Quick Hit: Turns out People Aren’t Rats

Check it out:

Calorie restriction, a diet that is low in calories and high in nutrition, may not be as effective at extending life in people as it is in rodents, according to scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

You don’t say.

Go read the whole article. Some interesting stuff there. I’ve got lots of thoughts, but I have to go write for people who pay me.

Guest Blogger Tari: Want to Save the U.S. Economy? Go on a Diet!

So this morning, Australian Shapeling Marg sent us an article with the headline, “Americans must diet to save their economy.” Yeah, really. The basic idea is, since producing food uses so much energy, we could halve our energy demands and hold off fuel price increases if we all just stopped eating so much. Yeah, really.

Our friend Tari is not only a fat rights activist but a goddamned hippy an ecologically conscious badass who pays serious attention to where and how her food is produced, in hopes of having the smallest possible impact on the planet. I figured she could rant about this one far better than any of us could, and I was right. (She’s also dang speedy with a rant!) Tari, thank you so much. Shapelings, please enjoy. –Kate

By Tari Follett

Want to save the US economy? Go on a diet.

So says New Scientist environmental reporter Catherine Brahic (big time Sanity Watchers on the comments, of course). I have to admit, although I was skeptical at first, by the end of her writeup, I totally saw her point and was on the verge of calling Jenny! Or, you know, NOT.

So, why is it that we must diet to save the economy? Because the economy is tanking due to the energy crisis:

That’s the message ecologists are trying to get across this week. They say the apparently looming energy crisis could be averted if US residents cut their calorie intake.

David Pimentel of Cornell University and colleagues have drawn on an extensive body of existing studies to highlight the wastage in the US food production chain. To bring their point home, they have estimated how much energy could be saved by making a few relatively simple changes to the way corn is produced.

Wait…where’s the part in there about going on a diet? I mean, anyone who’s read their Michael Pollan has heard about how horrible the industrial food system is, putting corn into every fucking thing in the grocery store, supporting inhumane CAFOs and environmental devastation, oppressing farm and factory workers around the world, yada yada yada. Telling Americans to go on a diet is NOT the same thing as changing the way corn is produced, and considering how much “diet food” is chemically-flavored corn byproduct, I don’t think it would have quite the effect Brahic seems to think it would.

‘Cause, see, the big problem with corn production is not that people eat too much. It’s that corn farmers grow too much. (Hint: it’s the system, not the people.) Moving swiftly on…

Their conclusion is that energy demands could easily be halved. That could stave off the prospect of further rises in the costs of fuel, they say.

To do that, however, would require a considerable change in the average US diet. The average American consumes about 3747 kcal per day compared to the 2000 to 2500 kcal per day recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The 3747 kcal per day figure does not include any junk food consumed.

Producing those daily calories uses the equivalent to 2000 litres of oil per person each year. That accounts for about 19% of US total energy use.

Okay, so I used some advanced Google-fu to try to track down what David Pimentel (a noted biofuel skeptic, longtime ecologist, and generally reasonable science type) and his colleagues actually said in whatever published report Brahic is talking about. I just couldn’t imagine that someone who knew the intricacies of the industrialized food system, and its devastating environmental and economic impacts, would boil it all down to telling people to stop shoving baby donuts in their pieholes. Especially since, in the very quote above, it’s the reporter drawing that false conclusion – energy demands being halved is not the same thing as people eating fewer calories. Most of the food-related calories Pimentel is referring to come from the fossil fuel-based fertilizers and pesticides being sprayed on the production end of the system, transit costs, and that sort of thing….not so much the actual kcals in the baby donut itself.

I couldn’t find any recent statements or research from Pimentel. (If anyone else tracks it down, pass it on – I’d dearly love to review it.)

