Food and Uncertainty

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Ambiguity intolerance is the tendency to perceive uncertain situations as threatening.

It makes sense – the unknown is scary. But some people have a harder time dealing with it than others.  And these people are more likely to suffer anxiety and depression, especially when faced with a particularly difficult stressor.

Uncertainty and Food

I believe that many disordered eaters suffer from ambiguity intolerance.

Have you ever turned to food to flood your brains with feel-good chemicals in order to avoid feelings of panic? Have you ever done this – even though nothing was wrong in that particular moment?

Fostering a Taste for Uncertainty

If you find yourself threatened by the unknown, fostering a healthier relationship with uncertainty might do wonders to decrease your anxiety.

Who knows, you might even develop a taste for uncertainty. This time next year you could be reading this post while wrestling a shark.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Focus on this hour, this minute, and this day. It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed by the whole entire future. Bring yourself into the present by focusing on what you can do right now. I know this is easier said than done. But try.
  2. Do things that scare you. You have to actively do things that scare you. It sucks, but you’ll (most likely) live. Last year, I jumped out of a freaking airplane! It was the worst thing ever.
  3. Improve a skill. Some people feel anxious because they have an overall feeling of never being good enough. But everyone is good at something. Take something you’re good at and get great at it. Your feelings of pride will spill over into every day life. See my post on pursuing your weird hobbies.
  4. Achieve a behavioral goal. Set a small behavioral goal for yourself, and achieve it. Like number three above, the good feelings will spill over into your every day life making you feel less anxious in general. You’ll also see that things aren’t so hard when you take them one step at a time.  Example: I will go to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday for the next two weeks.

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When the People You Love Hate You

Expected consequence of losing weight: People like you more. And it hurts.

Unexpected consequence of losing weight: People dislike you more. And it hurts.

Autistic to Jealousy

Like most humanoids, I experience a wide range of complex emotions: Happiness/Sadness. Anger —> Euphoria. Anticipation! Fear! Excitement! …Diarrhea. Usually in that exact order.

But unlike many humans, I have a mental defect. I don’t experience jealousy. In fact, I’m incapable of  comprehending it.  Important Exception: you better not touch my fucking man.

I know you don’t believe me – but what can I say? I don’t experience jealousy. I understand that it’s an emotion that must serve some evolutionary purpose, but seriously – I didn’t get the software update.  I also didn’t get the software that gives you competitive drive.

From the bottom of my heart – I don’t care if every single creature in the entire universe is more successful or prettier or less hairy then me.  In fact, I hope they are.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I am by no means at peace with myself.

I want to be more successful and important than I am. If I’m not important, I will die. And nobody will miss me. I also have to be flawless. Because if I’m not beautiful, then I’m worthless. So every flaw must be eradicated, beginning with my entire face.

But my sense of competition, however unhealthy, is exclusively with MYSELF.

..And I thank god for that. Because I get to experience nothing but genuine happiness and love for all of mankind. And even for most of dolphin-kind.

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with the exception of this smug bastard

So it’s hard for me, as someone who can’t fathom jealousy, to be the victim of it.

My natural preference is for everyone in the world to have as much success as possible. The more success EVERYONE has, the more likely it is that someone will be around to help my future offspring when an asteroid comes.

I can’t comprehend anything else. I can’t comprehend the complex emotion of simultaneously loving someone AND also wishing bad upon them.  Or even weirder – wishing that I had what they have at their expense. It doesn’t make sense.

I want to reconcile these apparently conflicting concepts, but this particular emotion is more complex than my limited framework allows.  I’m autistic to jealousy.  So I’m trying in vain to rationalize something that cannot be rationalized. Jealousy is a feeling that someone has.

Since I’ve Lost Weight..

Certain people have become suspiciously nice to me. As in way way way too nice. And I know in my heart that some people (most people) love and value me more at 135 pounds than my they did at 190 pounds. And it hurts like hell.

And Since I’ve Lost Weight…

Other people have become incredibly horrible to me. As in ridiculously, unnecessarily, absurdly mean.

…I’m talking Mean Girls mean. These are people who supposedly love me. And it hurts like hell.

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I just want to grab these mean girls and say, “What the fuck guys? Who does this help? WHY ON EARTH would you want me to hurt?”

..But that’s because I’m trying to take something as complex as jealousy and make it simple.  I’m trying rationalize things I can’t understand.

