The Dilemma of Body Positivity

DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
edited June 12 in Epiphanies
I am fat, and I have been the majority of my adult life.

I understand and recognise fatphobia, and how difficult it can be living your life not meeting society’s beauty ideals. Part of this is not of choice, but I have also chosen not to wear makeup or present in a particularly feminine way - and I absolutely believe that is a choice I have the right to make without being abused for it. (Sounds obvious right ? But like many women, when I was younger I had abuse shouted at me in the street on multiple occasions - though now I am middle aged I am largely invisible to that constituency.)

In some ways, I feel that the body positivity movement has been a good thing - people should not be shamed and bullied for their appearance. Much of the variability in your body type is genetic, as is the extent to which your body responses to exercise or your stomach produces ghrelin. My body is almost identical in shape to my grandmother’s. It is also certainly true that people can be healthy at different weights, and the bmi is a long way from being an infallible guide to health status. It is good to be treated with respect and to be able to buy clothes that fit, and see yourself represented in the media as something other than cheap gag.

But.

I have also had symptomatic gallstones, fibroids and developed diabetes. These things run in my family too. To date I have been able to remit and control these conditions, at least partly, only by losing weight and increasing the amount of exercise I take. It is hard, because it seem to take a great deal more effort for me to do that than many of my friends - some indeed who have the opposite problem of making sure they maintain enough weight.

I have been reflecting on this lately because I have recently had to again get very focused on trying to improve my metabolic health. I was also reading Graham Norton’s novel Holding On, it was mildly enjoyable but I realised that I was being put off the book by the main character’s internalised fatphobia - his constant dysphoric comments about how disgusting his body is during his internal monologues. At the same time, trying to improve my metabolic health I have had to put a fair amount of time into not injuring myself in the process. Which led to me reading articles on the internet about the massively high proportion of runners who injure themselves in a year, noticing the bbc news story about how high intensity work outs are linked to MND and the poor guy who collapsed on the football pitch today.

So I suppose I am asking what other people’s experiences have been, how you feel about the balance between seeking health and not being ashamed of one’s body, and the balance of risk between metabolic health and exercise injuries.
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Comments

  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    I am overweight but I am of an age that I don't worry about how I look. The only thing that concerns me is my health.
  • I am in my 50s and have been obese and am currently overweight. I’ve never had much of a problem with body image, even when I was well overweight, but it was a diabetes scare that convinced me I needed to lose weight. I was also feeling unwell, short of breath and has gastric problems. Both my parents were overweight and had diabetes and both died by the age of 70 of stomach/bowel cancer and I didn’t want such a short life.
    I read Michael Mosley’s The Blood Sugar Diet, which was based on the early trials of reversing diabetes through going carb-free and I then lost 10% of my body weight in 8 weeks. My only exercise was 10,000 steps a day and a weekly yoga class - no extreme exercise. I felt much healthier having lost the weight, had far more energy and my breathing and gastric symptoms improved.
    I lost more afterwards low-carbing but have put some back on during lockdown and need to lose some more again. But when I lose weight I do it for me and my family, not to meet any societal expectations. I’ve have bipolar disorder for over 20 years and learnt long ago not to care what others think of me.
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    Myself, I am clinically borderline obese. I find it interesting that there is simultaneously great concern that there seems to be an epidemic of obesity in our culture, particularly in the US, while at the same time there is a growing movement for body positivity and acceptance of weight issues.
  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited June 12
    One of my health modules used to discuss obesity and body positivity and we gave the students a project of searching Twitter and getting different perspectives on body positivity. It was a really useful way to explore the issues of stigma and fat shaming as well as positivity. But this is a subject that needs to be handled very sensitively, as people need to be supported to be happy in who they are. There is too much judging of people who don’t conform to society’s ideals.
    But at the same time, the health impacts are real. Some studies have shown that whilst young obese people can be healthy, this usually becomes harder to maintain as they become older. I can’t remember which article it was but one piece of research examined young people with high BMIs and they had healthy blood pressures and good health measurements overall but 10 years later these had deteriorated.

    Re: exercise injury, I tore an inner thigh muscle doing yoga and was on bed rest in agony for 3 weeks unable to walk. Any exercise can cause injury, even walking.
  • NicoleMR wrote: »
    Myself, I am clinically borderline obese. I find it interesting that there is simultaneously great concern that there seems to be an epidemic of obesity in our culture, particularly in the US, while at the same time there is a growing movement for body positivity and acceptance of weight issues.

    I'm overweight, and it's entirely my own fault. I eat too much, and don't do enough exercise. Trouble is, I like eating (and the things I like eating tend to be the things that increase the waistline), and I don't like exercising, so whilst I theoretically know how to get back to the shape I'd like to be, it's not very enticing.