Brahic (who, as far as I can tell, is using Pimentel’s research – wherever it came from – as a vehicle to promote her own views) next moves on to the ever-popular “go veggie” argument. Now, as a committed flexitarian (meaning I eat mostly veggie with occasional meat), I agree that reduced meat eating has a huge environmental impact – especially if it’s mostly (energy intensive) factory farmed meat being cut out. Seriously, I think taking money away from those sick de-beaking fucks at Tyson is a wonderful thing…but it has nothing to do with going on a diet. Just switch it up to some nice ethically-raised free range chickens from your local family farmer, and you’re cutting the fossil-fuel kcals in your food without necessarily changing your caloric intake one whit. (Of course, that’s disregarding the limitations of class, location, and finances that make this not so much a workable solution for lots of people.)

Even Doc Pimentel agrees with that:

In 2004, Pimentel estimated 6 kilograms of plant protein are needed to produce 1 kg of high quality animal protein. He calculates that if Americans maintained their 3747 kcals per day, but switched to a vegetarian diet, the fossil fuel energy required to generate that diet would be cut by one third.

The next part is a little trickier. Brahic is using some crazy new math I don’t really follow.

In addition to the 3747 kcals, the average American consumes one third of their calories in junk food and Pimentel and colleagues suggest this could be cut by 80% and the total calorie intake be reduced by 30%. That could drastically cut the amount of energy which goes into feeding Americans, as junk food is typically low in calories, but energetically expensive to produce.

Okay, for starters, where the fuck is she getting the data that says the average American consumes 3700 kcals, PLUS a third more calories in junk food? Say what? That’s over 5600 kcals. Every day?
Seriously? I mean, the odious Morgan Spurlock didn’t even quite pull that off by eating at Mickey D’s three times a day… and I somehow doubt that’s a habit of the average American. In fact, per the latest data (2004) from the UN Food and Agriculture Office, Americans average 3770 kcal per day. Now, I’m not sure if FAO is including junk food in there or not, but I’m guessing they probably don’t count junk food calories separate from regular ones (especially since they have a dietary breakdown that includes fats and sugars and other junk-food-type ingredients right there on the same page).

What’s really just pants-pissingly hilarious, though, is the bit about reducing that phantom third-of-overall-calories-from-junk-food by 80%, which somehow reduces the overall number by 30%. Now, I wasn’t a math major, but lemme see if I can add this up: 3747 + 1874 (the extra third, assuming that 3747 is two thirds) – 1499 (80% of the 1874 junk food calories) = 4122 kcals. Hang on a sec, 70% of 5600 is only 3920! Hey, wait…maybe she lives in a land where numbers don’t have a constant value?

I also particularly LOVE the “junk food is typically low in calories” line. Make up your own joke.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with a lot of the actual, substantive points of the article. Factory farming is horrible for animals, the environment, the economy, and for people. Eating less meat demonstrably reduces overall energy usage on a global scale. Single serving packaging wastes energy and materials needlessly. Reducing the amount of meat and processed food we eat is a step towards better physical and environmental health for most people.

But you know what it ain’t? A diet.

In trying to stay abreast of what’s going on in the environmental movement, I see a lot of fatphobia. The constant flourishing of a fatass as the foremost symbol of Classic American Overconsumption is a popular theme, and speaking out against it in environmental circles often a difficult and thankless task. In that context, quite frankly, this is a pretty mild example of the usual “if we stopped burning fossil fuels and eating meat, we’d all be skinny vegans riding bikes everywhere” rhetoric.

It’s a cheap shot, though, and the reasons for making changes to how we look at what we eat are strong enough to stand on their own – without bashing fat people, without using Madison Avenue marketing smoke and mirrors, without playing on the engineered fears and insecurities of a constantly bombarded populace. But then, Brahic and her editors (who knows which of the two slapped the headline on this article?) aren’t in the business of actually making the world a better place. They’re looking for clickthroughs and ad revenue… and everyone knows, chicks can’t resist an article with “diet” in the
title!

What if they were right about calories?

Not too long ago I was having one of those diet-think days where my inner monologue was right out of a women’s magazine. Among the thoughts I caught myself thinking was this (you’ll find it familiar, I’m betting): “If I only ate a couple hundred fewer calories a day, I bet I could lose weight.” Luckily, I am at heart a rational person, so that thought led to the following thought process.

