One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

INSIGHTS

Fat Trap Ramblings

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A billion people have sent me this link to The Fat Trap on NYTimes.com. Ok, maybe not a billion, more like 5 but a billion sounded better and I’m in a silly mood.

So the Fat Trap goes something like this… Those of us that have been overweight are doomed because our bodies now like to be fat and will defend its fat to the death!

Honestly, my response is…

blah blah blah.

We’ve heard it all before and I say OF COURSE. Of course our bodies like to be fat. It’s warm and safe and easy in our time of plenty.

I don’t doubt anything the article says about hormones and how our bodies respond to losing weight, but deep down don’t we all know there are forces working against us all the time? Let’s not get into the specifics for a change. I don’t care who naturally burns 300 more calories a day or how many miles I need to run to work off that cookie. Let’s peer down from the 50,000 foot view.

Everyone’s bodies are different. We all know people who eat fast food for every meal and never gain an ounce. For Pete’s sake my husband actually sucked down weight gain shakes in high school because he was so thin. We also know (or are) people who gain weight after a few big meals. There are people who can enjoy 1 cookie without giving it another thought and others that can’t handle having a bag of chocolate chips in the house in fear they can’t control themselves.

Our age plays a factor.

Our activity level plays a factor.

Our hormones play a factor.

Our genes play a factor.

Our body image plays a factor.

There are so many variables, some we probably aren’t even aware of yet.

So knowing this changes what?

I’m not going to lie and tell you that losing weight wasn’t awesome for all the vanity reasons. For the first time in my life I was able to try on clothes without bursting into tears in a dressing room. Being thin was an emotional triumph for me. There’s no doubt about it, but I also FEEL better now and it’s not all because of a thinner physique.

I feel better physically.

There’s also no doubt that food and exercise affect my emotional state and mood.

I think we forget that for some being overweight is a byproduct of living a life you don’t want to live. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but for me it was, and I can’t be alone.

What I’m trying to get at here (and doing a bad job at it) is…. I don’t care about “The Fat Trap.”

I don’t care if I will have to work at maintaining my weight for the rest of my life because the alternative is what? Be fat and unhappy?

At least if I’m living the active life I want to live, eating a balanced healthy diet and enjoying exercise the worst case scenario is fat and happy.



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Discussion

There are 43 comments so far.

    Shannon

    January 6, 2012

    I <3 you. That is all! :) Actually not all. Thank you for posting this. I read this article a day or so ago (after restarting WW for the umpteenth time) and felt like "why bother" but you are right & its you I'm choosing to listen to.

    Claire

    January 6, 2012

    I agree with you! Maintaining a healthy weight is not impossible or rocket science. In fact it is, as you say, enjoyable! Always easy? No. Simple? YES. Articles like the NYT one are thought provoking for sure. But there it ends for me.

    Bella

    January 6, 2012

    I think part of the “fat trap” is our own diction. The truth of the matter is – of course being thin is a “fat trap” because “thin” is a social construct (as well as “fat”). To be healthy? There is no trap there – you find what works for you via trial and error, research, guidance from a professional, etc., and you keep doing it. I think we need to be more careful in how we approach health. We have to stop conflating “thin” with “healthy”!

    Elva

    January 6, 2012

    That’s good that you maintained you your self well. I must say habit of having balance diet and regular exercise can make you fit and healthy.

    nivedita

    January 6, 2012

    ah Roni!!!just what I needed for a shake up!!Thanks.I loved the tone your post :)

    Marina

    January 6, 2012

    wow, excellent post!! so true, so inspirational. I am wonder how it took me too long discover your blog! thanks Roni!