    When I lived in the UK, I used to cycle everywhere, which was enough exercise to maintain my weight. The two things that were bad for me were:

    1. Two consecutive summers where I travelled continuously for work, which meant restaurant dinner and a bottle of wine or so every night.
    2. Moving to the US. I'm not hardcore enough to cycle year round here, given the weather, which means that I don't actually cycle at all.

    Each of those was worth 20 lbs or so.

    I'm a man, though, so there's not nearly so much social pressure on me to have a particular appearance. About the only time I see fat men attracting visible social disapproval is on a plane, where all the passengers are hoping not to have to sit next to the man who overflows his seat.
  • Re airplanes: inconsistent re extra cost or free additional seat if you don't fit into the seat with armrests down: https://www.tripsavvy.com/airline-rules-for-overweight-passengers-53194
  • TheOrganistTheOrganist Shipmate
    I am one of lucky, probably annoying, people who weighs pretty much the same as I did when I was 21, back in the 1970s. I think its down to lucky genetics - my mother's side of the family are all lean and skinny, my father's a mix of skinny beanpoles and more muscled sporty types. I watch what I eat and drink to a certain extent because I have a dull heart blip that makes weight gain a bad thing, and I'd like to stay as the only one of 5 siblings not to have a pacemaker.
  • I am one of lucky, probably annoying, people who weighs pretty much the same as I did when I was 21, back in the 1970s.

    I now weigh about the same as I did at 24, which is not a good thing. A combination of stress and lockdown saw me eating more, eating crap, and exercising less.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    I found this interesting https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7809556/ it would suggest there is a point beyond which increased exercise doesn’t make a lot of difference to your fitness. Doesn’t tell you what that point is, unfortunately.

    The other thing that has frustrated me over the years, is that I have felt encouraged to believe is that exercise is effective in losing weight - for most normal people it just isn’t. It is good for your metabolic health but burns little in the way of excess calories, you only really lose weight - it seems to me - if you reduce your food intake. In the same way people spent years telling me not to drink coke, and failed to mention fruit juice is high in sugar.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    But I note, we are all defaulting to thinking lower weight is better, which makes body positivity quite hard.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited June 13
    Exercise is not good for weight loss.

    It just isn't. A huge amount of science has said again and again that exercise is great for lots of things about health, but weight loss isn't one of them. It causes very little change in weight.

    Which makes it weird that we all have this idea linking weight loss to exercise.

    If you want to lose weight, it's diet that has the much bigger impact.

    With that out of the way... yes to everything that focuses on health rather than weight in and of itself. But also yes to the points about how for certain things, weight has an impact on health.

    I lost about 20kg in 2019. I kept it off for a year, including during working from home, and now I've put about 8kg back on. I don't want to put more on, but that's really because I'm well aware that when I've put it on it's a reflection of my diet becoming crappier, particularly in some times of intense work and stress scattered across the last 8-9 months. Diet in the proper sense of what I eat regularly, not "diet" in the sense of "let me temporarily change what I'm eating and cause my body to completely freak out because there's a famine happening".

    If you want to lose weight - whether for health or even for aesthetic reasons - do it. You'll feel good about it. Clothes shopping is exciting. But do it by figuring out changes to what you eat that are manageable and sustainable, and for goodness' sake do it by eating things you enjoy eating.

    Meanwhile, exercise for your health. Not for your weight, your health. But find kinds of exercise you genuinely enjoy doing.

