Yes, but …

I want to say something about an argument that I have seen opponents of the Fat Acceptance movement use quite a few times by now, which goes approximately like this:

In order to gain weight, you have to consume more energy than you expend. If you gain weight suddenly although neither your eating habits nor the amount of exercise that you get have changed (for example due to a medical condition or a drug), it therefore follows that your body has either started to expend less energy than before or it has learned to extract more energy from food than it used to. Technically you should be able to stay the same weight by adjusting your habits to these new conditions, but OMGWTF people are stupid and listen to their hunger signals instead (which we assume to be misleading because they’ve been warped by the disease/medication).

Now, in theory that makes sense. Really, it does. The problem is that a lot of people have actually been in that situation, and their experiences cannot be ignored as they provide us with additional information. Remember that theories, as a general rule, need to be put into practice and tested in real life to see if they hold true.

From what I’ve gathered (and yes, I’m basing this on anecdotal evidence, as I am not aware of any research dealing with that particular scenario), what tends to happen is that you either restrict your food intake further and further to no avail, or that you do manage to control your weight – while suffering consequences that are not only unbearable, but cannot be healthy, either.

I’m not talking about missing your former lifestyle or being irritable due to a sudden lack of comfort food. I’m talking about actual adverse side-effects. Burning stomach pain. Fatigue. Dizzy spells. Inability to concentrate. Being cold all the time. Dry skin. Does that sound familiar yet? Yes, it is possible to experience symptoms of starvation without losing weight. How? Why? I wouldn’t know. Since nobody appears to be interested in funding research of that kind, we will just have to accept that we don’t know the answer yet.

Perhaps those drugs and diseases simply cause you to need more energy. Would that be so horrible? Considering that I have taken meds which gave me symptoms of mania, full-body rashes and indigestion, I can’t help but think that it’s one of the most harmless side-effects I have ever heard of.

Good News and Exasperation

First, the good news: I’ve been officially diagnosed! With the very thing I had already suspected, at that. I’m not happy that I’ll have to live with fibromyalgia for the rest of my life, but it’s great to finally know what’s wrong. Also, I can work on getting better now – which is not to say that I hadn’t already attempted to do that before, but I kept getting worse instead for some reason.

Since my new medication makes me very tired and kills my ability to articulate myself sometimes, I just want to say this one thing:

Sometimes I wish there was a way to make all of humanity permanently thin at once (or at least over the course of no more than a few years), so that we could finally observe whether disease rates would really drop as dramatically as people seem to think these days – or not. My personal guess is that nothing, or nearly nothing would change, and that formerly fat people would still have the same risks as before … but I’m tired of all this guesswork. I … excuse me, articulation. Ahem.

BMI, WHR … What’s Next?

I saw an interesting comment at Eat A Cheeseburger today:

Also, the waist-to-hip thing isn’t exactly clear cut. When I lost a lot of weight in the spring, my waist-to-hip ration got higher. My fat is stored on my hips, so if I lose it, my hips get smaller but my waist doesn’t and the ratio goes up.

Are doctors and scientists aware of this phenomenon?

I just went into the bedroom and stared at myself in the mirror for a while … to figure out where my waist is. As I recently discovered, the thinnest part of my torso is and has always been the space directly below my boobs. Technically, I could think of that as my “waist” … but I doubt it’s where you’re supposed to measure.

My belly has been stretched out by pregnancy so that it now looks like a deflated balloon.  I can assure you that this makes for a significant difference in the shape of my waist – but how is this redistribution of mass supposed to affect my health? It’s the same stuff in the same general area, it has only moved around a bit. And it feels emptier. Perhaps I should suck my stomach in during the measuring progress, ha.

Which brings me to the next question: What about people with skin folds? Where do they measure? Or are they excluded from the whole WHR thing by default because it’s obvious they’re too fat one way or another?

Whoever said the BMI was flawed deserves a cookie. Those who are now saying that the WHR makes more sense apparently don’t.

The Myth of the Empty Calorie

As a logically thinking person who has always been interested in both science and language, I was completely mystified by the phrase “empty calories” when I heard it for the first time. That doesn’t make any sense, I thought. Calories are not tangible items that can be either full or empty. Calories are energy. It is literally impossible for a food to consist of nothing but energy – what would that even look like, an edible beam of lightning?!

Obviously, I know what people are really trying to say when they use this phrase. They want to tell you that the snack you’re eating is lacking in nutritional value because it mostly contains sugar, fat or both and doesn’t have much else to offer. I have been told that “There are no nutrients in it that our bodies really need!”

Well … I don’t know about you, but the last time I checked, fat and carbohydrate were major nutrients that my body needed. The very fact that they’re in there means that the food does have nutritional value. I might go so far as to say that all food does, or else it wouldn’t be food! It is arguable whether or not you are worse off if you consume that carbohydrate in the form of sugar, but anyone except for the admittedly still alive no-carb crowd* would agree that we do need some of it.

The motivation behind labelling food in this manner is an ingrained belief that sugar and fat are bad for us and should only be consumed in small quantities, preferably together with other things. To be honest, I do have an inkling that I, myself, am in fact eating too much sugar and that this is bad for me. However, that’s not because I believe that the sugar itself is bad – it’s because I fear I’m not getting enough protein. I can easily tell that this is the case whenever I suddenly feel like eating a ton of eggs while that bar of chocolate over there looks totally icky. I also think that I should include more fiber in my diet, but again this is not related to anything else being bad.

Another important factor that can cause many of us to question the “healthiness” of a food is the amount of vitamins and minerals in it. Of course it is true that we need them, just like we need all of the major nutrients. There is no reason to insist that they be in every single meal that we eat, though – if you’ve already had your daily fill of vitamin C, for example, any additional vitamin C will simply go to waste. I understand the urge to take a “better safe than sorry” approach, but it will do no harm to stray from that occasionally. No matter how you turn it: Food that mostly consists of major nutrients is not useless.

*If you want to live off of animal products only and can arrange that with your conscience, go ahead. On the other hand I have also heard of poor individuals who tried this and became very ill, which clearly indicates that it is not an option for everyone.