1,000 calories a day: Officially not torture

Via Rachel at The-F-Word, the HuffPo is reporting that calorie restriction was a Bush-administration-approved torture technique, and the justification for its legality was that people do it voluntarily. We just call it “dieting” instead of “torture.”

In a footnote to a May 10, 2005, memorandum from the Office of Legal Council, the Bush attorney general’s office argued that restricting the caloric intake of terrorist suspects to 1000 calories a day was medically safe because people in the United States were dieting along those lines voluntarily.

“While detainees subject to dietary manipulation are obviously situated differently from individuals who voluntarily engage in commercial weight-loss programs, we note that widely available commercial weight-loss programs in the United States employ diets of 1000 kcal/day for sustain periods of weeks or longer without requiring medical supervision,” read the footnote. “While we do not equate commercial weight loss programs and this interrogation technique, the fact that these calorie levels are used in the weight-loss programs, in our view, is instructive in evaluating the medical safety of the interrogation technique.”

This is like saying that because people voluntarily engage in e-stim, it’s totally safe to zap detainees’ genitals. I’m going to set aside for a moment my extreme revulsion at the bureaucratic justification of torture — because I really cannot string together words strong enough to express how horrified I am by my own government in this matter — and focus on the whole, you know, dieting is torture thing.

This is what people who say “just put down the baby donuts, fatty” want you to undergo: something so mind-destroying that the Bush administration thought it would make you confess to terrorist acts. “Without requiring medical supervision,” my ass. The first thing I thought of when I read that was zombie z’s comment from this post:

zombie z: You want to know what makes me fucking CRAZY?!

As a thin anorexic, I was told over and over again that 500, 800, 1000, sometimes even 1200, calories a day wasn’t enough to even keep someone alive. I was told I should be eating 1800-2500 calories a day.

As a normal-sized anorexic, I was told (by a doctor) that I could “eat 800 calories a day and exercise and still lose some weight.”

Doctors are not immune from fat prejudice, as zombie z’s comment so distressingly demonstrates. The reason people don’t have medical supervision while doing Jenny Craig or WW is not because those diets are so clearly safe; it’s because they’re so clearly normalized as part of the (female) American experience. Feeling fat? Go on Weight Watchers! Everybody does it! If it doesn’t work it’s because you cheated and had some cough drops or carrots or something, not because it’s designed to fail so that you’ll have to pony up your money again next year.

We are firmly through the looking glass on this one. Diets feel torturous,* but doctors say fatties should go on them because duh, you’re fat — but if you’re thin, watch out! That’s not enough to live on, you’ll starve! The professional torture apologists say that diets are perfect because they feel like torture, but they must not be because look at all those fatties on them — they’re not being tortured, right? It’s voluntary and no one would volunteer for torture, which is why we only approve things that feel like torture but aren’t torture. If you object that there is no moral or physical difference between something that feels like torture and something that is torture — that the definition of torture is about how it feels — well, you’re just a liberal pantywaist. And you could probably stand to drop a few pounds.

*Now would be a good time to refresh your memory on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, in which subjects went mad on 1600 calories a day.

147 thoughts on “1,000 calories a day: Officially not torture

  1. You know, I think we just found the keystone of an argument that might get through to the remaining fauxgressives who, while against persecution of every other persecuted group, still delight in blaming fatties for our fat. Connecting the horror that they and we rightly feel about our nation’s descent into torture with the behavior they expect from us… this might be the thin edge of the wedge.

  2. “But what if that’s the ONLY WAY to get the fatty to tell you where the donuts are hidden?”

  3. And I should say that I would NEVER compare dieting to being waterboarded hundreds of times a month. My mind is still reeling about that. If torture is necessary because it’s effective, then you wouldn’t have to do it hundreds of times.

    Wait… I just found another connection with dieting…

  4. I am just so angry right now. Angry at our government. Angry at the diet industry. Angry at CNN and every other fucked up media outlet for posting articles like “Thinner is Greener” and buying into the obesity is responsible for the end of the world crock of poop.

    I’m furious that people seem to think it’s perfectly fine to tell anyone who doesn’t fit some screwed up image of “attractive” that they should be punishing themselves with starvation for fucking ever.

    That’s all I got today. Rage. I can’t be funny or glib or even form a coherently thoughtful response right now.

  5. So if I decide that waterboarding sounds like fun, what should I call it? Aquatic spa treatment? Because hey, it’s only torture if you do it to prisoners. Otherwise, it’s a healthy lifestyle choice!

  6. Thank you for this post, not just to keep attention on our government’s human rights abuses.

    My mother was visiting this weekend, and at every meal she kept talking about all her health problems and how it’s time to ‘go back on WW’. Standing next to her all weekend, I was visibly reminded that I’m bigger than she is in all dimensions, and the implication was that if I got off my fat ass and started the calorie restriction/binge cycle again, I wouldn’t face the same health problems.

    I know intellectually it’s bullshit, but when the emotions come into the mix, I need to be reminded.

  7. Gah.

    Blithe idiots. No, people don’t go on diets voluntarily, they go on diets because the psychological and sociological pressure is so extreme; a torture in itself.

    And how any doctor would recommend a diet to an anorexic–that’s malpractice.

  8. it’s only torture if you do it to prisoners. Otherwise, it’s a healthy lifestyle choice!

    That about sums that up.

  9. Because hey, it’s only torture if you do it to prisoners. Otherwise, it’s a healthy lifestyle choice!

    Hey, wouldn’t that make it torture when kids are sent to fat camp/boot camp to do it? It’s not usually the kids’ choice, and they aren’t allowed to up and decide to leave…

  10. But . . . but all the commentors over on Jezebel were just telling me this morning that the majority of overweight people just have to eat reasonable diets like this one to be thin as a whip! How can that possibly induce people to break down and spill secrets jus to get off such a diet? I’m so confused.

  11. LilahMorgan, that would be my exact point about the damn self-satisfied, thin, fauxgressives.

    And Piffle? “No, people don’t go on diets voluntarily, they go on diets because the psychological and sociological pressure is so extreme; a torture in itself.” That is brilliant and apt.

  12. I want to send this to my mother so much. So, so very much. Maybe she would eat better.
    maybe she wouldn’t try and restrict MY eating when I visit.

    I can dream!

    Otherwise sending this out to so many people I know!

  13. Piffle, because unless you’re 60 pounds, you’re not a “real” anorexic — you’re just a normal American woman hating hirself and trying to lose some weight! For some reason (that has yet to be explained to me) all anorexic behaviors are PERFECTLY FINE until you hit some arbitrary “low weight,” at which point you are thrown in a hospital with a feeding tube and forced to eat far more than your average American woman would EVER be comfortable with eating. And you’re told this is how “normal” people eat. And then they release you into a world full of anorexics (that just aren’t skinny enough to be anorexic vs. a good healthy dieter!) and don’t understand why you “relapse,” just as 80% of anorexics do.

    As the recovering anorexic formerly known as zombie z, this shit really pisses me off. :P

    On a side note, I really want to thank the SP folks, writers and commenters. I know y’all have done some pretty amazing things for fat women (my mother not yet included, no matter how hard I try), but I don’t know if you realize the amazing things you’ve done for people like me. Radical feminism mixed with a large dose of Shapely Prose allowed me to make peace with my body.

  14. Slim: That’s an interesting article… and it’s interesting/sad that the obvious conclusion (it’s probably not enough food!) isn’t made.

    (and then I was stupid and went to follow the link and see how many calories I “should” be eating for my weight and activity level… why do I do this to myself? It’s not like I believe in ‘energy in/engergy out’, or eat anywhere close to the number of calories they say is my ‘maintenance’ level for my weight, but I’m still probably going to have a hard time eating dinner now…)

  15. “Yeah, that really sucks you were illegally detained and tortured, but on the upside you look fabulous!”

  16. “Yeah, that really sucks you were illegally detained and tortured, but on the upside you look fabulous!”
    LOL *sob*

  17. I firmly believe that anyone in our government who says the treatment done to “terrorist” prisoners isn’t torture should have to under go that very same treatment for at least a month (exactly the same amount of torture done to prisoners). Then let them say it isn’t torture. That goes for the calorie restriction as torture too, because you can bet that none of those assholes have ever been on a thousand calorie a day starvation diet. Let’s see how long they last without confessing to all kinds of things they never did just to get the torture to end.

  18. You know, this reminds me of how pissed off I get a family members who undergo grueling courses of chemotherapy and then say “but look how much weight I lost! It’s splendid!” (Or, not so much pissed off at them, because you have to find a silver lining somewhere in that situation, but pissed off at the society that makes them think any thinness is a good even in situations where the studies specifically say you would rather be carrying the weight to improve your chances.)