    Whether it's eating or exercise, we should not be setting up this dichotomy between positive feelings and outcomes that are good for us. Eating well should be enjoyable. Being healthy should be enjoyable. Being driven by guilt about these things doesn't, for most people, achieve good results.
  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited June 13
    The other thing that has frustrated me over the years, is that I have felt encouraged to believe is that exercise is effective in losing weight - for most normal people it just isn’t. It is good for your metabolic health but burns little in the way of excess calories, you only really lose weight - it seems to me - if you reduce your food intake. In the same way people spent years telling me not to drink coke, and failed to mention fruit juice is high in sugar.
    A lot of what I was taught as a student nurse in the 1980s was wrong. We pushed eating carbs like pasta, for instance, when latest research says you should low carb. And sugar is far more likely to make you fat than fat. Fruit juice is not only high in sugar but the processing involved means that it is more quickly absorbed than whole fruit.
    But I note, we are all defaulting to thinking lower weight is better, which makes body positivity quite hard.
    I believe in body positivity; people should not be stigmatised for their appearance and nobody has the right to judge others for the choices they make; we all have different priorities, bodies and needs and it is better to be happy with yourself than fighting to conform to an ideal.
    However, I don’t think there is any escaping that being overweight does have a negative impact on health for most people, even for those of us who are genetically predisposed to it (of which I am one). There are negative health impacts for being underweight but this is less of a problem in the UK where obesity is a growing concern. The UK’s poor outcomes for covid are partly due to obesity.
    I agree with orfeo, I think it is better to consider diet and exercise as something you do for health not weight, and do it in a way in which is sustainable rather than a punishment. Enjoy the food you eat and do an exercise you can enjoy - that is why I decided to go for long walks instead of intense exercise (I have a genetic joint disorder which means impact is painful). Good for my mental health too. I used to work as a nurse in an obesity clinic and our programme employed a psychologist alongside the dietician and physician. I guess I am lucky in that CBT is a normal part of my life due to my bipolar disorder and I also promote the affirmative model of disability (a model based on valuing and celebrating diversity and community rather than the focus on societal barriers and oppression that forms the basis of the social model of disability) so positive thinking is something that is part of my daily life.
  • Btw, to avoid confusion, that ‘you’ was generic not personal.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    I strongly agree about foods you like, my experience of meal replacement shakes is that they are disgusting. I’d rather have small portions of things I like, than glop that tastes of stevia.
  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    edited June 13
    I spent my teen years on fattening up diets at boarding school, at weekly weigh-ins in our school’s sanatorium , disparaging comments were made daily by teachers and fellow pupils and as a result of my low weight I fell prey to pretty much every chest infection going round, resulting in numerous days off school.

    A consequence of pneumonia at 14yrs old (and then again at 43 yrs) led to a frightening health episode and the resultant diagnosis of bronchiectasis.

    I have always been “skinny” and was tormented by accusations of anorexia my entire teen life. If I take my eyes off the ball then my weight plummets. Get ill and I can be six stone without taking breath. Illness prolongs further and it goes below.
    Due to a lower weight all medications consequently overdose me. Seriously, two paracetamols and I m not fit to be in charge of children or animals. In hospital, All suddenly given meds produced an extreme reaction.

    Weight has been the bane of my life.

    Other people’s opinion of my weight..... nearly destroyed me. I m just glad there was no social media around when I was a child.





    Sorry for this very long rant, as anyone can read I m not quite over it yet
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    Yes, people don’t seem to understand that having trouble maintaining your weight is just as much an issue for folk - and the public discourse is not particularly helpful.
  • Ethne Alba wrote: »
    Due to a lower weight all medications consequently overdose me.
    There does seem to be unreasonable assumptions with medications that we are all the same. I am female and only 4 foot 11. When I was almost 16 and very slightly built I had routine dental surgery on an adult ward and was overdosed on a common anti-emetic. I spent 24 hours with my eyes rolling upwards and my arms and neck going into spasm while everyone assumed the teenager was ‘putting it on’. Then they realised it was their fault and gave me some Valium.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    Yeah, I find it odd - I have a relative who is a vet, they routinely adjust dog and cat meds by weight.

    I once asked a doctor of my acquaintance why they don't, she said it was that the determining fact for most meds was the size and function of internal organs like your liver and kidneys - and they didn't vary much. I'm not convinced though.
  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    Yup
    I argued with a doctor once and requested half the amount of a one off medication.

    Received an apology the next day!
    But that stubbornness delayed my discharge by 24 hrs.


    Rather think there is a marker somewhere in my notes as since that admission I am now Weighed ( if at all possible) upon admission !
  • Dave WDave W Shipmate
    I found this interesting https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7809556/ it would suggest there is a point beyond which increased exercise doesn’t make a lot of difference to your fitness. Doesn’t tell you what that point is, unfortunately.

    A few years ago I found a report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which suggested the nearly all the benefits of running in reducing mortality can be achieved with a surprisingly moderate amount of effort. They studied >50,000 people for about 15 years and concluded that "Running, even 5 to 10 min/day and at slow speeds <6 miles/h, is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease."

    I like running but I find anything more than a couple of miles uncomfortable, boring, and time consuming, so it was encouraging to hear that I could probably get a lot of the health benefit from it without too much inconvenience or risk of injury.
  • It is recognised that alcohol tolerance is linked to body weight and gender see HuffPost article and I've been weighed first before any anaesthetic, so standard doses are just laziness. If you're tiny, could you give yourself the dose for a child?

    <tangent>As a somewhat related aside, Caroline Criado-Perez's Invisible Woman discussed that drug testing only men is an issue see BMJ article, and there are similar issues for drug testing for dosages in chidren too.</tangent>
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    Dave W wrote: »
    I found this interesting https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7809556/ it would suggest there is a point beyond which increased exercise doesn’t make a lot of difference to your fitness. Doesn’t tell you what that point is, unfortunately.

