Tag Archives: obesity

Obesity, empathy, and body image thoughts

Occasionally, in all the media clutter we see and hear each day, a clear, concise message appears to you. That happened to me today. I listened to the most recent post on This American Life entitled “Tell Me I’m Fat”. It was riveting, thought provoking, and entertaining. Everything a great podcast episode should be. You should really listen to it here.

Also today, an article popped up on my Facebook feed about how dietitians need to have empathy and how that can be better “taught” in dietetics training programs. I totally agree with this being a problem. While I had very good education and training as a dietitian, the most “empathy” that ever came into my lessons was teaching you how to keep a straight face while taking down a diet history. As in, when a client/patient tells you that he/she ate an entire cake or 14 tortillas in a day, you smile and say, “ok”. That was a good skill, believe you me. And I’m not criticizing my professors because empathy isn’t something you can really “teach”. It has to be developed with time and experience.

Together, those have prompted me to write a few very open, honest thoughts here.

1) I have never in my life been obese. I have never had to struggle with so many of the daily trials that face obese people. The stories in the podcast highlight many of these: finding clothes, being comfortable eating out, criticism from complete strangers, worrying about breaking a chair, etc. So I can try to be empathetic and imagine how that feels, but I haven’t had that experience.

2) However, I have struggled with my weight. Multiple times in my rather short adult life, so I do have some measure of empathy about weight and body image and those struggles.

When I graduated from college, I didn’t like how I felt or looked or what the scale said. I spent an entire summer exercising and trying to cut back on junk food. The result was maybe 5 pounds of weight loss, which was incredibly disheartening. Luckily for me, I then started grad school. The stress and busy schedule helped me almost unconsciously shed the last 10 pounds I needed/wanted. And then cancer and endocrine instability helped me drop 10 more. I was back to what I weighed in middle school. I’ll admit, I liked how looked and wanted to keep it that way, even if was a bit on the light side of healthy.

Then school ended. Life changed. Thankfully, for a couple years, I was able to mostly maintain my weight.

Then babies happened. My first pregnancy, I gained a bit too much weight, but it seemed to just melt off after I had my baby. One month post-partum, thanks to breastfeeding and some postpartum depression inhibiting my eating, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight and feeling really good. Fast forward about 4 months, and things weren’t so easy. But with some frequent exercise, I was able to stay in a good place for me.

Fast forward now to pregnancy number two. I gained more weight. I couldn’t stop gaining weight. When I would see how much the scale went up at a doctor’s visit, I’d feel sad and go home and eat a cookie. Smart, right? I was only about 5 pounds over the maximum recommended weight gain, but I had started pregnancy about 5 pounds up from my usual desired weight, too. This time, the weight did not melt off after I had the baby. 6 weeks out, my 2 year old was pointing to my tummy and asking about baby sister. My baby is almost 11 months old now, and I’m still not where I’d like to be.

Recently, I’ve challenged myself to nine weeks of exercise and limiting treats to try and feel better about myself for a family cruise. So far, I’ve kept to my plan (gloriously pictured below). But I’ll admit, I don’t think I’ve lost a single pound. And I still crave chocolate EVERY SINGLE DAY.

My current exercise and diet challenge

That is more about my life and weight history than maybe you wanted to know. But I hope it shows that I can have some empathy about weight, diet, eating struggles, etc.

3) While I understand it is a very complicated, multi-faceted issue, I am a big proponent (on face value) of the movement of accepting one’s weight, even if you are fat (as discussed in the podcast). I have posted multiple times on this site about research showing that healthy choices at any weight are beneficial, how the number on a scale is just a number, and so much more. AND IT IS STILL TRUE! Might you be better off if you hadn’t gained 30 (or 50 or 100) extra pounds in the first place? Yes. But can you go back and change that? No. What you can change is the future – not gaining more weight, maybe losing some weight, maybe just making healthier lifestyle choices.

