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A cheeseburger is not a cry for help 
17th-Nov-2011 02:55 pm
cooking, food
So, this rant was touched off by a blog post that I ultimately decided not to link to. Partly because the author of the post was clearly speaking the truth about her own experience, and I didn't want to seem to be attacking her for doing that. And partly because she's hardly the first or the last person to put forth the idea that triggered this rant: The notion that extremely overweight people are using food as a way to deal with emotional pain. This idea is usually expressed as something along the lines of, "No one gets to be a hundred pounds overweight just because they like to eat."

Actually some of us do. I did. Though to be fair, it went a bit beyond "liking to eat." It was more along the lines of, "when I eat highly-processed high-carbohydrate foods, my appetite regulation goes haywire and I'm constantly hungry, causing me to eat more highly-processed high-carbohydrate foods." When I cut back on the highly-processed high-carbohydrate foods, I stopped being hungry all the damn time, and I lost quite a bit of weight. (More significantly, I got back all the time I used to spend wondering if gnawing on the corner of my desk would somehow help me deal with the fact that I was ravenous despite having eaten an hour ago. Being constantly hungry sucks.) I didn't need to confront my emotional issues. I just needed more protein and fiber.*

Now, I'm not trying to deny that there are people who struggle with emotional eating, and that some of those people are fat. But every time someone makes a blog post like this, well-meaning commenters announce their intention to reach out to their fat loved ones and help them confront the emotional demons that they are battling with food. Wanting to help a loved one is commendable; trying to help a loved one with the attitude that you understand what the problem is better than they do is...well, "unlikely to work" is the kindest thing I can say.

*You have no idea how uncomfortable writing that paragraph made me feel. I think because it feels like such a conventional piece of weight-loss narrative. I practically expect it to wind up with, "And if I did it, you can do it to!" Maybe you can do it too; maybe you can't; maybe you don't want to. I use myself as an example because I think I have a pretty good understanding of what made me gain and lose weight, and so I think I can speak fairly authoritatively when I say that deep-seated emotional issues were not involved.
(Deleted comment)
18th-Nov-2011 05:18 am (UTC)
It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that pain could affect regulation of both metabolism and appetite. After all, if pain is a sign of injury, then all the more reason to ensure that you have sufficient energy stores for healing, right?

I continue to be amazed and thrilled by how well the prednisone treatment is working out for you!
18th-Nov-2011 01:44 am (UTC)
There are also hormonal factors. Or, in my case,an actual gastrointestinal condition. I actually am an emotional eater much of the time. On the other hand there've been times where I stopped eating for emotional reasons. It's just too complicated a topic to make generalizations for.
18th-Nov-2011 05:27 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think my own particular response to carbohydrates is largely hormonally mediated, via insulin and cortisol. And there are tons of other hormones that affect appetite and metabolism. (In fact, off the top of my head, I can't think of a hormone that doesn't affect appetite or metabolism to some degree.)

It is a complicated topic - I think the only universally true statement about what makes people gain or lose weight is that there are no universally true statements.
18th-Nov-2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
I appreciate hearing this and hearing from you.

I've noticed some trends in my own eating, and I can't believe that the processed carbs are good for me in the long run, even the whole wheat pasta versions.

When I eat more Real Vegetables, many things work better for my body.

I appreciate how you said this - I'm frustrated right now that I feel unsafe talking about food and body stuff in many places because I don't want to get jumped on and barked at. I don't hate my body. My eating is not "disordered," and I don't want to be judged by people who are angry because they've been judged by others.

But it happens sometimes. And it makes me frustrated about how and when to speak.
18th-Nov-2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
Our cultural discourse about food and body issues is so cluttered up with bad science, size bias, assorted objectionable gender attitudes, class prejudice, and a general Puritanical distrust of the pleasures of the flesh that it's difficult to say what ought to be straightforward things without seeming to imply objectionable things. (I'm sure I've written here before about my frustration with the tight identification most people have made in their minds between exercise and weight loss.)

I read a lot of blogs from the foodie/nutrition community, the fat acceptance/health at every size community, and the fitness/strength training community, and I feel like each of them has a really good grasp of one part of the puzzle. If we could somehow bring them all together and get them actually listening to each other, maybe we could have a rational, compassionate, egalitarian, and hedonistic conversation about food and fitness. That would be pretty awesome.

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