Trying to Understand

I  – for whatever reason – cannot comprehend what it means to compare myself to another person. My brain just isn’t wired that way. And I should consider myself lucky, because that’s a heavy burden.

But the drinkers of hater-ade, they have brains too. And their brains, for whatever reason, ARE wired that way. So their bad attitude is not really their fault.

I have to TRY to comprehend it. And when I try,  I imagine it must hurt.  Maybe more than their actions hurt me.

And I have to try to stay empathetic! Because I have flaws too. For example:

  • I eat a lot of chocolate
  • I have a history of being flakey, and
  • I never brush my teeth before bed. Don’t worry though – I brush compulsively throughout the day.

I’m not trying to be high and mighty here. I just recognize that I have choices. I can choose:

  • to take it personally, and therefore get mad, anxious and/or hurt; OR
  • to expand my consciousness by using this as a learning experience

I KNOW I have these choices, because I’m making them right now.

But what if jealous people don’t have a choice? I mean – jealousy doesn’t sound pleasant.  Would anyone REALLY choose jealousy over happiness if they truly had a choice?

I want to be mad! But I’m trying to stay humble because I don’t know what goes on inside of anyone’s head except my own.

This, I do for my own sake and sanity. Or at least I’m trying my best.

Stay empathetic my friends! 

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Why Losing 2 Pounds/Week is a Bad Idea

Successful diet
“Yes! I can finally eat cheesecake again!”

I like goals, small & big.

But there is a certain type of goal I don’t like. And it’s one I hear often – “aim to lose 2 pounds a week.”

Why don’t I like this goal? Because it predisposes you to failure. Instead:

  • aim for 8-10 pounds in a month; or
  • aim for 4 – 5 pounds every 14 days

But wait – isn’t that the same thing as losing 2 pounds a week? 

No! It’s not. Especially not for women.

I’m not trying to mince words here, I swear.  There are psychological aspects to weight loss. And aiming to lose 2 pounds a week simply isn’t a smart goal.

Reasons

  • Weight doesn’t directly correlate to fat. You already know this.
    • So you CAN gain weight while losing fat.
    • When you’re working with such a small number as “2 pounds,” there is so much room for error that you are bound to get mixed up.
    • This makes it tricky for you to track what’s working and what’s not working in terms of reaching your goal.
  • A week is a LONG time. And yet it’s a short time.
    • When you diet all week long, and then you step on the scale to no results, or even to a higher weight than you started out, it can be deflating. Which is stupid, because if you’ve been doing the right things, then you probably ARE making strides towards your goal, even if those strides aren’t reflected by your weight this very minute.
    • On the other hand, if you go two weeks without losing any weight (and CERTAINLY if you go a full month without losing any weight) – then it’s likely there is either:
      • a problem with your plan (i.e., your numbers are wrong); or
      • a problem in the EXECUTION of your plan (ie..you’re eating more than you realize)
  • It’s not how weight loss works. When I was losing weight, some weeks I lost 3-4 pounds, and some weeks I lost none.
    • If I was a fool, I might have listened to people who said “losing 4 pounds in a week! that’s dangerous!” Or, I might have listened to someone who said “if you’re doing things right, but not losing weight, then you’ve probably hit a plateau.”
    • The truth is most likely this: as long as I stayed consistent, I WAS losing FAT steadily. I just wasn’t losing WEIGHT steadily. There is a difference! As long as I averaged out to 8-10 pounds a month, I was losing fat at a healthy pace. Even though my weight loss was staggered.

A lot of people have a lot of opinions on the right way to lose weight, the right pace to lose weight etc. Some of these people have advanced degrees. So what? Advanced degrees never stopped anyone from saying “Fat is bad! Eat more carbs!”

I say, don’t listen to anyone! Don’t even listen to me.

Losing 4 pounds some weeks, and zero pounds other weeks might make sense for you. Unless you’re doing a body fat analysis every week, then there is no reason to think this reflects anything other than a steady fat loss.

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Finding Your Happy Chemicals

 

Was this song written about carbohydrates?
Or maybe it’s about that moment when you finally exit the gym.

God knows! I’ve got to make it on my own!

Yesterday I wrote a post about called There is No Such Thing as Emotional Eating.