    A few years ago I found a report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which suggested the nearly all the benefits of running in reducing mortality can be achieved with a surprisingly moderate amount of effort. They studied >50,000 people for about 15 years and concluded that "Running, even 5 to 10 min/day and at slow speeds <6 miles/h, is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease."

    I like running but I find anything more than a couple of miles uncomfortable, boring, and time consuming, so it was encouraging to hear that I could probably get a lot of the health benefit from it without too much inconvenience or risk of injury.

    That’s encouraging, if I manage to finish Couch to 5k, I may then just stick to a 20 min run without worrying about speed or distance.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    I found this interesting https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7809556/ it would suggest there is a point beyond which increased exercise doesn’t make a lot of difference to your fitness. Doesn’t tell you what that point is, unfortunately.

    The other thing that has frustrated me over the years, is that I have felt encouraged to believe is that exercise is effective in losing weight - for most normal people it just isn’t. It is good for your metabolic health but burns little in the way of excess calories, you only really lose weight - it seems to me - if you reduce your food intake. In the same way people spent years telling me not to drink coke, and failed to mention fruit juice is high in sugar.

    Inspired by Dave W I found this: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/20/1195 tldr anything up to 5-7 times the recommended weekly exercise will continue to benefit your health (where it is measured in metabolic minutes https://www.cooperinstitute.org/2017/12/07/using-met-minutes-to-track-volume-of-physical-activity a measure I’d not previously heard of).


    NHS recommendations are: do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week

    So that would be say, 325 min vigorous (5hrs 40min) or 750 min moderate (12hrs 30min)

    No danger of me hitting the upper limit of that !
  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited June 13
    many beginners’ running programmes these days emphasise that it is not how fast or how far you run that is important but how long for and the importance of knowing your limitations rather than having unrealistic goals. You don’t have to go to extremes to get the benefit.

    Re: the protein shakes, I thought it was bizarre that these were promoted as part of the blood sugar diet rather than normal foods as they are not sustainable long term and ignore the fact that eating is a cultural habit. Such a diet also wouldn’t be suitable for my family routine. I did the Mosley diet of 8 weeks on 800 calories eating normal meals with my family but cutting out the carbs for me. I made the diet interesting by putting more effort into fancy salads and vegetable dishes. I even had the odd gin and low cal tonic. Food should be enjoyable, it is one of life’s riches.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    But where does health sit within the fat activism / body positivity movement - I’m thinking about some folk with a high profile like Tess Holliday https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tess_Holliday. Conversely you have folk like Lizzo who feel the body positivity movement has become too narrow https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/lizzo-body-positivity-negative-brown-b1840912.html but also want the fat body to be seen as normal.

    It is definitely normal in the U.K., in that the majority of the population don’t fall within the range we are told is healthy.

    Conversely, some commentators argue that the challenge to the beauty standard by the body positivity movement is not that extensive https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-fundamentals/201912/is-the-body-positivity-social-movement-toxic
  • Dietary and level of activity habits are set very young. Taste of foods and expectations. How much physical activity is now easily monitored by a fitness watch. There's a wide disparity. My retirement projects include interventions to get people to do 45 minutes of moderate activity daily. It's the original mindfulness- brings you into the present. After about 35 minutes endorphins (naturally occurring pain and stress suppressing hormones) are released. Cortisol levels (stress hormone) is reduced sooner. All of which contributes to huell-being. We've found we have to get people to be accountable to others for them to actually adhere to plans and programs.

    The target issues on the physical side with such health promotion is metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetic), balance and dizziness), falling risk. For mental health, depression, anxiety, symptoms in the post traumatic spectrum.

    The links between diet, activity, physical health and mental health are
    Yeah, I find it odd - I have a relative who is a vet, they routinely adjust dog and cat meds by weight.

    I once asked a doctor of my acquaintance why they don't, she said it was that the determining fact for most meds was the size and function of internal organs like your liver and kidneys - and they didn't vary much. I'm not convinced though.

    Drug testing before marketting them involves checking metabolites (what is excreted in pee and poo) and what blood levels are. So unless the drug shows differential metabolism....
  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited June 13
    But where does health sit within the fat activism / body positivity movement - I’m thinking about some folk with a high profile like Tess Holliday https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tess_Holliday. Conversely you have folk like Lizzo who feel the body positivity movement has become too narrow https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/lizzo-body-positivity-negative-brown-b1840912.html but also want the fat body to be seen as normal.

    It is definitely normal in the U.K., in that the majority of the population don’t fall within the range we are told is healthy.