    But think about it. “Well, I couldn’t keep to a diet, so I just let slip to my local freeper that I was selling secrets to Al Qaeda, and look at me now! I could be a model! Sure, I have malnutrition from the calorie restriction, and I had a psychotic break from all the stretches of seven days straight without sleep, but look how THIN I am!”

    You know, for once, my rage in this situation is not about the fat. *cries*

  19. Maybe I’m missing something, but if being so heavily restricted when it comes to calories makes people go nuts, what on earth are they hoping to achieve? How can you honestly expect to get legitimate, useful information out of someone who is digesting their own organs? Just speaking from experience [I forgot where I lived, and that was 1500 calories a day] I wouldn’t have been able to provide even basic information accurately, let alone anything complex.

    Sounds more like torture for the sake of torture to me.

  20. 1,000 calories a day is ridiculous. I went to a nutritionist a couple years ago with some health problems (non-fat related, imagine that!), and the first thing we did was figure out how many calories I need in order to get proper nutrition and function (though I will say her focus was on eating healthy, not obsessing over calories). And guess what? She said based on my lifestyle and height and weight and MANY other factors, I should average around 2300 to 2500 calories a day. We went on to discuss what kinds of foods are healthy and would help control my health problems.

    2500 calories a day! Gee, no wonder I’m fat, if the nutritionist is telling me to eat that much. /sarcasm

    But really, if I tried to eat 1,000 calories a day, I would pass out (heck, if I don’t eat breakfast, I start shaking). That people would recommend it for diets, and, even worse, then use the diets as an excuse for torture? Completely unacceptable. The personal choices of people should not be a reason for enforcing them on prisoner. If they use that as an excuse, why not use whips on the prisoners, claiming that some people enjoy the use of whips in their private sex lives? Where does the justification end?

    There are really two areas that I’m frustrated at here. First, that people are finding reasons to justify torture, which in my mind cannot be justified. And second, that the excuse that they are using relies on the normalization of extreme dieting (or the normalization of dieting, period).

  21. Sounds more like torture for the sake of torture to me.

    Kaz, I think that hits the nail on the head.

    Also, it’s amazing to me how this has turned into a clusterfuck of excuses and cyclical logic. If people do it, it’s not torture, and if the government says it’s not torture, we should all keep doing it!

  22. Kaz, my understanding based on what I’ve read (and I don’t have links to back this up right now, I apologize) is that our “interrogators” are actually using techniques that were originally designed by the CIA (?) to train American GIs to *withstand* torture while being held prisoner. IOW, the manuals that are being used to train our people to torture were actually originally designed as ways to elicit false confessions, not true ones. The whole premise is that torture doesn’t work.

    Again, I don’t have the links to back this up right now, so please take it with a grain of salt, but that’s what I’ve read.

  23. TBS: it’s true – last time I looked, in order to be diagnosed anorexic you have to be 15% below the recommended weight for your height (I may be wrong on the numbers here but I do know being underweight is one of the diagnostic criteria). It’s how come I never got diagnosed with an eating disorder when I was eating a spoonful of cottage cheese in the morning, a two-inch chunk of cucumber in the afternoon, and having a panic attack in the evening because I knew I needed to have another spoon of cottage cheese to avoid passing out but couldn’t face eating so much food. I’ve weighed between 260 and 310lbs over the past 10 years, so the only eating disorder anyone would have diagnosed me with would be binge-eating disorder. Not only was I never believed about my self-starving behaviour, but I was told that it was what I should be doing in order to lose weight.
    And fucking hell, people – I just looked at that sentence about the cottage cheese and thought “that doesn’t look all that extreme – they’re not going to think you were restricting yourself hard enough for that to be regarded as anorexic behaviour. Maybe tell them about when you were eating three bowls of boiled cabbage a week and nothing else because that’s a bit more like it” and what the shit, I really thought my brain had recovered a bit more than that.
    So, yeah. 1000 calories a day is not torture because people do it voluntarily? Only if you consider “voluntary” to mean “under extreme pressure from family, friends, teachers, workplaces, doctors and the media” and “while in a state of self-loathing so intense that intentionally making oneself weak, miserable and malnourished seems like an appropriate course of action”.
    But hey – it doesn’t count as torture when fatties do it to themselves, so it sure as fuck won’t count as torture when it’s being done to OMG SCARY BROWN PEOPLE, right?

  24. The Bald Soprano said
    Hey, wouldn’t that make it torture when kids are sent to fat camp/boot camp to do it? It’s not usually the kids’ choice, and they aren’t allowed to up and decide to leave…

    I’ve always thought those camps should be more honestly labeled torture camps. They seem designed to punish kids for being fat.

    Kaz said:
    Maybe I’m missing something, but if being so heavily restricted when it comes to calories makes people go nuts, what on earth are they hoping to achieve?

    Or if it makes them so miserable they’ll say anything to make it stop. Or if it makes the interrogators more likely to believe what they say. Or… just about any logical conclusion about torture means torture is counterproductive, IMHO.

    Torture for the sake of torture about sums it up. The torturers are mad about something and want an excuse to punish someone, is what torture boils down to. It’s not a rational activity.

  25. People do all sorts of self harm: Cutting, pulling out hair, scarification, Munchausen’s, suicide… Nobody in psychology is claiming that these behaviors aren’t harmful just because someone is doing it to him/herself.

  26. Shira: I have the anorexia weight requirement on the brain because your “diet” description sounds a lot like what I was eating when I was 12… a glass of milk for breakfast, a chunk of mozzarella or a yoplait for lunch… The family dinner was non-negotiable, but I still started fainting in school.

    *hugs*
    (and I still have doctors who don’t believe me…)

  27. For some reason (that has yet to be explained to me) all anorexic behaviors are PERFECTLY FINE until you hit some arbitrary “low weight”

    This is how I feel about weight loss surgery. When “thin” women throw up all the time or take laxatives, it’s self-abuse. When fat women surgically alter themselves to make their bodies do the exact same thing, they’re getting “healthy” and everyone cheers. *head smack*

  28. Sticky, I wish I could put what you just said on a billboard. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “But I’m FAT” as a justification for huge amounts of damaging behavior.

  29. When I was anorexic and bulimic I was constantly badgered about the fact that at the time the WHO insisted that 1200 calories a day was necessary for just baseline brain function. I don’t know how much truth there is to it anymore…(this was seven years ago) but I don’t know how they can consider anything that comes from the mouth of someone starving to be accurate.

  30. vesta44, on April 21st, 2009 at 4:04 pm Said:
    I firmly believe that anyone in our government who says the treatment done to “terrorist” prisoners isn’t torture should have to under go that very same treatment for at least a month (exactly the same amount of torture done to prisoners). Then let them say it isn’t torture.

    The problem with that is that much of torture is a mind game – one of the ways to cope with torture is to view it as something chosen. This is why people thoroughly committed to a religion or philosophy can often under go extreme torture without changing their minds – they already believed they’d be persecuted for their beleifs, so the torture is viewed (a) as a validation of the beliefs they’re being tortured for and (b) as, in a sense, chosen. So they tolerate it better than most.

    Although the power dynamics of a prison situation do freak some people, even when they technically volunteered. The Stanford Prison Experiments (and Zimbardo’s book on them) indicate that your policy might work more often than not, I dunno.

  31. Honestly, I think when you put the torturers though the same thing, they’d find a way to justify it.

    “They come from a third world country! They’re used to lower calories!”
    “They’ve already been through grueling training! They’re tough enough to take it!”
    “We have a moral obligation to hurt them – it hurts us just as much!”
    “They’re less intelligent than us! They don’t even really feel it!”

    That’s just the stuff from the off the top of my head. I’d imagine that government agents can be even more creative.

  32. I read somewhere that in addition to an actual obesity “epidemic,” there’s a “people THINKING they’re obese when they’re actually not” epidemic too. Apparently most Americans polled would rate themselves as overweight to obese when they’re, like, just NOT, because they keep hearing all about how obesity is barreling through the country and portion sizes are larger and if you have fat friends you’ll be fat too and all the inconsistent stats and figures and studies. Hence the serious increase in people going to doctors to formulate healthy calorie intakes and diet plans. Which would be all right, except- in the same article it said that a disproportionately high number of DOCTORS surveyed happened to think that they’re overweight to obese too. So gee, that’s not going to affect their treatment of their patients, not at all.

