The dangers of “thinspiration”

If you google “thinspiration” you’ll be linked to dozens of pages… tumblr, Pinterest, blogs… it’s mind boggling. Whether or not people want to admit it, the research is pretty clear that diets will ultimately fail for 95% of people. You can read more about that on my favorite website, Dances With Fat. This post is a good one as far as diet “success” rates go, but just search Ragen’s blog. She is a brilliant researcher, and she has a wealth of information about this topic. For a lucky minuscule minority, long term weight loss is possible. For most of us, short term weight loss will happen as a result of any diet, “lifestyle change” or even just the simple adaptation of healthier habits, such as eating more whole foods, veggies, fruits, etc and exercising regularly. But even with the maintenance of those healthier habits, most of us will inevitably regain the weight. Since so many are only adapting those habits for the sake of weight loss, the habits are often abandoned once the weight loss part fails.

“Thinspiration” is a concept I once bought into heavily (no pun intended). There are many variants on this idea. Some people look to those who’ve lost a lot of weight, and who have posted before and after pictures. Others just find any thin person and use pics of that person as “thinspiration.” There are so many problems with this type of behavior that I almost don’t know where to begin.

First off, comparing your body to anyone else’s is a dangerous game. There are a lot of companies out there counting on you to do just this, in hopes you’ll buy their products to make your hair look like X movie star’s hair, or your lashes like X model’s lashes. This goes even more so for the diet industry. Just think of all the celebrity spokespeople we see… Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Hudson, Sarah Ferguson, Sara Rue (who famously lost weight after being a rare successful plus-sized actress, and went on to be a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig). Never mind the fine print that cautions us that “results are not typical,” most of us have had moments of desperately wanting to that success to be our own. But our bodies are incredibly unique, and our genetic makeup is so varied. There is a real truth that few want to recognize, which is that body type is largely genetic. Some people can fight that, at least for a while. Most of us can’t, not long term. There are also things we’ll never be able to change, without surgery. My grandmother, mother and I all have identical body types. Short limbs, long torsos, big boobs, flat butts, no real waists and we’re prone to weight gain in the stomach. Nothing I do could change these things, unless I wanted butt implants or boob reduction surgery. Even if I’d ever managed to lose every last pound, I was never going to have the tight, taut flat stomach because despite the many fitness videos that try to claim otherwise, most fitness experts agree that spot reduction is not possible. I was thin once upon a time. I was told repeatedly by everyone, including my own family, that I was fat… but I wasn’t. I did, however, still have a belly. It was never flat, even when I was 5’2″ and 98 pounds, as in this picture.

Easter 1986

Just as you can’t know anything about a fat person simply by looking at her, other than the fact that they are fat, we don’t know anything about a thin person just by looking at her except that she’s thin. Society has badgered us into thinking this is the only acceptable way to look, and even worse has convinced us that this is the only way to be healthy, but it’s just not that cut and dry. We don’t know how or why that person is thin. Maybe she’s just naturally thin, and fortunate to be in the most desired societal weight range. Maybe she’s battling an eating disorder. Maybe she has a chronic illness. Maybe she’s engaging in unhealthy lifestyle choices to maintain weight loss. There are so many “maybes” it makes my head spin. The point is… idealizing a body type is just as dangerous as demonizing a body type. You simply cannot know, just by looking at anyone, that they are healthy. You just can’t.

The next problem with “thinspiration” comes when using before and after pics. You are buying into the idea that many people promote themselves when they are successful at doing anything. I call this the “if I can do it, anyone can!” myth. It’s such a nice idea, and it often comes from a place of good intentions, but it’s simply not true. If anyone could do anything someone else has done, we’d have a lot more gold medal Olympians. We’d have far more people who have climbed Everest. Hell, why stop at Everest… anyone who wanted to could climb all the Seven Summits. People like Lance Armstrong wouldn’t have to resort to doping to win because they could just ride on the “someone else did it, so can I!” train instead. Just because someone else has successfully lost weight does not mean you can, and it’s incredibly damaging to one’s self esteem to buy into that… because if you’re not in that 5% of long term weight loss success stories, you feel like a failure. I know. I was that person. I bought the hype. I actually think one of the worst things we do to children is tell them they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. I understand the rationale behind it, but it’s just not true. We can’t ALL be astronauts. We can’t ALL be lawyers. We can’t ALL be thin.