    Conversely, some commentators argue that the challenge to the beauty standard by the body positivity movement is not that extensive https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-fundamentals/201912/is-the-body-positivity-social-movement-toxic
    I agree with the article in that I think the body positivity movement is overly obsessed with looks, when people’s mental health would better maintained by focusing on other aspects of their lives. It also seems very much geared towards looking attractive and can appear superficial. Those people linked to are both in their early 30s and are models. How many older people are held up as positive examples within the body positive movement? It seems to be very youth focused, very glamorous and may in itself set up unrealistic expectations.
  • I'm seeing a lot about body positivity, as in acceptance of fatter bodies, on Instagram. I understood body positivity to include things like scars, disabled bodies and other differences from being a thin and white, but it largely seems to be about fatness. I see the women talking about it as of all races and hues, and also saying that fatphobia is racist as often larger women are black.

    In fact, this body positivity was one of the reasons I got fed up with Instagram (other than the algorithm sucks and it's a lot of work to be active on Instagram) the fact that all the dressmaking pattern makers are being bullied into "becoming inclusive" by extending their size range into larger and larger sizes. While at the same time, quietly losing the smaller sizes. And if you do suggest that smaller sizes should still be available it's not likely to end well - a stream of abusive responses suggesting that being smaller is unhealthy. Whether I' would prefer to reduce my exposure to diabetes and those cancers linked to obesity or not, and saying that is seen as fatphobic. So I do understand the dichotomy.

    For example, Cashmerette (link) was started as a larger pattern company by an owner who needed larger sizes. The original size range was US 12-28, and Jenny has recently extended that range to a size 32. That covers between a 42" and 62" bust and hip. A recently established company Muna and Broad (link) patterns cover between 40-64" bust, 41.5"-71.5" hip, and the company offers to grade up patterns above their range free of charge. And good on both these companies providing a service, but why does every other pattern company have to be bullied into adding their own Curve (euphemism for fat) range.

    Now, having left a sedentary high pressure job with long hours, my weight immediately dropped 2.5 stone from BMI obese to normal range (on a 5'1" frame, it doesn't take much weight to push me between weight guide lines) and has stayed down. The difference was eating home cooked food instead of ready meals, take outs and snacks, getting regular exercise and enough sleep. Lack of sleep is linked to obesity - I found I ate sugar and drank coffee to keep me awake to keep going. I prefer being lighter to protect a damaged knee, which copes much better when I'm lighter, and it means skirts are comfortable in summer without chubrubs,

    I decided years ago there was no point in trying to run because I hate it so much and it's not something I will continue doing. I walk, will cycle and swim when the opportunity is there, and do some yoga stretches most mornings. Since listening to the Michael Moseley BBC Radio 4 Just One Thing series* (link) I have added in some of the standing on one leg poses. Yoga because it keeps me flexible and relocates a subluxing hip, which is more comfortable.

    *You'll have to listen to the programmes to find out why, but Moseley's list is:
    • early morning walk;
    • fermented foods;
    • cold showers
    • learning a new skill
    • intelligent exercises (includes squats)
    • green spaces
    • standing on one leg
    • take a breath
    • hot baths
  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited June 13
    I’m a big fan of Mosley, he is scientific but realistic and approachable, and does his research to the extent end of experimenting on himself. His books are very readable and informative with lots of science (though I skipped the diet recipes).
    Obviously I am someone obsessed with mental health for personal and professional reasons but I think body positivity would be better addressed by looking at self-esteem generally rather than focusing on looks. And a healthy diet and exercise plays a big part in this. As someone who regularly teaches students who have low self-esteem (perhaps low paid care workers, people who left school at 16 with few qualifications, disabled and vulnerable student) I often have to advise on mental health and resilience. When I advise students to look after their mental health while studying I discuss a range of things they could do and these include a healthy diet and regular exercise as well as a good life balance and sleep.
    The early morning walk is an essential part of maintaining my physical and mental health, Ck. Good psychology for lockdown too, as you journey to your workplace.
  • Just to add, I don’t mean that I think that people who are overweight lack self-esteem or that the bullied should have to change rather than the oppressor - clearly I want people to be respected for who they are. But I learnt long ago that if I wanted to survive with bipolar disorder in a prejudiced society that I needed to be confident in my own identity. I am fat and fifty-odd and no oil painting, I was plain Jane at school and that didn’t improve as I got older. But I am comfortable with who I am and that includes how I look and I think that is important for body positivity. A healthy lifestyle can help build this confidence.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I am 6'1". I graduated high school at 117 lbs. I married 15 years later at 135 lbs. After 25 years of marriage I am now 195 lbs. I have changed my life-style dramatically over the years with decreased exercise. At 17, I would play tennis about 20 hours per week. Now I may go for a couple of hour long walks a week and I play pickleball for 2 hours.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    There was a mention of salads... figuring out how to make salads for lunch at home instead of sandwiches (because eating too much bread is definitely one of my issues), and figuring out how to make TASTY salads, was one of the best lessons / dietary adjustments I’ve made.

