Ball of Behavior Confusion

It’s just vaguely possible that you might have noticed that our current culture has a teensy weensy tendency to use weight as a proxy for health.  That, in and of itself, is an incredibly bad idea. But I think what’s worse is that it leads to confusing weight loss behaviors with healthy behaviors.  So people get the idea that any behavior that makes you thinner must constitute a healthy behavior, and that behaviors that don’t lead to thinness must be unhealthy.

This causes a number of problems.  The first one that comes to mind is the idea that a fat body means that anyone can be the judge, jury, and executioner of our health because they know we aren’t eating healthy because, the false assumption tells them, if we were eating healthy then we would be thin.  It’s just not true. There are people who eat the same diet but have vastly different body sizes.  There are people who have the same body size but eat vastly different diets.

Another problem is that people are lured to participate in behaviors that  that, if they were viewed outside of our current obesity hysteria, would perhaps not seem like such a great idea… Consuming reconstituted soy protein shakes 5 times a day with a small meal at night? Eating 500 calories a day and getting urine-derived injections? Partially amputating a perfectly good stomach?

This also gets me into discussions that I can’t even deal with – where I explain that I focus on whole, nutritious foods, lots of veggies etc. and somebody tells me that I should give that up and drink a thin chocolate beverage that can have a laxative effect, or eat a cup of diet breakfast cereal with skim milk for 14 out of 21 meals a week.

Of course everyone is free to choose whatever behaviors they want, for whatever reason they want to choose them. I’m simply suggesting that it might be important to realize that behaviors that are meant to lead to thinness (however fleeting or unsuccessful that attempt might be) are not necessarily – and are sometimes precisely the opposite of –  behaviors that can actually support, create, and/or improve health.

Project Update:  Georgia Billboard Project

This is a go.  We are going to put up a billboard in Georgia next to one of those horrible fat kid shaming billboards. I’m in the research phase now, once we know how much money we need to raise and the specs we’ll start the fundraising and design phases.  Right now I need to know the location of those billboards in Georgia – if you happen to know where one is (specifically) please let me know.  More details to follow…

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24 thoughts on “Ball of Behavior Confusion

  1. Let’s be fair here. Lots of people know that dumb fad diets are unhealthy. I think even the doctors who prescribe them (they shouldn’t do this of course, but that aside) only do so because they don’t think they can get a patient to stick to a less extreme but much healthier way of eating. People don’t really believe that vegetables will make them unhealthy and that’s not what is generally being eliminated from their diet when they do their fad weight loss treatments. You have to consider that it is not always between eating crappy diet foods or a well-balanced diet. Many people go from eating processed low-nutrient food in large quantities to processed low-nutrient food in small quantities when they go on fad diets. If people really want to be healthy they might be better off just focusing on eating more nutritious foods in general (with quantity dictated by individual needs and preferences).

    1. “People don’t really believe that vegetables will make them unhealthy and that’s not what is generally being eliminated from their diet when they do their fad weight loss treatments.”

      You’d be very surprised at how many people eliminate vegetables, but mostly fruit, during their diets to lose weight. Doctors will also recommend this for weightloss. Forcing your body into ketosis, in an effort to lose weight, means eating very few vegetables (and cutting some types of vegetable out completely) compared to a normal diet. Many, many people do this and get recommended this since it causes weightloss.

      1. In my extreme dieting days (Weight Watchers – and yes, it was extreme) I avoided a lot of vegetables because they just didn’t taste good without any fat added to them (say, like, healthy olive oil) and I didn’t want to deal with having extra fat in my diet or eating something that tasted that bad to me. Once I gave up dieting, my vegetable consumption went way up because I allowed myself to add some fat in the cooking process. Never before had I known the joys of broccoli rabe sauteed in olive oil with garlic and a squeeze of lemon – imagine! – and now I crave the stuff. Many people in WW do avoid salads because of the whole salad-dressing-adds-fat business. So yes, sometimes people are eliminating vegetables from their diet in an attempt to get thin. (Luckily, I never pretended to myself that I was getting thin to be healthy)

  2. Definitely agreed. I never understood how people rationalize going on a diet that cuts out entire food groups and other major components of our daily dietary needs. If that’s what they want to do, then as you said, that is their choice. Hopefully they aren’t being fooled to think their no carbs meal plans are healthy. If people want to be healthy, they should look over their whole lifestyle, not just their food intake. I feel like we could take notes from Japan, France, and Italy. They know healthy eating and how to lead healthy lives.