If you want to try to lose weight, that is absolutely your right. You have every right to pursue whatever goals you want in life. Don’t let me, or anyone else stop you from trying, as long as it’s what YOU truly want. But please… do not look at other people as “thinspiration.” Your journey is your own. Your successes – which won’t necessarily come in the form of weight loss – are also your own. I’d never dream of telling someone not to try to lose weight. It’s your body and your choice to make, and ultimately if looking at pictures of thin people somehow inspires you, well then okay. Just as long as you’re realistic about it, so as not to set yourself up for disappointment and the sense of having failed. When you consider the facts, you’re a totally normal person, not a failure, if dieting doesn’t give you the long term weight loss you desire.

Whatever your goals are, whether it’s to lose weight, or to adopt the healthy habits that are part of Health At Every Size or to make no changes at all, I encourage you to look in the mirror tonight and say “I’m worthy of love from myself and those around me.” Every body is worthy… regardless of shape or size.

~JK

Stop Weighting…

I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time now. I’ve wanted to write it for a few weeks. Ironically, it hasn’t been written because I’ve been feeling too damn awful to focus on much of anything lately.

When I was 15, I had this idea about my 10 year high school reunion. Mind you, I was a freshman in high school at the time. I was going to be skinny. I was going to dye my hair blonde and let it grow really long. I was going to look so not like my 15 year-old self that people went “who is that!?!” I was going to enjoy the hell out of watching them all have their jaws drop.

Once I was thin, I’d find true love. I’d get married, have a couple of babies (without gaining any weight, of course). I’d be a famous Broadway actress. When I watch Glee, I can so relate to Rachel because that was my dream. Living in NYC, going to a performing arts college, and working towards getting on Broadway. Of course, I had to be thin, first.

“Once I lose the weight, I’ll do…” was my mantra. I spent so much time fantasizing about losing weight. I tried all the diets, though at 15, I was in the throes of my eating disorder. In fact, I’d spend over seven weeks hospitalized for it that year. The therapy at the eating disorder hospital was helpful, but only to a point… partly because I spent so much time envying the anorexic girls. Yep. You heard right… the most deadly mental illness to have, and I envied them. It’s funny in a very sad way, actually. Everyone looked at my weight and acted like, at 15, I was a ticking time bomb. But I know at least two of the girls I was in that hospital with died before they were 40, and it wasn’t because they were overweight. It was the anoerxia’s toll on their hearts. But I digress. Unfortunately, there were really no other girls like me in that program. Even the girls who were bulimic to start, and maybe 20 – 30 pounds “overweight (as defined by BMI charts, not me)” to start had tilted towards the “too thin to be healthy” side of things. The entire time I was there, there were two older women who battled bulimia and were what would be deemed “overweight,” but not one person was even close to my size. It made all my self-conscious issues a lot worse. There was also a heavy emphasis on me losing weight. My one friend, who was anorexic and at 5’6″ weighed 86 pounds, joked with me. We wished we could swap bodies for a while. I gained weight just looking at it, and she could lose weight easily. If only we could swap…

Fast forward a decade. I had found my true love, and GASP… I didn’t have to get skinny to do it. I wasn’t a Broadway actress, but I was living in NYC, on the Upper East Side, nonetheless. I was going to school, had chosen a major I loved. Life was good. We went to museums, we’d walk around the city. We did street fairs in the summer, and spent a long weekend in the Adirondacks each fall. We had a great dog, a beautiful apartment. Hell, we had a doorman. I grew up in poverty, the child of an addict… my life had changed so much, and it was so sweet and good. Except… I was still fat. And I was still trying desperately not to be fat. I tried all the trendy diets, and always wound up going back to Weight Watchers. I’d lose 25 pounds, and then it was like I hit a brick wall. I spent so much time thinking about what I didn’t have (a thin, socially acceptable body) I didn’t ever completely appreciate all that I did have.

At 26, I joined a gym. It took an enormous amount of guts for me to join a gym in my neighborhood where a size 8 was “fat.” But I did it. I went 3 – 4 times a week on average. Some weeks I went even more. It felt good. I didn’t know it yet, but I already had fibromyalgia. The symptoms were mild, and the main issue at that time was sleep disturbances. I associated it with the thyroid condition I discovered I had that year (and that, my friends, is why my weight loss journeys were so fraught). I followed WW’s plan. In the beginning, the gym was an awesome thing for me. I’d end it with a small drink from Jamba Juice… it was a ritual I enjoyed, even though it was hard. I couldn’t do anything but some weight training and the treadmill because everything else caused me pain. Which, of course, I blamed on being too fat. Turns out, that was the fibro. At any rate, the exercise boosted my mood, and in the first few weeks I loved it. Then I stopped losing weight. Again. The weighers and leaders at the WW meetings clearly didn’t believe me. I was cheating somehow, or not really working out. I tried all the “tricks.” I ate my extra workout earned Points. I didn’t eat them. I tried the Wendie Plan, where you eat under your Points some days and over on others (still balancing out to the actual total number for those days). I did everything right. Why wasn’t I losing weight? Didn’t my body know I had things to do??? Things I couldn’t do until I was thin???