Today, I want to backtrack just a little bit. Because one of the comments on my post got me thinking (yes it was yours The Farmer’s Diet!)

Eating as an Emotional Crutch

So the premise of yesterday’s post was this: when you think you are eating emotionally, you’re not. You are actually eating habitually. 

This is important because:

  • many disordered eaters believe they must address their underlying emotional issues in order to fix their disordered eating
  • I believe the opposite is true! you need to address your disordered eating first, and then your emotional issues will begin to fall away

The Emotional Crutch

I think it’s helpful to forget about emotional eating, and instead focus on habitual eating.

Even so, there are still three major ways emotions come into play:

  1. Emotions are intertwined with habits. When you do things in a highly emotional state, the behaviors you do are more likely to stick.
  2. Emotions can prevent you from ever starting! Food feels good, and it’s a wonderful crutch
  3. Once you begin to lose weight, you lose a lot of your happy chemicals. You have to learn to make them a different way.

When it comes to emotions, I don’t know how much I can help.

As far as #1, read a book about habit formation. I love “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It might change the way you look at the world

As far as #2, you just have to be strong. That’s all I can say. Make one small step.

Where Did All the Happy Chemicals Go?

As far as #3, dear god I still struggle with this. I can’t personally deprive myself of food constantly and live a happy life.

I also don’t enjoy doing extreme exercise. I lose my weight in “spurts” and maintain for long periods in between. I find that if I lose weight relatively quickly over relatively short periods of time, it’s less taxing on my emotions.

But in general, I don’t think losing weight is “fun” for your body or mind. By definition, if you want to lose weight, you need to eat LESS than your body needs to survive. I don’t care how quickly or slowly you do that – losing fat is taxing on your body. It’s a stressor.

So your emotions might run haywire, and mine often do. It’s better not to become overweight in the first place. Because maintaining your weight can be very easy if you just eat whole foods.

I exercise by walking outdoors and hiking. These things make me feel happy and free. I don’t do exercises that make me miserable, because losing weight makes me miserable enough.

Go easy on willpower. Your willpower is limited. When you use it up, you’re more likely to slip up. And when you slip up, you’re more likely to go hard on yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself for being a freaking human being!!

We all have limited willpower. Fit people don’t keep crappy food in the house. That means they exercise their willpower less. You might even want to plan meals ahead of time. I don’t do this, but it works great for some people. Take away as many bad choices as you can. Making choices drains your willpower, and makes you unhappy.

You have to make sure you’re sleeping enough, and I think having good relationships is important also. I’m very fortunate to have two of my closest friends, Rachel and Val along with me on this journey.

Oh the loneliness! I’m self-employed, which makes things lonely. And I’m single, which makes things lonely. Carbs make lovely friends. So you have to fill up the loneliness.  I do it by getting absorbed in books, and lately by writing.

Your happy chemicals are also another reason to set tiny goals. Reaching goals boosts happiness.  Once you get a little momentum going, it get’s much easier.  Small goals changed everything for me. That’s why I wrote this post: To Lose 30 Pounds, Aim for Eight.

Set BEHAVIORAL rather then PROGRESS goals. You can’t completely control your progress, but you CAN completely control your behavior. And since your progress is a direct result of your behavior, behavioral goals are not only just as valid – they actually WORK BETTER.  They give you something to be proud of no matter what.

  • “Progress Goals” = I want to lose 2 pounds per week
  • “Behavioral Goals” = I will eat a salad every weekday for lunch

When you generally feel good about yourself, happy chemicals are easier to come by. But I won’t pretend it’s easy in the beginning.  You have to slog through it, knowing better days are coming.

In Sum

  • Don’t set insurmountable goals & take it one day at a time.
  • Eat whole foods from God’s good earth, so your body is more satisfied and less panicky.
  • Stay away from carbs or foods that addict you.
  • A small amount of carbs IS good for mental health, eat them together with fat and protein at the same meal.

And if you have any suggestions for how you deal with your emotions during weight loss, please share.

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There is No Such Thing as Emotional Eating

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Hear ye! Hear ye!

I come bearing wonderful news.

What we call “emotional eating” – it doesn’t exist.  You actually just have terrible habits.

Who are YOU really?

A lump of clay? An eternal soul?
A child of God?
A descendant of Ancient Aliens????

I say you are a BRAIN. And maybe an alien also. I guess in some sense you’re a lump of clay too.