    It’s shocking how positively little sensitivity some doctors can have, to the point of being oblivious that patients have had eating disorders that are debilitating emotionally and mentally. Of course, a recovering anorexic is going to continue to ply a doctor with questions about weight loss- and if the doctor is actually thinking, they wouldn’t cavalierly tell the patient, “Oh yeah, 800 calories a day is plenty,” like zombie z’s doctor did. Granted, they’re not supposed to FORCE the patient to eat, but they are supposed to understand that someone with an eating disorder is hanging on their every word about food and weight loss, and will not just arbitrarily say, “Wow, 800 calories a day only, that’s pretty incredible. Can you pass the salad?” They will, actually, limit themselves to 800 or less calories a day, because a doctor told them to.

    My cold-fish GP tells me every time I see her that I’m too fat. At one point I told her that a lot of it was muscle because I was power-lifting a couple of hours every day, and she snapped, “Well, you still shouldn’t weigh THAT much.” Issues with her OWN body image, anyone?

  33. 1,000 calories a day is definitely torture and I’ve been describing it, and the 800 calorie diet I was put on at age 8, as torture for years. I suffered hallucinations, mental decline, mania, and yes, my organs started eating themselves to some degree (duodenal ulcer at age 9 from stomach acid leaking into the intestine). I still suffer from the effects of being starved and I will for the rest of my life. I would certainly not have been in any position to provide anti-terrorist info, but I’d have made something up if interrogators promised me some protein. Hell, I could’ve told them that the dinosaurs were going to attack and that I’d seen the brachiosaurs plotting out behind the garage until one of them spotted me and I had to make a run for it. For reals…I remember running and hiding under my bed…

  34. You known, people on meth stay up for seven days at a time recreationally, I don’t know how you could argue that’s torture when so many people do it voluntarily.

  35. Like Coco, way, way above, I am just so angry right now with all the willfully ignorant fat hate. I know it’s always there, but this week has been a flipping doozy.

    That ‘Fat People are Killing the Planet’ report on CNN made me cry with rage. Because it is all so vile and hateful and stupid and blind.

    To so many people, I have no identity. I just drive around in my car all day from one drive-thru to another, stuffing my face and producing methane.

    But I think that this sorry government excuse is finally going to improve my attitude—because at least I’m vindicated in knowing that dieting is a Very Bad Idea. I guess two stupids do make a sanity after all.

  36. Using voluntary diet techniques to justify torture is not acceptable. Great article, Sweet Machine. Personally, I think the fact that calorie restriction is used as torture says more about the diet industry than it does about torture. Heaven forbid one consume more than *gasp* 2000 calories a day. The torture is all in the mind.

    Once I attempted to keep a food intake diary. I have never been so crazy in my life. I accounted for every thing that I consumed. Ultimately, the little “treats” I allowed myself- a lifesaver candy, a latte, etc. pushed me over the edge. My self worth dissolved every time I exceeded my self imposed calorie limit. I don’t recommend this. ever.

    Sweet Machine, your point about the mental game between the Bush administration, the public, and detainees is well take. I disagree that this is a consequence of bad bureaucracy. I doubt that thousands of mindless bureaucrats implemented these torture memorandums without complaint or a fight. It is politicians, not civil servants (ie bureaucrats) who came up with and implemented these policies. The politicians and appointees should be held responsible.

  37. Riffing on the doctors thread, I have seen three different doctors this year. Their reactions to my weight and health have been shocking to me.

    My GP has told me; “I’m not concerned about your weight if you’re not.” and tested my fasting glucose, A1C, cholesterol, and thyroid hormones because of family history. We found my insulin response and lipids satisfactory, but my thyroid less so. I got a prescription for synthroid, and the advice to “Keep up the good work, you’re very healthy.”

    My gynecologist confirmed my suspicion that I had PCOS, and switched my birth control to something better for the treatment of that, and started me on a couple of meds designed to help with the excess hair growth. I asked if the doctor thought weight loss would be helpful, since I kept reading that in all kinds of online articles about it. The response I got was “I don’t think so. I think the weight gain is more of a symptom than a cause.”

    The doctor at employee health I had to see for a physical when I got my job talked to me for less than 5 minutes, had no test results of any kind, and then told me “Well, your BMI indicates that you’re obese, and that means you’re at high risk for heart disease and diabetes, so you need to lose weight.” I got a pamphlet for the employee fitness center.

    Here’s the part that surprises me. The first two are very slim men. The employee health doctor is a fat woman. Projecting much?

  38. @Kaz – The prisoners are MEN. Men need to eat, dontcha know? They’ll talk for a steak.

    Delicate little ladies are just fine on 1000 calories a day.

  39. Yeah, the logic is definitely lacking with this justification of energy restriction. People do a LOT of things voluntarily that become criminal acts when done to them without consent. It would still be torture, for example, if they force-fed the prisoners, or raped them with the justification that “They have sex voluntarily!” There is no arguing that fact away.

    The interesting thing, to me, is the attempt to pinpoint a calorie level that crosses the line into “torture.” I’m not sure it can be done, because people’s calorie requirements differ by the individual, and it’s hard to know how many calories any individual requires, except by looking at whether they’re maintaining their body weight, which is an indirect measure at best.

    I guess my point is that restricting a (reasonably healthy) person’s food intake is not-okay, period, no matter what calorie level you give them. Some people might eat, ad libitum, around 1000 calories a day and maintain their normal-for-them weight, and be perfectly comfy with that. For someone like ME, however, restricting myself to 1800 kcals a day was very painful, and 1500 really felt torturous. I would guess that, ad libitum, I eat around 2500 kcals a day, and maintain a stable, high weight on that, and feel nourished. The issue, to me, is not so much the calorie level itself (though I think, if you looked at the normal distribution of energy needs for adults, you’d find 1000 kcals to be a several standard deviations below the mean, which is, of course, the whole rationale for their picking it to torture in the first place — it’s really not enough for the vast majority of people), but the act of imposing a restriction.

    It almost goes without saying, then, that even if you’re voluntarily imposing those restrictions on your own eating, you’re enacting an unkindness on yourself, at best, and possibly outright abuse, at worst. To do it to someone else, against their will, is unconscionable.

  40. Emmy, seriously, please share. I had all the symptoms of PCOS except the cyclical ones (still ovulating). But, I was REALLY sick from the insulin resistance, went to the doctor and they kept on saying things like “work on your diet and exercise.” Kept pushing and pushing, and it took several months before they would actually give me the tests I need, and then once the tests showed PCOS I still had to push for medication! Which fixed pretty much everything for me.

  41. Elle – I also have to say — and this might be really unreasonably feminazi of me — that I have ALWAYS had a big issue with the de facto assumption that women require fewer calories than men.

    Yes, I know that women are often smaller and have less muscle mass. And supposedly, there are metabolic studies to bear out that, on average, women require less food. But when I see it enshrined in health promotion tools (like Canada’s Food Guide, etc.) it just pisses me right off.

    I don’t know if I can fully verbalize this, except to say that women around the world are the ones more likely to go hungry so that their children can eat, or to not get enough to eat because they don’t have the means to get food, and are also often bear a higher nutritional burden due to pregnancy, menstruation, and breastfeeding. So the idea of assuming that we NEED LESS to begin with always sounds to me like a sneaky way of justifying this basic inequality.

    I, for one, actually require quite a bit more food than a lot of men, and I resent the implication that comes from the Food Guide and from the WHO equations for basal metabolic rate that I should get less to eat because of my sex.

    But, you know, I’m also just really crabby and resentful about putting rules on people’s eating in general. I turn green and stomp around like The Incredibly Hulk when it comes to this stuff.

  42. peggynature: yes! I feel the same way about that arbitrarily lower level for women. Especially after reading Perfection Salad, and the bit where it talks about ethnological studies during the early 20th century. I’ll look it up at some point. After dinner.

  43. I just had a small epiphany.

    People always judge teh fats as ‘lazy’ but in reality our gov’t is (was – Bush) too lazy to do any more in-depth research into what constitutes starving…they went by what the diet companies say? How lazy is that…it’s essentially reading the cliff notes of war and peace for heaven’s sake.

    Beyond that, our culture is lazy. Too lazy to look at the REAL data that show that we are NOT gluttonous pigs we are just f-a-t.

    And clearly many doctors are wildly prejudiced, this has been proven over and over and over in research. The whole idea that health is inextricably linked to thiness is the most lazy medicine I can imagine.

    So, generally, I would ask that the world stop calling ME lazy and I would politely ask you (the world) to be a little less lazy and do some research before you tell me I am fat because I eat too much.

    Phew. Thanks for listening.

  44. This is horrible, and there’s a whole other post in there about the way this is rationalized, the sickening, horrific way this is okay because people do it “voluntarily”. My grandmother underwent chemo for years because she was told it was the only way to save her life (and unlike dieting, it worked). That does not make it okay to pump poison into prisoners.

    Argh.