    1. I never understood how people rationalize going on a diet that cuts out entire food groups and other major components of our daily dietary needs.

      In some cases at least, it’s because their doctors have told them that their weight is causing XYZ medical issue and that this diet — yes, sometimes including ones that cut out entire food groups — is “necessary” for their health. It’s very easy to rationalize such diets when most of the rest of the world is pressuring a person to be thin over all else.

    2. My friend once lectured me about not cutting out entire food groups when I said I was going to cut down on red meat for my health. This friend has cut out all dairy and carbs. Pot, meet kettle.

    3. One day I decided to cut out carbs because everyone said that my carb consumption was the reason I was big. It lasted until shortly after lunch on the day I started; I felt awful, weak, like I had been eating non-nutritive food all day; I was full, but my body felt like I hadn’t eaten.

      1. Interesting– I can be happy on a fairly low carb diet. I just need smallish amounts to keep me from getting jittery. What makes me miserable really fast is lowering fat levels down to what some people would consider moderate.

        I think the underlying problem is the belief that you should ignore how what you’re eating makes you feel.

    4. I am not sure what’s worse, cutting out food groups, or replacing real whole foods with “diet alternatives”, which are often laced with crappy ingredients to make them palatable.

    5. Some of us cut out food groups, like grains (and not gluten, ALL grains), because they make us deathly ill. So do understand, for some of us it IS healthy to do so. It’s not about weight, although it certainly FEELS lighter to not be walking around with all that constant inflammation.

    6. I had a dietitian put me on a no-carb diet when I was a teenager. I believed she must know what she was doing – she was so much more learned and knowledgeable than me. It turned out a disaster, my body used my muscles instead of my fat-stores for energy. But the fact is that there is so much pseudo-scientific knowledge out there that people believe that what they are doing is a good idea.

      1. As someone becoming a registered dietitian, that story makes me cringe! Just know that that is not what they teach us in school – she picked that up from all the diet book crap that’s out there. Awful.

  3. France has a pretty high fat diet, actually, & a high percentage of smokers. And Japan has, especially in recent years, been heavily promoting fatphobia & conflating thinness with health. We do not know as much as we would like to think about what necessarily promotes better health, longer life, etc., & many who do all the ‘right’ things have health issues or die young & many who do the ‘wrong’ things live to be very old.

    I don’t like to take ‘notes’ from anybody really, I like to own my own body & live in it the way that feels best for me. And I do hate the diet mentality of our culture, the heavily promoted belief that thin=healthy & fat=unhealthy. I have been a staunch fat activist for 32 years now & am firmly against dieting & all the health problems dieting CAUSES, not prevents, & I am so sick of not being able to even check my email without being assaulted by this insanity & of opening my mailbox (snail mailbox) to find a catalog of diet products obviously sent by someone who got my name & address from someplace where I purchased plus size clothing & decided that I must be desperate for weight loss advice.

    The messages make no SENSE for people of any size & so obviously have nothing to do with health. I saw one the other day while checking an email account for Thomas’s light English muffins, asking me how many calories I ALLOW myself for breakfast (the answer is I have no freaking idea, I eat what I want for breakfast & as much as I am hungry for), but what really had me shaking my head was that the selections they gave for that multiple choice question ranged from 100-350 cals. Are they then assuming that people should only eat something like a total of between 500-1100 calories per day?

    I tried the shakes thing years ago…not a healthy or particularly effective diet & the ‘shakes’ taste less like an actual milkshake than turkey bacon tastes like real bacon. (And, yes, fat haters, I am a fat woman who loves bacon. Deal with it.) And don’t get me STARTED on diet companies who assume that individuals or families can afford to spend $300 per month or more on food for one person & who try to convince us that this food is nutritious, delicious, & promotes a ‘normal’ relationship with food, companies who have to change spokespeople every few years &/or have spokespeople who are paid to spend their lives eating this way & exercising compulsively to try to maintain the weight loss in order to keep their jobs. Then we have Subway, which is supposed to be a sandwich shop, for God’s sake, but promotes the Subway diet, & has Jared, who, btw, disappeared for quite awhile because he did start to regain & had to be put on a strict diet & trained for a marathon before he could be seen again.

