Monday, 22 December 2008

Oprah's diet fatigue

Oprah is bemoaning another round of weight gain, a-gain. She feels ashamed that she is fat, again and is now tired of it, again and has decided she has given up on being slim (dare I say, again) and has decided that she just wants to be healthy and is no longer gunning for slim.

This is diet fatigue, or feeling 'dieted out' as someone once put it. This is like when you have a kind of mini nervous breakdown in the parts of you that are concerned with dieting. You innocently go to diet, one day and the whole system screams;


It will happen to just about everyone if they try dieting for long enough, at some point. It happened to me and it's what unexpectedly and somewhat chaotically led me away from dieting for good (I hope).

When you experience this stage, no matter how successful you are at dieting,(that is, no matter how many times you are able to keep losing weight; the fact that I'm referring to times tells you a lot of what you need to know about 'succesful' dieting), you simply have to stop for a while so that your body can recover from this exhaustion caused by both the process and the extent of the defences the body puts up against it.

The fatosphere says basically that, Oprah should stop dieting. This is correct, but is easier said than done and to overlook that could actually be unfair not so much to Oprah, but to a lot of people who cannot understand why they cannot just stop.

Giving them something else to be ashamed of.

Lately, people leaving FA has been on my mind, not so much in sorrow, more in curiosity. You can almost guarantee, that when something undesirable happens, there's some information in there that you have been overlooking in some way.

These people join FA and like it and feel positive and liberated by it, then, they seem to reach the limit of the stretch it takes to grasp it, from where they are. Then they snap back, or withdraw more slowly backward, and say, they admire FA and people in it, but it's not for them.

The explanations given by others for this process range from they are annoying, to the heavy weight of societal strictures has crushed them. That's fine, whilst you aren't listening too carefully to what they say, or the more articulate and reasoned of them. I think we owe them and ourselves more than that, especially as we are asking others to rethink what they've been told about us.

It is thinking about them along with people who say they desperately want to join, but just can't do it; mentally. Plus thinking about the experiences of people within FA and the challenges they have, that has made me consider more fully the reality of how difficult it can be to just stop dieting.

Even post diet fatigue, which is possibly the most pressing reason to stop. There is an aftermath to years of learning how to be a dieter, there's additional emotional baggage corollary that means that without realising it dieting has become part of your mind.


At first a body of knowledge is a disparate collection of facts often with little meaning or connection. Learning is a self-conscious process that requires a certain amount of commitment, or innate talent, to master.

Eventually things are memorised and stored, connections are made. These separate units of information not only becomes part of your brain structure, but also a unified whole, operating as if it has a life of it's own, if you really get into your subject. When this subject is uplifting, say art, it's life enhancing. When it's something awful, like how to be abused; then it is horrible.

The way we learn cannot be dispensed with, it would only have to be replaced by something else that would probably have the same potential to be corrupted by the content. It's so much about the content.

This is what the body is defending itself against when it comes to dieting, the content. It's trying to stop the disparate bits of how to engage in a life of semi-starvation from a unifying process that may well turn it into anorexia.

It does this even with fat people because if you work it out, fat isn't much of a long term defence against a life of this kind. I think this is more why the body fights dieting rather than because of what we should or shouldn't weigh.

Because the flaw in dieting is that the more successful it is, the more dangerous it is, the reason it doesn't seem to be dangerous to many is because the body has so many powerful defences against it. Just imagine if every (non anorexic) fat person became permanently anorexic.


After getting to the point of it finding it easier to think of your subject than not to think of it, you begin to realise that as hard as learning can be, much more time and energy is devoted to it than to the possibly equally important business of unlearning. It's inevitable that mistakes will be made.

Dismantling a body of knowledge is obviously possible, if you do the reverse of when you are learning, you stop thinking about it, you lower it's importance. You, attack it's logic and so forth, you are half way there, but it's better if you are aware of this from the start.

Rather than going round and round in circles, like Oprah.

It's too easy to overlook that dieting is problematic not just for those with eating disorders, but anyone who's dedicated part of their life to it.

