Oh, Special K…

So, the people at Special K think you’re stupid. Or at least, they are hoping you are. They are running multiple campaigns to imply that they believe in body acceptance and not body shaming. I had wanted to believe, at first, that maybe they were changing their ways. But… they aren’t.

Here’s the first in a series of campaigns they’re doing.

Red flag in the video? “We believe it’s a barrier to managing their weight.” Ah. Okay. So, right off the bat, though they are saying “fat talk” is harmful, they are also clearly still stating we need to “manage” our weight.

Then there is this one.

“Not seeing the number is so freeing,” says one woman in that video. I agree with her, to be honest. But the problem is… Special K is very, very much still using these campaigns to promote weight loss and dieting. So, I guess it’s okay to not see the number on the scale or your pants, just so long as that number is also shrinking? Or being “managed?” What does “managed” even mean to Special K?

Then they, disappointingly, managed to recruit Tyra Banks. Tyra has admitted she doesn’t “believe in diets,” and has been very body positive. So, I’m not sure why she’s signing up with a campaign so full of shameless mixed messages and manipulation.

The final nail in the proverbial coffin is this New Year’s resolution inspired print ad, which I scanned after finding it in the January/February edition of Cooking Light (a magazine I will not be renewing my subscription to, but that’s a story for another post).

Scan0013

At first glance, I was like… whoa! That’s actually not a bad ad for them. But, then I began to digest the mixed messages, and realized. Not only is this the same old dieting BS I’ve come to expect from Special K, it’s manipulative, dishonest and probably more harmful than their usual run-of-the-mill ads for it. The concept that you can focus on a “word” and not a “number” seems great! The word “JOY” on the scale seems positive, but then I saw the lower left corner, and the “What will you gain when you lose?” tagline.

“Most anything is possible when you focus on the positive.” That sounds good, right? But here’s the problem. This entire campaign, while very cleverly conceived, is insidiously manipulative. You’re telling women to accept their bodies and not shame them but also clearly saying they need to “manage” them, and making it obvious that the goal here is still weight loss. It’s disappointing, but hardly surprising to me, given the history of this brand.

You are, of course, allowed to diet. If that’s what you want to do, if that’s what you feel is best for your body… by all means go for it. We get to make our own choices. I am personally anti-dieting because there is nothing to support that long term weight loss of any statistical significance is possible for the vast majority of people. I prefer to follow the Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating approaches. I worked with an eating disorder therapist for over 18 months on IE specifically, and in the past few months I have been working to incorporate a more focused HAES approach, too.

I feel that even if everything the media and $60 billion dollar a year dieting industry want me to believe about the “dangers” of being fat are true, there’s nothing to suggest I can be anything other than fat. That includes over 20 years of dieting vigorously, during which I repeatedly lost and gained weight (always gaining more than I lost). For more information, check out Ragen Chastain’s excellent post on this subject. Scroll to the bottom if you’re only interested in links to various studies and articles that support these claims.

Special K wants you to believe they have your best interests at heart, but the reality is they have their best interests (and bank accounts) at heart. I personally find it disappointing because I actually love (some of) their products, but I just can’t support a company that is sending such horribly mixed messages to consumers. The ultimate goal with these campaigns is to get you to sign up for a “Special K plan” which recommends replacing two meals a day with 2 of their products a day to “lose up to 6 pounds in two weeks!” While the plans appear to be free to sign up for, obviously they still profit because you’re buying their cereals, snack bars, water, protein shakes, etc.

However, all of this is my perspective. Yours may differ, and that’s cool. If you want to do a Special K diet plan, I’ll respect your right to do just that (or any diet), as long as you grant me that same courtesy. FYI: Saying you’re “just concerned” about my “health” is not respecting my my right to not diet. I’m fully aware I am fat and that various medical professionals who don’t know me (and have never examined me), the dieting industry and the mass media would have me believe I am a ticking time bomb. I’m very much aware of the fact that I’m “morbidly obese” on the (ridiculously used) BMI charts (and I have been since I was probably 13). I likely know more about nutrition than most so-called “normal” people. For one thing, I spent seven weeks in an eating disorder hospital when I was 15, and worked extensively with dietitians, not only during that time, but later in my life. My personal physician – who has worked with me for 7+ years now – supports fully my efforts at IE and HAES. So, you’re just going to have to trust me to make my own decisions about my health, based on what I feel is best for me, not only physically but emotionally. There are a multitude of reasons why my weight loss attempts failed repeatedly, aside from the most obvious one of long-term weight loss fails for the vast majority of people. I have two medical conditions that make weight loss even harder for me than it is for the average person. On top of that, I have fibromyalgia and live with chronic, daily, constant pain. Exercise is not only excruciating, it’s actually harmed me. I’m currently working on finding a form of exercise I can do, because I miss being more active.

The bottom line is this… you get to decide how you want to pursue health, or IF you want to. You don’t have to, and neither do I. I actually do want to be healthier. But trying to force my body to be what it isn’t has never made it healthier, and it creates emotional unhealthiness for me. Regardless of whether or not you are pro-dieting, if the mixed messages in the Special K ads irritate you, let them know about it here.

~JK

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

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