    In other words, no, I do not see dieting as healthy behavior or the diets which are promoted are not healthy for anyone. Self-love, ownership of one’s body, eating the way YOU want to that feels good to you, & moving your body as you want, is a healthy lifestyle. Accepting & respecting that bodies come in all sizes & shapes is a healthy lifestyle. Accepting that ‘lifestyle’ has a very limited effect on your health or longevity is another healthy thing. And accepting that older bodies change & are not supposed to remain 25 forever is even healthier.

  4. I live in Atlanta, and I know I’ve seen those horrible billboards, but I usually try my hardest to ignore them, so I don’t know exactly where they are. I’ll start keeping an eye out for exact locations.

  5. I live in Alabama and except for rare bank trips (the closest Bank of American branch is about 100 feet across the state line) and trips home to North Carolina we don’t go to Georgia all that often. Coming back after Christmas, I did notice at least one on I believe 20 west (though it could have been on 285 West between 20 and 85) as you come into Atlanta. That one’s been there since at least early November since I remember seeing it the last time we drove that way. Would love to see one of the HAES boards the next time we go that way since despite my learning to like and accept my body a lot more in the past year, it still felt like a personal slap in the face.

  6. I know Alton Brown was ranting against these billboards too. Albeit his rants leaned more toward shaming parents than children (to which I responded, introducing him to #HealthAtEverySize.) But he might be willing to help with this project – and a little celebrity publicity/money couldn’t hurt, right?

  7. I agree with this so much. One of the things that freaks me out about so much of the diet talk that’s seen is “normal” is how similar most of it is to the way a lot of anorexics and other eating-disordered people relate to food. It’s a real shame that doctors are advising 200 pound women to do the exact same things they’s have 100 pound women hospitalized and under psychiatric care for.

    I still remember a doctor praising me for losing weight by restricting to around 800 calories a day, even though he knew I had a history of eating disorders. I was passing out at work, and he told me to keep exercising and take a vitamin supplement, but not to eat more. I ended up having a heart attack at 23 because of potassium and other nutrient deficiencies, then being told I needed to lose more weight “for my heart”.

    1. Oh my goodness! I hope you are doing well now! That is such a scary story… especially the end when you were told to lose more weight! Awful!

      1. I’m doing much better now, thanks, but it took years and I still have some lasting issues with my heart and bone density. What finally helped me break that whole pattern was a combo of size acceptance and getting pregnant. I knew I needed real nutrition for my baby to be healthy, and I want to model good attitudes toward food and weight for him.

        The real irony is that I weigh much more now than back then, but I am so much healthier, both physically and mentally. Once I started to like myself again and accept my body as it is, I found that I enjoy triathlon, roller derby, and being active and outdoors. I still have to keep an eye on things because of my heart, but I am able to do a lot more now that I’m not worried about how I look in workout clothes or feeling like only slim people deserve to be in shape.

  8. Hey! First I just have to tell you that I was at Universal/ Harry Potter land on the 7th. I was able to ride in the castle but my friend wasn’t. This they tell her after we’ve waited for almost two hours to get on the ride. It was awful but she at least got a free ticket for another ride. We left soon after – it pretty much ruined the experience. Disney was much more accommodating.

    I would hate to be one of those kids on those awful billboards because if they weren’t already bullied prior to this (not likely), a great big sign telling everyone “It’s okay to pick on me for my health” will surely do it.

  9. “There are people who eat the same diet but have vastly different body sizes.”

    I have fraternal twin boys. They have always eaten exactly the same (or as close to it as two people can). They get the same amount of exercise, sleep, attention and love (again as close as 2 people can). They look completely different unless you’re a rude person at a grocery store who has never heard twins aren’t always identical. One is taller and looks like all bone and muscle. The other is heavier and looks cushier. Been that way since in utero. Their athletic ability, endurance, speed, etc is the same (personality differences has made one more cautious but still equal ability). I know I’ve got a live in science experiment but I don’t know why people can’t see that all bodies are going to be different even if you do the same thing to them.

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