We seem to think that once something has been found sorely wanting, that we will be able to leave it behind and we want, not so unfortunately.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The Big 'O'

Oprah Winfrey may have something akin to what anorexics have, some kind of psychological and or physical dependency on dieting. Or the psychology of control underpinning it.

Due to the fact that fat people are supposed to become or imitate anorexia, this is not a particularly well explored possibility in fat people. The assumption is that if a fat person did become 'addicted' to dieting, they could not possibly continue to be fat, so it would be a good thing.

Diets not working is a moot point if you do not know or accept this reality. More importantly you've become dependant on them working. The fact that they don't, combined with this need can keep you endlessly repeating the failure, sure as you are that it will pay off. As you repeat, you become increasingly attached to them one day paying off.

When asked why they don't just start eating, or why are they trying to look like models-it's not necessary you know, they've repeatedly tried to explain to us that it's not about that, it's about control.

I must confess although I listened, I didn't fully understand that point at all, until I think now. Now I feel what they're getting at is what Oprah can't let go of. It's not just that she wants to be thin, is more that in her life she is used to marshalling and using a tremendous amount of conscious will and inner resolve to achieve the most outstanding things.

The belief that dieting will pay off with willpower and persistence fuses with the actual real payoff of using your willpower, and prevailing even in the most unlikely of contexts and becomes emotionally bound up in that. So ceasing to diet, no longer feels like an independent conclusion, it somehow feels like it's threatening to pull down the rest of your belief in your own agency with it.

So dieting becomes a strategy to prevent or see off a crisis of faith in oneself.

This is something of a surprise, even though it shouldn't be from the way dieting is sold to us cleverly as a pure assertion of willpower, not a separate choice in itself that has nothing to do with our capacity for success in other areas. It's why it's linked to our sense of moral credibility and the inheritance of enlightenment, Godfree will to power. Along with the fact that dieting has become disengaged from anorexia and you have a cover for these links to make themselves, outside your conscious awareness.

The reason I'm saying this is not for Oprah, but for all of us that have been in her shoes, still are frankly. It's important for people to know that dieting can be a really a hard habit to break and that those who are in this position aren't always just acquiescent to the prevailing mood.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

What about fatness and the poor?

There is a lot of talk about poorer people being fatter than others. I have a few doubts about that, starting with the fact that BMI favours taller people and as you go up the income scale, people get taller on average. And the general suspect and biased nature of obesity stats.

Then there's the picture on the ground which is a little more nuanced that flat out stating that low incomes equals greater fatness. I live in London in a mixed but mainly low income area.

The scale of the UK is a lot smaller than say the US or other European countries. I can't remember how many times it can fit in Texas-and I'm not about to look it up, Heck, maybe it can squeeze into Houston for all I know!

So people don't have the same ability to isolate themselves physically as places spread over a greater land mass, although maybe it tells more in manner. And there is the unlovely class system.

Anyway, where I live, there are plenty of people who are fat, to varying degrees, some very, but there also seem to be a lot of people who are slender and thin. More than we are lead to believe. I cannot speak for America of course, but the biggest people seem to me to be not uniformly among the very poorest, where there seems to be a divide, but those who are just above that, those at the edge of the middle class and the top of the working poor. And I'm talking fat and plumper on average.

Whenever I go out at night, the majority of youth, from teenagers sometimes younger are whippet thin, with an eerie uniformity. Thinner than a lot of (middle) middle class kids. Now I don't wish to label them, but these kids seem to be a bit more likely to run into a disagreement with the authorities, let us say. And yet they are almost uniformly thin.

Virtually no one mentions this, for obvious reasons. The authorities wouldn't wish to admit that those characterised as more rascally are thin in the way they desperately desire in the more obedient. The hypocrites. They don't wish to admit that free ranging your kids may be part of what stops those prone from plumping up a tad. They are desperate for the favoured battery style child rearing that we grown ups have favoured should prevail.

Those tucked up in bed vary in size widely it's true, but that's the point, it's the poorest kids who tend to be out at that time.

It's somewhat of a cultural thing, far more children used to be out like that, then a lot of parents stopped that and it's become a sign of almost a sign of bad parenting-such is how our insecurities work. I'd go so far as to say it's perceived as neglect and seen almost as an 'underclass' thing.