Whatever. But what you perceive, what you think, what you do – they are the all the same. They all originate in your brain, and they also shape your brain.

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Your neuroses, your hangups. And yes – your eating disorder. These all happen to your brain. The people you love & hate. All of it, all of them – they only APPEAR to live in houses and apartments. Really, they live in neurons that fired together.

As Woody Allen once said, “the brain is my second favorite organ.” If I had a penis, I might agree. But since I have lesser genitals, my brain comes first.

Some small portion of my brain is conscious. That tiny portion wants to be dictator, and I don’t even know why.

But even though my conscious brain wants to be dictator, it can never be. It’s too small, and too powerless. The rest of my brain is less conscious, but quicker. It knows it can do better than “I” can do. It’s been around millions of years longer, long before I was a reptile-fish.

These “reptile-fish” parts, they are my instincts. On top of that, I have a bunch of “mammal parts” – my habits. They are stronger than my human parts. And the only way to control them is to help shape them. 

The Power of Habit

What is your brain?

Is our “life” the current? Or the synapse? Or the things on both sides of the synapse?

I don’t know. It seems though, that whatever it is – it learns.  In the evolutionary past,  we couldn’t survive if we didn’t create shortcuts. We had to learn by making conscious associations, and then, by repetition, our brain made those associations unconscious.

Thus, we became habit machines!
We became so good at it, that we lived to tell the tale.

One of my favorite books is called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. You should give it a read. If you’re not familiar with this area, empower yourself.

Whatever you are –  you are a bundle of habits. Your brain only leaves precious few things to its limited conscious control.

So when you are eating emotionally, are you really eating emotionally? Or are you eating out of habit? I say, the latter. And I’ll tell you why it matters.

..Why it Matters

Many emotional eaters feel they need to address their emotional issues in order to stop their emotional eating.  But you’ll never address your emotional issues. You’ll always be fucked up. You have less than zero hope.

Does this sound cynical? Because it’s not. Be empowered. To me, this sounds like freedom.

I promise you this. You don’t need to address any issues in order to stop overeating. You need to address your habits.

You can be fucked up beyond belief, and still be a size 6. Or 8. Or 10. Here are just a few examples of people who are fucked up beyond belief:

  • every single size 6 on earth
  • every single size 8 on earth
  • every single size 22 on earth
  • every single nudist, nun, attorney and/or doctor on earth
  • me
  • you

If you’re fucked up, that only means you experience emotions. We all do that.

Of course there are extreme outliers. But 1/3 of the population having depression?? Give me a break.

Is a basic condition of being human really something you want to “fix”? 

Maybe you do. But in any event, you don’t NEED to fix your emotional issues to fix your over-eating.  Believe it or not, skinny people have emotions too.

Do Emotions Have Anything to Do With Your Eating?

Yes! They have everything to do with it.

Emotions trigger your habits, they help form your habits. The emotions you feel while doing an activity make certain habits “stickier” than others.

But you don’t eat because you’re emotional. You eat because of habit. 

Habits are all about triggers. And even if you *THINK* an emotion is the culprit, usually that emotion is brought on by some kind of environmental trigger.

Mindfulness versus Fixing Everything

Maybe you should try to deal with your issues. I don’t know.

I tend to think that things sort themselves out when you focus on them less, not more. The less neurons fire, the more their connections atrophy and die off. That’s just my approach. So go ahead: ignore your problems. Repression is kind of a  bullshit sham anyway.

Instead, be MINDFUL of your issues. Don’t try to fix them, just know what they are, know what your triggers are, and focus on a new behavior you can use to replace an old behavior:

Example:
Issue: I am fat and no one loves me because they are afraid I’ll eat them. When I sit on the couch and watch TV, I am reminded of my overwhelming size and sweatiness, and so I just eat more to cover my sad emotions.

  • Classic solution that is pointless: I’m going to talk to a therapist about how fat and sad I am. She will probably refer me to a psychiatrist who will diagnose me with depression. Instead of recommending exercise or more time outside, they’ll recommend a drug. The drug might work, or on the other hand, it might make me suicidal. I’ll probably end up even fatter.
  • Mindful Solution: I know that I FEEL fat and sad and that no one loves me. But I also know that plenty of fat people are loved, and that losing weight is possible, even if I haven’t done it yet. I know there is nothing INHERENTLY FAT about me. It’s only temporary. Every time I start to feel sad, I’ll go for a 20 minute walk, and see if I feel better. Even if I really really really don’t feel like walking.