I began to hate the gym. Oh, I still went. But instead of it being fun, instead of feeling exhilarated after the exercise, it became one more way I was a failure. Clearly, I wasn’t doing it “right.” I didn’t give up, though. I just hated every single minute of it. Even my post-workout Jamba Juice lost its sweetness. I became obsessive about the gym, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t losing weight. Yet again, I barely managed to hit 25 pounds lost (I remember this so well because the 25 pound mark earns a special “award” at WW). Then I hit the wall. I’d gain weight doing “everything right.” Or I just wouldn’t lose. It would go on for a few weeks, and then my resolve would crack and I’d wind up bingeing. Ironically, I often lost a tiny bit of weight the weeks I binged. But I hated myself. I felt weak, and like a failure. I remembered my 15 year-old self when I was in the hospital envying the “willpower” of my anorexic friends (that “willpower,” btw, was a topic the bulimic girls and I used to discuss frequently). I felt like I just lacked willpower. The WW weighers and leaders must be right. Clearly, I was doing something wrong.

Meanwhile, I kept putting off things I wanted to do because they’d be easier, or because I wouldn’t look stupid (aka fat) doing them once I lost weight. After about 6 or 7 months of regular gym visits, I hurt my knee. I blamed it, of course, on my weight. So did my doctor, who, by NYC standards was fairly fat friendly (and that’s why I saw her). The physical therapist, however, who was not American (and I suspect therefore less predisposed to the “it’s your fat” argument), told me the problem was that the muscle in my thigh was so tight, it actually pulled the knee cap, causing an injury. I didn’t know it yet, and wouldn’t for five more years, but I’d just had my first fibromyalgia related injury. To this day, there are times when my thigh muscles (particularly the left one) get so tight they pull the knee cap. This meant no more gym. I could only do the treadmill, and suddenly that was taken away from me, too.

Fast forward another decade. I’m now 37. I dieted repeatedly until 2007, when, after having moved away from NYC (and away from so much fat hating), something in me finally “broke,” and I just knew I couldn’t do it anymore. I spent 18 months working with an eating disorder therapist on Intuitive Eating. It made so much sense. I stopped getting weighed. My weight stabilized. I didn’t really lose much weight, but I stopped the endless cycle of “lose 25, gain 35.” I felt so much better emotionally. I discovered I hated half the foods I binged on. I also hated half the foods I’d forced myself to eat when on Weight Watchers.

I stopped waiting to do things, but… unfortunately, I stopped waiting too late. The fibromyalgia had taken a strong hold on my body, and so many of the dreams I had were crushed. Not by being too fat, but by being too sick. When we first moved to Colorado, I had a dream of climbing a 14er (that’s a mountain over 14,000 feet). It turns out my body doesn’t do well over an elevation of 11k, so that dream would likely never have been realized anyway (and elevation sickness is irrelevant of physical fitness, for those uninitiated with life at high elevations). But I had the dream, and I tried to “train” for it, and realized… it would be too damn painful. I couldn’t do it. It’s not a matter of “suck it up.” It would mean risking injuries.

Today I am in the worst shape of my life. It has little to do with being fat, and much to do with being sick. It is endlessly frustrating to want to do things, to try to do things and to have it hurt so much I shake, and wind up near (or actually in) tears. I think back to the 26 year-old me… to the 15 year-old me… and I want to shake myself. I want to scream…

STOP WEIGHTING.

My body was strong. It did amazing things, and I beat it up over the ONE thing it didn’t want to do… lose weight. I wasted years of health on a fantasy of being thin.

So here is my message to all of you. Regardless of whether or not you still want to actively pursue weight loss, something that is a very personal choice, STOP WAITING TO LIVE. If you have a dream, go for it. Start trying today. You might lose the weight and find you can’t do it for some other reason. You might not lose the weight, and miss your chances… like me. I could’ve done so many things I was waiting to do, and now I’ll never get to do them because of the fibromyalgia. Even if I were to somehow magically lose weight today, my pain is not related to my weight. It wouldn’t make much, if any, difference.

I lost my chance. Don’t make my mistake. Stop weighting. Stop thinking of the things your body can’t do, or the things you think it shouldn’t do (like wearing a bathing suit). Go out there and celebrate all the things your body CAN do!

