Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 26, 2010:

Frances is trending:

"Lost Pounds Lead to Burst Fantasy" on msnbc. Here's my response:

The C.D.C. and other government institutions have declared a "war on obesity". I would propose an accord with maintaining. It is harder for a formerly obese person to maintain weight loss than it is to lose that weight.

Sadly, once obese, always obese. The deprived fat cells of a formerly obese person never go away; they hang out screaming to be filled up again. As well, I argue, no one becomes obese out of simple laziness or even genetics. Gain = pain. Part of the way many people deal with pain is by eating. A four-year-old doesn't go out and score crack and she probably doesn't think, "I'll go burn this off with a brisk walk around the block." She reaches for what is available -- food. Probably sugar and fat loaded food. That sugar increases both serotonin and the dopamine in the brain in EXACTLY the same way cocaine and morphine do. It makes that tot feel happier and calmer.

If this affect on the brain was grown in Mexico and came in powdered form, it would be illegal.

More significantly, however, is that that kid -- and all the adults battling the bulge -- probably have a deficit of both those brain chemicals that keep them emotionally balanced. Deprived of that, even with the help of anti-depressants, and past the excitement of watching the numbers drop off, when the going gets tough, most formerly obese people are going to eat because it restores that sleepy, satisfied downer that makes real life so much easier to take.

The reason I argue for an official pact with maintenance is that it's not only the last frontier (90% of all dieters will gain back their weight, and something like 95% of the regainers gain more) but it's applicable to everybody.

Maintaining 240 pounds is an incredible feat -- as difficult and praise-worthy as maintaining 130 pounds. It can only be done through old-fashioned methods (which include surgery, the success of which depends on the patient's adherence to a strict food plan) and maybe, for the 240-pound person, that breathing space of "hurrah! I haven't gained weight!" will allow for mental adjustments. From there, a slight tweaking will result in weight loss.

But who can blame the fat person for thinking life will be different? First readers scold the obese for bringing the insurance industry to its knees (which is nonsense) and then readers scorn the disappointments of all those government and media promises not coming true. Shame on you.


Leslie said...

Interesting topic, and your comment is excellent. It's intuitive that a fat person believes life will be different/better after weight is lost. Just like an alcoholic thinks life will be different/better when s/he finds sobriety. Hell, life IS different, and infinitely better in the early days of abstinence from one's substances of choice and recovery. Yet eventually and inevitably the "isms" that contributed to the addictions resurface and start calling the shots again. Wherever you go, there you are. Even if "less" of you goes.

Like finding Mr. Right and getting married...it's all hormonal bliss... until it isn't. Then it becomes work, and lots of it, to stay the course over the long haul.
There's no one cure for any psychological, emotional or spiritual ills. But as a fat girl who is still striving to get to my "goal" weight, I harbor the hope that all will be well when less of me shows up wherever I am.

Unknown said...

It's just more of "life is greener on the other side of the fence". The real question is "will we ever actually BE happy or is happiness something we always think we're chasing?"

When I'm thinner, taller, blonder, curvier, not so curvy, when I graduate, dye my hair, open my own business, drop the kids at daycare, eat healthier, stop smoking, exercise more....

When does it stop?

I'm also fairly convinced that no one is content with their bodies. There's always going to be something we want to change. So...I love me the way I am and am happy where I am with what I have.


Anonymous said...

PJ, Minnesota:
Elisa's right, but honestly, I do think I'd be happier if I lost 50 pounds. But geez, Frances, that is a powerful commentary you wrote. "War on Obesity" always makes me laugh because I've been waging this war all my life, and obesity is winning. Of course we can make changes in what kids are eating at school and at home, and that might help, but there is just so much more to the equation, and most people don't get it. "Glee" had a good commentary last night, too, with one of the cheerleaders who is seriously heavy. She sang "I Am Beautiful," and it brought tears to my eyes. Wish I had an answer for all this, but it is obvious that I do not.

Vickie said...

I am so aware - all the time - that I have 'cost' more (medically) thin and getting thin than I ever did before (fat).

Because now I don't blame (pain, hurt, something not working) on the fat and then just live with it. Now I go get it checked.

I had SO many things that had been ignored for years and needed attention (medically). Yes, some things just cleared up when the fat went, but other things did not.

And that is just talking about the physical stuff.

The mental stuff has also cost a lot more - meds, therapist, psychiatrist - thin. Fat - I just cried and felt alone and suffered.

Unknown said...

Not to make light of the seriousness of what Vickie said, but thin ppl cost more because they've ruled out the option of ice cream therapy. Fat ppl aren't jollier...they're just quieter. (At least in my experience.)

Valerie said...

I get a rush every time I read something you've written to this effect, Frances. I think that any sentence beginning "I'd be happier if only" or "I'll be happier when" is probably doomed to failure. Happiness doesn't come from being thin, or losing weight, or paying off debt, or finding the right guy, or anything else. These things can contribute to some extent to feeling better about oneself, but happiness has to be a journey in and of itself, and one has to realize that it's subject to, and must be navigated around, certain pre-existing circumstances like wonky brain chemistry. Sadly we don't generally learn that until we've failed at all the paths we thought would lead us there.

I do want to be healthier, and I do believe that, for my body, that is probably needs to involve some decreasing of mass. But it's not going to make me a happier person. It took losing a lot of weight to realize that - I was a bit happier, but it was because I was loving and caring for myself, not because of what size clothing I was wearing. I still had the "down" days, and always will. And I still feel good when I do good things for myself, no matter whether they result in a lower number on the scale or not.

I do get weary of people thinking thin = happy, and fat = lazy, stupid, self-indulgent, or whatever other adjective springs to mind. Oversimplification tends to prohibit success.

JS said...

Frances, not every obese person is an emotional eater. I understand that that is something that's very central in your own experience, but you forget that it's not the case for everyone else who shares your body habitus.

Frances Kuffel said...

I do not consider myself "an emotional eater". I consider myself a food addict, plain and simple. I don't need to FEEL anything to skip on out for cake.

An emotional eater is another type of eater altogether, and my references to emotions in my response had to do with brain chemistry which is affected by sugar and other substances in everyone, but is craved more by those whose dopamine and serotonin levels are naturally low. Such individuals are not necessarily food addicts nor are they necessarily emotional eaters. They may drink or they may have the stoicism to walk through life a little under the weather.

I don't think "emotional eating" has anything to do with my response.