What Happens When you Try The Mindful Solution?

You stop trying to fix things, which only reinforces their very existence.

Remember, the things you want to fix live in your brain! A brain that wires itself based solely on past experiences.

Instead, you focus on a concrete behavior that not only begins to REPLACE the prior bad habit,  but is also a small step towards your goal. This kills two fatty birds with one habit-stone.

Because of the power of habit, if you repeat a behavior enough times, you’ll begin to WANT to do the new behavior.

Your new behavior won’t ever completely replace your bad habits. They’re already wired, and may always lie dormant.

But your new behavior will make it MUCH easier. And it will change your brain for the better.

..all it takes is a little bit of repetition.

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You Don’t Need a Clean Slate

“Ok, I’m excited to do this.”

“I’m finally going to take the plunge!”

“Awesome, cool. Let’s start Monday.”

The Fresh Start Hypothesis

How many times have you made a decision NOW, but only to start Monday? How many times have you vowed to take up a skill, or to make a big change beginning on New Years Day?

These are both features of what social scientists call the “Fresh Start Hypothesis.” This hypothesis states that we have a general tendency to correlate changes in behavior with temporal triggers or changes in environment.

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

If you understand more about human nature, you understand more about yourself. And if you understand more about yourself, you have greater control of your outcomes.

We can recognize the “Fresh Start Hypothesis” for what it is, and consider how we can exploit this natural tendency to our benefit. On the other hand, we can also think about how such tendencies might create psychological barriers to success.

In other words, the desire for a “clean slate” can be helpful. But it can also block you. And there is nothing more tragic than someone standing in the way of their own success.

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Know Yourself. 

There is no right or wrong answer here. Everyone is different. We all have different motivations at different times in our lives.

A “fresh start” may be just what you need!   On the other hand, if you find yourself making a “fresh start” every Monday – it might be time to recognize that this approach isn’t working for you.  You have too much emotional baggage, and it’s associated with the Fresh Start.

“But it will be different this time!” Maybe it will. Who am I to say? But maybe you are simply sabotaging yourself.

  • Example 1:  It’s December 27th and it’s a Friday. You are miserable. Kids throw jelly donuts at you, and at 5’1 you weigh 220 pounds. You have never attempted to lose weight before, and in fact your weight hasn’t really bothered you until recently. You have zero healthy habits, and you barely know where to begin.
    • Solution: If you’re going to do a major life overhaul, you can start on January 1st. But until then, see if you can substitute one meal a day with a salad.
  • Example 2: At 5’2′ you weigh 160 pounds. You aren’t happy with your weight, but you’re always dieting. Almost every Monday you find yourself vowing that this week will be different. By Thursday or Friday, you’ve usually fallen off the wagon. You feel guilty and you binge all weekend. Next Monday you know you’ll get it right!
    • Solution: Stop starting Monday. Start right now. For you, the BREAK from starting on Mondays is the REAL fresh start. Don’t be hard on yourself, either. Just make one change for the better.
    • Alternative solution: start Monday, but also start implementing one specific change right now.

The Power of Now

If you need to make a change, it’s best to start RIGHT NOW. But maybe don’t start all the way just yet..

You DON’T need:

  • a funeral procession for your last meal
  • ritual binge before your “purge.”

The more you see fitness as a “project” the more likely you are to see it as deprivation or hard labor.  It doesn’t have to be this way. It could just be simple – eat less shit.

On the other hand, the more you see your fitness journey as a “project” the more likely you are to take it seriously.

So what can we do about this contradiction?

Make a Fresh Start WITHOUT a Fresh Start

  1. Understand that most people have a tendency to correlate behavioral changes with temporal markers.
  2. Understand that our habits do not exist in isolation. They are intertwined with the concepts of time, and also with our physical environments. This will make it easier for you to change them.
  3. Understand also that an absolute NEED for a “clean slate” can be detrimental. And it’s also an illusion. You never need it, you only think you do.
  4. Use this knowledge for good! And Not for evil.

“Starting” can mean taking one small concrete action beginning right now. It could be as simple as replacing one part of dinner with veggies.

Do this PRIOR to taking a big plunge. You can still take the big plunge when you’re ready.