There are other dreams I have now, ones unrelated to my weight. I just hope the fibromyalgia will let me realize those dreams. I won’t stop fighting, though. I know all too well what happens when you don’t fight to make a dream reality. So, I keep trying. Whether or not I ever get there is irrelevant, really. At least I’ve stopped waiting to try. Finally.

~Jessica

Why I may cancel my graze box subscription

Updated to include the reply from graze

Subscription boxes have been a popular trend for a while now. There are a ton of beauty ones, among other types. When I had the opportunity to try graze boxes, though, I was really excited. For one thing, the snacks looked very unique. Here’s an example of a recent box I received. The food is fresh, and the flavors are good. I haven’t liked every snack, but many of them are really tasty. Plus, you can customize your preferences even before you get your first box, which is awesome. It’s also only $5 per box, and while it’s a little pricey for the size of the snack, I live in a rural area and getting a lot of the items in these boxes would be expensive, or even impossible. Additionally, you can get a box once a month, every week or every other week, and this flexibility appealed to me. Right now I’ve been doing every other week. Getting a graze subscription currently requires an invite code from another subscriber. Each new subscriber gets one invite, and occasionally they give you a way to earn an additional invite. This makes finding a graze invite challenging, and of course, the exclusivity has increased the appeal for many.

Every graze box includes a napkin, four individually packaged snacks and a booklet. The booklets have been fairly silly overall, but they are cute. However, this was part of my most recent booklet and it deeply troubled me (click the image to see it larger).

Graze

I was so frustrated and annoyed by this that I decided to write the people at graze an email. Here is what that email said.

I wanted to bring to your attention something that has me very troubled, and even has me considering canceling my subscription. I have battled an eating disorder most of my life. It’s taken me years to see food as something fun, enjoyable and that will fuel my body.

I subscribed to graze as a way to get some unique, fun snacks. I love getting packages, and it gives me something to look forward to, in addition to being a neat way to try new foods.

However, the attached file, from my latest graze box really troubled me. It took me years to not see foods as “good” vs. “bad.” I eat what I like. If I choose to eat a healthier snack, it’s because it’s what I want. But I refuse to be made to feel as though I’m being “bad” if I choose to eat a candy bar or chips.

Calling graze snacks “heroic” is a bit of a stretch at any rate, but to classify an entire range of snack foods as “villainous” is ridiculous and upsetting. I can guarantee you that this comparison is a trigger for thousands upon thousands of people like me, who have worked hard to battle eating disorders. Worse, it feeds the idea of “bad” foods for those who don’t yet realize that they are battling an eating disorder.

Obviously, as a company you’re entitled to market your graze boxes however you see fit. Graze is hardly the first company to attempt to alleviate our “guilt” about eating, and it won’t be the last. But it would be nice if you could consider that how you word things really can have a very negative impact on the people who pay for your product.

I’ll be basing my decision to cancel on the response to this email. There are so many people like me, and many of them may not be in as strong of a place as I am in terms of how influenced by this “villainous” vs. “heroic” campaign they are. Please consider focusing on the actual health benefits of your snacks, as opposed to marketing gimmicks that feed into unhealthy emotional judgments about food.

Sincerely,
Jessica

We’ll see what their response is, but I may very well be canceling the subscription after this. I refuse to participate in a campaign of food bashing, and by paying graze for my boxes, I feel like that’s what I’d be doing. Considering how elusive invitations are to join graze, and how many people would probably pay me for one, it saddens me to cancel but I am not going to be made to feel like I’m committing a crime if I choose to eat chips. And I’m sure as hell not going to PAY a company that vilifies food. I’ve learned to avoid things marketed this way in stores, as they are big time triggers for me. I’ll be sure to post a follow up, assuming they ever reply to my email.

*Update*

I got a quick response, so I’ll give them credit for being prompt. That said, I’m underwhelmed by the substance of the reply.

Dear Jessica,

Thanks so much for sending us your sincere thoughts, and for sharing with us your story of how you’ve worked incredibly hard to overcome an eating disorder.

We’re really sorry that our Super Swaps nutrition booklet wasn’t positive or helpful towards your graze experience. It’s really good to hear that you actually enjoyed your graze snacks so far and that it has provided some fun and excitement, but we can understand how the slogan might have some uncomfortable connotations. I can assure you that we do not intend to label any of our foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but that we just try to separate ourselves from other snack foods you can find in stores which are higher in calories, fat, or sugar. We completely agree that there are no good or bad foods and that it’s important to keep an open mind about what the different dietary needs of our grazers are.

For many of our grazers, our snacks are a lot healthier than the ones you’d find in the supermarket. We always have our grazers in mind when creating new snacks, and do seek out suppliers who aim for the highest quality nibbles.

