And Now For Something Completely Different: A Successful Dieter Without a Bone Up Her Ass

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Over at Chez Kate yesterday, Ms. Harding tipped off the ‘Sphere to this freakin’ awesome op-ed in the Kansas City Star penned by Debra Sapp-Yarwood (DebraSY on Big Fat Blog). It’s called “A Few Requirements for Living a Healthy Life,” which is a mondo sucko title for this article, because it’s so not about that at all; Kate says Debra wanted them to call it “Why I Hate The Word ‘Lifestyle’ And You Should Too,” and they damn well should have.

Because Debra — wait for it! — actually lost 60 pounds and has kept them off for five years, and unlike almost every diet-troll who stops by fatblogs to drop their foul-smelling reduced-calorie turds on the readership (despite most of them not having even finished losing weight, let alone maintained the full loss for five years like Debra has), she does not credit her amazing wonderful awesomeness for having done so. Nope, she says, dumb luck of the genetic draw and socioeconomic privilege are more like it.

Bragging? Nope. Though I work hard, I also enjoy gastric and cardiovascular health, working joints and reasonable daily demands. I can prepare fresh foods and live a dramatically more active life than I did before, more active than most people I know. If I had health complications or still held a routinely stressful job with frequent overtime, then I couldn’t maintain this weight.

This culture must acknowledge that long-term weight loss is rare, so people will stop yo-yo dieting and berating themselves for failing to maintain a lifestyle that would beat a stacked deck.

And at no extra charge, she also lets the reader know that even fat people who are able to adopt the (gag, ack) “lifestyle changes” she has won’t necessarily become thin because of it:

Healthy lifestyle is often code language for the opposite of “fat.” It presents a false choice: If you choose a healthy lifestyle, you won’t be fat. If you are fat you must have chosen the unhealthy, fat lifestyle. How insulting!

Many fat people exercise and eat well; others do not. Likewise trim people. People of all sizes have genetic, hormonal and environmental circumstances that affect their weight.

Both fat and trim people can be healthy or unhealthy, and yet our culture assumes all fat people have horrible lifestyles and reserves its harshest judgment for them.

It’s so unbelievably rare to see a perspective like this from someone who has successfully lost weight and maintained the loss, especially from a traditional media source, that I am nearly agog that this made it to print. I want every proselytizing diet-head on earth to read this story, early and often. I want it reprinted in every newspaper in the country, early and often. I want every workplace manager and every frigging insurance company decision-maker to read it, early and often.

Because, good goddess does the world need to eat a giant bag of STFU about it, what with damn near every office in the country forcing “Biggest Loser” contests down their employees’ throats (with no thought given as to whether egging people on relentlessly to crash-diet might trigger eating disorders or serious medical problems). Not to mention the constant media presence of flamebaiters like that toxic woman in the Guardian today (who I refuse to link OR name) insisting that none of us could possibly be fat without consuming “about six whole rotisserie chickens a day washed down with 16 pints of double cream, half a cow and probably the entire produce of Ireland’s potato farms, deep-fried and with a coating of beer batter.” (She forgot to mention the DOZENS OF BABIES fashioned into DONUTS that we all eat for dessert after each meal on top of that, but I’m sure it was just a printing glitch.)

If every dieter had the humility Debra Sapp-Yarwood has, we wouldn’t have to keep banning their self-righteous asses from our blogs. I don’t get the sanctimony, personally. I never see people who have become rock stars run around saying, “Anybody can do this! Anybody can have a number one record! If you don’t get one, it’s because you’re not trying hard enough!” No, even the most egotistical of rock stars acknowledges that there is an unbelievable amount of LUCK involved in making it as far as they have.

But the diet-trolls? (And here I ackowledge there may very well be other “gracious losers” out there who simply don’t speak up; my comments pertain specifically to those who can’t resist the trolly-mouth-off.) I know I didn’t come up with this idea myself, and if I got it from you, please feel free to identify yourself, but…we are told over and over again, we fatasses, that permanent significant weight loss is both something so easy that anyone could do it with just a token effort, and at the same time something so difficult and arduous and painful that anyone who manages to accomplish it deserves special praise and applause. Sorry, but this makes no sense to me at all. Pick one, guys: Either weight loss is an ordinary occurrence, and therefore you deserve no special praise for it, or it’s such an extraordinary happening that the average person can’t be blamed for not being able to duplicate the feat.

Debra picks door number 2, and she makes a pretty damn good case for it. So here’s the link again, and please do click on it to let the KC Star know they have excellent taste in editorialists.