More Ways to Use the Fresh Start for Good

Start NOW!

But use temporal triggers and environmental changes to enhance your efforts.

Examples:

  • I’m beginning to replace one meal with a salad each day TODAY.
    • But beginning on Monday, I’ll start tracking my weight once weekly
  • I’m going to begin cut down on processed foods TODAY.
    • But once the semester starts, I will go to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays.
  • I’m going to add more veggies in my diet beginning TODAY.
    • But starting on January 1, I’m going to begin my meal plan.
  • I’m going to try to make as many healthy choices as I can TODAY
    • But starting Monday, I’m going to do a 30 day weight loss challenge

The Struggle

I write this post because I struggled with this for a long time. I was always making a fresh start, and I was always failing.

My TRUE fresh start was when I recognized that my need for a clean slate was holding me back. It was crazy and delusional. I would NEVER have a clean slate. And I would never stick perfectly to a diet plan.

And even so, it was difficult to break the pattern. It took time. My brain kept going back to it. I had to break the pattern by reminding myself over and over again that my mind was playing tricks on me.

Remember this: the universe doesn’t have major plans for you. It’s apathetic. It doesn’t care about your clean slate. Only you do. And that’s because it’s a part of your human nature. Forgive yourself. Your slate is as clean RIGHT NOW as it will ever be.

You can use your need for a “fresh start” for good, or you can use it as an excuse to self-sabotage.

I say, if you’re not happy – then start this minute. In whatever small way you can.

Have you struggled with this?

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Three Pillars of Fitness: Part 1

This is part one of a four part blog post on my overarching theory of everything.

Here it goes!

There are three pillars of fitness. Each pillar is distinct, but they interact. A weakness in one can (and probably will) infect the others over time.

In this post, I will generally describe the three pillars approach. In the next three posts, I’ll go into each pillar separately.

The Three Pillars

The Psychological;
The Physical; and
The Habitual

  1. “The Psychological” refers to your existing mental framework with regards to food, movement, body image, and self-esteem in general. When you don’t identify as a member of a certain group (in this case, “fit people”), you are far less likely to take actions consistent with belonging to that group.
  2. “The Physical”  refers to forces that are generally either outside of your conscious control, or at the very least which exist at the periphery of your conscious control. These include “mechanical” or “chemical” forces that keep you heavy – anything from hormones, metabolic state, genetic predispositions, state of your microbiome, etc. For most people, physical barriers can be easily corrected. This will put you in optimal state to achieve a healthy weight.
  3. “The Habitual” refers to your automatic or “default” behaviors. This is the most important pillar of all, and also the toughest to fix. But have faith!! Science has given us proven methods to replace bad habits with more constructive behaviors. Even in the absence of willpower.

The Purpose of this Framework

There is no objective truth to this particular framework. Rather, the three pillar approach is meant as an aid – to help you identify specific problems, so that you can work specifically on those problems, rather than wasting your time on problems you don’t have.

Within each of the three pillars, you can look for research based methods to take the exact steps you need to address your particular issues.

This framework recognizes that there is NO one size fits all approach to maintaining a healthy weight. That’s because people’s pillars are not weak in the same places.

An Illustration

If you’re overweight – consider:
how did you become overweight in the first place?

  • Were you overweight as child? If so, you likely have barriers in all three pillars.
    • Psychological – It’s likely that your own mental representation of yourself does not include thinness. It just isn’t who you are. Because you don’t see yourself as a “fit person” your brain is making thousands of subconscious choices each day that are different than the choices that a person who sees themselves as fit would make.
    • Physical – You likely have physical dependencies on certain foods or feeding behaviors, which go above and beyond mere habits. These may be largely the result of metabolic syndrome, or the beginnings or it.
    • Habitual – Whatever habits that led you to become overweight at such a young age are deeply engrained. You haven’t successfully replaced your default behavior to more closely resemble that of a fit person.
  • Did you become overweight simply from bad habits? On the other hand – you might have acquired bad habits with age. In this case, you may STILL have problems in each pillar but those problems are different. Some examples include:
    • Psychological
      • Maybe your framework around food is perfectly healthy -you’ve just fallen on bad habits. In this case, addressing the habits will be sufficient to address your fitness problems. Or maybe those bad habits are beginning to affect your self-esteem. A third possibility is that you were never psychologically healthy to begin with, but only now are the results catching up with you.
      • In the second two cases, you need to deal with your mental framework in order to achieve lasting results.
    • Physical
      • Maybe you have physical dependencies on food, and maybe you don’t.
      • If you’ve been eating poorly, it’s likely that a host of changes in your body have occurred – to your hormones, in your blood, and to your gut flora. These physical changes may make it more difficult for your to lose weight.
    • Habitual
      • You could have fine psychological and physical health, and yet still become unfit over time. Poor habits tend to accumulate.
      • Luckily, this is an area rife with hacks and psychological tricks to improve your outcomes.