    KarenJ

    January 6, 2012

    I maintained a weight loss from Weight Watchers for 20 years and then suddenly, for no apparent reason (except that I was entering menopause), I gained back 25 pounds within a year without changing my eating or exercise habits. Do you have any idea how scary that is? And no one got it – everyone told me I looked fine even though I was three sizes bigger! I tried everything – increasing exercise, even smaller portions, nothing worked. Finally, I gave in and went to see a nutritionist. I gave up sugar, wheat and dairy. I began losing weight effortlessly. I have been living this way for 13 months now, and I’ve lost almost 20 pounds. My friends think I’m crazy to go to these lengths to lose and maintain my weight, but it is absolutely worth it to me. (Just so you know, I do occasionally treat myself on sugar when it’s something really worth it, but not a speck of wheat). I am reading the book Food, Inc. If you haven’t read it, it’s an eye opener. With all the additives and chemical engineering of our food, it’s no wonder people are developing food allergies.

    Teresa

    January 6, 2012

    Well said Roni!! Thanks for another excellent post:)

    Kate

    January 6, 2012

    Great post! I think you are proof that once overweight people can achieve a fit, healthy body.

    Don’t you love it when this time of year rolls around with all of the health tips and then you have articles like that that basically tell you you’ll never be successful long term? I think the “study” is flawed from the beginning because you’ve got people who are using an extremely low cal diet that is not something sustainable for life so of course they’re going to regain. That right there voided the credibility for me. Thanks for a thought provoking post!

    roni

    January 6, 2012

    Me too but I didn’t want to get into those details. They have people on liquid diets and then wonder why their bodies are all out of whack. I was reading the article thinking well… der. THis isn’t rocket science people. lol

    HD

    January 6, 2012

    I loved every single word you wrote in this post. I am so glad you put that article into perspective! You Rock!

    sue

    January 6, 2012

    A great common sense reaction to the article. I believe you summed it up for me with the following”I don’t care if I will have to work at maintaining my weight for the rest of my life because the alternative is what? Be fat and unhappy?

    At least if I’m living the active life I want to live, eating a balanced healthy diet and enjoying exercise the worst case scenario is fat and happy.” I am putting that statement up in my bedroom.

    Kelly

    January 6, 2012

    Bravo (again) Roni! Yes, we all descended from people who could keep weight on when others couldn’t (and didn’t make it to reproduce!). Yes, we live in a strange duality that both celebrates and rewards an ideal female body type that is ridiculously thin and puts fatty, sugary, and fast food on every corner and in every grocery. But you hit it straight on when you said that it is a choice many of us have to be cognizant of and make in order to fill well and live our lives to the fullest. Sure, I like being thin and buying the clothes I like and feeling I look good. But I love being able to take my dog out snowshoeing and do 6 or 7 miles without a problem any time I want. At 50 something I am finding that matters MUCH more to me! The pros far outweigh the cons for some of us- and that’s the question everyone needs to answer for themselves.

    Emily Hendrix

    January 6, 2012

    I agree with you. If I want to make a list of all the reasons why I can’t lose weight, and why I gain it easily, it’s a long list. But it won’t make me healthy and it won’t make me feel good to look at that list. So instead I’ve made a short list of a few things I’d like to change about my eating habits that will make me healthier. And slowly, I am eating better, and hopefully there will be some outward benefits as well eventually. In the last few weeks I have:
    1. Taken my vitamins on a regular basis. (This is important b/c of some health problems that I have.)
    2. Eliminated most grazing from my diet.
    and now I’m working on
    3. Getting rid of after dinner snacking.

    To me, this list is a lot more meaningful than the ways I fit into the Fat Trap.

    MO

    January 6, 2012

    Well said – applause coming your way!!!

    MO-tivated

    Mindy

    January 6, 2012

    Amen sister!

    Dani

    January 6, 2012

    I’ve never for one second thought I would give up the fight to lose and maintain, but I am glad to know I’m not the only one that thinks about it almost constantly and really, truely does have to be hypervigilant about it for her entire life or weight will creep on. Thanks for posting your thoughts.

    Leah

    January 6, 2012

    that is an absolutely RIDICULOUS article. Of course they gained the weight back, they were on a starvation diet. Why are people so ridiculous?!

