[This was originally some rambling from the Susie Orbach post that I felt wasn’t entirely on topic. ]
Recently I’ve become aware of several tenets of our culture that so many people believe, but few people articulate:
- Everyone will naturally have a “normal” ratio between their height and weight. (Example: BMI 25-29.9)
- Anyone who has a greater or lesser ratio than “normal” is doing something (overeating, not eating, not exercising, overexercising, whatever) to make it happen.
- Therefore, anyone who has a greater or lesser ratio than “normal” should just stop what they’re doing and then they will be “normal”.
AKA, I weigh 400lbs, which is way out of normal ratio to my height of 5’9″. Therefore, I must be doing something to keep my weight at its current level, such as eating much more than my body wants all day every day. Therefore, if I would just eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full, I’ll lose weight. Right? (No.)
This cultural belief also has a corollary: Overeating is morally wrong. Different reasons are given for why it’s morally wrong, but they often include: overeating is an expression of greed; overeating prevents others from eating; overeating is wasteful; and overeating is unhealthy. (Of course, there’s also the expectation that one will overeat at certain celebrations. See also the various religious cycles of fast-feast-fast-feast ;)
The problems with this are many.
The natural variances are far greater than is posited by #1, so if you are naturally fatter or thinner than normal you may just be naturally fatter or thinner than normal. I’ve had Overcoming Overeating recommended to me numerous times; I did not finish the book, but I read enough to realize that it is not about me. Like many teenagers who grew up being told they were too fat, I assumed I was a binge eater, because I wanted to eat more than any diet allowed. I even found myself “binging”, or rather, eating a larger than average dinner, after skipping breakfast and lunch. It was only as an adult that I realized being overly hungry after not eating for 22 hours is not binge eating disorder, that’s natural reaction to not eating.
Once I quit skipping meals or otherwise trying to keep myself from eating, I didn’t binge. Funny that.
On the other hand, if you are actually “doing something” that changes your body (dieting, bulimia, steriods, antidepressants) it may not have the desired consequences. Long-term, dieting can result in weight gain and raising the weight setpoint. In the end, your body may have changed its natural weight range to something that it wasn’t before, which prevents #3.
I think this is why some people seem to see me as being fat at them. Obviously if I weigh this much I must be eating 10,000-20,000 calories a day every day, right? Well, guess what – I don’t. The last time I tracked my food intake I was between 1800 and 2400 calories a day, which according to various diet calculators means I should be losing weight at the rate of several pounds a week. And that’s assuming I undercounted my calories a couple hundred a day. Yet my weight is relatively stable. Funny that.