Fat, Food, Health at Every Size

Three Things


Conversation with one of Al’s co-workers…

Co-worker: I’m on Weight Watchers. I’ve lost 20 pounds.

Me [non-snarkily]: Good for you.

Co-worker: The thing is, I just feel better.

Me: Well, I would argue that the focus should be on feeling better, regardless of whether you lose weight. You might gain it back, some people might never lose it in the first place, but nearly everyone can feel better if they exercise and eat a balanced diet. They just might still be fat.

Co-worker: Yeah, you know, I totally believe that. I have a relative who’s always been big, but she’s always been really active, too. She’s healthy, but she’s never been thin.

Me: Bingo.

And from there, the conversation went on to more interesting topics.

Would that it were always so easy, huh? One (sadly) important point here is that the co-worker in question is male — he’s not steeped in the conventions of Lady Diet Talk, so my saying it’s possible to be healthy and fat, and weight loss is no big deal, didn’t make his head go asplodey. He never thought I was criticizing him or infringing on his right to diet or trying to break his will so I could stand over him going “Mwahahaha!” while he asphyxiates under a pile of donuts. I was just um, what’s it called? Making a logical point.

File under: Concept, what a.


Quote of the day, courtesy of Joy Nash:

Obese patients are often encouraged to believe that weight loss is an appropriate way to combat depression, save a failing marriage, or increase the chance of career success. The irrationality of hopes pinned on weight loss is so striking that dieting might almost be likened to superstitious behavior…. Passing from childhood into adolescence, leaving home, marrying, starting a new job, having a baby, experiencing marital difficulties, adjusting to children leaving home, and growing old — all these life situations may become unexamined reasons to diet. In other instances, concerns over weight mask even more serious problems.” (Wooley 1991)

-“Obesity Treatment: The High Cost of Hope.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association.


As always, you should be reading Sandy.

38 thoughts on “Three Things”

  1. I’ve been getting a lot of “How did you do it?” comments from co-workers these days. Many ask “Are you on – Weight Watchers/Slim Fast/Jenny Craig/Optifast?”

    When I tell them I just eat less sugar, then I get “Oh, you’re on the Atkins diet!” No, I’m not on any diet, I just eat less sugar, and this is where my body is at right now.

    This seems to annoy a lot of my female co-workers. They want me to give them the magic bullet for weight loss. They expect and I guess even want me to lecture them on how they could do what I do and they could lose weight too. They want me to be a diet inspiration to them, but this just isn’t the way I want to inspire.

    And the funny thing is that no two bodies are exactly alike, so even if I were to say “Well, why don’t you cut your sugar intake in half and that should take a lot of weight off.” Because how the hell do I know what will work for them, and it would be presumptous for me to assume my eating habits should be anyone else’s eating habits. But I fear that my unwillingness to preach the gospel of weight loss is being taken as somehow trying to hide my big secret. And actually I’m just trying to say that how we eat is personal and I don’t want to be in your business in this respect, even if you really want me to be!

  2. Exercise, however, is a great remedy for depression, anxiety, and a ton of other stuff. And it does sometimes lead to weight loss, I guess.

    Personally, I work out so that I can do more of the things I used to love doing (camping, hiking, climbing), but once I started working out, my vanity sort of kicked in, and I started thinking about weight loss as well. The mind is tricky that way.

    But if it came down to choosing between feeling good and losing weight, I’d choose feeling good. I’m all about the pleasure. Oh, and health. Right.

  3. My coworkers annoy me too with diet talk. I lost 10 or 15 pounds or something over a couple of months after my cat died because I was depressed, and everyone starting telling me how great I looked and asking what my secret was and how much I’d lost and on and on. At first I was surprised, because I hadn’t noticed I’d lost weight, but eventually I realized that saying that and telling I wasn’t doing anything made me sound really conceited to them. So I started making up a diet I wasn’t on to tell them. I got along with them better then, but it was really weird. Now, whenever I go to the machine to buy a candybar I get “No! You can do it! Be strong!”. Grr.

