The Mythology of One Size Fits All

The Mythology of One Size Fits All

One of the largest issues with weight discrimination (pun intended) is that people start to believe that they should all look one way. 

To quote one of my favorite songs from my angsty teenage years, "These plastic molded seats had to be cast from someone's perfect ass, leaving the rest of us to squirm uncomfortably."

In other words, just because what we see in the media looks one way does not mean that the rest of us need to fit into that mold. That's just the way one person looks. It's not really necessary for us all to look that way. 

Changing your Body

I need to start off this post with an apology. I'm sorry. I wrote a sentence a little flippantly that really needs A LOT of context, caveats, and 'splainin'.

"So really changing your body is not attainable," wrote myself last week. 

A friend I respect pointed out how this sentence by itself could be off-putting. I'm sorry because I often say inflammatory things that are really designed to mean something else. I call it Kanye syndrome.  

So, what's wrong with this sentence? 

1. It's factually inaccurate. 

Our bodies change constantly over time. If bodies didn't change we'd all be a bunch of squiggly babies walking around. Also, surgery exists. 

2. It dismisses the impact that other healthy habits can have in changing your body beyond weight loss. 

You can temporarily lose weight by restricting your calories no matter the content. In other words, you can just eat Snickers all day but as long as you eat fewer Snickers than calories required to keep your body at its current weight, you will lose weight, at least temporarily. 

Food is just one component of our health. And calorie restriction is just one way to lose weight. Environmental, social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual factors all play into our health.  Generally, eating lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, limiting alcohol, not smoking, and getting regular exercise and sleep all help to increase longevity. These things do not even include mental, social, emotional, and spiritual health that might be impacting your body's ability to fight disease. 

As Linda Bacon has referenced in her book (and Isabel Foxen Duke has quote her many times), curing heart disease by treating weight loss is like curing lung cancer by treating yellow teeth.  Health issues are often correlated with having a higher weight but weight only "weakly predicts longevity." Again, skinny does not necessarily mean healthy. Skinny people can eat crappy foods, take bad care of themselves and get sick too. 

Changing your diet might change your biochemistry and physiology but it may not change your weight. 

3. I'm not accounting for the people who have changed their body weight.

I know people who have lost significant amounts of weight and have been able to keep it off. To you, kudos. If you dieted to get there, you're especially rare because about 3-5 people of 100 are able to pull that off. 

This, as my homegirl Isabel (have I mentioned she's got a really amazing FREE video series out?) puts it in her latest podcast with Kaila Prins, is a bad bet. If somebody told you to make an investment of $10,000 and there's a 3% chance you'll get paid $200,000 but if you lose, you could actually end up in debt, would you take that wager? Call me Mr. Wonderful, but I don't like those odds. 

So, now that I've clarified a few inaccuracies, here's what I meant to say: 

1. Even if you are able to permanently lose weight, you might not lose so much weight that you finally look like a Greek statue or the cover of a magazine.

If you are truly doing it in a sustainable way, it probably consists of slow and steady changes that happen gradually over time. You might lose 10 pounds permanently but never the 30 you were hoping for to get back to your high school karate fighting weight. 

2. You might be able to lose so much weight that you look like a Greek statue but it requires more than what diet companies advertise. 

Changing your body permanently is not as easy as diet companies would like you to believe. It's not just eat just eat these weird kale cookies for 30 days and look like Halle Berry.

Look at, say, an Olympic athlete. Having swum for many years, I knew even at age 11 that I did not have what it took to get to the Olympic level of swimming. I straight up didn't have the dedication. Getting to the Olympic level would have required 5-6+hours of training per day ALL YEAR LONG. This would have meant relinquishing academics, piano lessons, snowboarding on the weekends, having friends and even just watching old episodes of Wings on USA. 

For me, this was too much to give up. I had to know what was happening in that Nantucket airport. What would you have to give up in your life to get your body to this "level?"

It's just a lot of time and you have to do it FOREVER. FOR-EV-ER! 

3. You might be able to lose so much weight that you look like a Greek statue but it makes you crazy and obsessive around food and exercise. Your whole life, including your career and relationships, might be consumed by it. If it gets really bad, you can develop an eating disorder that requires years of expensive treatment and causes long-term health problems.

One can look at other women in my field, like Maddy Moon, to see how what seems like a healthy pursuit of a goal can spiral into obsession. Eating disorders are really hard on people's lives. I saw that and heard about it during the time that I worked for an eating disorder treatment center. Bad eating disorders can cause bone issues like osteoporosis. Purging behaviors can cause digestive distress and tooth decay. And, having worked in the billing department, I know it is EXPENSIVE. 

One final disclaimer: I'm not trying to dismiss anyone who was ever interested in weight loss as frivolous or foolish. 

I'm saying this because there's a lot of misinformation out there that has real consequences for people in their lives. I care about giving people accurate information so we can make informed decisions about how we want to spend our lives. 

Thanks for reading this super long post. I hope it was useful.

Do you think this clarifies things? Does this resonate with you? Anything problematic? In the comments or via email, let me know!

Math can be easier than sadness

Math is easier than human emotions sometimes. 

At a point not too long ago, shortly after my conversion to intuitive eating, I was at a crossroads. A few things were shifting in my life and I was feeling a little uncertain about the future. 

Meanwhile, my wonderful partner had just finished a program that would put him and his classmates on the path to lucrative and promising careers. I went to celebrate with them. 

And I was happy for them. The celebration started early on in the day and basically consisted of constant access to delicious food and beverage all day and well into the night. I allowed myself to eat, drink and be merry. Intuitively. 

Or so I thought. As the day went on, I felt a few old fears creeping up. I felt really full. Then, this old mean voice came up in my head again. Amy Poehler might call it, "the demon." 