Graze is all about healthy eating, so you can see that we were simply trying to break down any barriers some folks might have about including smaller portions of some foods traditionally seen as ‘bad,’ such as chocolate, in a healthy diet. For us, it’s all about variety and balance, with the odd treat thrown in once in a while. For some of our grazers, they want to be reminded that they’re making some smart ‘swaps’ as it reinforces the idea that they’re treating their bodies and minds well. We do go into the health benefits of our snacks here but we also like to have some fun with our snacks, which is why we include booklets like the Super Swaps one.

Once again we’re really sorry and hope that grazing can continue to still be a fun and positive experience for you. I’ve made sure to share your feedback with our marketing team to see how we can improve our messages.
Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

All the best,

(name removed by me)

I kind of feel as though this reply says, “we know some of our members see these foods as being ‘bad’ choices, and we’re reinforcing that belief for them!'” Which is my entire point… there are people who DO see food as “bad” vs. “good.” and I am just not a fan of that mentality. I think it’s incredibly unhealthy. You can choose to focus on healthier foods, but once you begin to add emotional judgments to food, it gets complicated, and it can fuel disordered eating behaviors that no one should have to face. I’m feeling as though this reply is a mixed message, at best. I’m likely to cancel my subscription. For now, I’ve pushed back my next shipment to July and have changed to once a month, instead of every two weeks. This gives me time to consider whether or not graze is a company I want to continue to support.

~JK

The Hippocratic Oath

Yesterday I wrote about my disgust over a former White House doctor’s comments regarding NJ governor, Chris Christie’s weight and health. I wanted to give Governor Christie major credit for taking Ms. Mariano to task on this story. Christie said, ” that a doctor in Arizona w has never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history , could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away is completely irresponsible. my children saw that last night. and she sat there on tv and said i’m afraid he’s going to die in office. my 12-year-old son comes up to me last night and says, “dad, are you going to die?”

Ms. Mariano replied, “it doesn’t take a physician to look at him to observe he’s overweight.”

Really? Gee, thanks for that enlightening tidbit, and also thank you for reaffirming my belief that the way you practice medicine is to diagnose based on looks. Well done, Ms. Mariano.

Mariano has also said she has no regrets over her comments, and that they were meant to be “constructive” Yeah, because fat people all over the world don’t already know that the majority of people – and doctors – see them as walking heart attacks.

I want to take a few minutes to look at the oath that doctors swear. It’s the Hippocratic Oath, and while there are many versions of it, both modern re-writes and multiple translations of the original, the take away is the same no matter which variant is spoken upon graduation from medical school. And nearly 100% of medical schools in the US have some form of this oath.

Let’s see how many different ways Ms. – oops, sorry – DOCTOR – Mariano broke her profession’s supposedly sacred oath, shall we? For the sake of this post, I’m using the modern translation found here.

“I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.”

Despite plenty of scientific research to support the claim that diets not only don’t work, but often result in increased body mass, Dr. Mariano still promotes weight loss. That doesn’t sound like “respect” of “scientific gains” to me.

“I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”

I don’t really think there’s any question whatsoever about Mariano’s lack of warmth, sympathy and understanding. She demonstrated that clearly in her original comments about a man she’s never even met, let alone treated, and she only solidified that when she didn’t even have the decency to apologize for upsetting Governor Christie’s children, who saw her ridiculous report on the news.

“Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death.”

Very cavalierly stating that you’re very worried that a man you’ve never met or treated (I cannot reiterate that point enough) will die in office pretty much breaks that oath. To do so publicly and in a forum that will garner worldwide attention only makes it even more disrespectful. I think we can say Dr. Mariano trampled all over this bit of the oath.

“I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability.”

Well, maybe Ms. Mariano feels exempt from this, seeing as how she NEVER TREATED THE MAN… but since she decided to weigh in on the absurd situation, let’s consider the fact that she isn’t seeing Governor Christie like as a person. She doesn’t see the man, she only sees the fat. She showed no remorse or regret for the fact that she upset his family, and I doubt she gives a rat’s ass over the fact that her comments, as a former White House physician, have the potential to affect his future political career – and therefore his future economic stability.

“I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.”

So, instead of trying to “cure” one man of what you consider an illness, Dr. Mariano, why aren’t you doing legitimate research that results in the end of the so-called obesity epidemic? Right, because you’ve bought the party line on fat and health, and your narrow mind can’t think outside the paradigm you hide behind. Moving on.

“I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.”