Let’s assume for a second that the human body is essentially a Bunsen burner, and it really is as simple as “calories in, calories out.” Since returning to my previous weight after getting off of antidepressants — that is, the weight I was before I started the antidepressants, which is the weight I was before i started my last diet, which is the weight I was before I started the diet before that — I haven’t gained or lost more than a couple pounds at a time, and the changes have always averaged out to zero. I eat a certain amount per day, and I maintain the weight I’m at. So doesn’t that mean I’m eating exactly what I need?

If I ate a couple hundred fewer calories per day, I guess I might lose weight, but I’d lose weight because I was cheating my body — it requires a certain number of calories to do its daily thing, breathe and pump blood and think and type and go to dance class and whatnot. Obviously I knew this — that dieting is about cheating your body, that it’s about literally inducing starvation, where starvation is defined as not getting enough energy to support your daily processes — but for some reason it was a revelation to think about it this way. Even if it were as simple as calories in and calories out, I’m clearly not running a deficit or a surplus, which means I get just what I need. Which in turn means that I need what I get.

Now sure, one of the things that my body needs calories to do is maintain my current weight. Presumably, I use more calories than someone with my metabolism who is smaller would use, at least in the body-as-Bunsen-burner paradigm. But just like you can’t spot reduce, you can’t choose where you’re cheating yourself. You can’t restrict only the calories that are used to keep you weighing 250 (or whatever) and not the ones that are used for thinking and dancing and living. If you cheat yourself, you cheat yourself across the board. How is that worthwhile? How is it healthy?

Even if the people who squeal about how it’s as simple as eating fewer calories than you expend were right about how the body works, what they’re suggesting would be absurd. Consistently denying yourself what you need, not out of genuine privation but out of guilt and self-loathing? It’s not only an absurdity; it’s an absurdity born of the fundamentally absurd Puritan notion that only self-abnegation gets you into heaven. Fuck that. I don’t feel the perverse need to count the number of breaths necessary to get my brain enough oxygen, and then reduce them by a third. I don’t mete out how much water I’m allowed, reasoning that getting enough to stay hydrated would be greedy. If the amount I eat is fueling the amount I do, then it’s the amount I need.

Addendum: Just because I brought it up does not mean that the “no diet talk” rule in the comments policy — or, for that matter, any part of the comments policy — doesn’t apply. I realize we’re getting a lot of visitors right now from the saddest and shittiest parts of the internet, so apparently this needs to be said. Comments about your brilliant diet system, or how I could be on a diet right now, or whatever the fuck diet diet diet, are not getting fucking approved, you dipshits.

Quote of the day: Classic edition

The representation of unrestrained appetite as inappropriate for women, the depiction of female eating as a private, transgressive act, make restriction and denial of hunger central features of the construction of femininity and set up the compensatory binge as a virtual inevitability. Such restrictions on appetite, moreover, are not merely about food intake. Rather, the social control of female hunger operates as a practical ‘discipline’ (to use Foucault‘s term) that trains female bodies in the knowledge of their limits and their possibilities. Denying oneself food becomes the central micro-practice in the education of feminine self-restraint and containment of impulse.

–Susan Bordo, “Hunger as Ideology” (from Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body)

I first encountered Susan Bordo’s work during my first stint in grad school, when I was 23 and teaching composition to first-year undergrads. Her essay “Hunger as Ideology” was included in the composition reader I used, and I assigned it to my students. Bordo, a feminist philosopher, analyzes numerous food advertisements in close detail (reproducing the print ads in the essay) to show the cultural messages that underpin the selling of food. Given that ads rely on pre-existing cultural tropes to get their messages across, they can tell us about the ideological underpinnings of our culture. Some of Bordo’s findings:

-Voracious hunger is considered a sign of manliness.

-Hunger for food and desire for sexuality are constructed as analogous, but this is a gendered analogy. When women are targeted, “their hunger for food is employed solely as a metaphor for their sexual appetite.” When men are targeted, the metaphor goes in reverse: eating delicious food is depicted as a sexual conquest. (The examples for this include hilariously awful ads of men whispering sweet nothings to their Betty Crocker desserts.)