  45. Peggynature: there was a bit in Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth about a lot of cultures defaulting to women getting less food than men. Usually, it’s clearly a matter of men having higher status. It took the US to claim it was a matter of health.

  46. The Bald Soprano and Ashley,

    I wish I could make copies of these doctors to send all over the country. Alas, they are only available in South Mississippi at the current time. :)

  47. Peggynature: Re men vs women, I WISH they’d come up with ‘here’s what we recommend for a 5’4″ woman, here’s what we recommend for a 5’9″ woman, here’s what we recommend for a 5’9″ man, here’s what we recommend for a 6’3″ man.” Yes of course it would still be averaged and to a certain extent BS, but it would force them to try to separate out height’s affects on lean body mass from men’s greater average muscle mass.

    As it is? 5’9″ me is much more likely to go for the “man” column.

  48. The government minds truly astound me. “Torture isn’t really torture if there’s a group of people who do it voluntarily to themselves”?? So, since there are people who cut themselves for… well, whatever reason they do it… that means it’s ok to repeatedly cut political prisoners, right? I’m sure THAT would go over well on the news.

    I’m new to the site, by the way, and applaud what you’re doing here. I definitely don’t count myself as fat (except by Hollywood standards… 5’9″ and 120 lbs is healthy, my full, luscious ass!!), but unfortunately self-hatred and insecurity know no bounds. Keep it up.

  49. The comment about WW reminded me of what someone told me once. I was scheduled for my gastric bypass and a co-worker asked if I had tried everyting already, i.e. Weight Watchers. His comment was : “It always works for me, I lose weight everytime”.

    Duh! If you lose weight “every time” you do it, why do you need to keep doing it????

  50. This is why extreme critique of the female body and the ideal of thinness is a mechanism of the patriarchy for the repression of women. Girls and women too tired, depressed, hungry, and miserable to fight back will docilely accept their place as less than human and spend their time worrying about their calorie journals rather than their rights. Robbed of vitality and mental capacity, the standards they are forced to live up to (fatness does result in consequences like lower pay and social ostracization, obviously, making it something most want to avoid) are equivalent to psychological drugs used to keep disabled patients from vexing their families and society.

    Of course, if it’s done to the hospitalized or the incarcerated, it’s torture. Done or asked of women? Well, it’s simply a part of life. Nothing to see here other than a nation of starving depressed people too powerless to even protest their own oppression. Either your diet robs you of vitality, or your failure to live up to the thinness expected of women will result in enough social ridicule and hatred to do the same.

    But, bonus points if you can make the culture trumpet this torture as “health”. Yes, women of the industrialized world, it is “healthy” to quietly starve yourself of vitality and vigor. It’s “healthy” to make sure that mentally and physically you will never pose a threat to men who more encouraged, or at least not as heavily penalized, to eat enough to sustain them and fuel their brains. It is “healthy” to quietly submit to the hatred and scorn and dehumanization the world throws at you, and then thank them for being concerned about your “health”.

    God forbid women even have the mental energy to contemplate their oppression. They might get ideas! Like the idea that bodies come in all sizes and women are more than decorative pieces of unassuming furniture or sex toys in a man’s world. Heaven forbid!

  51. This is why extreme critique of the female body and the ideal of thinness is a mechanism of the patriarchy for the repression of women. Girls and women too tired, depressed, hungry, and miserable to fight back will docilely accept their place as less than human and spend their time worrying about their calorie journals rather than their rights. Robbed of vitality and mental capacity, the standards they are forced to live up to (fatness does result in consequences like lower pay and social ostracization, obviously, making it something most want to avoid) are equivalent to psychological drugs used to keep disabled patients from vexing their families and society.

    Jenn, I love a good conspiracy theory as much as anybody, but I’m pretty sure that what’s really going on it that once a culture gets a visual ideal for women into its head, the enforcers *don’t* *care* what it does to women. They really don’t, any more than people who are hooked on dog shows care if the dogs’ health is compromised by breed standards.

    All the enforcers care about is getting their favorite supernormal stimulus.

    It supports my theory that there’s no extra burden laid on naturally thin women– they’re allowed to have their basic metabolic comfort in peace.

  52. It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theory, Nancy… this is how the patriarchy works. Nobody has to actively plan to oppress women if they’ve built thousands of years of culture on it.

  53. “It supports my theory that there’s no extra burden laid on naturally thin women– they’re allowed to have their basic metabolic comfort in peace.”

    Nancy Lebovitz, I have to disagree. I used to be naturally thin (I’m fat because of PCOS which kicked in when I was 22), but I was still totally obsessed with dieting and was convinced that I was disgustingly fat, even though I knew that objectively I was rather thin. Moreover, I became convinced that the only reason I wasn’t a fatty fat fatty was because I wasn’t pigging out constantly.

    Incidentally, it was the very graphic illustration in my own body that convinced me that most fat people don’t fit the stereotype.

    I honestly felt a lot more oppressed about body size when I was a 4 or 6 than I do now at a 12-14.

  54. I know this is kinda off-topic – but I have to share – and by share, I mean gloat. ;p

    I had my re-assessment at the gym last night – I’d lost 3kgs (about 6 pounds – from where, I don’t know – I’d not been exercising more, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve been eating the same…).
    My awesome trainer looked at my records, saw my weight had been consistently 120kg (265lbs) for the past 18 months – and, wait for it …. DIDN’T CONGRATULATE ME ON THE WEIGHT LOSS!!!!
    In fact I got a mini lecture about not skipping meals (which I do when stressed), and to get more sleep.

    She was, like, actually concerned about my health & junk – I absolutely love her.

    I wish I could distill her awesomeness & put it in the drinking water…

  55. So because I used to voluntarily slice up my legs and ankles with knives, razors, bits of broken metal, whatever sharp objects I could get my hands on… this must mean that doing the same to a prisoner is PERFECTLY FINE. Especially since I still want to cut when I get depressed, I just don’t because I promised my loved ones that I wouldn’t.

    Epic logic fail.

    (Why legs and ankles? People look at your arms and wrists when they know you’ve been depressed, and it’s too damn hot here most of the year to wear long sleeves. Not so much the lower half of the body.)

  56. OC -> EXACTLY!

    How does that old attributable-to-any-dead-white-smart-guy quote about insanity go? I differ, though – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is NOT insanity, it’s stupidity. Mostly when things are called insane, they are actually stupid, but it’s less socially acceptable to call someone stupid. :)

    People legally do stuff to kids routinely which, if done to an adult (well, an adult man), would be felonies and garner prison sentences.

  57. Minnesota Starvation Experiment. omg. I’m going to print that article and show it to my doctor!

    I’ve been on a “diet” of one for or another since I was 9. That’s 43 YEARS for me. 43 years of hell.

    The diets didn’t work, of course. I was MISERABLE (go figure!) and absolutely food obsessed. Yeah, to the point of looking for the calorie count in gum and coughdrops.

    In February of last year, my specialist told me that she can’t keep Doritos in her house because she loves them and she’d eat them so fast omg, so I should take a leaf out of her book, and just not keep fattening food in the house. (Now! Why didn’t I think of that!?? REVOLUTIONARY stuff there!)

    That? Pissed me right the hell off.

    Pissed off me hasn’t been on ANY kind of diet since that day. ( It was shortly after that I was directed to this site, which I have to say has been a sanity saver in more ways than one.) I’ve stopped obsessing about food. And it’s a relief. Not that I still don’t think more about food and weight than is good for me, but I’m not obsessed any more.

    Kate, if you ever do a weight loss horror story column with a “medical establishmen=dickheads” tone, I have a doozy of a story to share.

  58. ZOMG I really thought this was, like, some fake meme.
    I thought even the Bush Administration Justice Department wouldn’t make this up.

    Then again, knowing some dieters that went to work for that department …

  59. @Nancy

    Men don’t have to consciously realize that they want women to diet obsessively and be preoccupied with their weight rather than challenge them intellectually, physically, emotionally, or socially for the mechanism that do so to not exist.

    Furthermore, the average man (and woman’s) distaste for loud outspoken women, especially women who are outspoken about not submitting to their beauty standards or resenting those beauty standards, or even talking about dieting (men hate when women talk about dieting. I’ve seen hundreds of men complain that hey hate when a woman criticizes their body or nibbles on salad at dinner, then try to spin that sentiment as progressive embrace of “healthy women” rather that the misogyny and ignorance it is) is indicative of a cultural value, accepted unconsciously, that women should shut up, look like they are told regardless of the toll, and suffer silently.

  60. Nobody has to actively plan to oppress women if they’ve built thousands of years of culture on it.

    Totes. The most efficient form of oppression is internalized oppression.