    Tory Klementsen

    January 6, 2012

    I feel the SAME WAY! I’ve lost and kept off over 100 pounds the natural way. Can I eat what I used to eat? Well I USED to eat 6000 meals at Outback 100 pounds ago. Color me surprised that I can’t eat that much. And maybe I can’t eat what a “naturally thin” sister could eat, but that doesn’t mean I’m eating water and celery. My metabolism, your metabolism, his metabolism over there…all different.

    And maybe this is all true. Maybe because I lived as an obese woman for a number of years I screwed up my metabolism. Does that mean I give up all the benefits of leading a healthy life, sit on the coach and say, “Oh well. I guess I’ll just be fat.” No, it means I accept my life the way that it is and work within those parameters, just like someone else with a physical issue. If I had to have an arm amputated, I would adjust. As my eyesight fails as I get older, I adjust. I learn how to compensate for the changing conditions in my body.

    It just feels like so often the media wants to take health studies that are valuable information and give us all an out…”It’s okay if you’re fat. You’re not responsible!”

    While I don’t “blame” anyone for being fat or think less of them (after all, I was just as awesome or not when I was fat, as I am now), it is SO important that we take responsibility for our part in this and any health condition.

    Megan

    January 6, 2012

    Amen, Amen, AMEN!!!

    Roz@weightingfor50

    January 6, 2012

    I’m standing up, clapping and saying bravo!!! Well, in my mind, if I really did that I’d look like a knob! :) Have a great weekend roni.

    Pat Barone, MCC

    January 6, 2012

    I too thought there were many flaws in the article and posted comments. No rapidly lost weight will ever stay off permanently. It’s amazing we’re still measuring it by those irrational losses or that a publication with the (once) high standards of NYTimes will entertain such nonsense.

    But you also have to look at the writer. She is trying to reinforce how HARD it is to lose weight and keep it off. (Part of the reason she states it bothers her is that her mother was never able to conquer obesity, and now she has passed away. I’m in the same boat there. It is sad but I would not let that keep me from overcoming my own obesity, and haven’t.)

    Yes, there is the blah blah blah stuff out there – hormones, metabolism, etc. So what? I’ve written to her with my story (-90 lbs., sustained since 2000) but she seems to prefer to interview folks to talk about/reinforce how hard it is.

    Good for you for not buying into it and giving your perspective.

    If you do the old diet and deprivation routine, it is HARD. When you lose weight via behavior change and taking total responsibility, it’s EASY.

    Pat Barone, MCC
    America’s Weight Loss Catalyst

    Natalie

    January 7, 2012

    Thank you for speaking common sense once again Roni. I’ve linked to your post for my clients to read your spot on opinion. Timely as just today had conversation with someone told that cardio exercise releases poisonous hormones into the bloodstream…. Thanks for being you :)

    Christine

    January 7, 2012

    You are so right Roni. I stopped tracking last year because I was resenting it and I wanted to be a “normal” person who didn’t have to track. Guess who gained 20 pounds last year?? I am tracking again and feeling so much better. Maintaining takes work and I will think about this every day for the rest of my life, for me there is no alternative.

    Alison

    January 7, 2012

    I don’t think the message of the article is that fat people are “doomed.” I think the point was to put weight loss efforts into their proper context, and to help the general public understand why weight loss is so difficult to maintain (hint: it’s not because overweight people are gluttonous and lazy).

    What’s wrong with scientists telling it like it is?

    roni

    January 7, 2012

    There’s nothing wrong with it. I do think, as others have mentioned, the science is flawed in these types of studies. Let them test weight loss after slow and steady lifestyle changes not putting people on quick loss liquid diets.

    I also don’t think all of this is telling us (anyone who has struggled with weight) anything new.

    Like the title said this was just my ramble after reading the article. Whats wrong with digesting the information and then reacting to it to motivate? So many people read it and probably felt pessimistic. I’m trying to fight the “why bother” mentality.