-Female hunger is represented in terms of misogynistic fear: sex is imagined as a form of eating in which the woman consumes and destroys a male object of desire.

-The only acceptable female desire in ads is the desire to provide food for others.

-Women are depicted eating in private, secretly, and this act is explicitly represented as a “substitute for human love.”

I can’t speak for my undergraduate students, but this essay blew my fucking mind the first time I read it. The reason it was so affecting was that these messages were so obvious once Bordo pointed them out, glaring even, but I had not even seen them as “messages” until then. That’s just what ads do! Even as a committed feminist who had been through periods of fat and thin throughout my life, and who had experienced both self-loathing and self-acceptance to some extent, I hadn’t yet taken the blinkers off. The connection between hunger and desire, especially, can be subterranean: the ideal of thinness, of course, depends on you having the goal of a certain kind of fuckability — but even eating itself is depicted as an act of sensual abandon instead of a necessity for every living thing on earth. As such, men are commended for having hearty appetites — boys will be boys — and women are told to keep their mouths (and their knees) shut.

The quote I highlighted above is the one that was most illuminating to me, because it says (in my non-theory translation) that dieting is the ultimate act of repressive femininity. Essentially, what Bordo argues is that not eating when your body needs food is participating in your own marginalization — but it’s marginalization dressed up as a sexual ideal. This, I think, is why trolls and anti-FA jerkwads are so obsessed with the idea that we want them all to have sex with fatties: fat is, on some unacknowledged level, about sex in our culture.

Not incidentally, this is one of the reasons I suggested on the stop dieting thread that buying a new dress is one way to keep yourself from dieting. As I said there: because part of “feeling fat” for me is really about feeling unfeminine, it often helps me to remember that femininity is an act — and it’s an act I can access in ways that don’t require me to be thinner… even though you don’t have to be pretty, it’s okay to want to be pretty. If part of wanting to diet is feeling like you’re ugly and unfeminine, then putting on a dress and heels and a bright red lipstick can remind you that femininity is an act that you choose whether to perform, and not an intrinsic quality that you desperately lack.

I didn’t know it at the time, but teaching “Hunger as Ideology” was my first step toward FA. It hasn’t always been a smooth road between that moment and this, and I needed to examine a lot more of my own assumptions and start paying a hell of a lot more attention to the rhetoric of beauty culture and the obesity epidemic, but that essay is what got me started. To borrow from Liss borrowing from The Matrix, it’s when I took the red pill. It’s when I started to see “the social control of female hunger” as something that was more than just personal, about more than just my one unshrinkable body. It made me angry. And it made me hungry.

Attempting to Personalize Spam: UR DOIN IT RONG

I just received an e-mail that begins:

hey there! I’m embarking on  weight loss scheme, in 90 days, and I’ve been inspired by your blog.

Yeeeeah. No, you haven’t. Unless you mean you look at us fatties for “thinspiration,” in which case, you probably wouldn’t be so stupid as to ask me to link to your weight loss blog. And you are indeed that stupid. 

Dude (who’s in his late teens) goes on to add:

Weight affects everyone, and with child obesity on the rise, I feel that people like me need promoting, to show that no all kids are lazing around getting to the size of whales!

Consider yourself promoted here, genius.

My inbox isn’t like this every day, but it is a lot of days, and I’m not alone. Fucking keywords.

Stop Her Before She Diets Again!

Shapelings, A Sarah needs your help. She just left the comment below in another thread, and I thought it deserved its own post. 

I’ve said many times that the journey to body acceptance is not short, straightforward, or without switchbacks. Intellectually grasping the wisdom of giving up dieting often comes loooong before you’re emotionally ready to give up the fantasy of being thin. And that means that sometimes you might fall into that trap of thinking, “It’s fine for other people to be this fat, and no one should judge them for it, but I just can’t be happy until I lose weight!” 

That’s where A Sarah seems to be now. Here’s her comment.