The Fix

Luckily, each of these pillars can be strengthened.

In terms of ease of change I’d rank them as follows (from easiest to toughest).
1.  Physical
2. Psychological
3. Habitual

You also DON’T need three PERFECT pillars to achieve results. You simply need to begin making improvements where they are most needed.  Where you make improvements will depend not only on the severity of the problem, but also on the importance of the pillar.

In terms of importance, I’d rank them as follows (from most important to least important).

  1. Habitual
  2. Physical
  3. Psychological

The cool thing is this. Just as problems in one pillar can begin to affect the integrity of the others, so can solutions for one pillar improve the health of the others.

In Part Two of this post I will discuss the Psychological Pillar, including concrete tactics you can use to create healthier mental associations with food and movement.

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On Spanx, Dillards, and the Fat Acceptance Movement

People are talking these days. About:
1. Body Pride;
2. Sizeism (discrimination based on size); and
2. The fat acceptance movement

Just the other day, Arie announced it’s new campaign featuring size 12 model Barbie Ferreira. And perhaps you’ve come across one mother’s viral post floating on the internet:

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I believe strongly in body pride and self-confidence, no matter what. Everyone should love themselves. But I DO take issue with certain aspects of the fat acceptance movement.

The Dillards Incident

I was overweight as a child. I specifically recall an incident when I was about 10 years old. I went to children’s boutique named Denny’s in central New Jersey, to buy a Spice Girls T-shirt. The clerk came up to me and told me there was nothing in the store for me. I wish I could remember if we ended up buying the shirt.

I won’t forget that moment for as long as I live. Even though I was overweight, I always felt like a cool girl, and I didn’t think anyone at school made fun of me. But in that moment, it was like a grown woman was making fun of me. I wanted to shrivel up and die. I always wondered why the clerk felt the need to come up to me and say anything at all. Was she afraid I’d stretch out and rip all of the clothes?

Girls – young girls – are particularly susceptible to the influence of those around us, including  older women. Human beings are simply designed that way. There are so many influences telling us we are not good enough the way we are – whether its because of body weight, body hair, body features, or just whatever. Tina Fey wrote about it hilariously in Bossypants. These constant little signs of rejection are tragic.

But when it comes to the Dillard’s clerk (or in my case, the Denny’s clerk),  I’m going to go ahead and assume there was no ill-will intended. That’s because I feel comfortable assuming that the clerk at Dillard’s was not the brightest bulb, just as the clerk at Denny’s was not the sharpest pencil. These women are more likely socially inept than anything else. They don’t deserve our contempt, they deserve our empathy.

What’s more is this – the girl pictured above is adorable, and she is in fine shape. She has nothing to be embarrassed of, and nothing to hide. She wasn’t put on this earth to be an artificial construct, she is here to be herself. And if that means wearing Spanx, or if it means not wearing Spanx – then that’s her prerogative.

I personally choose the Spanx for myself, and maybe that’s because I’m a coward.

To her and her mother, I say “right on!”

The Fat Acceptance Movement

All of this is separate and apart from the fat acceptance movement, which I actually do take issue with.

But first, let me clarify two points.

  1. I’m a Libertarian. In every sense.  What I’m about to say here is only my opinion. I don’t claim to be right in any objective sense. It’s just what feels right for me – and I share my view because maybe it will resonate with you. So if you think the fat acceptance movement is the greatest thing to ever happen on earth, then great. But I don’t. I’d still love to break bread with you sometime. Preferably cheesy bread.
  2. What qualifies as fat?  When I say “fat” in reference to the body acceptance movement, I am not referring to people who are pleasantly plump, delightfully chubby, or even moderately obese. I’m talking about people who are well beyond anything that could possibly be considered a good weight.  And I’m not talking here about obesity in terms of BMI. I’m talking about obesity in terms of “you are fucking undeniably fat.”