While I’m sure you think that your snarky attitude and casual comments about a man’s life and death and career are helpful, let me assure you, they are not. As you so eloquently pointed out, it doesn’t take a physician to see that Governor Christie is overweight. The man has made plenty of references to his struggles with his weight, as well as jokes. So you can’t claim that he’s unaware of what you consider to be his problem, can you? Your little performance wasn’t about enlightenment. If you truly were concerned for him, you’d have reached out to him directly and privately, instead of taking your “normal” sized body on tv and spewing risks for his health without having ever met the man. I’m not sure what your agenda is, but I’m quite sure you have one, and Mr. Christie’s health is not even slightly at the forefront of it. The only obligation you seem to be paying mind to is that of your own career goals.

Dr. Connie Mariano is hardly the only doctor to break these supposedly sacred vows. Millions of doctors do it every time a fat patient walks into their office with a health issue and they tell said fat patient that the problem is their fault for being fat. Plenty of doctors get in front of cameras and make false claims, or throw out scary statistics that are skewed to this idea that being fat equals certain and imminent death. Doctors who perform barbaric surgeries on people who are not healthy enough – mentally or physically – to have said surgeries break this oath. Psychiatrists who approve those patients for surgery when they know full well the patient is not mentally prepared for the realities of life post-op break those oaths.

Dr. Mariano is simply the most recent and most public of medical professionals to open her mouth without thinking about the ramifications of what she is saying. Doctors like Ms. Mariano have no business practicing medicine. They are irresponsible, arrogant and presumptuous, not to mention bigoted and biased. We will never “solve” the so-called obesity epidemic as long as we continue to empower people like Dr. Mariano. Instead, we will see exactly what we’ve seen the last 20 years… a steady increase in weight gain despite all the so-called “lifestyle” changes or diets that people try. We’ll see the continued rise in bullying that happens when the media decides to seize on a perceived epidemic. We’ll see people waste their lives hating themselves, hating their bodies and living in shame over something that should be irrelevant.

How I look has nothing to do with the kind of medical care I deserve. It has nothing to do with whether or not I am qualified for a job. And it should have absolutely nothing to do with how happy I am in my life. I am lucky enough to have a husband and friends who love me for who I am, not how I look. Not everyone gets that opportunity, but part of that is that we need to empower ourselves. We need to realize we are worthy of love, of respect and of quality healthcare regardless of our size or looks. Only then can we find true happiness.

~Jessica

Chris Christie’s weight drama

On January 10th, 2013 it was reported that Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey (my home state) had an approval rating of 78%. Christie, a Republican whose politics are not always popular with Democrats, even polled 70% approval with that demographic. The “Superstorm Sandy” crisis helped him immensely, with most in NJ very impressed with how he handled the aftermath of that horrific natural disaster. With approval ratings President Obama, and many presidents before him, could only dream of, Christie seems a likely choice for the GOP front-runner in the next election.

Whether or not someone is qualified for the office of president should have NOTHING to do with how someone looks. It should be about political platforms and goals, as well as career accomplishments. Yet, in the case of Chris Christie, it’s not. It’s about his damn weight. Former NJ Governor Jon Corzine attempted to use Christie’s weight against him during campaign ads, saying he was “throwing his weight around.” It didn’t work, and Christie managed to beat Corzine. But that’s one state. Can a fat man really win a national election in a country obsessed with the so-called obesity epidemic?

President Bill Clinton’s former White House physician Dr. Connie Mariano – a woman with NO personal knowledge of Christie’s health – said publicly yesterday that Christie’s health is “like a ticking time bomb.” She warned,darkly,”I’m worried about this man dying in office.” She went on to say she is a Republican and wants him to run, but only if he’s lost weight first. Mariano also said, “When somebody who has morbid obesity is running around, he’s probably got heart disease and continued stress and eventually will have a heart attack. So that’s the time-bomb theory. It’s bound to happen if he continues that lifestyle.”

Really, Ms. Mariano? Sorry, but when you spew off random and biased BS, I refuse to call you “doctor.” You are supposed to be a medical professional. This diatribe doesn’t show the intelligence and skill I’d expect from someone who served 9 years in the White House medical staff. Instead, it demonstrates a clear bias against people who are fat. It shows a bias that I think is a far bigger risk to the health of overweight people than their actual weight! Let’s also not forget that Ms. Mariano’s famous former patient Bill Clinton, a man who has generally “looked” healthy – in other words, he’s looked like a “normal” weight, has had more than one heart scare, and ultimately even had quadruple bypass surgery. So I ask, Ms. Mariano… how succsessful was your healthcare treatment of former President Clinton? Should we judge your skills, as a physician, solely on that one patient? You are credited with helping him get his weight down (not that Clinton would ever have been considered “fat”), and yet he still had to have major heart surgery. Gee, does that suggest, perhaps, that genetics are a factor? That dietary choices – and not merely what the scale says – might play a role?