13 Responses to “And Now For Something Completely Different: A Successful Dieter Without a Bone Up Her Ass”

  1. Linda Says:

    I imagine that there are a number of people who have lost weight who do not have a self-righteous bone up their asses. When I merely state my experience with weight loss, people assume I am preaching, looking down my nose, or telling anybody else what to do. I am not. I claim to have exactly no character at all, much less one that is a whole bunch better than anyone elses. I am relating my experiences. I have seen some horrifying trolling on FA sites, but not everybody who has a different experience and says so is a troll.

  2. Rachel Says:

    Like Debra, I’m one of those “successful” few who have maintained a weight loss for five years. In my case, I have staved off 100 pounds, although it must be noted that I lost quite a bit more and regained about 70 of the pounds I originally lost. Oh yes, and I lost the weight due to an eating disorder. So, I don’t exactly beam when folks congratulate me for losing weight.

    I don’t consider weight loss to be any kind of extraordinary accomplishment, although it damn near killed me doing so. My biggest accomplishments are my education, my activism and volunteerism, becoming a homeowner, living sustainably, etc… And to maintain my current weight requires no obsessive calorie watch, point counting or grueling exercise regime. I don’t diet and I don’t keep track of every morsal that goes in my mouth. In fact, if I wasn’t so sedentary due to school, I’d probably lose more weight. My body is comfortable at the weight it’s at now and I don’t have to go insane to maintain this weight.

    In my case, I am fortunate to be able to afford wholesome, organic, healthy foods and I have a car I can drive to go get these kinds of foods. I have the time to prepare such foods, and the ability to read and understand nutrition labels. Not everyone is as fortunate as I.

    I really don’t get these people who have lost weight and talk about how hard it is to maintain the weight loss. If you eat healthy and in moderation, while not denying yourself treats now and then, exercise regularly and generally be good to yourself, your body will settle into its natural setpoint range. The fact that anyone has to actively struggle to maintain a weight indicates to me that it isn’t the right weight for them.

  3. spacedcowgirl Says:

    That is an EXCELLENT point about how weight loss is presented to us both as something anyone can do with enough “effort” and “willpower,” and as something that you deserve more praise for than pretty much anything else you accomplish in your life. I’m sure trolls will split the hair by going “Well, nobody said it was EASY, but anyone can do it”–but your analysis is the accurate one and readers really need to take in the fact that most people do not lose significant amounts of weight permanently, especially if they have been overweight their whole lives. Period.

    Debra’s attitude is amazing. I am thrilled that she wrote that piece and I hope it gets lots of notice.

  4. Me Too « spacedcowgirl Says:

    [...] yet, but just in case, PLEASE read Debra Sapp-Yarwood’s opinion piece (via Shapely Prose and fat fu) in the Kansas City Star. Many of the points she made were ones I was struggling to convey last [...]

  5. peggynature Says:

    Thank you for writing about this far better than I did. Debra definitely deserves a lot of credit for her column, and her attitude toward weight loss.

  6. Meowser Says:

    Peggynature, you did just fine yourself with it! But thanks!

  7. Charlotte Says:

    That article is a breath of fresh air.

  8. Red Stapler Says:

    Thank you for this post.

    I like to think that I’m also one of the “gracious losers.”

    One of the other people hurt by the preaching is folks who can’t keep the weight off. I’ve gained back some, and I try not to acknowledge it, but there is a lot of guilt and shame I’m “supposed” to feel about that. Do I want to lose it again? Sure. Am I trying? Not very hard.

    But I don’t freaking talk about it. The ungracious losers are smug and jerky and would want everyone to know how awesome they are no matter what their “achievement” was.

    I’ll talk about my weight loss when and where it’s appropriate. But I would never dare suggest that what I did is what others should do, unsolicited.

  9. Fatadelic Says:

    Some great quotes there.

  10. Laura B. Says:

    I’ll add that I’m another gracious loser. I’ve lost 64 pounds and kept it off for three years. I don’t think about it either. People gasp and go “How did you do it?!”

    They look utterly dumbfounded when I tell them “I eat as much as I want of anything that I want.”

    That’s honestly the truth. This is a very long story short, but I realized after reading a lot of information and insights on the “reality” of weight loss like what this site presents, that I’ve never sat down to a nice meal or gone for a walk without wondering how much it’s going to affect my weight. This made me profoundly sad, because I was being robbed of something incredibly vital to my life and making it happy.