    Emily

    January 7, 2012

    Hi Roni,

    First of all, I’m a fan of your website. And in general, I think that you exhibit a pretty healthy attitude. But I think that you missed the point of the article. The article wasn’t saying that no one should try to be “healthy.” But “healthy” and “thin” aren’t the same thing. For example, what if, while maintaining all of the same behaviors as you do now, your weight was 50 pounds higher? And the only way that you were able to maintain a lower weight by consistently eating no more than 1200 calories per day? The blogging world is filled with women who are obsessed with counting every calorie, and maintaining a weight that their body clearly doesn’t want. To me, that is not healthy, and should not be applauded. We should accept our natural body shape–which means the shape/weight we naturally return to when eating healthfully, not being overly restrictive, and exercising moderately and in a way that feels enjoyable. You seem to have reached a healthy weight accomplishing just this–but I’m wondering, would you be willing to constantly monitor every calorie, restrict your calories, and exercise 60-90 minutes every day if that is what is required to maintain your current weight? I think that it is sad that women would be that obsessed just to maintain a certain weight. Good health comes in all shapes and sizes–unfortunately our culture is obsessed with being thin. Thin does not equal healthy–and does not equal mentally healthy.

    Emily

    January 7, 2012

    Just to follow up-

    Read for example, http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/even-though-it-doesnt-make-any-sense/

    Note–I am not personally overweight, but I have struggled to regain a healthy relationship with food. Not everyone who is overweight overeats or is unhealthy. But I don’t think that accepting your body for what it is should be called “giving up.”

    Jacqui

    January 7, 2012

    Well said Roni!

    Claire

    January 7, 2012

    ” would you be willing to constantly monitor every calorie, restrict your calories, and exercise 60-90 minutes every day if that is what is required to maintain your current weight?”

    I am not Roni obviously but I’ll take a stab at this question.

    To me – exercising an hour a day sounds great. I need that stress relief. Yes sometimes I may groan at the thought of going to the gym but mostly it’s a wonderful release and ‘me time’. I feel good, I look good. It’s just all good.

    ‘counting every calorie’ is not something I do but I do eat a mostly ‘clean’ diet. So, some might say that’s obsessive. But to me it’s not obsessive.. it’s more like a consciousness. I enjoy it. I feel good. I feel SO MUCH BETTER than I did 50lbs ago. I mean really there is no comparison.

    So from my perspective (IME), HAES kind of falls flat.

    roni

    January 8, 2012

    Emily –

    Of course we should accept our natural body shape and I totally agree with you. It is sad many people are unhealthy in the name of thinness but I think you missed my point.

    I’m addressing the people like me (like I used to be) that eat UNhealthy because they feel as if they can’t attain a weight loss goal. The ones that feel it is useless to eat healthy and go to the gym because they never will be thin. Those people exist. I was one of them. Instead of accepting myself and living as healthy as I could I overate and binged.

    My point with the post is exactly that I would do everything I am doing (eat good food and exercise) regardless if I never lose a pound because it makes me happy and I’m healthier for it.

    Now I know the article wasn’t outright saying not to be healthy but that’s what happens to some when they feel hopeless. Again, I’m drawing from my experience and, in a way, writing to my younger self who would have taken this article as a sign I shouldn’t even bother to try. (translation: I might as well pig out and lay around watching TV all day feeling sorry for myself.)

    Emily

    January 8, 2012

    Roni–

    I really enjoyed hearing this point of view. Roni–I appreciate your clarification, and I think that the message of self-acceptance really shines through on this blog–which is why I think it’s so great. I think that for many weight loss bloggers and blog readers, their weight really isn’t as much of a “health” issue as an obsession with dieting–for example–women who are only slightly “overweight,” or are battling the cultural ideal. I think that women who are in the whole binge/diet mentality sometimes pursue very unhealthy behaviors in the name of “healthiness,” and I think that it’s just important to emphasize (as I think you often do) that healthy behaviors should be practiced no matter what will happen with your weight–since our weight is largely outside of our control (within a certain range, and of course if you devote most of your energy to managing your weight, you can be successful.) Thanks again for the thoughtful response–I am sure you can see where I’m coming from.

