Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fatty Fat Fat

I am hungry. It’s 8:30 AM; I ate breakfast two hours ago. And I’m ravenous, which is hilarious considering how fat I am. How does a person who stays hungry all the time end up fat? It’s the worst possible catch-22. I’m miserably hungry while dying of over-nutrition.

Well, not literally dying this very minute. Factually speaking, I’m healthy as a horse, low cholesterol, etc. But “dying of over-nutrition” sounds a lot catchier than, “at increased risk of various nasty diseases due to over-nutrition.”

I’ve been pondering this conundrum a lot lately. I’ve discovered several bloggers (starting with Kate Harding* and Jezebel; Kate Harding seems the most . . . rational) who are decidedly fat-happy, who insist that our culture is more fat-phobic than it is actually concerned with healthy living. To support themselves, they cite scientific studies that supposedly disprove the links between heart disease and obesity, diabetes and obesity, high blood pressure and obesity, osteoporosis and obesity, etc. I only say supposedly because to be honest, I didn’t read the cited studies.

Why not?

For starters, I’m lazy. There, now you all know my dirty secret. Dirtier even than the fact that I read all three Twilight novels. Dirtier even than the way Soren eats only my and the girls’ underpants, not Mark’s. I’m lazy, and I don’t want to wade through the studies myself. But you know what? I’ve never read the studies that supposedly prove the links either. Why should I take the media’s word for one side of the debate but not the other?

Add to that my current reading project, Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, and I started to think that the “Fat Acceptance” (FA) arguments make a whole lot of sense. For starters, no one I’ve read in the FA community argues the correlation between obesity and the various diseases. They’re arguing the common belief in causation. That’s basic statistics: Correlation /= Causation.

For general hilarity, see XKCD.

To me, this makes perfect sense. The idea that highly processed, genetically modified, mass-produced foods could cause a host of diseases and problems in the human body, including obesity, makes perfect, genius sense to me. The idea that a person can exist outside the Government-defined normal body type and be healthy also makes sense to me.

For years, I have told myself that dieting is about my health, not my weight. Yet when I have been at my healthiest, I have continued to berate myself for not making the scales move. I rode the MS150 twice, and during that time I believed I was unhealthy because I weighed 30 pounds more than the top of my acceptable weight range. That is simply delusional. One can not ride 167 miles on a bicycle in two days if one is unhealthy.

It made me think: What if I say, “To hell with dieting?” Some of the healthiest people I know eat real butter. Drink whole milk. Feast on nuts of all kinds, fatty avocados, and choice cuts of beef. They eat bacon and eggs for breakfast and put real butter and homemade jam on their homemade bread. Likewise, I know incredibly unhealthy people who live on Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and peanut butter *cough* my husband *cough* who are incredibly skinny.

An aside: Actuarial tables don’t lie. They’re used by insurance companies to price life insurance. DH is 70 pounds underweight, while I am about 50 pounds overweight. DH’s insurance is significantly more expensive than mine specifically because he is underweight.

It’s a frightening decision for me to make. I don’t want to get any fatter, but the truth is, I’ve been dieting for years, and I’m still getting, well, fatter. I think what I’m really afraid of is the problem at the heart of any success: personal responsibility. I’ll have to be responsible for my food choices.

I’ll have to make real changes that look an awful lot like a diet but actually fly in the face of dieting “wisdom.” I’ll have to eat things like avocados and walnuts instead of Powerbars and diet sodas (with which I have never defiled my body, but that's a post for a different day). I’ll have to stop drinking the soy milk I’ve loved for years and convert to raw, whole milk (I can't drink the pasteurized, homogenized stuff). I’ll have to cook daily and pack my lunch; no more Lean Cuisine. I’ll have to make my own sweets to get the corn syrup out of my life, and that means no more Kit-Kats, 3 Musketeers, or toffee from the candy bowl in the secretary’s office. Because if I’m feeding myself poison, what does it matter if I do it in moderation?

The biggest decision I have to make is, “Am I willing to be fat if I am healthy?” Because there’s not much chance that eating only whole, unprocessed foods will make me thin. No more chance than there is that dieting will make me thin. Because seriously? Diets don't work. And I don't want to go there. I want to be healthy, and I don't want the size of my ass (large or small) to get in the way of my pursuit of health.

I have no answer here; only thoughts on where to go. I like the idea of eating whole foods exclusively. I don't know that I like the idea of accepting being fat, but I'm so tired of fighting it.

*Uh, fair warning: Kate Harding comes with a healthy dose of obscenity. Her points are cogent and well made. And laced with profanity. Right, carry on.


  1. I love this post. This is something I am trying to do myself. Not diet necessarily but to eat whole foods that make me feel good.

  2. The move to eating whole foods didn't necessarily improve my health (I still sleep poorly and get sick all the time and have to fight off low-energy some weeks), and it didn't help with my weight (which moves up and down with no seeming cause and yes, when I'm heavier, I'm ravenous... genetics, maybe?). But oh, wow, is it just so much tastier and so much fun. I think that there are other things in my life that contribute to the weight and health factors that outweigh the foods.

    I still drink Soy Milk though. Whole milk is so delicious, but makes me so sick (I'm lactose intolerant, and since cheese has little lactose compared to milk, I can eat tons of it and get my tasty on). I figure that one way or another, I'm going to be drinking something processed (skim milk is not a whole food...) so, I'll go for the one that tastes better.

  3. Kate, I definitely prefer soy milk to regular milk except for the raw stuff. O! It is glorious, raw milk.

    It's interesting, the last three - four weeks have been more "whole foods" than normal for us; very little eating out, making my own bread, lots of home-cooked meals, and I have felt better and more energetic than I have in a while. I've also been running 3x a week that whole time (because I enjoy it, not for the five-pound factor), so that could be a part of it, too.

    The main thing for me is to look at what makes sense. We fatties have been around for time immemorial, and we will be around longer still. I agree whole-heartedly the weight thing is so much more all-encompassing than just what foods we put into our bodies that I don't expect the change to make me skinny. I do hope that by combining it with the physical activities that I like - running, biking, soccer - I'll be a lot more healthy.

  4. Amanda - the key for me is that I want to quit giving a poop what I weigh. I am with you; I don't want to diet. If I mix up what I eat, I want it to be because I'm curious and growing as an eater, not because the FDA says that I should get x% less [insert nutrient here] and drop 50 pounds. I've just had it with that. I've had it with fighting myself and my body. I don't want to give myself a license to eat crap by any means, but I don't want my weight to be the primary gauge of my health any more.