    Men aren’t always immune to diet crazyness either. My husband is on a diet now, and I’m worried about him. It took a lot of pressure from me to get him to stop skipping meals, and I’m afraid he’s making up food to tell me he’s eating. I don’t like telling him what to do, and it’s hard finding the balance between being controlling and acting like I don’t care. I hope he gets over it. I couldn’t handle eating like he does.

  4. Marle, you just reminded me of all the people who asked me my secret for weight loss while I was in the middle of getting divorced. I told them high stress and soul-numbing depression was very effective, but I didn’t recommend it.

    It was a conversation killer, but fun.

  5. Hello, I’m new here – your blog is really interesting.

    I did some work last summer for WeightWatchers (UK) magazine and WW was doing a celebration thing for 10 years of the Points (TM!!) system here in the UK. One of the statistics they put in their press release was that in 10 years, they’d had 10 million members come through their doors, who’d lost 122,500,000 stone between them. So a quick calculation reveals that the average weight loss per member is 12.25 stone (roughly 170lbs) EACH.

    Clearly, these people didn’t lose that much in one go – and, indeed, I had a long conversation with the WW press office about this. What happens, obviously, is that people lose weight, then put it back on again, then lose it again, and so and so on. Which, to me, is categorical proof that WeightWatchers DOES NOT WORK, at least not as a long-term form of weight loss.

    They even trumpet the fact that *ONLY* 60% of WW members put the weight back on within five years. Seriously. And people keep buying this product. Are drugs that are only effective in 40% of people allowed on the market?

    You can see the press release here if you are interested.


  6. Oh, yes, we do loves the Wooleys, aka. the 90s version of Paul and Sandy. What are Susan and Wayne up to now, she wondered. Google pause… Wicked! The University of Connecticut has a Fat Lib collection. Looks like a bunch of the Wooley’s stuff, but some Fat Underground classics. Cool!

  7. Oh no, another Kate in the fatosphere! Fatfu is totally right — it’s a risk factor.

    Anyway, new Kate, that is totally fascinating… not surprising, of course, since I think we all knew that the ineffectiveness of dieting is WW’s bread and butter (4 points). But I’m amazed that the press office was willing to admit that to you! And it’s always great to have solid evidence like the 170-lb per person weight loss. (Though I’m sure some diet apologists would want us to believe that everyone who loses 5 lbs on WW is balanced out by someone who loses 335.)

  8. Oh, and I’d also meant to mention something about how surprisingly easy it’s been to avoid diet talk at my work, even though there are two dieters. I just have solidarity with the other happy fat woman, mainly, and just quietly roll my eyes when someone freaks out in the presence of cookies. But my boss just came in and said she was doing a food run and did we want anything, and when I said “thanks, but I haven’t really gotten my appetite back” she said “oh, well, I guess if you’re not hungry, that’s good, you should run with it!” Particularly hilarious since I’ve been mentally useless (and therefore useless at my job) all week, partly due to the head cold/sinus thing but partly due to insufficient nutrition. I just said “well, like most humans I actually don’t function well on no food, but I can’t predict what I’ll want to eat and when right now.”

  9. I’m lucky enough not to have to deal with diet talk at work either. I work with mostly men, and while I know men diet they don’t feel the need to talk about it all. the damn. time. But my mom and grandma are back on Weight Watchers for what must be at least the 10th time in their lives, so I get plenty of it at family dinners. I’ve actually started excusing myself (if I can do so politely) when they start in on it, because I don’t need to hear it. I did flat out tell them I refuse to diet because I’d rather be fat than put myself through that… they just stared at me like I’d just spoken in Chinese.

  10. The place I used to work was awful for diet talk. It seemed like everyone was on WW and they all carried around that huge big gulp cup full of water. What made it worse was right before I started working there, I had done a lot of work to work through my disordered eating and I had moved from a house to an apartment with two dogs I was walking them a lot more so my body changed quite a bit. I didn’t actually lose much weight (I think, I don’t own a scale) but i gained a lot of muscle and everyone at work just couldn’t wait to talk to me about my ‘success.’

    Then I started attending a yoga class held in my building during lunch and one of my coworkers would always smile really big and shout “good for you! You are getting there! I can see it!” or something equally obnoxious when he saw me. I’ve been gone from there for 7 months, thankfully.