    Claire–
    I do not question your experiences or point of view at all, and if you are happy eating/exercising the way you do, then that’s wonderful. But I think too many women equate simply being skinny–and often unattainably skinny–with “health.” And often times, if women would accept themselves and just stop dieting and obsessing, their weight would stabilize at a healthy level that’s right for them. It doesn’t sound like you’re obsessing–it sounds like you have found behaviors that feel right for you.

    Claire

    January 8, 2012

    “But I think too many women equate simply being skinny–and often unattainably skinny–with “health.” And often times, if women would accept themselves and just stop dieting and obsessing, their weight would stabilize at a healthy level that’s right for them”

    I agree with this 100% and think often that ‘healthy’/natural weight is probably about 20lbs heavier than the person is aiming for. BUT I strongly disagree that that weight is sometimes like 100lbs heavier. I disagree for example that you can be 300lbs and eat a healthy diet. I just don’t believe that the human body supports that kind of weight without vast quantities of unhealthy food.

    I disagree with what I hear in those circles that “diets don’t work” and what I read last night which was “Most fat people eat like most thin people, as every survey shows”. I just don’t believe that. And I think it’s an unhealthy message to promote.

    I can concede that 2 people can eat the same thing and be within 20lbs of each other. But 100lbs? I’m just not ‘getting’ that at all.

    Emily

    January 8, 2012

    Claire–

    I have never been overweight so I can’t speculate about what someone who weights 300 pounds eats/how that person exercises. But what I CAN say is that I have definitely gone through sustained periods of overeating, consistently, and NOT gained weight. My point is that every body is very different. And the “HAES” movement (which I am not, by the way, involved with) does NOT encourage individuals who are obese to just eat vast quantities of unhealthy food. I think it’s dangerous to assume anything about someone’s eating and exercising habits based only on their weight–I think that it’s possible that once someone reaches 300 pounds, some people’s bodies may be very comfortable maintaining that weight, even without “vast quantities of healthy food.” Don’t you know one person in your life who has always been naturally big–and by maybe more than 20 pounds? Do you think that everyone who is naturally big constantly gorges himself or herself? I definitely know people who are quite big and eat very normally–or if they do overeat, it’s in the same quantintities that I do.
    What I got out of the original NYT article is that EVERYONE should try to eat healthfully and exercise regularly EVEN IF IT MEANS THEY NEVER LOSE A SINGLE POUND. It means that if someone who weighs 250 pounds “eats mostly a clean diet” and “exercises an hour a day” does not drop substantial amounts of weight, they should continue those behaviors in the name of health. I think that that’s the point Roni is making (after evaluating her comment), and it sounds like you would probably continue doing what you’re doing, too. Promoting health and promoting weight loss are not necessarily synonymous.

    Emily

    January 8, 2012

    OK–this is my last comment, I promise. I think that Dr. Stacy (who has the great blog, “Every woman has an eating disorder”) articulated my point much better than I can, here:

    http://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2009/11/body-imageeating-disorder-myths-from-the-blogosphere/

    Check out the last comment–it articulates my point much better than I am doing!

    Claire

    January 8, 2012

    “Do you think that everyone who is naturally big constantly gorges himself or herself?”

    I don’t think anybody is naturally morbidly obese. Of course there are rare metabolic issues, medication issues etc. But I don’t think there is any 300lbs person eating say 1800 calories a day. But of course, I could be wrong.

    Katie

    January 9, 2012

    I agree with you Roni! I’m not even going to read that article because I don’t want to discourage myself.

