On the other hand, I love how polite everyone is in the discussions, and I do appreciate it. Yesterday's post was pretty much off the cuff, based on some reading I've been doing lately, which in turn was triggered by my experience with the Lyrica.
Y'all know me (at least in part), and you have probably gleaned from a number of things I've said that I'm a complete control freak. I've kept off the weight I lost for almost 15 years now, by slowly readjusting my diet and outlook on food, and wrestling through emotional and comfort issues as well as changing my body image (and that went slowest of all). But the Lyrica undid all of my discipline, all of my determination, all of my "will-power". The effects of that drug were able to destroy every tool I developed to lose weight over the last 15 years, and I was really, truly, powerless against it. In less than three months, I put on 15lbs, and it showed no sign of stopping or slowing down.
(This is not the sole reason I stopped taking it, but it certainly was a factor. Bigger factors were that it did not replace my other painkiller, it didn't take away the pain significantly, and most terrifying, I was slipping into depression. I've been depressed - I spent my teenage years and early twenties in a fog of misery, and I'd rather not deal with that again, thanks.)
I really am one of the people for whom the solution to my extra weight was "exercise more; eat less", but I cannot allow myself to think that is the sole solution to fat - I know too many people who are highly disciplined, more active than me, and who still struggle with their weight. It's not a question of motivation, will power, or learning to eat less (as some of the stories people told in the comments yesterday illustrated - and I appreciate the openness, you guys - thanks).
Actually, it's not a question of any one thing - it's a question of any of hundreds of possible things, and some of those things are not properly understood, even by the people that study them without bias. My experience with the Lyrica was really eye-opening, as it was my first experience with a drug that causes significant weight gain in higher doses, along with a literally uncontrollable appetite (and my God, I have massive sympathy for anyone who has a weight gain-causing medical condition they can't fix as easily). I never felt full, even after eating four slices of pizza one night - and I usually feel full (and slighty sick) after two slices. I could have eaten an entire (large) pizza that night. All my normal receptors were completely shut off. How does one fight that? The gnawing, constant hunger? It's possible to make oneself sick and fat eating fruit, if one is gorging on it every second (yum, bananas), and the trouble with that kind of hunger is that drinking water or eating celery doesn't cut it.
(To be honest, drinking water and eating celery when one is hungry rarely does anything but make one hate celery - and I like celery. Plain, even. I don't like water, though - it has to be flavoured somehow. Plain water makes me feel really sick, which sort of works if one wants to kill one's appetite, but isn't any way to go through one's day.)
I think it's tremendously illuminating that we have so many drugs and medical conditions that cause weight gain as a side effect, and yet we do not have one drug that causes long-term weight loss, not one. There are a couple that cause a temporary lessening of appetite (and, as I discovered, it's really temporary - two to three days - when one's body is fighting in the opposite direction), and a couple that block fat absorbtion in the intestine [edit: by binding the fats so that they cannot be taken in - and by taking vitamin D, & A with them, by the way; a number of vitamins and minerals need fat to be absorbed] , but nothing that actually causes the brain to command the body to start burning off fat stores.
- Not to mention that taking a drug that can cause heart attacks and arrhythmia seems counterproductive if one is trying to lose weight to prevent heart disease. Speed is addictive, loses its potency quickly (requiring increasing doses for the same effect), and the fat-blockers have not been studied for the long-term effects of altering the effciency of the digestive system (digestive tract cancers being one big worry [edit: Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies being another]).
If losing weight was easy, it would not be a multi-billion dollar industry. The author of Fat is Not a Four-Letter Word, Charles Roy Schroeder, calls the diet-industry charlatans and pushers "creeps", and I think he's right. He is also one of the people that has done a more in-depth study of the Metropolitan Insurance Company's height-weight charts, and pointed out that statistically, underweight people live less long than slightly (10-20lbs) overweight people. Those charts are still used, even though things like bone density and overall health have changed significantly since those charts were compiled.
(And if you ever want to hear me go on for at least twenty minutes about what constitutes a bad study, get me started on that chart. Too many doctors use it as gospel, without understanding what it really represents.)
Take me - I am reasonably slender (though not, by any current definition, thin). I weigh (currently) 139-140lbs, I wear a size 8 in most things (size 16 in 1940s sizing, btw). I am 5'3. My weight is actually about average for my height. I feel my best when I weigh between 130-135lbs, but I'm still working off the weight I gained on the Lyrica. I have a small frame (albeit with a bone density that appears to be mimicking hardened steel). According to the chart for women, my weight should be between 111-124lbs.