Ragen Chastain just wrote an excellent blog post about how the healthcare industry likes to blame fat people for whatever ails them, and I highly recommend you read it.

Christie, by his own admission, has struggled with dieting for 30 years. He also told David Letterman that he is is, “basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve seen in your entire life.” He also said that his blood sugar and cholesterol levels are both normal, but added that his own doctor has (not at all surprisingly) warned him that his luck will run out. By his own admission, Christie’s spent the last 30 years dieting. He said, “I’m making the best effort I can. And sometimes I’m successful, and other times I’m not. And sometimes periods of great success are followed by periods of great failure.” This makes me really sad for Christie. First of all, what he looks like should have no bearing on the job he’s doing. He proved, in the hours following Hurricane Sandy, that his weight is not a hindrance to him in a crisis situation. Secondly, when you consider the facts about dieting, the odds of him ever “succeeding” in a way that will satisfy his critics – and idiots like Connie Mariano – are incredibly slim (no pun intended, believe me).

95 – 98% of people who do lose weight will gain it back within 5 years. This is simply a fact. It’s been shown over and over in countless studies to be a fact. Which means, at best, 5% of people who diet will maintain that weight loss. Why does this fact so rarely get mentioned in the mainstream media? Why is the focus not on healthy habits as opposed to weight loss? We do insane, and often very unhealthy, things to attempt to lose weight. And for what? We put our bodies through hell. We allow ourselves to be defined by a number on the scale. We beat ourselves up emotionally for “failure,” when the simple reality is that we’re not to blame for the “failure.” The dieting industry sells us false hope and false promises. The tiny print at the bottom of every diet ad that states “results not typical” should be enough to make us all realize that diets do not work, and yet we all think we’ll be the exception. We’ll be in that 2 – 5% that magically manage to succeed. Diets do not work. But an industry that is raking in about $60 billion dollars annually doesn’t want us to know that, despite what the research shows.

I say no more. Mr. Governor, I don’t ever expect you’ll see this blog post, but I sincerely hope you take advantage of the national platform you’ve landed on. You have the chance to redirect the conversation, as you tried to do when Barbara Walters asked you if you were too fat to be president, and you told her that is ridiculous. You’re right. It is ridiculous. 30 years of your life is enough to give to the critics who say you need to be thin to be successful and, more importantly, healthy. You do the right things for your body. Only you know what those things are, and only you have the right to decide what steps, if any, you need to take right now to be a healthier you.

Whether or not Chris Christie is qualified to be president has nothing to do with how he looks or what the scale says. It should be related only to his professional career. The voters opted to overlook his weight before, and we can only hope they will do so again when he runs for re-election in NJ later this year. Our leaders should be elected based on merit, not based looks or biased claims from so-called medical professionals with no actual evidence to support them.

~Jessica

Hi there.

Some years ago I blogged in my “real life,” but it’s been a while. I blogged as Maeander from The Pretty Face back in my Weight Watchers dieting days. Then later, when I first discovered Intuitive Eating I realized I needed an entirely fresh start with a more… positive blog url. Eating My Cake was born, where I blogged as Juliet. Now, with Weighing My Mind I am blogging as myself. Just me. Just Jessica. Oh, my real last name isn’t anywhere on this site, but the truth is I’m not hiding this blog. I’ll share it with people who really know me (or think they do), along with people who only know me online (and often better than those who know me in real life). Some people won’t like what I have to say. I can’t help that. I’m responsible for my feelings alone. I know I am opinionated. I’m also tired. Really, really tired… of what? Glad you asked, since it’s what this blog is all about, really.

I am tired of the feeling that being fat is some sort of crime against humanity. In 2007 I began to work with an eating disorder therapist. I’d battled my weight my entire life. I was put on my first diet at the oh-so-impressionable age of 8. My aunt, who was responsible for that diet, will tell you to this day that she never deprived me. I, as the person on the diet, have another take on that. But I’ll save that story for another time. I believe she meant well (which is progress for me, because for years and years I didn’t). She was misguided and her actions set me on a destructive path of disordered eating that would be a way of life for me for over two decades.

