This post brought to you by the dozens of people who e-mail and comment to me in order to provide unsolicited dietary advice at least daily that I should stop eating carbs in order to lose weight.
Dear America, get over your fat phobia.
Seriously, being overweight is nothing more than a simple fact. Weight is an indicator of health – not the definition. SEVEN out of TEN people in this country are overweight… you can’t judge and be afraid of 70% of America and still be happy with your own life. After having lost over 100lbs and keeping it off for 3 years I feel slightly qualified to talk on the topics of Fat Acceptance and Fat Phobia.
I’ve been shouting this message as loudly as I can for as long as I’ve had people willing to listen, but clearly I haven’t been doing my job well enough because just this week I had people on my own Facebook page tell me I just needed to drop my carbs in order to lose weight. Um, no. In this post, I’ll tell you what I actually need to do if I wanted to lose weight. But before we can talk about that though, we need to establish a few things.
I am strong.
Photo Credit: Aimee Buxton at Mount Vernon Farm
I am a mother and wife.
Photo Credit: Bill Staley
I am a beautiful (from the inside).
I am HEALTHY.
After losing over 100 lbs and keeping it off for 3 years, I am STILL FAT.
And guess what, that’s perfectly OK. I’m not asking for your help to lose more weight. I’m not asking for your advice. I’m not seeking medical or holistic intervention. Because I know why my weight plateaued and what it takes to lose more – and because I’m finally healthy, I’m perfectly OK with staying where I am for a while. And I don’t need anyone’s permission except my own.
Why being healthy is SEPARATE from your weight.
You know what wasn’t healthy? When I was drastically losing weight and ignoring that I wasn’t digesting food properly. That my nails were brittle and my hair was falling out. That my hormones were so disregulated that I drove my family to fear and I was unable to handle the stress of finishing a book. That all of this caused an autoimmune condition flare. Not to mention, back then as soon as I’d eat even a moderate amount of carbohydrates (no more than 150g/day) I ballooned into a water retaining monster and couldn’t stop weight gain. Plus, the year-long battle with depression.
None of this is unusual, Chris Kresser, Paul Jaminet and Stefani Ruper (my personal favorite) have tons of information on why women need carbs for healthy thyroid function and cortisol regulation. It was really hard for me to choose to quit losing weight and focus on health. I wrote about it on the blog several times, I talk about it on the podcast and it is a daily struggle with myself to remember that I’m nourishing and healing my body, finding my body’s optimal health – not on a diet to lose weight.
As a cross-fitting mother of 3 with my own very active “business” (this blog, podcast, cookbooks, social media, etc.) and a very demanding full-time job – I think the fact that I have energy at all speaks for itself. And all the health issues I discussed above? Resolved. I’m even sleeping better now that I consume some carbs at night. My skin is clearing up as I focus on healing foods like bone broth and organ meats and, although I’m not losing weight anymore, I’m not gaining either, even though I’ve successfully reintroduced moderate carbohydrates (safe starches) when my body tells me it wants them.
As a measure of women’s health, menstruation is by far one of the best. Never in my life have I had a period “sneak” up on me. Over the years of being paleo my cramping and regulation had improved, but ultimately my body’s Estrogen Dominance was driven by a hormone imbalance. My menstruation and hormone balance didn’t come until I began to introduce safe starches. And now, I get my period and am sincerely surprised because I had no idea it was coming, no premenstrual symptoms at all! That’s insane compared to the raging loon I once was!
Hopefully this clarifies the idea SO many of you have told me about, this simple solution of “just eat less carbs.” That solution doesn’t work for me. I’ve talked many times about having to be careful and moderate my carb consumption to maintain these delicate balances (without a gallbladder I have to eat carbs, yet as previously metabolically broken I can’t eat too many). Among other recommendations that don’t work, Intermittent Fasting is another for very similar and detrimental health reasons. With that said, many of you believe that a woman can’t be over 200lbs and still be healthy. What’s my alternative?
If I were on a diet I’d have to do 1 of 2 things:
- Starve myself. I’d have to starve my body. Because that’s what a weight loss diet is. It deprives your body of calories, or carbs, or fat or whatever your metric of starvation is, in order for your body to lose weight. And the only scenario in which this is healthy is if you’re still satiated and your body is nourished while you have a caloric deficit.
- Quit running Paleo Parents. I gave this a lot of thought over the past couple of months. As I snack on bacon and apples as I work late on posts, edit books, respond to e-mails and generally give of myself back to the community – I think about what I need. And frankly, I need more sleep. I need less stress. I need more time to exercise. I need more quality time with my family – these are things that nourish my being, things that keep me from desiring the occasional alcohol, the paleo treats and the snacks I’m not actually hungry for. Admittedly, I absolutely should stop doing those things and focus on weight loss. However, there is NO way I can do that and still run everything that this site entails.