    TamIWas

    January 9, 2012

    I’m kind of tired of studies to be honest because inevitably a study on ANY topic (weight loss, child rearing, etc) will be contradicted by another one within a few years. If I put stock into every single study released, my child would spent a month sleep trained, then another month “attached.” I don’t know if I’ll ever be the person who obsessively counts every calorie I put in again, because it kind of sucks. For example, I’ve completely stopped counting how much fruit I eat. I realize it’s “sugar,” but I remember what you said about how it’s unlikely anyone has ever gotten fat from eating so many grapes. If I grab a big bowl of grapes at night over ice cream, so be it. However, I can see the value in measuring higher calorie foods like meat and grains simply because sometimes I find an unmeasured portion is much larger than I realized. However, I can’t tell you the calorie count in lettuce or spinach and I don’t even want to know. I agree with you completely – the healthier I eat and the more active I am, the better I feel period. I lost 65 pounds beginning in 2006, had a baby in 2008 and postpartum, was carrying about 12 pounds more than my absolute lowest weight. Now I’m pregnant again now and trying to maintain my fitness level and reasonable eating habits. I hope I don’t ever climb back up to my old weight because I sure didn’t feel healthy back then. I also think there is a significant difference between being food aware and food obsessed. I think awareness is ALWAYS good because it keeps up accountable and helps us make healthier choices, but an obsession doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness either, at least not in my case.

    Andrea C.

    January 9, 2012

    Thank you for this post! Such a great reminder. So many people are around in the world and in our lives who bring us down. Even one offhanded remark from a stranger can get us in a funk some days, nevermind a whole article in the news as to how all of us fat people are doomed!

    One of my favourite things to tell myself is ‘I may not be there yet, but Im closer than I was yesterday’.

    Keep positive people!

    charles

    January 17, 2012

    I have to agree. You must strat with yourself in order to feel and look good. We are not created in the same fashion where in some gets so lucky to have fast metabolism and never gets fat.. We just to live a healthy lifestyle to keep in shape.

    Nina

    January 17, 2012

    I confess I was one of those who sent you this article. ;) However, I did not do it for the reason to shout, “Look! Here we have the proof that we cannot do anything ourselves, etc.” I did not even see it as a “trap”, more as an important piece of information. Most fad diets always cheat on us by “rambling” us into trying them and the after is worse than the before, to be honest.

    Maybe I read the article the wrong way, but I found it good to know that the whole body needs to take some time to realize what is happening, especially if you are really changing something. After years/decades/aeons of unhealthy habits – not just in the food department – some of us might have the feeling that they really want to change something – fast. For me, it was good to read that it is not about “fast”, especially not as fast as other people want you to be.

    It is about really listening to your body and giving yourself time to adjust. After this article, I found it easier not to see myself as a total failure after eating something “wrong”. I also found it easier to get back on the horse as I now knew that it would just take some more time, but that it was possible and that I would finally get there. And I knew that it wasn’t my personal stupidity or whatever bad feeling I had about me. Giving myself more tries and taking the whole project a little easier concerning the pressure I put on me was the effect this article had on me.

    I totally agree with you that it isn’t rocket science, and that there is no scientific explanation that makes fad diets turn into something real, lasting, and healthy. But sometimes it feels like rocket science, doesn’t it? I sometimes would love to solve a rocket science problem instead of trying to argue myself out of ordering pizza. I bet I would solve the rocket science problem sooner! ;D

    Hope somebody understands my long ramblings here…:D

    roni

    January 17, 2012

    I don’t think you read it wrong at all! And I totally understand your ramble. :) I think there are many ways to “take” the article. One is as an excuse or a “why bother” which is how I think I would have interpreted it a few years ago. Another is the way you are. There’s validation in there. Your body is working against you and by knowing that it empowers you. It lets you know you aren’t crazy!

    Knowledge is power. There’s know doubt about it. But that same knowledge has the ability to motivate some and de-motivate others. My reaction was directed towards those that may have felt unmotivated after reading it.