  11. My mom has been going to the gym. And she looks great. And when I tell her she looks great, she says “I haven’t lost any weight.” Every time. And every time we have to discuss muscle mass and strength and health and how it doesn’t matter, and she says yes, she knows it’s not about the pounds, but then the next time I say she looks great…

  12. fillyjonk, another one of the stats was that their single biggest weight loss had been 13st something (around 182lb), so there’s no way they can make that excuse…

    (I’m sure it doesn’t matter, but technically I am a “normal” weight – just – so the name isn’t always a risk factor!)

  13. Ah, but have you been named “Kate” past the five-year mark? :)

    Actually I think it’s just that Kate is a great name, so a lot of Kates just use their real name instead of a pseudonym.

  14. If it’s in Shakespeare and it doesn’t seem dated, it’s gotta be timeless.

    Of course, my real first name is in Shakespeare and doesn’t seem dated, and I don’t really think of it as timeless, but maybe it’s because the character isn’t nearly as good.

    (Banquo, for the curious. ;))

    Wow, this was quite a hijack.

  15. I work at a hotel, and I’ve only been there for two weeks and we’ve already rented our meeting room to two different weight loss groups trying to promote themselves. One was Weight Watchers, and the other was trying to sell “MediFast” or some crap like that.

    Anyway, last night I had to go into the meeting room and would up hearing all this nonsense about “healthy BMIs” and “permanent lifestyle changes” that ONLY involved “changing how you think food should taste” (Ick).

    This rather upset me, and I kind of wanted to go up in front of all those people and cry “It’s a lie! I’m sure this woman is wonderful, but she’s mistaken! You’re just making yourselves miserable!”

    Instead I went into the closet and fixed the wireless internet. And then went out and made sure we had our evening cookies out, even though it broke my heart to see all these people walk past them, looking at them longingly. Especially because our cookies are really, really good.

  16. Ah, but have you been named “Kate” past the five-year mark? :)


    And hey, it just occurred to me that I was Katy as a kid, and didn’t start gaining weight until I hit puberty… around the time I switched to Kate. OMG, IT IS A RISK FACTOR!

    Also, Fillyjonk, I think “Banquo” is not dated but doesn’t currently seem timeless because there was a big spike of Banquos in our generation and immediately after. According to the Baby Name Wizard, one of my very favorite internet toys, it wasn’t in the top 1000 girls’ names between the 1880s and the 1940s, but then it started climbing until it was number 1 not so long ago. So people today associate it with the late 20th century instead of Shakespeare.

    I also think the timelessness of Kate has to do with the fact that it’s a nickname for several different names, which have all spiked at different times, so the presence of Kates has always been fairly consistent. The BNW shows spikes at different times for Katherine, Kathleen, Katrina, and, most recently, Katelyn — plus a recent spike in girls with just Kate on the birth certificate — but if you type in “Kat,” which gives you every name starting with those letters, the hills and valleys aren’t nearly as dramatic. (There were a whole lot of Katherines and Kathleens in the ’60s, but that was also when they were probably most likely to be called Kathy, so…)

    A fun fact from the corresponding blog… At some point, the woman behind the BNW tried to identify truly timeless names — those that had always been popular enough to sound normal, but never gotten so popular they could be associated with a particular era. There weren’t many. The top female name in that category was Antonia — always in the top 1000, but almost never in the top 500.

    Yeah, it’s a threadjack, but I live for this shit, so I don’t mind. :)

  17. Yeah, my mom swears that she didn’t know ANYONE, kid or otherwise, named Banquo the year before I was born. She really thought she got the name from Shakespeare. This toy (which is awesome and which I will play with more once I’m allowed to go home) seems to bear that out. I guess you’re off the hook, Mom.

    I’m always curious where these spikes come from. Apparently it’s often popular culture, like someone on a soap is named Reginald or whatever. (Of course Reginald has never actually been a popular name, but it’s Jeeves’ first name, so that’s good enough for me.)

  18. I should point out, because I can never finish a comment in one go: it’s that someone on a soap (or, just as likely, a kids’ show) when the parents were kids was named Reginald, so they grew up liking that name but not knowing why. Not, generally, because someone in current popular culture is named Reginald.