I don’t want to stop running the site, I have chosen this path for a reason and happy to give of myself in order to (potentially) help others. It’s not just me, there are so many of us in the Paleo community who wholeheartedly admit to each other that our health took a bit of hit when we started giving of ourselves to the cause. We sit at computers, we have stress from the insanity of people behind anonymity of the internet, we stay up late creating content that’s valuable to you; we spend less time focused on ourselves. It’s no surprise to me, when I look at the progression of my weight loss timeline, that my plateau hit around the time most of you found us.
That’s not to say that people can’t lose weight and get healthier as they become popular paleo bloggers – but that is to say, it’s not the case for me. And in order to maintain my health and give back to this community, I’m not willing to go on a diet.
So, if I’m satiated, and nourished, and healthy – who gives a flying rat’s patooty what the heck my body fat percentage is? Sadly, though, quite a few of you do. Even if you think you accept me for who I am, if you’ve ever responded to my posts about being happy with who I am with a suggestion of improvement of any kind – be it of a sincere place of wanting to help or not – it is you who is not able to be happy with who I am. I didn’t ask for your suggestions of improvement, so why do you feel compelled to give them? And that leads me to the essential point… why do you care what my body composition is?
Fat Acceptance is a term we all need to learn
Most people care about what someone else’s body composition is, because they’re fat phobic or unable to accept it in some capacity. We have been taught for years to think of being overweight as a personal, moral failing and something that is extremely shameful. I think everyone should read this op-ed in the Times that talks about how exaggerated/unscientific the supposed correlation between weight and mortality risk is. Then you should read this CNN article with cited sources about how you can be fit and fat.
Then, I want to ask you again: who gives a flying rat’s patooty what the heck my body fat percentage is?
I’m tired of being embarrassed. I’m tired of being scared. I’m tired of hiding behind the caveat that I’ll lose weight again as soon as I buckle down.
Because I don’t have to. I’m healthy. I’m smaller than I was when I went into puberty (a hormonal set-point for women when it comes to fertility, their driver of health). I’ve lost over 100lbs and kept it off for 3 years. Why the hell would anyone create any standard of weight I should lose?
And if you change your thought process for me, if you accept me, that’s how you should feel about everyone around you.
You should welcome the majority of people into your loving arms. Embrace them. Smile and say hi in the elevator. Hold the door open for them. Make eye contact at the grocery store. Do all the things you do for “normal” people, because the obese will know you think differently of them. They see it in your body language. They see it in your actions. They feel it the way your tone resonates.
I was once obese. And I am the same woman then as I am today. I’m smaller. Smarter, perhaps. But there’s no reason I should be treated differently today than I was 3 years ago – and sadly, I am. I went through a tremendous amount of internal turmoil as I realized I had been discriminated against and treated poorly as an obese child, teen and adult. The only way I realized that, was by becoming smaller and seeing how differently the world was in a smaller body.
What Can You Do
Here are some thoughts from the articles linked above that I think are essential for us all to think about:
- How many of the deaths blamed on fat actually happen when people are diagnosed as fat instead of being diagnosed and treated for an illness?
If only my being overweight could’ve been seen as a SYMPTOM, instead of the CAUSE of my health conditions.
- Then there are the fat people who did everything their doctors recommended to lose weight … and died from dangerous diet drugs, from starvation diets, from mutilating weight-loss surgeries. I also hear from many people who live with the devastating physical and psychological consequences of such weight-loss attempts.
Oh, the emotional disorders I had from food & dieting…
- A survey medical professionals who specialize in caring for fat people found that they had high levels of weight bias, viewing us as “lazy, stupid, and worthless.”
Fat discrimination is the ONLY appearance-based discrimination not specifically addressed by Government law. With everything that I do, I dare you to tell me I’m lazy and stupid.
I’ve long been vocal about the fact that I still am overweight, yet very healthy. Health has become the most important thing to me. Looks like science might be supporting the idea that scales & BMI indicators (which would put Olympic athletes as “overweight” from muscle) might not be the best tools to help people, too.
So I beg of you. Let go of your preconceived notions. Let go of judgements. Think of weight as you do hair color. If you’re genuinely concerned for someone’s health, treat them the way you’d want to be treated. Treat them with honesty, integrity and empathy – like you would someone with a disease or health disorder – because I guarantee you that’s what they have. The weight gain is simply a symptom.