Like a lot of people, I was stunned when I read this article, describing how former contestants of The Biggest Loser regained most of the weight they lost during the show.
Fourteen former contestants were studied six years after their season of the show had ended. 13 of the 14 contestants regained weight. Four contestants are heavier now than they were at the start of the competition. Nearly all the contestants have slower metabolisms than they did six years ago, and burn fewer calories than expected for someone of their equal size.
The article explains the findings:
“It has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. When the show began, the contestants, though hugely overweight, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight. When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes.
Researchers knew that just about anyone who deliberately loses weight — even if they start at a normal weight or even underweight — will have a slower metabolism when the diet ends. So they were not surprised to see that “The Biggest Loser” contestants had slow metabolisms when the show ended.
What shocked the researchers was what happened next: As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on. It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight.”
This was not news to me. I’ve complained for years that my metabolism seems to have hitched a ride to Mexico without so much as a post card to say “hasta la vista, baby!” I eat less and better than I did ten years ago. I drink less. I exercise more. I also weigh more. The article was nice validation- I wasn’t crazy. But it was also disappointing. As someone who struggles with weight, it seems like I am destined to fail when it comes to weight loss. Should I just bury my head in a trough of ice cream and call it a day?
What the article did, is force me to rethink my definition of diet success. Yesterday, I ate well all day. I ate foods loaded with protein and fiber and vitamins. Around 5pm, my husband let me know he was going to be working late. I really wanted to crack open a bottle of wine and defrost some of those Trader Joe’s frozen macaroons, but I didn’t. At 9:30pm, I heard a voice calling from my son’s room- it was a chocolate bar in his bucket of leftover Easter candy. I ignored the voice and went to bed. I woke up today, and weighed myself. I hadn’t lost a pound. My initial reaction was positive self talk. I hadn’t gained a pound either. I had eaten well, not drank, and whether or not the scale showed it, my heart, liver and psyche were better off for it. That’s success, right?
But on a bike ride today, I thought about the trap I laid for myself. It’s an important step to not put your worth in a number on a scale, but there is danger when you assign labels like good/bad or success/failure when it comes to food.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading into the body positive movement. There are many resources available when looking into the is movement, but http://www.thebodypositive.org/ is a good place to start. Heck, it says body positive right in their name.
“Our mission is to give people tools to reconnect to their innate body wisdom so they can have more balanced, joyful self-care, and a relationship with their whole selves that is guided by love, forgiveness, and humor. We are dedicated to inspiring youth and adults to value their health, unique beauty, and identity so they can use their vital resources of time, energy, and intellect to make positive changes in their own lives and in the world.”
This sounds fantastic. I love the idea of different shapes and sizes being seen as unique and beautiful. I am intrigued with the idea of looking at the relationship between body, mind and spirit.
Reading about the body positive movement brought me in contact with the fat acceptance movement. Wikipedia defines the movement as this:
“The fat acceptance movement (also known as the size acceptance, fat liberation, fat activism, fativism, or fat power movement) is a social movement seeking to change anti-fat bias in social attitudes. The movement grew out of the various identity politics of the 1960s and campaigns for the rights of fat people to be treated equally both socially and legally. Areas of contention include the aesthetic, legal, andmedical approaches to people whose bodies are fatter than the social norm.”
One of the articles I read (I wish I could find it) described how we are only ok with fat people if they are actively trying to change being fat or can somehow prove their worthiness. This is manifested in thinking such as its ok to be fat so long as you work out, or its ok to be fat as long as you are eating healthy. We don’t ever think it’s simpy ok to be fat, or better yet, to have no attachment to it. To see as a characteristic such as having blue eyes or brown hair.
I was kind of astounded at the outright discrimination that fat people experience. On average, an overweight person makes $1.25 less an hour. 26% have been denied benefits because of their weight. Worse yet is the deliberate meanness. I read a story about a group of men handing out tickets on the subway to overweight people. The tickets said something along the lines of “You’re Fat” and then went on to berate them for not shutting their mouths, for having no self respect, etc. Can you imagine the balls it takes to do this? Need a first hand account. Here is a very eyeopening article:
The author describes this encounter:
“A few years ago, while I walked through my hometown, a stranger stared, slack jawed, looking my body up and down, over and over again. “Excuse me,” she shouted. “Are you big enough yet? Is everyone else seeing how fat this bitch is? Look at her!” She began pointing at me, searching the faces of other passersby for affirmation. “How do you let that happen? Can you even hear me? I deserve an answer!””
I’m not fat. I’m overweight. But I have never experienced anything as horrendous as this. It’s hard for me to identify with this level of hate. I can’t imagine how humiliating and horrible the author must have felt. What fucking right do we have to judge anyone else?
But we do. We judge. I judge. You, me, all of us. When I eat too much, and I know I should have stopped- it’s not just that I made a bad decision. It’s that I’m a failure. I see an obese person hiking while I’m out on the trail and I think “good for you!” I never would think those same thoughts for a thin person- he’d simply pass by. If I really want to be successful, the judgments have to go.
Today, I went for a mountain bike ride. Biking is usually when I do my best thinking. I thought What if, I made decisions based on what made me happy? What if I allowed everyone else to do the same? When I lay my head down at night, I want to be able to say I made the choices today that I wanted to make. That’s all. Yet, that is so huge.
After my bike ride, I ate a bowl of oatmeal. I rode my bike and ate oatmeal not because of health, but because I like riding my bike and I like oatmeal. Two days ago, I opted to skip my run. I drank a beer and drew a picture instead. I don’t regret any of those decisions. That, my friends, is real joy. Regardless of a number on a scale, a look in a mirror, or a size on a pair of jeans, I’m happy. I hope the same for you.