Um, help? I’m feeling tempted to diet! I’m at the high range of what I’d always thought to be my basic 20-pound range, which wouldn’t ordinarily make me feel ugly and SHOULDN’T, anyway, make me feel ugly… but it’s wrapped up with my feelings about my post-two-kids body that I’m having a hard time with, seeing some pictures of myself from six or seven years ago when I was at the “low” end, feeling like the emotional connection in my marriage has cooled, and the fact that I’ve been more active than usual lately (not for weight loss) and was surprised when I didn’t start feeling leaner.

I guess I’ve still got a ways to go on my FA journey. So I thought I’d send up a “need assistance” flare here at SP. I did a search for a thread that was marginally relevant so I didn’t hijack the more current threads. [Heh. Thanks. -Kate] Hope that’s okay.

I’m throwing this out to the readership because honestly, I don’t have a good answer. When I used to feel like that, my answer was usually, um, to diet. Until one day, I crossed a threshold where that was just truly no longer an option in my mind. I still have my moments of wishing I were thinner, mind you — that was my default mental state for so fucking long, I can revert to it pretty easily if I let my guard down. But the good news is, they really are just moments now, gone as quickly as they arrived, usually because I think something like, “Well, what are you going to do, diet? Fuck that.” Even if I did still consider dieting an option, I’ve come far enough now that I couldn’t sustain the shame and self-hatred necessary to stay on a starvation plan long enough to lose weight — maybe not long enough to cook a meal, at this point. That, my friends, is progress.

But it took a long fucking time to get here.

[ETA: I totally skimmed the part about how you've been more active than usual lately, AS, so you can disregard the following advice, but I leave it up for other Shapelings who might be in the same position and find it useful.] A Sarah, my only piece of concrete advice is this: if you have the time and inclination (and aren’t already doing it enough that an increase would take you to crazy levels), exercise. Nothing restores my body image faster when it’s flagging. Moving my body reminds me of what it can do, which stops me from obsessing solely about how it looks. The endorphins are fun, and they certainly take the edge off of hating yourself. And I swear, after I exercise, when I look in the mirror, I think I look better — even though clearly, my body composition did not change in 45 minutes, or however long I just spent doing something. If you like to swim (and can handle wearing a bathing suit), getting in the water can also have a nice little baptismal effect to reset your thinking — I always feel sort of purified after I swim or do water aerobics (perhaps because I’ve literally been bleached). But really, any movement helps (me, anyway), and it doesn’t even have to be hard exercise. A session of gentle yoga or a walk around the neighborhood can do the trick, which is getting me out of my head and into my damn body.

Shapelings, do you still struggle with wanting to diet? How do you stop yourself? (Or do you?) Tell A Sarah what you do in comments.

You say “freak of nature” like it’s a bad thing

A pattern I’ve noticed with trolls, snarky linkers, and even friendly dissenters who take issue with our “Don’t You Realize Fat Is Unhealthy?” post is that some people really, really don’t like the following statement:

Diets don’t work. No, really, not even if you don’t call them diets. If you want to tell me about how YOUR diet totally worked, do me a favor and wait until you’ve kept all the weight off for five years. Not one year, not four years, five years. And if you’ve kept it off for that long, congratulations. You’re literally a freak of nature.

Something about this paragraph makes people’s brains explode. I can’t tell you how many trollish comments I’ve deleted or silly trackbacks I’ve followed that say something like Well I guess I’m just a FREAK OF NATURE then, Kate Harding! Despite the fact that, as we know, diets are designed to fail and that the vast majority of dieters put weight back on as soon as they start indulging in those fattening carrots and glasses of milk again, the dieters who are just so gosh-darned proud of their lithe bodies that they MUST come set us fat-lovers straight cannot handle being called “a freak of nature” even though they’re, by any measure, statistical anomalies.

You see, successful dieters aren’t the Freaks of Nature. Fatties are the Freaks of Nature! (Results not typical.)