    And Time-Machine, changing how we think food should taste??? Holy shit! Yeah, I’d sure get skinny if I just got over my idea that food was supposed to taste okay!

  19. how we eat is personal and I don’t want to be in your business in this respect, even if you really want me to be!

    AMEN. It’s not so much that I think I might offend YOU by talking about how I eat, it’s that you are offending ME by considering it any of your business.

  20. “Ah, but have you been named “Kate” past the five-year mark?”

    Way to make me snort perfectly good tea, thanks very much. (I’m still laughing at the one about the spoiler and some nice rims, btw.)

  21. Oh, I’d say the name is definite risk factor. *g*

    In my highschool german class, nine people total, there were three Kates and two Stephens. Although I was the only Kate-not-short-for-anything-else.

  22. theotherkate, my brother’s name is Stephen. And at summer camp, I was once on a “Family Feud” team composed entirely of Kates.

    And yet, compared to Jennifers, there still didn’t seem to be that many of us.

  23. I don’t get too much diet talk around these parts, but fat hatred is definitely something I see often: And it sometimes comes from my heavier peers. I’m more concerned with the fact that people make the assumption that some people can’t understand that some thin people…. you know.. don’t hate fat people ‘n’ stuff? Because equality is logical? I just don’t get it. :P

    Someone replied to Paul Campos and his talk with a Psychologist in the LA times, and they were like “Paul has got to be so fat to be saying this.” Yawn…..Same old shit… :P

  24. The name is really a risk factor! My name is a Scandinavian form of Katherine, which could be shortened to “Kate”.

    Geez, this is like six degrees of Kevin Bacon –> six degrees of Kate, if you will… ;-)))

  25. I work in a doctor’s office, where it’s diet pills and weight loss mania a-hoy! All the women who come in constantly put down themselves because they weight – oh – five pounds over their normal weight! I want to tell them they all look fine.

  26. There were seven Kates/Katherines/permutations thereof in my high school class – I think the only name that beat us out was Sarah, which now (in the UK at least) pretty much precisely dates you as having been born between 1970-1975.

    There seems to be a trend here at the moment for names that have been “out of date” for a century or so, – kind of stereotypical Victorian servants’ names, esp for girls, hence Lily, Daisy, Rose.. although I have yet to come across any Enids, Agathas or Agneses. Maybe it’s just the flower names. I think there’s always a drive to call your child something ‘different’ from what everyone else is calling theirs, but because everyone has the same idea we end up with these clumps. I know at least four each of Scarletts and Finlays, all under the age of 5.

    Interestingly, I was Katie as a child and I was fat then – I became Kate pretty much at the same time as I magically grew 7 inches in one summer and suddenly needed all those calories after all. I highly recommend it as a form of weight loss, although you do get stretch marks…

  27. Kate (in England), I had the same growth spurts. As my mom phrases it, I first grew horizontally and then vertically. ;-)
    But I didn’t just get stretch marks, I also had KILLER growing pains (I mean the wake-up-screaming-at-night type), so I wouldn’t want to go through that again. *shudder*

  28. Kate in England, the naming differences between the U.K. and the U.S. fascinate me. Sarah and Kate were both normal but not strikingly popular names in my high school class. That summer camp I mentioned was full of Irish-Americans (mostly from the same part of Illinois), so everyone on the “Kate” team had been named Kathleen a good 10-15 years after Kathleen peaked in the U.S.; Katherine was always a lot more popular among the general population here anyway. We also all, to a Kate, had sisters named Molly, Julia, or both. (I’ve got both, almost; my sister J. is just Julie.) Molly and Kate make perfect sense together, in the context of unadventurous Irish-Americans, but where the fuck did all the Julias come from? So I think we were representing a certain Chicago-area subculture more than the U.S. circa 1975.

    ANYWAY. What I was going to say is, I loved the name Sarah growing up, but it got obscenely popular here, starting… I don’t know, 15-20 years ago? And now it’s hit the saturation point. So, despite the name having a totally classic feel, it’s strongly pegged to the ’90s now. (Same thing that happened to Fillyjonk’s real name in the ’80s.) Interesting that that happened to Sarah 20 years earlier in the U.K.