    Witchylana, can I have your trainer’s autograph?
    Better yet, can she come do master class on Pilates chair so we can all make sure we’re doin it rite? I don’t think it’s fair that you should keep her all to yourself.
    Kidding.
    Kind of. :D

  61. Ashley, you might want to go back and check out my guest post from a few months ago. Actually, here is the link for the cross-listed post.

    Also: I hate the world. The torture memos and the government’s reaction and the stupid people defending torture… I just can’t even find the words these days.

  62. I don’t think you can draw a line of x calories is torture–I don’t think I’d feel tortured (or particularly hungry) on 1000 calories a day as long as I’m not exercising heavily. But I have had low appetite issues since I was a small child and frequently have to make myself eat a reasonable amount. On lazy weekends I’ll often forget to eat more than a banana or muffin until dinnertime. This frankly worries me about myself, but it hasn’t changed in 2 decades, so I think it’s hardwired into my brain chemistry. I do get spacey and faint when my blood sugar gets too low, but that’s usually an effect of insufficient protein for me, not insufficient calories–when I’m stressed, I can function pretty well on very little food (stress makes me nauseous).

    I am a freak; but there are other freaks like me. There are also people who would be hungry and jittery and miserable on less than 2000 calories a day–quite a lot more of them than people like me, I expect.

    Not giving people enough food for their personal mental and physical health requirements is torture. Those requirements will vary from person to person. Just because some people voluntarily choose to be miserable does not make it not torture when it’s inflicted upon people against their will.

    As others have pointed out, people voluntarily do things–self-injury, BDSM, etc.–that are emphatically Not Okay to do to people against their will.

  63. Nancy, this has been covered already, but oppressions don’t require conspiracy theories — the conspiracy, in fact, is out in the open, and it’s called patriarchy (in this case; in other cases, it’s called institutionalized racism/white supremacy, and so on). What else do you call it when, for instance, men email Kate literally minutes after she was on CNN to tell her she was ugly and stupid and should just shut up? A coincidence?

  64. “But what if that’s the ONLY WAY to get the fatty to tell you where the donuts are hidden?”

    Pshaw FJ bish plz. We eateded them longtime.
    U will nevah find them. Muahaha.

    MarySue, I have found that one of the ways to neatly deflect kindly well-meaning female relatives winding up the spring “Must start up WW again” pitch is to look askance and say, “But if it worked the last time, you wouldn’t need to start it up again, would you?”

    And then invite them to Pilates class with bland look on face.
    Because down the WW way lies obsession. And I for one am not going out like that.

    (But you may not want to take that suggestion from me, ‘cawz I am knone as confruntayshunal liek that.
    *dimples*)

  65. I have been wondering for a while, none too coherently, about the purported “women inheretly need less calories” — going apparently and horrifically back to caveman days where womens’ teeth would get knocked out so they wouldn’t be able to eat “more than their share” of the meat men brought back (hooks? Friday? Wolf? *shudder*) — in tandem with this taboo, seemingly more and more strict, on women eating n public.

    Whether the women are fatter or thinner, men seem transfixed on women who can “eat more”. I wonder if there’s something primal in them that gets uncomfortable, wondering if we actually eat our fill for once, if we’re going to be strong enough to hit back for all the millennia of oppression.

    Just one of those murky subconscious things. You know?

  66. littlem- Where that’s concerned (men’s fixation on women eating more), I think a lot of that comes from the much understated male anxiety about eating and weight gain in our culture as well, and the double standards that exist for judging male and female eating. (Like how young girls need to watch their figures and restrict what they eat, but young boys can binge-eat until they’re sick because they’re “growing boys”.) The double standard is harmful to both genders. I think that when men say they’re uncomfortable with women who pick at a piece of lettuce and take a sip of Diet Coke and are full, or who maybe want to eat something that’s a little more variegated than burgers or pizza or chicken fingers all the time, subconsciously they may feel guilty about their own eating, but instead of saying, “Fuck it, I’ll just have a salad” they make it seem like the woman is doing something wrong or weird by not eating a lot. They take it personally, rather than understanding that it’s something she’s been culturally trained to do- and furthermore, without realizing that this very projection is something they’ve also been culturally trained to do, as female eating has always been under scrutiny, but male eating, not so much- unless he was already noticeably overweight to begin with.

  67. @Lucy – That’s a helpful insight.

    But I was referring to the types of boys/males that say things like “Wow! You’re going to have more?” or “You sure can put it away” — specializing in that special type of tactlessness reserved for women who actually do eat.

    As opposed to the ones I think you’re referring to, who whine when acculturated women on dates say “I’ll just have a salad” because the women will feel shamed if they don’t eat daintily, and the boys/males are ticked because they “spent all that money and all she wants is a salad she won’t even finish.”

    Although, agreed — what you brought up is another level of the problem. (I should have been more clear. I think I did warn at the outset that there might be some mumbling/rambling.)

  68. About the issue of how much women eat…you know, I’ve always found this to be a pretty good litmus test of men’s level of sexism in general. Now I’m not a big woman, and I eat a LOT. I’ve noticed an interesting pattern whereby men who generally like and are comfortable with women either just don’t notice or comment on how much I eat, or express a sort of surprised delight – like, OMG, you actually finished your meal! It’s so awesome to see a woman actually eat! (I live in California, a lot of people here are pretty calorie-phobic). But men who radiate sexism, or fear of strong women? Oh, those men don’t like seeing me eat at all. They’re prone to disapproving looks and/or comments about how normally women don’t eat like that. It’s interesting how often I’ve had the comment “you eat like a man” made to me.

    So yeah, IME there’s a strong correlation between levels of sexism and how men react to how much women eat. I’m not buying that it isn’t a control mechanism for precisely that reason. Anyone else noticed the same pattern?

  69. Or, to be more succinct – IME the kind of men who’re terrified that if they push a woman she might just push back are EXACTLY the kind of men who tend to monitor how much women eat and express dissaproval if they eat “too much”, even if the woman in question is thin. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

  70. I’ve been on the fence about posting here for a long time. On the one hand, I’m fairly normal sized (except in my own head) and feel kind of like I shouldn’t ask to belong here. I’m outspoken and eat what I want and honestly have never had a man treat me like a second class citizen. (Or I don’t notice it at any rate.)

    On the other hand, ever since popping out my second child four years ago, I feel fat and unattractive 80% of the time. And until last week, I thought it was completely internal and something I just had to “push through” so to speak. Then, during a Nutrislim commercial, or some other hokey infomercial that promises youth and beauty without exercise, my four year daughter tells me I need that because I’m fat. Which horrified me and we instantly had a discussion about how the women on tv torture themselves to look like that and it isn’t anything but make-believe.

    But it made me realize that while the people in my life (husband, friends, family, co-workers) are perfectly content with my body and personality, no matter what size you are the media is intent on telling women that we’ll never be good enough.

    So, rant over. I’m not sure if I fit in here, or if you’ll have me but thanks at least for letting me know I’m not alone.

  71. wittymom, not-fat people are definitely welcome here; I’m not fat, for instance.

    I’m so sad (but not surprised) to hear that your 4-year-old has already absorbed the anti-fat message. It sounds like you had a good conversation to follow that up.

  72. my four year daughter tells me I need that because I’m fat. Which horrified me and we instantly had a discussion about how the women on tv torture themselves to look like that and it isn’t anything but make-believe.

    First, as SM said, welcome! Second, as horrifying as it must have been to realize your 4-year-old is already absorbing anti-fat messages, I LOVE that that led to a conversation about unrealistic expectations for women’s bodies, instead of how it’s “not nice” to call people fat, or how you’re not actually fat — which tend to be the kneejerk responses and only reinforce that fat = bad.

  73. *waves*

    Hi, wittymom! I’ve got a four-year-old too. :) I’ve not yet heard fat-as-insult talk from him or his friends, but I’ve heard a lot of “that’s a SOMETIMES food!” talk IN HIS PRESCHOOL CLASS. Whatever the intent of the whole “sometimes food” construction, it seems to me to function as a training diet. I try to tell Nathan (and the other kids) that every food is a sometimes food, unless you eat the same thing every day for every meal, and that wouldn’t make anybody feel happy.

  74. not-fat people are definitely welcome here

    I will echo that, of course, with the caveat that we don’t usually call them “normal sized.” For reasons that I assume are obvious.

  75. (Oh, wittymom, just to clarify: I don’t mean to imply that there’s anything wrong with your daughter for the fat-is-bad comment, or to be all, “Well, I’ve not heard that from MY son or HIS friends!” Actually, I think my son is allowed to be more impervious because he’s male, sadly, and also I don’t hang out at his preschool much so there’s a lot I probably miss. Sorry, I just realized how that might have sounded.)

