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Comments

Jessie

I have a question: does one have the right to ask one's partner to lose weight?

My boyfriend is quite obese, and though I love him, I saw some pictures of himself a few years ago (before I knew him) where he was thinner, and I couldn't believe how handsome he was. I'm also worried that it will complicate his health later in life. Do I have the right to ask?

Anne R. Allen

I came over from Alternet. LOVED your piece. I've put on 60 pounds since I quit smoking and every diet makes me fatter. I followed a super-strict low fat diet, but couldn't lose more than a pound or two even though I was starving. Finally I discovered I have a sensitivity to wheat. The pounds are coming off and my asthma has much improved. Apparently a lot of people--especially of Scandinavian and Scottish descent--have this problem.

Thanks for this!

Aardvark Cheeselog

I have to take issue with your use of the term "hard-wired by evolution," because the most striking thing about human behavior is that so little of it meets that description (for counterexamples see e.g. here). People might be strongly predisposed to the kind of behavior you describe, but "hard-wiring" is for insects. I realize that the duties of an advocate are not the same as those of a journalist or scientist but I don't think that kind of overstatement really helps the case.

One criticism you don't quite make about engineered junk food (though you come close) is that much of this stuff is actually more satisfying (in the sense of being rewarding to chew up and swallow) than any natural food could possibly be. And yeah, doing that is where Big Food's incentives point them. You could be even more forceful in criticizing schools for selling that kind of stuff on campus: "Blaming people who were fat as kids for being fat adults is like feeding crack to kindergartners and then complaining that they grow up to be drug addicts" would be fair, I think.

Simon

@Jessie

I think you have the right to ask, and he has the right to refuse.

AnneS

The AlterNet comments have reminded me of another reason people find it hard to lose weight in modern Western society: the vast amount of useless woo that's accreted to the weight loss industry. How anyone can find real, scientific advice on how to eat right with people leaping out left, right and centre to proselytize about paleo-this and raw food veganism-that is beyond me.

(Not that raw fruit and vegetables aren't generally good for you, but the reasons they're good for you have nothing to do with 'living' enzymes that are destroyed by heating.)

Azkyroth
it's the nanny state run amok, coddling people who won't take care of themselves, treating people as if they had no personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

There's just one little problem with this notion: There's no good reason to think it's true.

Have this carved on a piece of non-reactive metal. You can just use it over and over and over.

Al

Here in the UK we have very similar problems, I lost about 30Kg last year for three reasons.
1 I was richer and could afford lean meat and fish and better fresh veg. (this I think was the most important one)
2 I researched calories in food and how many are burnt by exercise and concluded I don't have time to eat high calorie food because the exercise required to burn it off would be hours per day.
3 I got my holiday photos back.

I didn't go on any proscribed diet but just cut back on calloires until I was losing weight then slowly built back up once I was at my target. I tracked this using the graph tools from The Hackers Diet which is a free online thing but I could have used excel just as well. In the UK we have a traffic light system on most processed food which states grams of fat and salt and sugar but not the calories however this is only on processed foods. If this was expanded to most fresh foods and restaurant foods and included calories I think it would be really great. I will happily admit was very ignorant about calories because I had never been taught. For instance the amount of calories in a couple of sandwiches which I would have for my lunch is about 1000 which is roughly the same as 5 cans of soup. Fresh veg is generally low calorie but you have to plan meals, which means you can't just grab what ever is short dated or on special at the super market. Once again the biggest help in my weight loss was my child being old enough that my wife could return to work and raise our budgets.

Paul Crowley

would it be more effective to deride fat people as lazy, undisciplined, weak-willed slobs -- more than our culture already does, I mean

...as if that were possible!

Jonathan M.

Greta--
Have you read either of Gary Taubes' books --Good Calories, Bad Calories or Why We Get Fat?

In case you're not aware of these books--Taubes' is a well-regarded science writer who did five years of research into the the subject of obesity before writing Good Calories, Bad Calories and has become persuaded that the calories-in, calories-out model is deeply flawed, failing to take into account key hormonal influences on fat storage--especially as regards insulin.

I'd be interested in your take on them.

