbq ribs everyday of a week which I have done. And it is equally ok if you exercise everyday and eat low fat vegetarian. But if you disapprove of me eating non-organic ribs every day, then I disapprove of you not eating non-organic ribs every day. ;)

  122. Some things are bad for you, some things you will do even though you know they are bad for you. Sometimes we feel guilty for the bad choices we have made; we close ourselves off and deny common sense. How much energy do you waste hating yourself, how better would the world be if you spent a quarter of that energy helping someone else rather than only focusing on yourself?

    Brandon, your comment was stuck in moderation, so I’m only getting to this now, but what the hell? Are you seriously implying that the problem here is Rachel’s critics hating ourselves and feeling guilty about what we eat? Wow.

    But I don’t think things can improve, for ourselves – and certainly not for anyone else – unless we can tolerate a little bit the random triggering that’s the inevitable result of growing up and living in a culture that hates and fears fat.

    Kate, I agree with this in principle–and as I said in my first comment above, I’ve stood up for people’s right (including my own) to talk about salad and exercise around here, even though we get some complaints about that. But Rachel has repeatedly said things that made me extremely uncomfortable with regard to her dietary choices–and as of yesterday, I now know they’ve made other readers uncomfortable, too–so I drew the line at my own blog. It’s really that simple.

  123. But Rachel has repeatedly said things that made me extremely uncomfortable with regard to her dietary choices

    Quite possibly it’s none of my business, but…. I was under the impression that the two of you were friends. Maybe i’m weird, but i know if a friend of mine says something that makes me uncomfortable, or gives me reason to worry for/about them, i’m generally not particularly quiet about it. I certainly wouldn’t call her on it publicly.

  124. I hate to oversimplify things but, to echo Viv’s post, is it anyone’s business at all what anyone else eats, ever? I don’t think so. No matter if you shoot for a vegan diet, or eat donuts all day, or whatever, you don’t need to justify your food choices to anyone no matter what your size.

    That said, as a non-participant in this thread I’m saddened that this went down this way.

  125. I made the comment I did because the responses that came before, including the advice given, seemed to myopically focus on the food itself, judging it to be unhealthy. How else do you expect me to react when I see comments suggesting that the letter writer’s “strict plan” doesn’t “qualify” as healthy, especially when my diet closely resembles hers? Of course I am going to speak out and correct what I see to be a big, fat glaring error: It’s not the food that is unhealthy; it’s the letter writer’s motivation for eating such foods that is unhealthy.

    I think what’s problematic for me, reading the comments that have unfolded already, is the suggestion above that one has no other options than to defend one’s lifestyle choices against the clear and obvious wrongness of other people’s opinions about something resembling one’s lifestyle.

    Defending as an immediate and sole response to criticisism is fairly unhelpful, and can turn into arrogance and insularity without warning or intention.

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