  76. And also, I’ve not commented about the subject of this post yet because the whole thing makes me so angry I can’t put words to it. The torture memos period…. and now this justification of starvation that’s more than a little tinged with, “Well, if even dowdy unattractive women, whom we all know are wimps and worthy of contempt, can restrict calories and still do whatever it is they do all day… well, it’s certainly not going to be too hard on someone with a middle-eastern-sounding name, whom we all know are toughened by virtue of their being not quite human!”

    That’s some seriously advanced, doctoral-level contempt, right there.

  77. Thank you for the warm welcome everyone! And I apologize for the “normal sized” comment. It’s just what my mom has called me ever since I had kids and is just ingrained into my brain. -_- Sorry!

    And no offense taken A Sarah; my son (who is 8) was in the room when the discussion was had about body size and he looked at me like I was speaking in tongues. I don’t think body issues kick in for boys until a much older age; although my husband assures me that men are just as self-conscious but society doesn’t find it acceptable for men to lament.

    On a side note, my hubby does get up in arms about commercials that portray men as bumbling idiots incapable of simple tasks such as doing laundry or finding milk in the grocery store.

  78. And I apologize for the “normal sized” comment. It’s just what my mom has called me ever since I had kids and is just ingrained into my brain. -_- Sorry!

    No worries — it’s what everyone says everywhere else, so I completely understand about using the phrase without thinking about it.

    And no offense taken A Sarah

    This is almost always the case when A Sarah apologizes for giving possible offense, but it’s so adorable when she does it. :)

  79. wittymom, don’t ever feel bad for being on the smaller end of the spectrum. Even if you’re not one of the women marginalized for being ‘too big’, I’m sure you know people that are. I’m all too aware of the advantages I get for being small, because my wife, my mother, my sisters and my workmates aren’t. I see no reason not to be in this movement, because what affects them directly also indirectly affects me and every other woman like me.

  80. Emmy, I’m just a lurker but I wanted to tell you a bit more about PCOS. I have it and I was diagnosed with it when I was 24. Birth control pills actually just disguise the symptoms of PCOS and lowering blood sugar is the more modern approach to treatment. Fasting glucose tests are not the be-all end-all of whether your body can handle sugar. When I got the PCOS diagnosis, I demanded a oral glucose tolerance test which is frequently an earlier marker of impaired glucose tolerance and it was high. Your doctors might be nice but they’re also not giving you good treatment. Check out soulsysters.com and ask for an oral glucose tolerance test.

  81. This pretty much underlines the cluelessness that many people have around issues of consent. Just because someone consents to starve themselves for some ideal of thin does not mean that it’s ok to force people to starve themselves. I like the e-stim/electric torture comparison. I know people who consent to be cut, burned, and whipped for their own reasons, it’s the consent that matters. Flog a prisoner: torture, flog someone who is literally begging you to do it: kink.

    Speaking as someone who lives on an involuntary low caloric intake, I can totally believe that it would lead to confessions. Starve someone long enough and they’ll do anything for food; where they have agency that usually involves selling possessions and stealing. The problem with torture is always that people will tell you anything to make it stop, they will make shit up.

  82. This is almost always the case when A Sarah apologizes for giving possible offense, but it’s so adorable when she does it. :)

    Awwwwww. *blushes* :)

  83. Not exactly on topic here, but on the subject of 4-year-olds and food talk, the other day I was taking a nap (a rare thing for me) and she came in and told me that I needed food so I would have energy. She told me I needed to eat 3 things. And asked me if I wanted a banana. We actually didn’t have any bananas. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have run her around the house on my shoulders in delight. That is what she is learning at preschool/daycare — where they eat lunch family-style, and from her dad, too. Food is energy, and food is pleasure.

  84. What’s that about consent, Godless Heathen? Those prisoners were asking for it. Sure, they were dressed modestly, but they were making flirty eyes.

  85. I’m gonna dust off some beloved feminist references and ask if it’s also cool to encase detainees’ torsos in cages made of cloth and metal to give them dainty waists, bind their feet into “golden lotuses,” give them belladonna for that stunning dilated-pupil look, and paint their faces with lead. Forget weeks. Women did that stuff voluntarily for decades, if not centuries, without any medical supervision whatsoever!

  86. Thanks, A Sarah. You are awesome. Congratulations on your recent good news. Enjoy the crayons (pronounced as “krons” around my house).

    My girl’s definitely got some unusual ideas. Lately, she’s been saying that I’m beautiful and that her dad is not beautiful. I tell her I think he is beautiful, and she says he is sometimes. And she says she’s bigger than me sometimes, when in fact, I outweigh her by about 190 pounds.

  87. Posting here under a somewhat anonymous name. I have visited this blog before but found this post entirely by accident – it was being featured on WordPress, how cool is that?

    But anyway – my situation – in spite of being a feminist, of being aware of the marketing BS that’s shoved down women’s throats, in spite of believing, intellectually, and knowing through having educated myself that dieting is BS and not really good for you and all the rest: none of this changes that I am eating disordered – I am not allowed to call it anorexia because I weigh almost 300 pounds. Fitday makes me laugh – it has claimed for years I must be eating around 3000 calories a day, even though I get pretty much no exercise, to merely maintain my weight. I’m obsessive enough about counting my calories that I know I never eat 3000 a day. If I eat 2500 in a day I feel bloated and ill – usually I eat somewhere between 2000-2200. Still, in spite of this terribly normal calorie intake I have very, very slowly been gaining weight. Like many of the commenters here, I have PCOS. For whatever reason my doctor only ever tried giving me the pill as treatment – since I already have migraines, it merely intensified them to an unbearable level, and she never tried to give me anything else – and now I have no health insurance at all, so no doctor either. I also have back problems from scoliosis, and PTSD from being abused as a child. The combination of these makes exercise, most days, unthinkable – I try to pat myself on the back some days simply for getting out of bed and doing some light housecleaning. Okay, I’m rambling. I’m probably not thinking clearly. To make a long rambly story short, well, when I saw the title of this I was a little stunned. In spite of everything I know, there’s just too much pressure on me in too many ways anymore. My non-anorexia is back. I was “good” today – I had under 800 calories. I know all the tricks to do this and not even have anyone notice. I’ve been “dieting” for a month now – having between 900-1300 calories a day. The 1300 calorie days are my “bad” days. Today I have been so proud of myself, I managed to eat far less than my goal, and I’m not even hungry! The part of my brain that is still thinking notes to me the changes I see happening, watching my skin dry out, noticing how I’m shivering in sweaters while other people are warming up in this beautiful spring weather and putting fans in the window. But the monster inside of me tells me every time I set the fork down I am winning a victory, and the sad thing is, I can find a lot more encouragement for that point of view in the world than I can any voice of sanity or reason telling me I”m hurting myself.
    I know I’m hurting myself. But I also know 99.999999% of the world doesn’t give a damn if I eat under 1500, under 1200, under 1,000, under 600 calories a day because I’m “morbidly obese” and I have no right to eat, my body is an affront to the eye and human decency (and I never leave the house unless I’m with a friend, because I’m just too scared- and last time I left the house some random person yelled at me to “lose 20 pounds”). I pretty much figure I can’t ever be a “normal weight” unless I eat less than 1200 calories a day for life. not sure how long I will live like that. but a part of me doesn’t even care anymore if I die twenty years early. I just can’t stand the way people treat me any more. So I’m starving, obsessed with my calorie intake, eating less than the average healthy two year old, but I’m not anorexic unless I weigh under 110 pounds. That’s less than what I weighed when I was a slender 11 year old somewhat shorter than I am now. And that is what I want to weigh again, even though a part of me wonders if I would even live if I lost that much weight. Maybe I would – the human body is very resilient. And maybe I wouldn’t. I contemplate, in a dazed, distant sort of way, that it could be possible for me to starve to death without ever being thin “enough” to be considered clinically anorexic.

    So I guess it was timely I saw this. I’m not saying it’s going to stop me doing what I’m doing. A small part of me recognizes I’m out of control – I also don’t think, at this point, I could manage to eat a full meal without throwing up. The monster in my head that is controlling my life tells me, however, that I am being a Very Good Girl by starving and an even better one by not letting any of the people around me who care about me catch on because then they might worry and also I would be complaining about doing no more than I ought to do since I’m so disgusting and all. That’s the part of me that believes 1000 calories is too much to eat in a day because it has four digits in it. Four digits bad, three digits good.