The whole mindset of rewarding yourself for self-hatred and denying anything that might be remotely pleasurable is predicated on the attempt to escape that dreaded label, freak. Though the beauty/thinness ideal is incarnated by only a handful of people in the world, that ideal labels anyone outside the mainstream a freak, an abnormality, less than fully human. The desire to fit the beauty ideal is to erase that scarlet “F” (fatty, freak, dare I say female?) from one’s body. So when we say to those few people whose diets have stuck for over five years, or whose WLS operations didn’t leave them fatter and less healthy than before, hey, you guys are the real freaks, they feel like we’ve slapped them in the face and kicked their puppies and stripped them naked all at once.

Here’s the thing, though. We like freaks. We are freaks! Publicly embracing fat in a fatphobic society means publicly declaring yourself a freak, even if your fat body actually makes you something close to “normal.” We’re all freaks of culture (freaks of nurture?) here.

Attention, freaks of nature: We are against the status quo. We don’t believe that normal is good. We believe the division of “normal” and “abnormal” people, of default and deviant people, is profoundly harmful to individuals and to the culture at large. If you’ve invested your sense of self-worth in finally escaping the scarlet F, to the extent that someone pointing out your statistical unlikeliness makes you feel attacked, you’ve been putting all your hard work into the outer part of yourself and not enough into the inner part.

We’re all freaks here. You don’t need to freak the fuck out about it.

I Am Carnie Wilson

This started as a comment in response to Lesley’s open letter to Carnie Wilson (in response to Wilson’s appearance on Tyra, in which the woman who broadcast her gastric bypass surgery on the internet complains that people now pay too much attention to her weight), but it got so long, I decided to make it a post. Here you go.

I love this letter, but I actually can muster some sympathy for Carnie by remembering back to the first time I got fat again after a very “successful” diet. I had so totally believed that I was in the tiny percentage of folks who would keep it off forever, I just kinda kept going “Buh?” every time I went up a size, until I was officially fat(ter than before), at which point I was utterly devastated. I felt ashamed enough just knowing that my friends had witnessed the transformation and knew how “weak” I was; if it had been public, I don’t know how I would have gotten up in the morning.

That in itself might not be enough to engender any real sympathy for Carnie — hey, I didn’t ask the whole world to congratulate me on my weight loss! — but here’s what does: I totally would have asked the whole world to congratulate me if I’d had an outlet to do so. The only reason I didn’t was because nobody knew or gave a rat’s ass who I was. As it was, I was one of the worst small-time, local diet evangelists ever, because I really believed the following things:

  1. I’d discovered the magic weight loss secret. (Brace yourself — eat less and exercise more!)
  2. I was never going to gain it back.
  3. I was being helpful by telling everyone I ever fucking met how I’d lost the weight and you can too!

I was a huge troll, basically. (And it’s not lost on me that my fat acceptance evangelism is in some ways just the other side of the coin.) If someone had put a mic in my hand, I totally would have babbled smugly for hours and given them permission to broadcast it anywhere they liked. So in retrospect, I’m extremely grateful that I am not famous and I didn’t even know about blogs back then.

Having said that, I can’t believe Carnie Wilson hadn’t dieted and gained it back a kabillion times before the surgery, so she loses a little sympathy from me on the “You should have freakin’ known better” front. Except… she was no doubt assured by doctors, advertising, Oprah, whomever, that gastric bypass weight loss would be permanent. That’s how they sell it — why else would anyone put herself through it? It’s easy for fat acceptance activists to say, “Well, duh,” but we’re extraordinarily well-informed about the dangers and the failures of the surgery. And sadly, a whole lot of people who get the surgery are not so informed — even if they’ve done what looks like due diligence

If you Google “gastric bypass risks,” you get a whole lot of pages from doctors giving the standard spiel: “X, Y, and Z could happen, but they probably won’t, and if you stay fat, you’ll die soon anyway.” The internet is flooded with people talking about how awesome WLS is, how even the nastiest side effects are totally worth it, how having surgery that leaves you permanently malnourished will feel like the best thing you ever did when you fit into a size whatever dress. So don’t listen to those killjoys who say it’s too dangerous and you might gain it back anyway! They’re just jealous!