I can accurately tell you what condition I would be in if I weighed in at the top end of that range, because a few years ago, stress and a medication that made me so depressed I couldn't eat got me down to 124lbs. I looked sick. My mother, who is quite weight conscious, thought I looked too thin. Everyone else got quite worried about me - rightly so, because I looked awful - hollow cheeks, dark circles under my eyes, bony arms and legs (and yet my body still managed to retain my paunchy abdomen), dry, brittle, dull hair - and I looked like a grape with toothpicks sticking out of it. It wasn't a good feeling, and it even hurt to sit for any length of time (y hello thar, coccyx).
I'm not naturally thin, but I'm not naturally big, either. I'm soft, round, curvy, and hourglass shaped. By modern beauty industry standards, I'm short and fat. And this is where, as a society, we have competely gone off the rails.
I want people to be healthy - do not mistake my post yesterday as an endorsement of a sedentary junk food-filled lifestyle. One of the greatest things Americans can do for themselves is get junk food out of schools and make healthy foods cheap and constantly available, especially for children. Re-shaping the national thinking so that vegetables aren't "yucky" would be great. Building neighbourhoods that allow safe and easy walking from place to place, expanding parks and active play areas, and making junk food more expensive could all help with adjusting our thinking about what health is.
Unfortunately, all those things cost money - something we have less of than ever. And a lot of the money we use for things like music programs in schools comes from food companies - the same food companies that will be fighting us every step of the way if we alter our eating habits. There is much less money to be made selling unprocessed foods, and make no mistake, the large packaged food companies have sunk billions into making people think that their food is healthy and good for you (for an excellent illustration of this, look at how Kraft markets its processed cheese slices to children, not to mention its boxed macaroni and cheese mix). We will even affect our economy significantly by moving to less processed foods. Companies sell their food cheaply because they know that price and convenience are more important to most people over nutrition. If we refuse to buy their food, they will fight back.
(This is not a reason to give up, mind you - just scale the Hot Pockets back to once a week.)
(Mmmmm, Hot Pockets. I know they're evil, but for me, they're the apex of convenience foods. Fat, salt, sugar, bread, meat, cheese - much tastier than an apple, damn it.)
The tendrils of the food industry reach deep - I nearly went to college in Atlanta because I got a scholarship from Coke. It's not only the food itself we would have to give up, but all the money it brings in to things we don't seem to be willing to pay for with our taxes, like schools.
But I digress.
To heal our societal sickness, we need to drop the visual of thin=good. Health comes in all sizes, just as sickness does. Using an arbitrary measurement of health like dress size, or a cookie-cutter idea of a single size and shape as the only ideal, causes irreparable harm and severely disordered thinking about what health actually means.
And it really does affect people - when the tabloids call Jessica Simpson "fat" because she wears an unflattering pair of jeans, what are the rest of us mortals who aren't model-shaped supposed to think about ourselves? When a designer says that Heidi Klum is too "fat" to walk down his runway, is that any incentive to even try? For most of us, no matter how much we starve ourselves, we will never, ever, be shaped like Ms. Klum (who, bless her, basically said "fuck you", instead of blaming herself for not meeting an unrealistic ideal).
When we focus on fat as "ugly", we rip the rug out from under people who do not fit an arbitrary ideal. What's the point of trying if everyone is going to call you ugly anyway? When "health" is defined as "looking thin", then everyone who is larger and still healthy cannot ever win. If you can't win, what's the use even trying?
No matter how good our self-esteem, it's a rare person who can feel good about themselves in the face of a society screaming about how ugly and gross they are because they aren't teeny-tiny. Women in particular get bombarded from all sides with instructions about how they're supposed to look, and how, if they don't, they're ugly losers.
Patently, this is untrue. And when you hit ground level, you can see that beauty comes in all sizes, and can be extraordinary no matter how much the current societal ideal disagrees. Personally, I think pinkleader is one of the more beautiful people I know. She doesn't fit the size 4 societal expectation, but she's gorgeous.
More importantly, dress size has nothing to do with health, and weight is frequently misleading. And I think we need to divorce sizeism from health - both sides, big and small, will benefit, since so much free-wheeling hate and frustration will not be rolling around, getting everyone slimy. Health is more important.
We live longer, better lives than we ever have. Despite the cries of doom from the fat haters, I don't see people dropping like flies any more than before - and if we want to talk health epidemic, let's talk car accidents. People, cell phones and innattentive driving kill.
There - that accusation should lose me a few more readers. *evil grin*