Going through a tough spot but there’s light

Photo by Luc Viatour

Photo of the Full Moon taken from Belgium by Photographer Luc Viatour

I was awake very early this morning (I fell asleep early, too) and saw a gorgeous full moon with passing wispy clouds around it. I could see the moon’s craters and valleys and it was so reassuring. In those moments when I am able to see the moon in its fullness, I am grateful.

There’s a post today on Dr. Arya Sharma’s Blog that is, in my view, worth reading. It was kind of like seeing the full moon for me, a moment of clarity and gratitude. It’s called “Eating More Calories Increases Weight (In Some People – Sometimes – Maybe)” and it confirms so much of what we here in the fatosphere have been saying for years. Of course, for those who claim that those of us fat people who not have binge eating disorder must be lying, this won’t change their minds.

Here are a few highlights from Dr. Sharma’s post:

What I believe this data actually shows is that we are seeing the population effect of the same changes in energy intake (and expenditure) affecting some people more than others.

Similarly, it seems that while EVERYONE is eating more calories now than they were back in 1971, “naturally” thin people somehow manage to stay thin, while “calorie-sensitive” folks get heavier.

Thus, the laws of physics which would tell us that obese people gain weight because they simply eat more and move less don’t quite tell us why thin people can eat more and move less and still stay thin.

So if the obesity epidemic is not simply due to people becoming obese because they’re eating more and moving less (than thin people), then the solution is probably not in simply having them eat less and move more – which, incidentally, is probably why “eat-less-move-more” (ELMM) so seldom works.

Uh. Yeah.

There’s another quote I ran across this morning — this one is a bit more controversial — from Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy

Imagine a vast national experiment to encourage weight gain. We put fast food on every corner, we put junk food in schools, we got rid of P.E., we put candy and soda at the checkout stand of every retail outlet you can think of. The results are in. It worked.

I think there’s some accuracy in that statement — that is, what exactly would one expect to have happen when there’s fast food on every corner, little access to affordable, safe, enjoyable activity, and complete and total access in every imaginable situation to high energy dense foods that are extremely pleasurable to consume? To combat what the food industry is selling by telling people they are bad and wrong and ugly if they eat it, well, that’s pretty much psychological warfare. Instead of telling me I’m an idiot for consuming food that is marketed to me right, left and center — and calling me an addict on top of it — I would say, you are barking up the wrong tree.

The organization that Harold Goldstein leads, while I might not agree with everything they do (such as using fears about obesity to drive what I consider overall health improvement goals), they do have some good recommendations to address what their studies have found to be higher rates of obesity and diabetes are among people who live in lower-income communities that have a higher proportion of fast food and convenience stores to grocery stores and produce vendors . These recommendations include:

  • increasing the availability of grocery stores and produce vendors relative to fast-food restaurants and convenience stores
  • improving the availability of healthy foods relative to unhealthy foods in existing retail outlets
  • increasing consumer awareness of the nutritional content of restaurant food*

Overall, though, I prefer the approach of California’s non-profit Strategic Alliance. From the web site: “The Strategic Alliance is shifting the debate on nutrition and physical activity away from a primary focus on personal responsibility and individual choice to one that examines corporate and government practices and the role of the environment in shaping eating and activity behaviors.” (Notice how weight and obesity aren’t even mentioned?)

And my thoughts are in these places in part because work has been grueling lately. While I’m grateful to have a job at all, it feels like everything that I’ve worked on over the past nearly 3 years is being pillaged and plundered, and I’m feeling like I’m in the belly of a whale — and if, like Pinocchio, I light a fire in there, not only will I be sneezed out, but the whale will come after me.

But, I have one more day of work this week before a long weekend, and a day of activism for children in my state’s Capitol on one of those days outside of work to look forward to.

Add to this mix some weight fluctuation in the upward direction and I’m feeling a bit off balance. And I remind myself that what helps are walks, sleep, good food, hugs, dance, time spent with family and friends, reading the fatosphere, deep breaths, gratitude that I have held onto adorable clothes that gracefully accommodate such fluctuations in either direction, and lots and lots of love for me no matter what size I am, emanating from within and from others (not necessarily in that order).

* While some may argue against “menu labeling,” I think that it’s a form of transparency that can help guide a HAES perspective — rather than not knowing what is in what is being served. For people with diabetes, for example, knowing the amount of carbohydrate per serving can assist in choosing the “best fit” for a particular meal or snack.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Going through a tough spot but there’s light

  1. Nutritional information should include what an ingredient is and how it effects the human body in general. So many people read labels but few understand them and their effects. I am all for educating the public and examining the government and corporate roles in our national nutrition/health.
    Thank you for this post and the link to Dr. Sharma’s blog.

  2. I’m starting to be a big fan of Dr. Sharma. I’ve been really busy recently so thanks for reminding me to read him. What a great article. What a voice of reason in a sea of fat-shaming.

    Good luck with your work. I feel for you.

  3. I don’t have a problem with nutritional information being made available upon request. Restaurants are starting to specify which items have gluten or dairy in them, or can be made without those things, which is useful to me. But I’m pretty sure that’s not what they mean; they’re trying to guilt people about calories in the hopes that they’ll eat less. (Doesn’t the new healthcare bill mandate calorie labeling nationwide, coming soon?)

    I don’t think shoving calorie counts down people’s throats changes much of anything for the good, though. For starters, trying to estimate the calorie count of prepared foods is a huge headache, since even the producers of the ingredients only need to come within 80% accuracy (and to maximize sales, they’re going to estimate down, and besides, not all ingredients are exactly the same size and weight. Do they count how many fries are in an order, or how long each of them is? Does each chicken breast weigh exactly the same? And there’s plenty of evidence that guilting people about calories makes them wind up eating more, anyway.

    You’ve been fighting the good fight. I do hope they don’t undo all the good you’ve done. Sounds like you’re doing a good job of coping, though.

    • For some reason, your comment got stuck in the moderation queue, so I just approved it. I’ve been sleeping better! So it took a while.

      I’m not sure where I stand on calorie counts. I think they are helpful for some, harmful for some, and for the vast majority of people, make no difference whatsoever, and end up being yet another thing that they tune out. I would much rather get an “estimated nutritional profile” with my receipt when I buy something from a fast food restaurant — something that gave an overall view of fats, carbs, protein, sodium, sugar and calories — that’s the kind of thing that might be helpful for people in planning what they eat the rest of the day — or they could just crumple it up and toss it like they do most receipts. I think calorie counts don’t (and really, it’s probably for the best) influence the choices made at the point of service, but if they did influence what people chose for the remainder of the day, it might be helpful in managing their overall consumption of specific things, such as sodium or carbs. And that isn’t the entire population, it’s a portion of it, that would even care or in my opinion need to care about it — similar to gluten or dairy or nuts or other things.

      And I agree with you completely about how difficult it is to get anything other than an estimate if you are talking about food from anything other than a fast food chain.

      • Not to mention that there’s not all that much to prevent restaurants from lying through their teeth about the calorie counts, or just randomly making up a number without bothering to test it. If the number sounds plausible, who’s going to know? Lying about allergens is another story; people die from stuff like that.

  4. First of all, HUG. You have faith it’s helpful. Let me do that again. HUG!

    Now, with regard to calorie counts on menus, I find they’re imprecise, generally low unless it’s a diet food they’re promoting (and I’m an experienced counter). What I’d like to know, in terms of labelling, are the chemicals. When are we eating cheese and when are we eating “cheese notes” sold to the corporate HQ at a food vendors’ conference, after testing in a focus group for “authenticity”?

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