"Ugh" It said, "You're so fat." 

"Eating all day? You're out of control." It said.

Ever the people-pleaser, I said to that demon, "I'm not 'out of control!' I have a calorie tracking app so I'll just put in what I ate today and I'm sure it'll be fine."

When we got home, I needed to prove myself to that asshole demon, so I started filing away all the data. Half-way through, I stopped. For one thing, the numbers weren't what I wanted to see. They didn't make me feel better. They didn't prove anything to the demon. 

I felt the sadness and anxiety well up in my throat. 

This was the big "a-ha! moment" for me. I realized that I didn't care about "getting fat" really. I didn't feel like I had "it" together. Probably because I spent the day hanging out with a bunch of people who were celebrating feeling like they had "it" together. 

Perhaps you can relate. Life can feel out of control at times. It's why I used to find great solace in tracking and controlling food.

 Adding up the calories of the beers and burritos I consumed was easier than trying to figure out my career trajectory.

The fancy clinical word for this is "coping mechanism." It's something I heard a hundred times while working at the eating disorder treatment center. Many times eating disorder "behaviors," like restricting, binging, purging, or obsessing about food served a purpose for those using them. They provided a way of managing a tough time. 

If you find yourself emotionally eating or thinking about food or feeling fat or feeling like you WANT to control food, here are some things you can do: 

1. Identify the "behavior" as a coping mechanism. 

There's a big difference between eating ice cream mindlessly for hours and eating ice cream because you knew you had a hard day at work. 

If you notice that you're eating weirdly or getting extra anxious around food, it might be a symptom of something else going on in your life. Awareness is so underrated but it's so helpful. Just knowing that what you're doing serves you in some way can help you realize what's going on.

2. There might be a more direct way of managing your distress. 

If you do notice that your "behaviors" crop up more when other things are going on, it's an opportunity to address your issue head on. Instead of compartmentalizing by doing something else, notice what triggers "behaviors" and address the triggers. Treat the cause, not the symptom. This might mean seeking out a therapist or another professional who is trained to help you work it out. 

 In my case, I had to accept my own situation and learn how to be happy with that. I journaled a lot and tried to find ways to get a little more clarity about my next steps. 

3. Trust Yourself and Your Body

Remember that you can't really control your body weight. Increasing research suggests that your body weight is set to to stay within a certain range that is healthy for your body in particular. The fancy science people call this, "set point theory."  While you may temporarily be able to restrict food, ultimately, your body wants you to be healthy and survive. It will take measures to keep you where you are supposed to be. 

Sometimes relaxing into this can help us be present to and mindful of the issues in our lives and the "coping mechanisms" we're using to manage the difficulties in our lives. 

And honestly, it's easier than doing math. 





Weight Off Your Shoulders

***Warning: strong language in this post. So, don't read it out loud to your 1st grade classroom***

I used to have a serious ritual about weighing myself. 

 Wake up. Go to the bathroom.Take off all my clothes. Zero the scale. Weigh myself. 

Good number meant a good day. Bad number meant calculations. 

I'd consider what could be causing an increase in weight: digestion, salt intake, my menstrual cycle, etc. If I was feeling super confident, I'd just assume it was something simple and totally healthy and move on with my day. 

Mostly though, I'd be kicking myself wondering what I could do to fix it and what I did wrong.

Ugh. I don't miss those days. 

I'd be lying if I said that I can step on the scale and be totally unaffected by what it says. There's too much in our culture that tells me how important it is. There are too many conversations about weight loss and weight gain and what that means. 

So, this week I simply want to encourage every person who reads this blog to stop stepping on the scale. 

I know. I know. I know. If you were anything like me, this is like asking a smoker to stop smoking. 

Even so, I can directly blame that scale for so many obsessive thoughts,  crappy diet lunches and money wasted on diet books. And you, dear reader, probably can too.  But, I know you're scratching like a heroin addict because I might be taking that scale away from you. 

You're rationalizing: 

1. Sometimes the scale makes me feel better when I'm at the weight that I want to be at. 

To which I respond, "Why does being at a certain weight affect how you feel about yourself at all?"

Fuck that. You deserve to feel good about yourself regardless of what the scale has to say. You are a lot more than the grams of water or whatever your molecules are holding. Contemplate what really matters in your life. I fully support an existential crisis here with the support of a well-trained mental health professional.  

2. If I don't know, I'll obsess all day about whether or not it's gone up or down. 

To which I respond, "Why do you need to know? What information does that give you? Are you not going to eat when you're hungry? Are you not going to stop when you're full? Will you not listen to your body tell you what it craves and desires because of the scale?" 

Fuck that. Your body is a genius. Doctors don't even know how that it all works. Somehow, your amazing and beautiful body never skips a heartbeat. It never forgets to breathe. It keeps your body temperature within a decimal of its perfect point. It regrows skin. It's phenomenal. So stop trying to control this multifactorial pathophysiology by trying to control one variable. 

3.  If I'm not paying attention to the scale, I'll balloon up like the girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

To which I respond, "Why are you so worried about being bigger? Do you want the world to keep you starved and small?" 

Fuck that. Nourish yourself. I've said this about 800 times on this blog but being a size 0 is not the right size for everyone. Here's a video to remind you. Watch that now. Remember there are many beautiful women of many sizes. Follow a plus size model on Instagram or look at pictures of Marilyn Monroe if you need to. Being beautiful is not worth forgoing your own health. If you've ever thought foot-binding is ridiculous, this means you agree with me. 

If you still feel like you need to step on the scale or if you've successfully stopped weighing yourself, please let me know in the comments or email me at info@noeljane.com.

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