I have lost 30 lbs in the past 5months through calorie counting (Lose It is great!) but I think the two books above make an awfully strong case for switching over to a carbohydrate-restricted diet.

Why We Get Fat was just published--there's a critical review by SkepDoc Harriet Hall at Science-Based Medicine--followed by a pretty lively comment session

Katie

I lost 30 pounds a few years ago (and on a really short person that's a lot) by following essentially what you've done--following a calorie budget.

I found following "guidelines" like eat more fibre, cut out sugar, etc. to be so vague as to be useless. There are times I need chocolate and there are plenty of "grey" foods that I would agonize over whether they fell into one category or another. And now that I track calories I know that a whole wheat bagel is not really a snack...its more like a solid base to a meal (its got more calories than a chocolate bar).

And now if I want something sweet, I don't agonize. I check my calorie budget. If I have the space, I eat what I want to. I tend to eat healthy (especially since healthy foods tend to be less calorically dense so they fill me up more), but I know precisely how bad any snack is.

On a really bad day, I eat a small bowl of ice cream instead of a meal. And that's ok, if it only happens every so often.

naath

There's also so much USELESS "advice" out there, and so little understanding (from people dishing out advice) that PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT mmmmkay. Some people will do better with more exercise, some with less food, some with different food...

My big bugbear on this front is transport infrastructure. I like to cycle, my primary transport is my bicycle. I'm a stubborn person, and I'll cycle pretty much anywhere; but it really really really annoys me how some places seem to go out of their way to make cycling (also walking, horse riding etc) harder (with, for example, bad road layouts; or not having bike parking in shopping areas).

Blondin

Who do I blame for the fact that all the stuff I like is not good for me and all the stuff that's good for me I don't like?

If McDonalds had a special day where you could have your choice of free brussel sprouts, asparagus spears or chicken McNuggets I would go for the McNuggets (even though I do actually like brussel sprouts and asparagus spears - just not as much as McNuggets).

Hormones and hunger triggers and satiety variations not withstanding how do we work around the fact that often the more healthy you make something the less appetizing it becomes?

Timmer D

Greta,

Although I agree that corporations are a part of the problem, I think that culture plays a larger role. In Japan, I can walk into a 7-11 and buy two rice balls (nigiri with salmon) for three dollars. That's a complete lunch for around three hundred calories (plus a bottle of green tea, without sugar). In Holland I can buy a Gouda sandwich on whole wheat and a bag of carrots for the same amount. In Paris, a small rustic whole wheat round sells for about two euros.

--Tim


Leon

Greta, this was a brilliant piece. I'm going to forward this to my wife; I think she'll be gratified to see you repeating some of the same things she's been educating me about the past few years. You made the connections here between a lot of things I'd known about but hadn't realized they fit into the same puzzle.

Incidentally, you might have meant "dietitian" rather than "nutritionist". Dietitian is the legally protected term, whereas anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. In fact nutritionists are some of those who are spreading bad advice about nutrition and weight loss.

naath

@Blondin

At a guess your parents. Or whoever was in charge of what you got to eat as a child. Combined, of course, with all the same social issues that Greta detailed in her post. Food preferences and habits are learned young (they can be changed of course, but I think learning to like a new thing is harder than learning to not-like an old favourite).

My parents were (are) rich and privileged enough to never need to feed us fast food. Indeed I was forbidden all fast food as a child. I learned to like the food I was fed, I never learned to like fast food. Today I find fast food disgusting and asparagus very tasty (sprouts are nasty though).

I'm also fat; if fast food were banned people would not magically all be thin.

Greta Christina
Who do I blame for the fact that all the stuff I like is not good for me and all the stuff that's good for me I don't like?

A combination of evolutionary wiring -- we're wired to like fatty, starchy, sweet, high-calorie foods -- probably combined with cultural standards and personal upbringing.

The good news is that tastes can change. A lot of what we like and don't like in food is just familiarity, and tastes can be re-trained with time and experience. I still like fatty, starchy, sweet foods -- but I don't like them in nearly the same quantities that I used to. A little goes a long way; a lot makes me feel gross and unhappy. And I've learned to actually take great pleasure out of healthier foods. The main thing I do to make that happen is to make sure, as much as possible, that the healthy food I'm eating is high-quality. I eat the best salmon, apples, asparagus, whole-wheat bread, etc. that I can find.