There’s so much of that noise out there that even if you do come across some horror stories, you can brush them off as anomalies. And keep in mind, people considering WLS have almost certainly, at some point, bought into the idea that they can diet the weight away permanently, even if the vast majority of people can’t. When you’ve already engaged in that degree of magical thinking (which I sure have, so I’m not judging) a new set of risks and failure rates doesn’t hold any real meaning. Other people have to go in for multiple subsequent surgeries to correct problems. Other people can’t ever eat solid food again without vomiting. Other people gain the weight back anyway. Other people die. Not you. You? Are just going to get thin.

If The Obesity Myth hadn’t come out when it did, there’s a chance I could still be desperately searching for the magic bullet instead of preaching that there isn’t one. So no matter how much I want to say, “You should have freakin’ known better, Carnie,” I relate to her a little too much to leave it at that. I even had a twinge, upon looking at the old Thin Carnie People cover Lesley linked to, of remembering how awesome it felt to be the tiny person (metaphorically) standing in the huge pants. The whole world really wants to congratulate you when you lose a lot of weight, as if triumphing over your own hunger and genetic predisposition is an accomplishment on a par with… well, something that’s actually an accomplishment. It’s fucking intoxicating. You’ve spent your whole life hearing how ugly, lazy, and disgusting you are (if only from your own brain), and now here you are being praised for your hotness and discipline at every turn. It’s only natural to think, “See, this is the real me, not that fat slob I was before!” and want to shout that from the rooftops. (The reality, of course, is that you were probably both hot and disciplined before you lost weight, but you didn’t have the confidence to work the hotness and you didn’t even count all the hard work and tenacity you displayed in your daily life, because there wasn’t evidence of it right there on your ass for all the world to see.) Accordingly, when you start to gain the weight back, it’s only natural to think the real you is receding, not returning. Which leads to the next diet, and the next and the next, and then maybe the surgery, if something doesn’t jar you out of that cycle.

So I can’t help but feel sympathy for Carnie Wilson being stuck in this position of having made her weight loss unbelievably public, only to find the same obsessive attention turned on her weight gain. I can’t help it because I still am Carnie Wilson somewhere down deep, even if my public persona (to the extent that I have one) is now “that Kate Harding chunky chick.” I don’t hate my body or fervently hope, let alone try, to erase parts of it anymore — but I will never forget how it felt when I did, or how it felt when I managed, briefly, to erase dozens of pounds and was constantly lauded for it. I don’t condone weight loss for its own sake, I don’t believe it’s a wise gamble, and I think people who do lose a lot of weight should really shut the fuck up about it, if only because one’s shame over the almost inevitable rebound is directly proportionate to the amount of crowing one’s done over the loss. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get it. I will always get it.

So if Carnie Wilson ever decides to make peace with her body and finds her way to the fatosphere, she’ll be welcome in this little part of it, anyway. I’ll even send her a free “I am Kate Harding” T-shirt.

Happy International No Diet Day!

Hey, it’s International No Diet Day! Of course, we strive to make EVERY day No Diet Day, but if you’ve been teetering on the edge, today is the day to try it out for 24 hours and see how you function when you make peace with food. Or maybe it’s time to spread the word to some friends, or post a flyer next to the stats for your office “Biggest Loser” competition. Or maybe it’s just a day to eat a big piece of cake.

