I vacillate about writing about this topic on my blog. But this little essay I wrote still speaks to me several days later so I am sharing. I wrote most of this letter after I finished reading the book Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. That book seemed to solidify for me some thoughts I have had the last few years regarding weight and obesity and their contribution to self-worth. This is not a review of that book but rather a collection of unfiltered and incomplete thoughts inspired by what I read.
To my skinny brothers and sisters,
I have felt for most of my life that being fat was my fault. That is what conventional dietary wisdom taught me: a calorie in and a calorie out. I was fat because I consumed more calories then I expended. Therefore, as the wisdom goes, I need to consume less and exercise more. Sounds correct, right?
It also presumes that anyone who is fat is that way because they are greedy, lazy and slothful. They eat too much, they are too sedentary or lazy. A conclusion I also believed. Why did I come defective? How come the way I did it was wrong? Why couldn't I figure out how to be healthy and not lazy, slothful or greedy?
There were years of thinking that emotional eating must be at the root of all of this. I did binge. I did eat lots of treats sometimes. I even ate lots of food sometimes. It must be because I was somehow defective again that I couldn't control myself. That was the message I heard over and over and over again.
I don't remember when I quit believing it but sometime in the last few years that kind of thinking started to make me really, really mad. I saw skinny people--lots of them--eat huge amounts of food, terrible, awful junk food and never gain an ounce. They looked lean. But not me. I could eat fruits, veggies, whole grains, protein, little fat and exercise like a demon and I would lose some weight but it seemed like I was always semi-starving, needed to exercise a couple of hours or more a day and still it was going to be a lifelong battle to keep it all in check because one little slip and it took vast amounts of energy to get back on that band wagon. And no matter how much weight I lost or how successful I was doing it, I would regain it all sometimes it seemed just by BREATHING.
One of the reasons I have resisted the idea of bariatric surgery is that I've always wanted to figure out MY BODY, my system, my health. It led to me to reading and studying all kinds of things that "conventional wisdom" told me were wrong. And really for a several years I just gave up. I was going to be blamed for being fat anyway so I might as well enjoy it, right? Being obese is not a defect you can hide in the closet, you wear it around with you every day; and in our cultural climate that means that anyone can offer their advice on how to solve your problem. It has made for some interesting conversations.
Anyway, all of that was preamble to this book: Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. If what this book talks about is really truth then my entire paradigm on health has shifted.
Let's say that I was born with a body that is just as healthy and lean as anyone else's body when fed the correct foods. Let's say though that my body's version of good food (food that will turn into energy and not fat) is exclusively proteins, good fats, veggies and some fruit. Everything else (beans, legumes, grains, sugar, starches, etc) tend to make me gain weight. That has always sounded a bit crazy to me or like Atkins where people eat steak and bacon and have bad breath all day, but now I'm beginning to believe that there may just be an answer to all of this "how do I lose weight" and "how to I keep it off forever" and maybe it just isn't as crazy as I once thought.
I hesitate to think that this is a complete answer. I wish it was but I have read too many things in the past that I thought were "the answer" to really believe this will solve the total problem. But it may. Or it may be a really big part of the answer.