    At the time I was using an app, not to be religious about energy intake but more to understand better the balance of fat/carb/protein. And I remember discovering that this great big plate of a salad with roast chicken, that had been rather enjoyable, still had fewer kilojoules than the slices of bread I would have used for sandwiches.

    It’s the combination of that sort of information plus discovering combinations of ingredients that you really enjoy that can make changing your behaviour not just a chore.

    For exercise, my preference is walks playing Pokémon Go...

    Please note I’m not trying to tell anyone they have to lose weight or anything. I’m just wanting to emphasise again that if you WANT to, it can be pleasant.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    I suspect there's often a bifurcation or split between how we look at the bodies of others around us and the complicated, intimate relationship we have with our own bodies and health. My partner works in geriatric healthcare and commented recently that she no longer 'sees' the bodies of young people, they all look fine and active. What she can't help noticing is how older people walk favouring a certain hip or are unable to open a jar of pickles because of arthritis. Signs of ageing are uppermost and sometimes she feels she's looking at her own body a few years down the line.

    When I was at university, I was lucky to mix with a queer feminist community: none of us cared about conforming to stereotypes of how women should look or dress or behave. Because I didn't have much money I learned to cook with lentils and vegetables, walked everywhere, went swimming at a local affordable pool all through summer and considered myself healthy and lucky.

    In my early 20s I went on a research trip to East Africa and contracted amoebic dysentery. The symptoms were mild at first and only manifested months after I got home. It took almost two years to get a diagnosis. My weight dropped by two-thirds and I couldn't put it on again, I had bouts of nausea and vomiting, almost constant diarrhoea, couldn't digest dairy and dreaded eating out anywhere.

    This was my first prolonged dealing with the medical profession and doctors were extremely unhelpful, not unusual for women reporting with obscure or vague symptoms. Women friends with endometriosis and irritable bowl syndrome (or, more recently, long-Covid) have had similar difficulties. GPs and specialists assumed my problems were stress-related (academic work was suffering because of my illness) and they suspected I might have an eating disorder. My symptoms fluctuated and I had trouble taking myself seriously, I hated sounding like a broken record, so stopped talking about my health to friends. In that climate of not being heard and regarded as somatising or malingering, I began wondering if I was having some kind of emotional breakdown. My body felt like an enemy.

    My GP's nephew, a male medical student, developed the same symptoms and his uncle had lab tests done right away that showed amoebiasis. The GP finally realised what was wrong with me, rang me up and apologised. I was diagnosed and treated, the dysentery cleared up.

    During that time I became part of another community, those spending a great deal of time in public restrooms due to diverticulitis, stoma bags, digestive disorders, urinary tract infections. I found myself getting to know mothers changing their babies' nappies, breast-feeding, women menstruating and unhoping to find dispensers with sanitary towels. The scarcity of clean free public restrooms in the city was something I had never noticed before. In my head I carried a map of every single public restroom across the city, in hotels, at airports, at railway stations, in libraries. Many businesses refuse access to restrooms and won't hand over keys unless those in need are paying customers, or white or middle-class. Most churches and church halls are closed to the public except on Sundays. In emergencies, I would insist on using staff toilets or men's restrooms, used dirty portable toilets on building sites, carried extra supplies of toilet paper with me when I left the house.

    If I hadn't fallen ill, I might never had had to think about the politics of going to the bathroom. Homeless people in cities who had to sleep rough overnight had nowhere to go when public building were locked after 6pm. Unwanted bodies in public places (the homeless, sex workers, those in wheelchairs) were driven away by the lack of public amenities. I'd grown up thinking of body positivity as having to do with educated women and eating or dress choices. That barely scratched the surface.

    The poorer the bodies on the street, the less access they have to facilities and the more they are shamed or criminalised about natural body functions and needs. And that's even before we start talking about trans people trying to find a bathroom.