Or, you know, maybe it’s a day to eat a big piece of tofu. Posting about this initially made me feel a little weird about my breakfast, which I am eating right now and which is cottage cheese and some very gorgeous fruit. But then I thought, hey, isn’t this just another reason to resent the diet industry? Dieting has reinscribed excellent food like fruit and cottage cheese and spinach into Virtuous Diet Food, to the degree where it’s hard for a proud fatty to eat it without feeling a little furtive, like she has to make excuses. To the degree where people who have grown up in diet culture actually assume they don’t like really amazing food, just because its good-for-you reputation must mean it’s officially No Fun. (Of course, it’s entirely kosher to genuinely dislike food that’s also considered diet food, but I know plenty of people who turn their nose up at anything that’s supposed to be “healthy” because it smacks to them of deprivation.) Or they eat it because they think they’ve gotta get some virtue down their gullets, instead of because it tastes amazing and gives them energy. Fuck that — INDD is a day when food has no moral weight. I love cottage cheese (and if you think you don’t, give it another shot without thinking of it as a Diet Food), and I love chocolate chip cookies, and I might very well eat both today. Though not at the same time. And neither will make me bad or good, or a Typical Fat Person, or a Traitor to the Cause, or anything except a hungry person relishing some tasty comestibles. For at least this one day, let yourself off the hook. Count nothing. Judge nobody’s food choices, including your own. Let’s have food mean nothing but “substances that provide energy and are also as delicious as possible.”

To get you in the mood, here’s the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination‘s list of the top ten reasons not to diet.  (The links are added by me.)

10. DIETS DON’T WORK. Even if you lose weight, you will probably gain it all back, and you might gain back more than you lost.

9. DIETS ARE EXPENSIVE. If you didn’t buy special diet products, you could save enough to get new clothes, which would improve your outlook right now.

8. DIETS ARE BORING. People on diets talk and think about food and practically nothing else. There’s a lot more to life.

7. DIETS DON’T NECESSARILY IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH. Like the weight loss, health improvement is temporary. Dieting can actually cause health problems.

6. DIETS DON’T MAKE YOU BEAUTIFUL. Very few people will ever look like models. Glamour is a look, not a size. You don’t have to be thin to be attractive.

5. DIETS ARE NOT SEXY. If you want to be more attractive, take care of your body and your appearance. Feeling healthy makes you look your best.

4. DIETS CAN TURN INTO EATING DISORDERS. The obsession to be thin can lead to anorexia, bulimia, bingeing, and compulsive exercising.

3. DIETS CAN MAKE YOU AFRAID OF FOOD. Food nourishes and comforts us, and gives us pleasure. Dieting can make food seem like your enemy, and can deprive you of all the positive things about food.

2. DIETS CAN ROB YOU OF ENERGY. If you want to lead a full and active life, you need good nutrition, and enough food to meet your body’s needs.

And the number one reason to give up dieting:

1. Learning to love and accept yourself just as you are will give you self-confidence, better health, and a sense of wellbeing that will last a lifetime.

So Many Kinds of Wrong

So, lots of people have been writing about (and e-mailing about) this new study that claims pregnant women who eat more calories are more likely to have boys. And the fun part is, everyone’s pissed off about it for different reasons. Whee!

Liss takes down the unexamined assumption at the heart of it: that “How do we make more boys?” is a question of great scientific importance, while of course nobody would ever deliberately set out to make a girl!

Tigtog notes how ludicriously scienterrific the whole thing is to begin with. 

Shapeling Alice, one of those who sent me a link to the article, remarks on the whopping caloric difference we’re talking about:

That 130 calorie difference is SO MUCH MORE!  That’s, like, a whole apple and some raisins!  Must be why impoverished nations have only girl babies and no boys at all.  </snark>

And here’s my favorite part:

The researchers say the modern trend to opt for low calorie diets might explain why the proportion of boys is falling in developed countries.

I’m sorry, what? The “modern trend to opt for low calorie diets”? I thought we were in the middle of an OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA! Because people can’t stop shoving food in their faces 24/7! And because being fat is not only socially acceptable but fashionable! Why, developed countries should be SWIMMING in boy babies! Shouldn’t they?

Yeah. Sadly, identifying that “modern trend” is about the only thing they seem to have gotten right. And I have to admit, when every pregnancy in the movies and on TV is turned into a fucking fat joke, when fat women are being told they should restrict calories and even lose weight while pregnant, it’s actually kind of nice, in a twisted way, to see researchers acknowledge the dieting-crazed culture and present a higher calorie intake as a good thing.

It’s just too bad for us freaks who actually like the idea of having girls, I guess.