So those kind of children remain. Now others that they hang out with must be fatter, there is overlap between them they are family and friends too. But I would doubt one could say that on average they are not thinner.

It does of course depend on how you measure income. Maybe what I observe is too finite in difference to show up. Maybe it's as much a difference in mindset cultural aspiration, connections etc.,

The children I speak of, it's easy to mis characterize by looking some of the people I went to school with were the same still I feel the need to be careful, but they seem a little bit more, maybe not wild, less repressed by petty bourgeois style manners.

They see a little more relaxed and louche, not so uptight, sometimes they are polite, sometimes not. There's a different atmosphere around them, a bit of a swagger, they project a sense of ease that they may not wholly feel, only somewhat, although I don't wish to exaggerate this. They have their constraints the same as anyone else, probably more. Just different.

Maybe because their aspirations tend to be more accepting of their situation, i.e. they wish to make something out of what's around them more than aspire to things more outside their environmental milieu, maybe that has an effect on their countenance and maybe that's part of the divide. At least at younger ages.

It's not necessarily that they always do worse than their peers, it's more that others are brought up in an atmosphere where there is more pressure on them is a lot more pronounced, where with them, there's more a sense of encourage and talk, but it kind of gets left up to them. They are stopped more by outer dictates than inner ones, and that's probably why people accuse them of having 'no discipline'.

Progress into certain professions and jobs maybe reflect what we'd all be like if no-one was "pushed". Before anyone gets the idea that I'm judging, try to remember that if you are born into a middle class family where say, your mother's a teacher and your father an accountant and you wish to be a doctor, you are not strictly speaking really aiming higher either. And you are praised for not doing so as if you are.

You don't have to, you're already 'respectable' and aiming for no greater than you were born in is seen as perfectly admirable. People like this, and the middle class seem to be more likely to be thinner.

Those who tend to be fatter are not necessarily the poorest of the poor, but the aspirant poor. They are taught to aspire. Just beneath the middle class and above the poorest. In a way, being in this kind of group can be a bit like trying to change your weight, at some point there is a danger of burnout along the way and that probably sees off quite a few from reaching their goals.

They are not settled and yet they become accustomed to an environment they are supposed to concentrate on exiting, they wish to rise to aim higher they are taught not to be satisfied with their environs. They have a low income and mix with the poor, but have more bourgie views, aspirations and repressions. They have to learn to view themselves from the outside in, although this is not necessarily clear in their youth.

It would be funny if so like fatness, seems more likely to fatness, i.e. it fatness finds it's meter in existences like fat experience.

Therefore the underlying message they get that the other kind of people I mentioned maybe don't get at home is, that they are not quite good enough as they are. If you are why better it?

That feeling of not being quite good enough is not expressly stated, on the contrary you see yourself as a good person with good intentions. But if you consider it, it gives a root for the anti obesity rhetoric to bind on. It even sounds like the idea of obesity, not quite good enough, but can try harder.

Then at a certain point, the combination of never feeling quite good enough, striving to be better which may require you to be more sedentary-against your desires and instincts to move you have to fight those, to study, to learn, sacrifices have to be made-which is the key as much as anything. You are always striving, never quite at ease with yourself, not being able to quite identify with your surrounds without feeling you must surmount them. And yet if you don't strive this way, it could mean propping up society's bottom. Especially if you come from an immigrant background.

What none who wish to sell obesity and some who you might expect to be a bit more sceptical do not wish to say is that fatness is often about striving beyond your comfort zone and possibly a little past your inner resources; at least for a time and hanging in there to do the things you don't want to do. That doesn't come for free. This is one of the stories some strangely allied do not tell about fatness. I'm thinking of those who wish to use low income fatness to 'prove' fat people are oppressed. As is the fashion among many groupings.

It's about being trapped in responsibility at every turn, all can change or alter your metabolism and by that your appetite and hunger which respond to your needs. Something that appears to be ignored, but I have a feeling is noted and in this way, it can become a way of identifying certain groups you wish to put pressure on. Those who impertinently wish to fulfil their potential, rather than leave it to the ubiquitous middle, middles. It's remarkable how sensitive some people's bodies and/or minds are-in the short to medium term at least and others not so under the same circumstances.