The Good Aspects of the Fat Acceptance Movement

Fat acceptance advocates bring awareness to important issues such as weight discrimination in almost every single field. And that’s important.

I know for an absolute fact, as someone who has been at both ends of the spectrum, that fat people are treated differently. Very differently. By employers, professionals, doctors, teachers –  everyone. Even slightly overweight people are treated differently than their thin counterparts.

And this is something we should be mindful of. Both out of respect for others, and also to improve ourselves.

My Problems With the Fat Acceptance Movement 

People are not meant to be fat.

Yes, some of us are meant to put on weight easier than others. Some of us are not meant to be thin.  But with the exception of some very rare illnesses, no one is genetically destined to be very obese.

Obesity is a product of a modern lifestyle based on unnatural foods. These foods are marketed at us constantly from a very young age. We think these foods should make us feel full, but they don’t because they are devoid of nutrition. They are often designed to addict us, physically.  These foods are dangerous, and as far as I’m concerned, marketing them to children is criminal.

Obesity is not inevitable. I love that someone who is obese might love themselves, because I never could.  I also love that someone who is obese might feel nothing but pride and a positive self image. But I believe very strongly that obesity is nothing to celebrate. And having a positive self-image in an obese state does not preclude you from having an equally positive self-image in a healthy state.

That said, you should live your life however you want to live it.  But when Fat Acceptance Advocates begin to denounce doctors for blaming everything on their weight, what they forget is this – fat, itself, is an organ which promotes inflammation and injury. Fat changes your hormonal profile. If you are female, fat is very likely to make your period heavier, more difficult, and more irregular. Because of this, you might experience terrible mood swings, and become anemic. These aren’t rare side effects of fat – this is basically destiny.

Staying overweight also has negative effects on brain function, and increases how quickly we age. Waist circumference is a predictor of so many terrible outcomes.

But I don’t even need studies to know that being lighter feels better. I don’t sweat as much. There is less strain on my heart. I am no longer pre-occupied with food (says the girl with the fitness blog).

Now your health is not my business. And your appearance is not my business. But doctors are supposed to be healers. If anything, they don’t do nearly ENOUGH to promote sound nutritional choices, and to remind patients of the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. In fact, there are plenty of THIN people who are filled with dangerous visceral fat. These thin people may be at just as much risk of disease and cognitive decline as their overweight counterparts. And for the most part, doctors are failing them too.

This doesn’t mean overweight people shouldn’t be treated with respect. It doesn’t mean doctors shouldn’t take them seriously. But it does mean that it’s the doctor’s job to keep telling them to lose weight. Because whatever problem they are facing – it is exceedingly likely that its complicated by extra weight. And that might be true for even marginally overweight people. The same goes for thin people with dangerous visceral fat, or with poor blood results. Nutrition is medicine, and it is key.

In Denial 

When I read the literature of from fat acceptance circles, sometimes I am just surprised. Take this article from Every Day Feminism, for example, which suggests that being overweight doesn’t necessary mean you have poor nutrition. The author states that making assumptions based on weight is “oppressive” and suggests it is harmful for overweight people, “..to hear assumptions from dietitians and other healthcare practitioners that because of a physical characteristic, their weight, they must be unhealthy and engaging in poor self-care.”

The problem is simply that yes, being very overweight DOES mean you have poor nutrition.  And you might not even know it. Because nutrition is about more than how many calories and what nutrients go into your body. It’s about the health of your blood, your levels of inflammatory cytokines, your insulin and glucose levels, your gut microbiome and health, your arterial plaque, and your prevalent metabolic states. These factors are inextricably intertwined with your body weight and body fat percentage. This is basic. You can’t wish it away. And it’s not your doctor’s or nutritionist’s job to make you feel good about yourself. It’s their job to provide you with factual information.

There doesn’t have to be a disconnect between loving yourself and wanting to be healthy.

In fact, you don’t even have to be  healthy if you don’t want to be. Maybe you love being a giant fatass, and that’s great. Good health is not a mandate, it’s just a good idea.

But I won’t stand quietly by in the face of delusion. I’ll say my piece, especially since I’ve been there before. Every pound extra takes a toll on you health. It simply does. But that’s nobody’s business but your own.

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