  • I think it is the nature of social media today that body positivity seems (to me at least) to have morphed into being about looking good rather than feeling good. There are still aspects of it that celebrate diversity and community, such as in disability and post-surgery, but they seem to be separate from the mainstream which seems to have been taken over by models and influencers promoting their brand.
    And feeling positive about ourselves should ideally lead to more consideration of issues such as those MaryLouise discusses; how we respect the bodies of others.
  • TheOrganistTheOrganist Shipmate
    In my teens I spent some years in a Milwaukee brace - mine slotted together with two wing nuts on either of the neck, a bit like Frankenstein, and it was astonishing how many people preferred to stand on a bus rather than sit next to the "weirdo"
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Sharron Matthews is a Canadian actor who has written about body positivity a fair bit. This is her most recent blog post on the issue. https://www.sharronmatthews.com/2021/05/enough-part-400-body-shaming-and-the-theatre/
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    A very close friend of mine personifies this dilemma. He was body shamed throughout childhood, notably by his mother, and this has led to mental health issues which have fed his obsesitywhich is now at a level where it is threateining to prevent him from seeing his 50th birthday. The shame is killing him through his weight, but the lattter would have the same effect even in the absence of the former, so I need to find a way of affirming him as a person without affirming the desperately unhealthy status quo. To add to that, I also need to do this in a way he can actually hear.
  • kingsfoldkingsfold Shipmate
    edited June 14
    orfeo wrote: »
    There was a mention of salads... figuring out how to make salads for lunch at home instead of sandwiches (because eating too much bread is definitely one of my issues), and figuring out how to make TASTY salads, was one of the best lessons / dietary adjustments I’ve made.

    @orfeo - please share how. I'm stuck in a "salad is lettuce/other leaves, tomato, spring onion and maybe a bit of beetroot or cold potato" rut. It's boring, and I think the most generous description I could come up with is "worthy". Certainly not especially tasty without the addition of large amounts of mayonnaise (or possibly other dressing, but I'm less keen on the oil/vinegar ones) which rather defeats the object.

    I'm also bored as to what to have with salad (as in leaves/tomato/onion) - there's only so much cold meat I want to eat; what do you do if you want to eat something veggie, without having lots of cheese/egg (again lots of cheese probably not so good)... Just veggies leaves me feeling hungry soon after...
  • But I note, we are all defaulting to thinking lower weight is better, which makes body positivity quite hard.

    Being fit is objectively better than being unfit: you can do more things more easily. For most people, being fit correlates with having less body fat.

    I'm supremely uninterested in what I look like (but there goes my privilege again: I'm a middle-aged man, so nobody cares what I look like) but I prefer my body to be reasonably functional.
  • Long term care workers are a more frequently injured group due to lifting heavier people in our statistics. Putting older overweight adults on diets when they get into long term care is pretty usual.

    Before most surgeries requiring anesthesia or abdominal incisions, it's quite usual to postpone until patients lose weight (and stop smoking). We've also had problems getting obese people into MRI and CT scanners.

    Part of what is to blame is how people move around communities. Driving versus walking. Elevators versus stairs.
  • Re: salads, this weekend I served a salad with mixed baby leaves, cucumber and tomato and a light dressing but made is special by adding pomegranate jewels. Often I add citrus fruits to salads, such as slices of orange. If we eat a curry I will make a simple small onion, radish or tomato salad with salt, coriander and a pinch of chaat masala. These things don't add much in volume but they add to the process of eating food and make it more enjoyable by providing taste sensations. My local pub has a delicious duck salad which has long thin slices of unusual veg like mooli (I'm growing some in the garden this year) and using raw veg makes a salad more filling.
    Some research suggests that protein is actually more filling in the long term than carbohydrates, which tend to give shorter boosts of energy.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    kingsfold wrote: »
    orfeo wrote: »
    There was a mention of salads... figuring out how to make salads for lunch at home instead of sandwiches (because eating too much bread is definitely one of my issues), and figuring out how to make TASTY salads, was one of the best lessons / dietary adjustments I’ve made.

    @orfeo - please share how. I'm stuck in a "salad is lettuce/other leaves, tomato, spring onion and maybe a bit of beetroot or cold potato" rut. It's boring, and I think the most generous description I could come up with is "worthy". Certainly not especially tasty without the addition of large amounts of mayonnaise (or possibly other dressing, but I'm less keen on the oil/vinegar ones) which rather defeats the object.

    I'm also bored as to what to have with salad (as in leaves/tomato/onion) - there's only so much cold meat I want to eat; what do you do if you want to eat something veggie, without having lots of cheese/egg (again lots of cheese probably not so good)... Just veggies leaves me feeling hungry soon after...

    I find tetrapak gazpacho a good solution to the salad issue.
  • @NOprophet_NØprofit - but according to everything I've read for years, diets and dieting does not work, never has - see this HuffPost long article. Changing lifestyles might, but that's a lifestyle change and it's costly.
    For more than a decade now, researchers have found that the quality of our food affects disease risk independently of its effect on weight. Fructose, for example, appears to damage insulin sensitivity and liver function more than other sweeteners with the same number of calories. People who eat nuts four times a week have 12 percent lower diabetes incidence and a 13 percent lower mortality rate regardless of their weight. All of our biological systems for regulating energy, hunger and satiety get thrown off by eating foods that are high in sugar, low in fiber and injected with additives. And which now, shockingly, make up 60 percent of the calories we eat.