It is this kind of background of cross currents of stress, plus the striving and enough food to eat, and by that I don't mean excess or not, but regular meals, that seem to provide an advantageous atmosphere for fatness.

Striving to better yourself may be good for you or your family in the long run, but it can take it's toll on your body and it is .here that fatness seems a little bit more likely to be called into action earlier. And thus exposes some of the more self defeating ironies of healthist dogma, what you gain by maybe achieving a better life, maybe compromised by taking a toll on your health, eventually.

If you remain too, of course. And that's the rub, whilst we can look at the stresses on us, we were not meant to leave a pristine corpse as they used to say.

It's why I see one of the less visible themes of the crisis to be an attack on those who strive to better themselves, even if it ends up by being not much. One has to be careful that this low income link is not used to obscure this reassessment by the those who are trying to pull up the ladder, to narrow or close the door on energetic potential 'interlopers'.

Those health advisers often betray their disregard of people, by giving them another extra burden of responsibility, that is time consuming energy wasting, when that time is needed for extra study and chores to help working parents out and other things.

There's a false 'morality' going on here regarding the so called morality of exercise and healthy eating. It is often just the way of enforcing social distinctions. 'Morality' often gets introduced when things are needed to cover ulterior motives.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Softly, softly

A direct assault on weight loss is probably the wrong way around for most people.

If weight is anything over and above genetically pre-determined, then it is as a side effect of other things.

It's easy to forget that our body is one, it's all connected up everything is intertwined.

It seems extraordinary now to think that I ever thought of it any differently, why would the way we think and feel not affect our body functions, such as the way it makes use of energy?

We need to do ourselves a kindness and learn to step softly

Monday, 1 December 2008

Diet? No need for scam

Through Hera Telia's post today, I found out about this diet scam website. Interestingly enough, it hasn't been updated for years, possibly because the author has realised that the word 'scam' coming after the word, 'diet' is a redundancy.

Dieting has become a scam on all levels because people refuse to accept the truth about it. The site mentions the usual stuff about how fad diets are bad high protein diets are unhealthy, not mentioning that it's recent revival was lead by a heart doctor. It gives all sorts of tips on healthy weight loss, such as don't skip meals, which should be pretend you aren't skipping meals, as lowering calories is skipping meals and rearranging the meals you have left in order to look as if you haven't skipped a meal. Why this should work is a mystery, but it's success along with other wise tips can be found in the apparently burgeoning obesity rate. One that often comes up is shown here as a myth;

"I can lose weight whilst eating anything I want".

According to calorie restriction, this should easily be true, and indeed to be fair the site author says: 'When trying to lose weight, you can still eat your favorite foods—as long as you pay attention to the total number of calories that you eat.' it's not a myth then is it?

But what is shows is the underlying attitudes towards weight loss, even if it's in the rules, if it may not hurt or be less than unpleasant, it feels wrong, even though it isn't by the rules of the game. This resentment of anything that smacks of freedom or lack of pain is part of the whole mythology of dieting, even though many try to claim this is just down to people bringing bad attitudes to dieting, I believe that it is the other way around, there is something about dieting that lends itself to a hatred of pleasure, comfort or ease. Which is why I've feel that there is a degeneracy intrinsic to dieting that simply isn't being faced by those who try to rescue it.

Dieting is not worth saving, weight loss though is, for reasons stated in this post.

A lot of people within fat acceptance will not like this, but they have fallen into the trap of those who pretend weight loss must equal pain and suffering- it is a deliberate strategy and it's about time to wake up to that fact.

Its' a strange idea for many that weight loss from deliberate reduction of calories is not the same as spontaneous weight loss, usually as a side effect of some other change of circumstance, psychology. Diets and other calorie manipulation, tries to jump the gun, behaving as if pretending to be slim resolves underlying cause.

It's hard to make this distinction because of the manipulation to direct everyone into the dieting cul de sac, which the majority of us have bought into, it is a biological kink that needs to be better understood in order to rescue weight loss from the hell that is calorie manipulation.