In my own life, I have COMPLETELY found this to be true. When I was down to my middle school weight, I didn’t always feel great. Now that I’m up 15 pounds, but exercising six days a week and controlling my eating more, I do feel better. I stared down a plate of brownies all afternoon/evening one day last week and didn’t eat a single one. The mental boost it gave me to feel like I was in control of myself was immensely more beneficial than any endorphin rush from some sugar and chocolate.

No one sets out to become overweight or obese. I don’t think anyone would intentionally choose that life path for themselves, fully knowing the pain, discrimination, health issues and other struggles associated with it. But they can choose to change their future course. And we can choose to not contribute to the discrimination and to help people make better choices in their future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the podcast, obesity, obesity discrimination, and empathy in the comments!

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New Year, New Goals, New Weight?

Over the last two years, I’ve waxed long about not setting goals about weight (here and here among many others). Focus on changes for health. If your making healthier choices, you will often lose weight and be able to sustain that weight loss. And even if you don’t lose weight, your health will have improved.

However, I recognize that may not be enough for many of us. This year, I’m included. I admit to having some weight loss on my New Year’s resolutions, thanks to some residual baby weight. I am sticking to my previous statements of not JUST having goals of weight loss. I have several other goals for exercise and diet to help me achieve my weight loss.

I read an interesting article with a paradigm shifting idea on weight monitoring. For years, health professionals have recommended only monitoring weight once a week at most. However, recent studies are showing that daily weight monitoring could be beneficial for weight loss.

The article points out that daily weights can help you see more immediate effects of good or bad choices, maybe helping you stick to diet changes more closely. When you cut out late night snacking and see your weight change quickly, you are motivated to keep that up. If you splurge going out one day and you see your weight spike the next day or two, you become more focused on healthy changes again.

I don’t think it is for everyone, but it is something worth considering. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Weight loss plans stalled?

All of us either have experienced diet failure ourselves or known someone who has. Most people lose little to no weight while on a diet. Those who do lose any, gain it right back.

A recent article highlighted the reasons why, for many Americans, diet and exercise will not be enough to attain and maintain desired weight loss. The article focuses on many biological changes that occur in the body once a person has been obese for a sustained period of time (at least 2 years or so). One of these is what I have previously called the “set point” theory of weight. But there are many others. Unless something happens to change the hormones and regulatory systems of the body, a formerly obese person’s body will always be fighting to regain the weight.

This sounds pretty depressing and not helpful on a healthy eating blog. But the article points out that even a 5-10% weight loss can have significant health benefits even if you are obese. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts (here and here). My main hope for this blog is to help you eat healthier, no matter your weight. And the article makes a valid point: if you are obese and can’t lose weight, you should seek medical help. You are not a failure for not making a diet work alone.

So eat healthy, be happy, and get help if you need it!

To read more about the research, click here.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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What food will help me lose weight?

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A client recently asked me this, and it is definitely not the first time I have heard this question.  People always want a miracle food or diet to help them lose weight.  While not possessing magical weight loss powers, I usually tell people to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and veggies are high in fiber which can help us feel full without overloading us with calories.

Does our emphasis on fruits and vegetables work?  A recent study showed that Americans eat 25-30 pounds more of fruits and vegetables per year now than they did in the 1970s.  This seems like a healthier diet, and yet obesity has been increasing at an alarming rate in that same time period.  How is that possible?

The study also found that Americans are eating at least 400 more calories each day than in the 1970s.  We have embraced eating more salad.  But that salad has become an addition to our meal, rather than a replacement for a higher calorie food.  Even too many fruits and vegetables are just extra calories that can lead to weight gain.

Once again, we see that there is no miracle food or diet.  Decreasing calories in and increasing calories out is the only way to successfully lose weight.  Eating fruits and vegetables as a replacement for higher calorie foods can be helpful.  But even too much of a good thing is bad.

Read more about the study here.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

 

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