    And the recycling of old lady names is definitely happening here, too. I suspect that’s always been the case, that a few generations after a name is popular, it’s ripe for a comeback — that’s why it’s so fun to play with the Baby Name Wizard; you can see the hundred-year cycles, and for a lot of names, there are spikes on both ends. But while Lily and Rose have definitely exploded in the States (and I’m betting on Violet to go next, after the Garner/Affleck baby made it okay), Daisy hasn’t caught on the same way here. And Rose has gone crazy more as a filler middle name than a first name here; our generation had “Lynn,” this one has “Rose.” It’s really interesting to me to see where trends that are basically the same in the U.S. and the U.K. diverge. Because I’m a huge nerd.

    Also, it’s definitely going beyond flower names — Emma, Emily, Sophie, Madeleine, Abigail, etc., all seemed really old-fashioned in the U.S. until every kindergarten was suddenly full of them. I can’t see Agnes or Bertha or Gertrude catching on again, but I’d bet you a nickel Agatha could make a comeback in the next 20 years; not a huge one, but I could see it getting back into the top 1000. If you divorce it from the old-lady associations — and the resemblance to Agnes — it’s not nearly as harsh-sounding as the others. Ditto Mathilda, btw. The explosion of Madisons and Madeleines seems to be because people love the nickname Maddie. Now those names are played, but “Mattie” would scratch the same itch.

    Okay, fuck this, I’m doing a whole post about names.

  29. Hey, I have a nephew named Oscar, so I’m hoping Victorian names keep making a comeback for all genders. Mostly so he won’t get beat up as much in school.

  30. Oscar was the 118th most popular boys’ name in 2006, and it has indeed been on an upswing since the late ’90s. The “Grouch” factor will probably be rough for a few years, but once he hits the age where kids want to distance themselves from Sesame Street, he should be fine. :)

    On a related note, I wish someone would be brave enough to bring Kermit and Grover back. I think they’re both awesome names, if you could separate them from Jim Henson, but I fear it can’t be done.

  31. We have lots of Matildas below the age of 10. Loads. And I’ve never, ever met a Molly – vive la difference!

    There is a whole raft of names that are pretty much exclusively Stateside, in my book, too – Jamie, Brad, Erin (which I actually REALLY like, but I’ve never met a real live one), most things that end in i or y, ie anything that rhymes with Candy, Brandy, Shandy, that ilk… Randy – REALLY doesn’t work in the UK.

    I don’t think Violet’s going to take off here because a) the current generation of thirtysomethings will remember the very obnoxious Violet Elizabeth in 70s kids’ show Just William, and the up-and-coming generation of parents will know her as a barmaid in Coronation St, not the most salubrious of soaps…

  32. karin said “I had the same growth spurts. As my mom phrases it, I first grew horizontally and then vertically.
    But I didn’t just get stretch marks, I also had KILLER growing pains (I mean the wake-up-screaming-at-night type), so I wouldn’t want to go through that again. *shudder*”

    This is so me! I look at pictures from when I was a young diva to be and I am a good head and half taller than any of the boys and most of the girls– why was everyone so frickin’ worried I weighed more?!? I was this hugely tall Amazon girl- I was not fat, but seem in fairly decent proportion.

    Then all the food shaming began and treats became evil, etc. SO OF COURSE I eventually became fat for real.

    But I still hold out hope (at 41) for one final growth spurt to take me taller and stretch it all out. Except for the deep leg pains I had when growing… I’d rather skip that part.

  33. But I still hold out hope (at 41) for one final growth spurt to take me taller and stretch it all out.

    I just read somewhere (perhaps in a comment on this blog, even) that the most efficient way to get yourself into a lower BMI category would be to grow a couple inches. That made me giggle, but fuck, it’s about as likely as losing all the weight it would take.

  34. Sorry to stray back to the original topic, but I’m new here… I have to say that this post contained the best use of the word “asplodey” that I have ever been privileged to witness. I think there should be an award for this. I actually snorted when I read it.

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