  88. Cassandra, I agree, though I can see the other side of this too where men may actually feel like they’re eating too much because the women they’re with are eating so little (and also the side where as others pointed out, as a woman, you’re expected to suffer but not show any signs of suffering). However, I pretty much knew I’d found myself an awesome guy when we spent a week snuggled up on the couch together and he saw just how much I eat and was literally delighted. He practically skipped when I told him how much I like to cook. Also, the idea that women require less… I eat just about as much as my dad and always have – we also both happen to have similar builds and a lot of the same (swedish-looking) genetic traits. Correlation anyone? Where as my mom and sister’s hunger is generally pretty much also in sync (they also tend to be the ones who are rather similar in genetic traits). I can’t help but get really annoyed as well when people try to go all “women are weaker and therefore need less sustenance” and fail to see that it’s actually more logical to assume that some women may be weaker BECAUSE they’re receiving less sustenance thanks to a fat hating culture.

    Also, this is a little off-topic, but I’m just curious if perhaps it’s seen as even more of a torture device because most of the prisoners would be men and most (targeted) American dieters are women. I wonder if this is perhaps sort of a subconscious (or conscious) way of emasculating the prisoners as well. After all, a lot of the body issues males experience are less publicized because it’s seen as somehow less masculine to restrict your food intake. Like less food = pansy?

    I really probably shouldn’t post this late when my brain is scrambled and can’t make sense of my tired ramblings.

  89. It says a lot that many of the popular American diets are actually in violation of the Geneva Convention!

    Talk about food as a human rights issue!

  90. Never have the connections among size acceptance, food justice, and human rights been so clear. People should have access to enough food of good variety and quality, and it should not be denied them due to money, incarceration, or loathing of certain bodies.

  91. A Sarah, I saw in the other thread about your job offer. Congratulations!! God, they’re lucky to get you.

    On the topic of women eating in public — I was getting a slice of carrot cake in our uni canteen yesterday (because I needed sugar to sustain me through studying for the finals I’m going to OHMYGODFAIL) and as I was standing in the line I saw a guy look at me, with a bottle of coke (for gf) in one hand and cake in the other, and my immediate thought was “I bet he’s thinking ‘Yeah, that’s how she got that way.'” Whereupon I pulled in my stomach, aware that this was completely nutso, and yet there it was.

    It’s the first time I’ve had such a clear voice in my head beloning to “someone else” I think is “judging” me based on my food choices in public, and I had no idea what to do with it. It’s like there’s all this dormant fat-hating shit just lurking at the back of my brain, and now I’m bigger it’s leaking out a little bit at a time. Because my body size is absolutely what I need to focussing on right now, with less than a week to go til DEATH EXAMS *BITES OFF FINGERNAILS*

    I’m sure there is much useful t hinking to be done on that, but since my brain is full of geneticry (did you know in myotonic dystophy it’s the CUG tract in the mRNA not the DNA that causes the disease phenotype? imagine!) I will have to figure this shit out another time. It just angers me that I am continually being ambushed by corners of my own brain just when I MOST NEED IT TO BE ON MY SIDE.

  92. Caitlin,
    Doesn’t it suck? And notice that he had the exact same cake, so what’s that about? I’ve been doing it too, especially since I’m sitting through a lot of interview lunches and breakfasts that have so much good food and sitting there with the college president complaining about how much weight he always gains when we do these things and then everyone talks about how we should bring back the employee WW program, and gaaaa.

    I’m sure your sympathy is zero (as well it should be), but on the other side we’re doing the same thing only it’s OMG I have to write and grade all of the death exams as well as all of the term papers I still haven’t gotten to yet and the current event summaries and how the hell did I screw up and make everything due at the same time again and I’ll never get final grades in on time aaaaaaa. ;)

  93. Ostara, similar to me and my husband. He’s only about an inch taller than I am, and when we met we were almost exactly the same weight. Not only was he surprised that we weighed the same, but he was shocked was actually willing to *tell* him my true weight!
    He’s put on some weight since then but I’m 30 weeks pregnant and now am catching up, lol. So it makes sense that we eat about the same amount of food.

  94. FYI, there’s an article in the NYT today about the origins of the torture techniques the US has been using. This is what I was trying to remember about the false confessions:

    According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

  95. That training program is brutal. The military members who who choose to go (AFAIK they can’t legally require anyone to do it, at least) are opting into being terrorized and tortured for several days.

  96. SM, thank you. I read that when it was posted and I remember thinking how right-on it was, and reading it again now (with, obvs, piles of stress), it’s like you have A WINDOW INTO MY BRAIN. (You don’t, do you? Because if so that might be where all the information I know I’ve read is disappearing to. CLOSE THE WINDOW, SOME OF US HAVE FINALS! *flail*)

    Also, I cannot respond to the actual topic of this thread because I had to go into denial that America — actual fucking America, land of whatever the fuck — uses torture, and that my own government colluded in it, or I would enter that state of pure white age where I actually cease to have useful brain function. So.

    I will be adding it to the Minnesota starvation experiment in my roster of “things that might give people a tiny starting ‘wtf?’ moment about dieting culture”, though. I love those moments where a tiny lightbulb briefly flickers on before antifat crazy piles on to put it out again. They give me hope.

  97. *rage, not pure white age. Though I imagine pure white age would be some kind of awesome transcendental state I wouldn’t mind inhabiting. A bit like Gandalf the White.

  98. Just stumbled upon this site yesterday, and I’m already loving it. It’s nice to see some sanity in a world of calorie counting and WW and having hawk-eyed women grill me on my “dieting” strategies if I manage to lose a pound or two (most common reason? “I’ve had the flu.”)

    Even though I had a (good intentioned? She was nice at least) doctor set a good goal weight for my 5’8, large framed self as 120 pounds, I don’t believe that would ever EVER be healthy for me.

    My BMI is never going to be what “it should be.” Unless I become incredibly ill, I will never fit into single digit sizes. After years of struggling, my thinking is — eat what you’re supposed to eat ( I will always think that a good homemade organic cheese is better for me than something made with fake foods) and do what bodies are meant to do (move some, sit some, play some, etc) and whatever weight you are is the weight you are meant to be.

  99. JenRave, I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. Right now I can’t muster more of a response than than sputtering rage at our fucked up culture and fucked up health-care system, but perhaps cooler heads than mine might be able to direct towards strategies for getting the care you so deserve.

  100. @ Jenn …..Men don’t have to consciously realize that they want women to diet obsessively and be preoccupied with their weight rather than challenge them intellectually, physically, emotionally, or socially for the mechanism that do so to not exist.

    Furthermore, the average man (and woman’s) distaste for loud outspoken women, especially women who are outspoken about not submitting to their beauty standards or resenting those beauty standards, or even talking about dieting…..

    THIS…YES.

    And why since the weekend, I want to live on an island by myself or at least without men.

  101. JenRave,

    Like It I have no strategies to offer; I just wish you could live among people who accepted you and encouraged you to eat, because it breaks my heart you’re being encouraged to self-harm this way. But it’s undeniable that’s what our culture does. :(

    I hope at least you can conquer that diet monster once again and start eating more soon.

  102. According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know

    Yeah. Right.
    *rolls eyes violently*

    Why is it that these guys, these top officials (’cause they’re nearly always guys) seem to always have their lobotomies after they’ve taken their oaths and begun testifying before Congress, or wherever it is that they’re being called to account for the atrocities they’ve been approving and facilitating … and making their careers on?

    Is there somewhere we can write to request that whoever is in charge start scheduling these lobotomies before these officers are approving their tortures?

    Hmmm?

  103. Vanessa, on April 21st, 2009 at 11:52 pm Said:

    Emmy, I’m just a lurker but I wanted to tell you a bit more about PCOS. I have it and I was diagnosed with it when I was 24. Birth control pills actually just disguise the symptoms of PCOS and lowering blood sugar is the more modern approach to treatment. Fasting glucose tests are not the be-all end-all of whether your body can handle sugar. When I got the PCOS diagnosis, I demanded a oral glucose tolerance test which is frequently an earlier marker of impaired glucose tolerance and it was high. Your doctors might be nice but they’re also not giving you good treatment. Check out soulsysters.com and ask for an oral glucose tolerance test.

    I really appreciate you jumping in there Vanessa, because who knows who else doesn’t know all that, right?

    I didn’t go into a huge amount of detail in that comment, since my point was mainly the weirdly differing reactions of doctors, but actually, mine has been really good about trying to find the glucose antagonist that will work for me. We tried metformin, but I get horrible GI side effects that do not go away, even after 6 months, so we’re looking into other options. I’m trying to talk him into Byetta, because I’ve seen some really promising clinical trials, and it doesn’t seem to give people the Butt Rocket quite so bad.