    So I quit dieting. I honestly felt if I would rather never lose another pound if I just never had to THINK about it ever again. This took a LOT of hard insight and practice turning my thoughts from weight to back to the present moment. It was hard and frustrating sometimes, but slowly I learned to notice things like how wonderful it is to sit with a whole plate of cookies on a rainy afternoon with a book or how wonderful a salad tastes in the peak of summer when everything is fresh from the farmer’s market. I actually started getting out and walking on beaches to look for shells and took up bird watching and zipping along on bikes like when I was kid and enjoying the wind in my hair.

    My body in the meantime, decided it wanted to change. I’m not saying I’ve discovered “The Secret (TM)” to weight loss. I have however, discovered something far more valuable to your health, and that was how to be happy.

    “Obesity” is far too profitable an industry for our society to give up. We’ll never “cure” the “Obesity Epidemic” for this reason. So work on being happy instead. It’s harder than dieting, but much more worth it in the long run. And you can still eat your cake, too.

  11. Andrea Says:

    I’ve also managed to maintain a pretty considerable weight loss (to me anyway) of around 40 pounds for the past four years (around three dress sizes). I did it on the atkins diet (back when that was popular) so of course when I started eating normally again I regained about 10 pounds of what I’d lost. However, my weight eventually stabalised and I’ve been pretty stable at my current weight for that long. It does go up and down and I have dieted in the past to lose a few extra (before discovering fat acceptance) but generally my body seems to be pretty happy here. But the thing is? Losing the weight was NOT EASY. I was overweight for a long time and desperately unhappy in many ways and wanted to change. But I didn’t just diet, I also looked at my whole life and made changes across the board. So I guess that period of my life was about changing to become who I wanted to be, losing weight was just a part of that process, but it wasn’t the whole process or even the biggest goal. I felt unhealthy (again, this had nothing to do with weight and had more to do with lack of exercise and bad eating habits) and I made big changes in this area. I feel extremely lucky that I’ve managed to keep my weight stabalised, but that also has nothing to do with the diet itself and more to do with the fact that I changed in a huge way from what I was before. I’m very active now and was very sedentary then. I eat healthily now, instead of eating primarily junk food then.

    I’m coming to learn to accept my body as it is and am happy that it’s happy. I’m still 20 pounds over my initial ‘target weight’ from four years ago, but I’m ok with that. I’ve come to realise that in order for me to maintain my body at a lower weight, even just 20 pounds, would totally compromise who I am. I’d have to eat significantly less and work out significantly more. I’d have to stop accepting myself and start being upset again that I’m not where I ‘should be.’ And honestly, those 20 pounds just aren’t worth it to me. So yes, I’ve maintained a weight loss but I also changed many things about my life too. I don’t think there’s a ‘secret’ to maintain weight loss, I just think that many factors about my life aligned to keep me where I currently am. If any of those things changed my weight would absolutely change. And yes, I probably am lucky and managed to pick up SOME good genes from my mom (naturally skinny) instead of getting all of them from my dad (naturally not so skinny) like I previously thought. There are so many factors and the majority of them are completely out of our control.

  12. boobsihazdem Says:

    This is a late comment, but it is nice to see that acceptance can go both ways. The virulence I have seen against people losing weight loss, whether as their main goal or as a side effect from simply eating healthily and leading a more active life style, has quite scared me. And disheartened me.

    So thank you for bringing up an example of someone who has lost weight, and respecting them for it. As for weight loss being ‘achievable’ and therefore not special vs weight less being hard and therefore understandable that people don’t make it…well…I would say the truth lies somewhere in between the two. For me, just getting up and going to work and learning to look after myself is an achievement. That I am now able to exercise, have better sleeping patterns and have improved my socio-economic status and over all quality of life? For me, that is something to be proud of, even though I wouldn’t expect congratulations for it.

    My body is what it is from years of neglect and idleness, not by a natural weight inclination. If I had led a normal lifestyle and eaten natural foods in the same amounts as my friends ate, maybe I would be a good 5 stone lighter – but I didn’t. I stopped caring, ate a ton of junk food and really did sit on my ass. But this is my story, not the story of every person out there, and not the story of my recent past. I’m big, but I’m beautiful now, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect no matter what size they are, and no matter what they believe about their own bodies.

  13. Debra Sapp-Yarwood Does It Again « fat fu Says:

    [...] And Now For Something Completely Different: A Successful Dieter Without a Bone Up Her Ass [...]


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