In 2006, I was doing Weight Watchers for probably the fourteenth time. This time, due to a recent move to a rural area, I was doing it entirely online. My body was tired. Years of yo-yo dieting had taken their toll. Add to that various medical issues that make weight gain easier and weight loss harder, and it was a recipe for disaster. I wasn’t losing much weight, even being “perfect.” And let’s face it, “perfection” in anything is fleeting, if even achievable at all. With dieting, “perfection” comes at a bitter price… you wind up crashing and burning, and in many cases – including mine – binges soon follow. Weight gain follows, often more than is lost in the first place. When I – yet again – failed at Weight Watchers I felt despondent. Why couldn’t I do it? I mean, Weight Watchers is the “non-diet” in the dieting industry. You can “eat anything” as long as you count your Points! I had WW leaders who would “tsk tsk” at me. Who didn’t believe I was truly trying, even when I was. Even when my feet ached from walking more miles than I should’ve been attempting. Even when my stomach rumbled because I denied it food when I was truly hungry. I told myself I didn’t know what “hungry” felt like. I told myself it was not true hunger. I failed to realize that my body believed itself to be starved. I failed to realize that it wasn’t my failure. Even WW, as wonderful as it declares itself to be, comes with the “results not typical” disclaimers. Even WW results in far more failures than success stories. So, really… who is failing? The dieters? Or the diet?

Frustrated, I talked to my doctor. She recommended I talk to the dietitian who worked in the same office. So, resolved to figure something new out and desperate for a new path, I went and talked to Kathleen. She put me on a diet. *facepalms* Oh, like most diets, it was masquerading as a “lifestyle choice.” In the end, however, the goal was weight loss. There were “exchanges” to track. There were “meal plans” to inspire me. It didn’t last long. Something inside of me, something deep within, was simply… broken.

In 2007, while researching symptoms my husband had, of what we’d ultimately discover were multiple sclerosis, I discovered a listing of fibromyalgia symptoms. I was stunned. I’d been living with nearly every symptom on the list since late 2001. Like most of the doctors I’d seen, I blamed my weight. I figured I was just “fat and lazy.” I’d heard it enough growing up, after all. Maybe it was true. I’d ignored the pain. The fatigue was harder to ignore, but in 2002 I’d been diagnosed with hypothyroidism (which turned out to be Hashimoto’s Disease). So, I had an explanation for the chronic exhaustion, but I was still ignoring the sleep disturbances. Why? Oh, because I’d been told by an ENT in New York City that I “likely” had sleep apnea. After all, I’m fat. I snore. Combine the two and it seems to be all many doctors require to assume it’s sleep apnea. Only a sleep study done in the summer of 2006 revealed that I had only ever-so-slightly more sleep apnea episodes than a “normal” person would have had. It wasn’t sleep apnea. They did notice some unusual activity in my sleep, though. I didn’t properly cycle in and out of the stages of sleep. This was barely mentioned, but I now believe it is alpha wave intrusion, which is quite common in patients with fibro. It explains why I dream nearly as soon as I fall asleep. It also explains why I’ve not had a single night of sleep where I don’t remember at least parts of my dreams in years. In fact, I usually remember my dreams in vivid, technicolor detail. I wake up feeling as though I’ve spent the night active. It’s a horrendous way to live. Sleep and I used to be good friends. Now we’re enemies.

I think that my diagnosis of fibromyalgia, along with my husband’s MS diagnosis, made me realize life is short and bittersweet. At the same time I was also undergoing fertility treatments in an attempt to live our dream of being parents. It would never happen. I have polycystic ovarian syndrome, which I knew when we began trying to conceive. What I wouldn’t figure out until nearly two years into the process is that I also have endometriosis. The combination pretty much damned me, and after over two years of heartbreak I couldn’t do it anymore. In the fall of 2007, desperate for some clarity and help coping with both the infertility, the fibro, my husband’s MS diagnosis and, maybe more than anything, my struggles with dieting, I found a therapist. Bonnie specialized in eating disorders. I was so nervous the day I went to meet her. I fully and completely expected her “treatment plan” to involve a weight loss program of some sort. I was wrong. She introduced me to Intuitive Eating instead.

Why am I here now? I had “retired” from my IE blogger days in 2009. I didn’t feel like I had anything more to say (ha, never trust a Jersey girl when she says that). Well, as it turns out, I do. I have a lot more to say.

This week I’ve been inspired by a telesummit hosted by Anne Cuthbert. In particular, Ragen Chastain’s talk really inspired me, as have the blog posts I’ve read from her since. It made me realize that I have more I need to work through, more to learn… and more to share.

I welcome you on my journey. I hope it helps you as you take your own journey. Just remember, each of us has to find our own path. My journey is not for you to take anymore than yours is for me to take. We can learn from each other along the way. We can share our stories and adventures. Ultimately, though, when the time comes to continue along the path… only we can take the next steps for ourselves.

~Jessica