    Birth control pills are actually pretty good for some of us, though. If you’re prone to cysts (which not everyone with PCOS has, so it’s a bit of a misnomer) preventing ovulation has a protective effect against them. It’s not a cure-all, but it helps. They’re part of an effective treatment plan, but you’re absolutely right that they’re not the only part.

    I don’t mean to sound like “I already knew that, shut up.” I really do appreciate the concern. :)

  104. Also, this is a little off-topic, but I’m just curious if perhaps it’s seen as even more of a torture device because most of the prisoners would be men and most (targeted) American dieters are women. I wonder if this is perhaps sort of a subconscious (or conscious) way of emasculating the prisoners as well. After all, a lot of the body issues males experience are less publicized because it’s seen as somehow less masculine to restrict your food intake. Like less food = pansy?

    Whoa.

    I have to go cry now.

    (Before I go — does anyone else feel like with the new Administration, there’s going to be a bunch of ugly things coming to light not only from the most recent Administration before it, but ugly ugly UGLY things that have been buried in the North American cultural psyche for a really long time … and they’re not going back under the rug any time soon, and it’s going to be horrific even for those of us who have tried to grapple with/examine these things, and we’re still just going to have to find a way to just — deal??)

  105. @Caitlin:
    It just angers me that I am continually being ambushed by corners of my own brain just when I MOST NEED IT TO BE ON MY SIDE.

    Bad brain! BAD! BAD! Poke it with a Q-tip!*

    *please don’t actually try to poke your brain with a Q-tip. I’m not a doctor, but I can’t help but imagine that way leads tears and blood.

  106. In terms of the men expect women to eat dainty portions/men love a gal who can eat thing, I’ve always felt like culture demands women who can eat eat eat whatever fun, cool, carefree stuff they want yet effortlessly remain the acceptably stick-thin standard. Like all those Hardee’s and whatever ads with Padma and Jessica Simpson and Paris making out with big beefy burgers. Because starving yourself thin is not difficult enough. No, we want you be “fun” and eat bacon but also magically be a cellulite-free size 0.

    Sorry this is OT to the post but for some reason this really always gets my goat. I was reading some food blog somewhere talking about a foodie couple where the dude was fat and the woman was thin and the writer was describing their eating habits and (applaudingly, of course) saying like oh Mrs. eats whatever Mr. eats, but if you watch carefully you’ll see that Mrs. only ever eats one or two bites of food while Mr. finishes his plate. No wonder she keeps her figure!

    Which sure, maybe that is just her appetite but it was this exact “women should find a way to present the outward appearance of being big adventurous eaters while also eating few enough calories to be thin and fuckable” that makes it literally impossible to conform for most women, even if they wanted to. Blarg.

  107. 1000 calories a day is torture! I know because I have done it to myself. The book The Diet Cure by Julia Ross says the WHO considers under 2,200 calories starvation! Humans need calories! Must eat food!

  108. People voluntarily inject heroin into their veins, too, but that doesn’t make that medically safe. People do a lot of shit voluntarily that’s not medically safe! How is this an acceptable legal argument?

  109. Because starving yourself thin is not difficult enough. No, we want you be “fun” and eat bacon but also magically be a cellulite-free size 0.

    Yup. The same way, back in the 60’s, women were advised that men like the house tidy but find the noise of the vaccuum irritating and hate being asked to move their sock-clad feet off the coffee table to the little missus can dust it.

    And the same way as how then, and now, women are expected to look gorgeous and perfectly coiffed but not go to bed with a cold-creamed face, let their man see them with curlers in, or take more than like 5 minutes to get ready for a date.

    Men’s surroundings and property, including their female property, must be pleasing to the men at all times without ever presenting any inconveniences; it is the duty of the universe to present only attractiveness to the male existence.

  110. Men’s surroundings and property, including their female property, must be pleasing to the men at all times without ever presenting any inconveniences; it is the duty of the universe to present only attractiveness to the male existence.

    Gee, I wonder why so many feminists are so angry. /sarcasm.

  111. @ Slythwotf –

    Infuriating, isn’t it? It’s almost like people at the highest levels don’t know what consent is, or something. No wonder rape and sexual assault victims are treated with such understanding and compassion!
    ***headdesk to infiinity**

    Really hating the world right now – looks like being ashamed to be American didn’t go away after the inaguaration, after all.

  112. What’s that about consent, Godless Heathen? Those prisoners were asking for it. Sure, they were dressed modestly, but they were making flirty eyes.

    Really, if you’re going to walk around being brown, or Muslim, without taking any precautions, you’re just asking to get tortured! We’re only thinking of your safety, why don’t you take some responsibility!

    (Extra squick in typing that for the use of the passive voice. Torture, like rape, just happens. It’s not something that powerful people do to powerless people, it’s just out there floating on it’s own. I’m gonna go cry now for my species.)

  113. Late for this, and somewhat off-topic but: Good luck, Caitlin!!! You’ll do great, because you’re way smart! When you speak, as you put it, geneticry (hee!), I’m impressed like whoa.

    (I also know nothing about genetics, and I already think you’re way smart… but while that makes me a naturally appreciative audience it doesn’t detract from the matter at hand, which is your awesomeness.)

  114. Way late response to lilpeadot– that reminds me of when one of my clueless thin friends informed me that she “doesn’t have a PROBLEM with overweight people unless you know they just got that way by sitting on the couch being lazy and swallowing cheetos all day”. Unfortunately, I said nothing, but I should have said “Well, I don’t have a problem with shallow, presumptuous, smugly self-satisfied people unless I know they got that way by sitting on the couch being lazy and swallowing whatever the hive mind tells them to all day…”

  115. Libby? Just for reference, since your doctor’s recommendation sounded batshit to me, I ran those numbers through a BMI calculator. At 120 pounds you would have a BMI of 18.2, which is officially underweight. No matter how nice she might be, that’s not a very good doctor if she’s instructing her patients to aim for being underweight.

    This stuff pisses me off so much. If doctors are going to place so much importance on the damn chart you’d think they could at least learn to read it properly,

  116. Auds and Kristin, YES to that too. It was something else I wanted to note when I brought up the whole masculine eating thing but obviously didn’t have the brainpower to remember to address. It was something I always felt was so hypocritical but never knew really how to explain because all my girlfriends who’d had more experience with men than me (which was pretty much all my girlfriends in college) swore up and down that men loved women who could EAT like me but then I’d say “but they don’t like when girls who look like I do eat like I do” and they’d say that was bogus. For some men, like my guy, sure it is bogus. For others though, it’s bogus to point out this sort of thing. And of course, to some of the most doucherific, it’s just your imagination. No one’s telling you this. Yes, exactly. Because as a woman, not only do I require less food than a man, but clearly I’m also just overly emotional and am making all this shit up. Yellow wallpaper, anybody?

  117. Another thought on the government’s opinion that dieting is TOTALLY not torture:

    Putting prisoners on a calorie restricted diet is tacit admission that weight loss dieting doesn’t cause permanent weight loss. Because if it did, and if you then put prisoners on a regime that would cause permanent changes to their bodies, then wouldn’t that be equivalent to subjecting them to the removal of a body part without their consent? The only way this treatment isn’t torture is if it does NOT have a permanent effect.

    Oh, but all you fatties should totally diet anyway.

  118. But…but..but O.C., they gain weight because they stop dieting! They fall off the wagon! You see! It does work as long as you’re strong enough to stick it out for the rest. of. your. life!!!

  119. Oh. my. double. goodness. I had never heard of the Minnesota Starvation Study until now.

    My mind is blown. How much of my mental health problems have been due to poverty-related calorie restriction as a child and disordered eating/dieting as a teen/adult? My mind is blown!

    Thank you for linking to that.

  120. O.C. said: “People do all sorts of self harm: Cutting, pulling out hair, scarification, Munchausen’s, suicide… Nobody in psychology is claiming that these behaviors aren’t harmful just because someone is doing it to him/herself.”

    Spot on. Absolutely. I’m so tired of doctors claiming that voluntary self-harm isn’t harmful if the results fit their prejudices about health and wellness…

  121. Nancy Lebovitz, gotta disagree. I know you have me friended on LJ–you must have missed my posts about how as a 135 pound size 12 teenager I had no idea that I was generally considered “hot” and went into eating disordered behaviour while dancing many hours a week, lost enough weight that I look like an alien (big head, wispy body) in pics from that era and my father STILL asks me if I don’t want to look like that again. I would probably do terrible things if I could get the body I had when I was first convinced I resembled a sea slug.

  122. What the hell, are they serious? I’m 22, female, 5’0″, 110 lbs and I maintain my weight on 2500 – 3000 calories a day and I live a pretty sedentary lifestyle.

    1000 calories is torture. Not just physically, but mentally as well. I’d venture a guess that all recovered anorexics would agree with that.

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