And I also pay attention, not only to how food tastes, but to how it makes me feel afterward. After all, that's part of the sensual experience of food as well. My taste buds may like the french fries better than the asparagus; but the french fries make me feel sluggish and weighed down, and the asparagus makes me feel energetic and buoyant.

Greta Christina
I have a question: does one have the right to ask one's partner to lose weight?

Jessie: Do you have the right to? Sure. Is it a good idea? Maybe not so much. I know that when I was fat, I was very defensive and sensitive about it, and if Ingrid had asked me to lose weight, I would not have taken it at all well. I would have felt unaccepted and undesired. To put it mildly.

Depending on your partner, you might be able to express a concern about their health and the effect their weight is having on it. Something like, "You know I love you and find you madly attractive the way you are, but I also want you around for a long time, and I want you to enjoy your life as much as you can, and I'm concerned that your weight is shortening your life span and interfering with your healthy enjoyment of your life." But I don't know your partner, and don't know how they'd hear that.

Have you read either of Gary Taubes' books --Good Calories, Bad Calories or Why We Get Fat?

Jonathan: I haven't read them yet, but from what I've read of them, I'm not impressed, and I don't think he's as well-regarded by experts in the field as you state. (Here's just one review of it that made me very skeptical indeed.)

Yes, I think reducing intake of carbs -- especially pointless, processed, no-fiber carbs -- is a good idea for most people eating a standard American diet. And if you reduce your caloric intake, you'll probably find that your carb intake -- and especially your intake of pointless carbs -- will go down. But the research I've seen shows that extreme carbophobia of the sort Taubes advocates really isn't warranted.

I have to take issue with your use of the term "hard-wired by evolution,"

Aardvark: I didn't realize that "hard-wiring" was a technical term of evolutionary science. I thought it was a colloquialism. What term would you use to mean "ways that our brains are formed by genetics and evolution to be predisposed to certain behaviors"?

vel

I'd have to say that i *was* an fat lazy weak-willed slob. I couldn't have fit the defintion better. I got tired of being that and now I'm 29 pounds lighter. So, occasionally, there really are people like that. It might not be PC to say so but it can be true. And one can get a stronger will and do something about oneself. I still eat emotionally and I still drink but I know what to do to lose weight and I do it. It became a matter of what was really important to me. To continue on, which I could have or change to be something else.

and about asking a partner to lose weight. I didnt' ask my husband. I just said, I'm doing the SB diet, come along or not, this is for *me*. He came along and also dropped about 30 pounds (so far).

malta

Greta: Speaking as someone with a bit of biology background, instead of "hard-wired" I would recommend either "shaped" or "molded". I agree with Aardvark that hard-wiring sounds more deterministic than brains really are. A more malleable term recognizes the interplay between our evolutionary heritage and our current culture. It's a minor issue, but I love that you always try to find the best word for your articles :)

Brandon Johnson

Weigh loss requires a lot of mental effort. I believe its starts in the mind. The person has to first make up in there mind that they really want to lose weigh. Then they have to visualize themselves losing weigh. They have to then look at clothes and other things that will motivate them to continue in the effort of losing weigh. They need to visualize themselves in the state they would like to be in. They will need to visit local gyms that they would fill comfortable. They would need to talk with a personal trainer. These are just a few ways a person can make themselves more mental strong to obtain their goal of weigh loss and happiness.

Rupali Das

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Healthy Living

I have a question: does one have the right to ask one's partner to lose weight?

Jessie, Yes you have the rite to ask him to lose weight. However when you do make sure you tell him you're worried about his health and that you don't want anything to happen to him. Like you said you love him. It is normal to worry about the people we love.Just remember and I can't stress this enough come at it from the health point of view then mention weight loss. And if you need any help I have a list of natural foods that promote weight loss at my health website you are more than welcome to check out.

http://healthy-living123.webs.com/

Hope this helps :)

Brave Heart Sportswear

It still amazes us that people haven't worked out the secret to healthy living.

Nutrition + Exercise + Consistency = weight loss and a healthy fulfilling life.

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