    And from the end of that article:
    Correction: A previous version of this story inaccurately calculated the chance a woman classified as obese could achieve a “normal” weight. It is 0.8 percent, not 0.008 percent.

    @ThunderBunk - I was looking for something that talked more about other reasons for body positivity other than just obesity, and found this this article from Very Well Mind (link), which suggests that there are problems with faking that body positivity among other things:
    Some of the goals of the body positivity movement include:
    • challenging how society views the body
    • promoting the acceptance of all bodies
    • helping people build confidence and acceptance of their own bodies
    • addressing unrealistic body standards
    Body positivity is not just about challenging how society views people based upon their physical size and shape, however. It also recognizes that judgments are often made based on race, gender, sexuality, and disability.

    Body positivity also aims to help people understand how popular media messages contribute to the relationship that people have with their bodies, including how they feel about food, exercise, clothing, health, identity, and self-care. By better understanding the effect that such influences have, the hope is that people can develop a healthier and more realistic relationship with their bodies.
    and quite a bit further down the article:
    Simply telling people to accept themselves and be resilient in the face of the bombardment of images promoting the thin ideal can be damaging. Telling people to ignore the dominant beauty ideal isn’t realistic. It can create more pressure for a person who is already feeling anxious, negative, and devalued. Popular culture tells people that they are flawed—but then demands that they have a positive attitude about it. Not feeling positive about your body can then lead to shame and guilt.

    It goes on to discuss helping people find a way to be positive about themselves, other than their bodies.
  • GwaiGwai Epiphanies Host
    I think the salad discussion would be an excellent thread for Heaven.

    Gwai,
    Epiphanies Host
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate
    edited June 14
    I eat a lot of mad salad recipes from the Cranks recipe books - I've just checked and they are still in print.

    Sorry Crosspost with Gwai.
  • TheOrganistTheOrganist Shipmate
    Tabbouleh is a big thing in our house. For a veggie lunch we have wraps using Romaine lettuce leaves filled with either tabbouleh, lentil salad or bean salad. Delicious and filling.
  • GwaiGwai Epiphanies Host
    @TheOrganist As I said earlier, take the tabbouleh to Heaven.
  • @NOprophet_NØprofit - but according to everything I've read for years, diets and dieting does not work, never has - see this HuffPost long article. Changing lifestyles might, but that's a lifestyle change and it's costly.

    Several things. One is that if food intake is less than calories expended, weight loss will occur. They are successful in lowering weights of people in long term care. We could call it starvation perhaps, even if I'm trying be neutral.

    Diets by themselves- restricting intake of food suffer from the same thing even human behaviour change project suffers from: adherence. We used to call "adherence" "compliance".. In the health promotion stuff I'm involved in, key is proving the right environment for adherence. And yes, it is absolutely about lifestyle re-engineering. -- with the long term care patients, adherence isn't a problem because the care staff control things.
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited June 19
    A young person known to me currently has a job at a well-known fast food restaurant. (Hint: if you are ever a customer of the drive-thru lane of such an establishment, don't have a private conversation while you're sitting in a car next to the microphone where you give your order - that mic is live, and you will be heard.)

    The customer, who had just ordered a large meal, was bragging to her friend on the phone about how well her diet was going, whilst she was in the process of obtaining a meal containing more calories than she claimed she was eating all day.

    Which is an example of @NOprophet_NØprofit's 'adherence'.

    Personally, I've lost something between 10-15 pounds over the last year, by virtue of not being at work. When I'm at work, I usually eat at work (either in the canteen, or from a nearby sandwich place) because getting up earlier in the morning to make lunch is too much like effort. As a consequence, I eat more than I should, because I don't control the portion size (and once I've got the food, I'm going to eat it.)

    At home, I walk to the kitchen and make my own lunch, and it's easy enough not to make too much food.
  • RuthRuth Shipmate
    If healthcare professionals could not get a majority of people to adhere to a course of treatment or therapy for something else, they'd re-evaluate the therapy or treatment and find something people could actually do. Yet doctors keep telling people to diet despite the evidence not only that people can't stay on restrictive diets but that dieting wreaks havoc on the body.

    I have no idea what point you're trying to make, @Leorning Cniht, with your anecdote about someone ordering fast food. You don't know if that person even ate all the food they ordered - it could have been to share or could have been entirely for another person. Or perhaps they really don't know how many calories they were eating, or they were lying to the person on the phone because that person keeps commenting on their food choices. You don't know. This isn't even something you witnessed. But your evident disdain is a great example of fat-shaming. How dare a person who should be losing weight order fast food!

    And if everyone interested in such things could take their weight loss tips somewhere else, that would be great. I stay away from the thread supposedly about health and fitness or whatever it's called because when I have looked at it it's too much about weight loss.
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