The End of Fat People: Goodbye Hostess

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See those things above? Those are chocolate Zingers. I haven’t had one in over two years, but I used to love ’em, and only got out of the habit of eating them (or any other snack cake) because I spent a year and a half off gluten. I always figured I would, one day, taste them again when I felt like it. That’s what intuitive eating is, right? Knowing that a food will always be there when you want it, so you don’t have to grab it and eat as much of it as possible while you can?

Well, now that Hostess is shutting down very suddenly rather than treat their bakery workers decently, there will be no more Zingers. There also won’t be any more Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, or whatever other snack cakes fatties have been pelted with over the years, all that stuff we carb-snarfing lard-butts supposedly can’t get enough of. Just like that, poof, they’re gone. And of course it’s fatties cleaning out the supermarket shelves of them, and only fatties.

Oh, someone will probably buy the recipes off Hostess, they’re too much of a cash cow (chortle chortle chortle) for that not to happen. But that’ll take a year, at least. In the meantime, that’s an entire year of fatties not getting their favorite snacks, which they all live for! So a year from now everyone should be skinny, right? Since the only difference between fat people and thin people is that thin people know how to control themselves in the presence of snack cakes?

Well, sure…except for the part where I haven’t had a pre-manufactured snack cake in over two years, and my weight is exactly the same as the last time I did. What did I say here? “Screw taxing that stuff, screw it to the wall. You could BAN all those things and I’d still stun you with my ginormitude. I will repeat that for emphasis: You could burn down every fast food restaurant, clear every sweetened or alcoholic beverage off every shelf, sweep all the processed food on earth into a ten-mile bonfire, ban every form of candy, cookies, cake, donuts, muffins, ice cream, you name it, and I would still be a huge freaking child-frightening oxygen-sucking flapping-in-the-breeze Shamu McLardypants.” That was three years ago. I seem to have proven my hypothesis.

But hey, I’m a baker. I’m pretty good at it, although I can’t do any of that fancy, pretty stuff. If I wanted to, I could probably reverse-engineer Zingers, or something pretty danged close. What is it, a chocolate cakelet with fudge icing, with some kind of pasty white stuff injected into the middle? The pasty white stuff is probably the most challenging part of that; using this homemade Twinkie recipe as a guide, beating egg whites for seven minutes to make the filling and poking holes into the freshly baked cakes to squeeze the goop in with a pastry bag is apparently part of the deal. I just don’t know if I want to make, like, an entire pan full of Zingers, do all that work just to get a couple of bites, knowing that a) nobody else I know would eat them besides me, and b) I’d probably explode at least half the cakes trying to squirt the filling in, leaving behind a huge brown and white mess, much of which I’d clean up by licking it off my hands. So I’d probably eat more of them than my stomach wanted, and then my stomach would hate me. My poor stomach has been through enough already, so I’ll pass.

And I’m going to take a wild guess that if someone does buy Hostess’s recipes, they’ll take a pass on Zingers because they’re not all that popular; they’re just Hostess cupcakes in a different shape, right? Except not, because the ratio of cake-to-fudge is different, and the fudge on Zingers is (was) thicker. So I guess those things are going the way of Burry’s Fudgetown cookies, which I loved as a kid because they had those holes in the middle and you could poke your pinky through and get a nice little dot of fudge to lick off before you even started in on the cookie, which you could wear on your pinky for a few minutes before taking a bite. They stopped making those in 1978, when Burry’s went out of business. By then, I hardly noticed, because I was a chronically dieting teenager and Fudgetowns had been off my radar since I was about 12. But one day recently I looked up and said, “Whatever happened to Fudgetowns?”, and found out the whole story. Evidently, though, Dare Cookies (based in Kitchener, Ontario) makes a cookie that looks exactly like them, and they are now available in the U.S. I haven’t tried them yet; in light of recent events, maybe I should, while I still can. After all, how else am I going to maintain my awesome silhouette?

On Being Believed

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As some of you know, I’ve been very much involved with autism self-advocacy and disability rights for the last couple of years. In fact, at the moment, that is what I spend most of my time doing. I go to summits and conferences and protests, I organize meetings, I plan activities, I write essays. And one of the things I can’t fail to notice, when comparing the disability rights movement to FA, is that there actually are things to do in meatspace about disability stuff. Lots of them. Things aren’t perfect by any means; there are still many, many instances of accessibility fail, and when it comes to autism, especially, nonautistic parents of autistic kids often seem to think they understand what it’s like to have our disability better than we do. But I feel like progress is being made, and most people don’t blanch in horror when I tell them what I’m up to in the neurodiversity movement. On paper, at least, “nothing about us without us” is a concept that has traction, even if people don’t always give PWD the seat at the table we’re promised.

I feel like the opposite is happening in FA; if anything, there’s been backsliding over the last 10 years, and I think I have some idea why. For starters, PWD don’t have all of corporate America driving a giant bulldozer designed to crush us all in the name of ever-increasing profit. There is so much money involved in stigmatizing the fatties that even people who don’t have a cup dipped into their money river are influenced by it. The noise machine never, ever stops. And even most fat people are convinced that they deserve it. I caught some flak a number of years ago when I said fat people were one of the last groups of people who believe almost universally that they’re getting exactly the punishment they deserve, but I still believe it’s true. Sure, people in every stigmatized group have self-esteem and shame issues to deal with, but with fat folks, there’s an extra layer of shame involved, the shame that says my belonging to this group is all my fault, and if I just tried harder, I wouldn’t belong to it. Even though there’s no evidence that more than a handful of people ever do manage to escape it.

But I think there’s something more going on. In practice, I don’t really give much of a crap about Mayor Bloomberg banning sugar-soda servings of more than 16 ounces in restaurants and stadiums; I don’t live in New York any more, don’t really care for most fountain sodas, and drinking a huge cup of the stuff would just turn me into a 100-decibel gasbag anyway. But in theory, I think it sucks, because the framing is that all fatties guzzle sugary soda nonstop and smaller cups will mean smaller asses, QED. In other words, he and his minions never actually bothered talking to fat people to see if we were actually sucking down the Pepsi like mother’s milk in the first place. Talk to us about policies that actually concern us? Why bother, when you can just look at one fat person doing it and extrapolate that we’re all such dingbats that we don’t know how many kazillions of calories that is?

In order for this policy to actually result in lowered weights, several things would have to be established conclusively:

1) Almost all fat people drink lots of sugary drinks.
2) Almost no thin people do.
3) People who do drink more than 16 ounces of sweetened drinks a day would simply stop there if no larger sizes were available; in other words, they wouldn’t instead go for a large milkshake or blended coffee drink (unaffected by the ban), a beer (offered in sizes up to 26 ounces at stadiums), or an extra portion of said drink at full price, or get their soda fix at home where it’s cheaper (since bottled soda from supermarkets is excluded by the ban).
4) People who buy 32- or 64-ounce sweetened drinks always finish every drop all by themselves at a sitting, rather than sharing it with others or saving some for another day (or, gasp, leaving some over).
5) People who are limited to 16 ounces of sugary drinks a day all lose dozens of pounds and keep them off and are “normal weight” forever.

In other words, you have to establish POPPYCOCK. Because none of that is even a little bit true.

Make no mistake, this is ALL about whether fat people can be believed or not. If they actually found us believable, they’d want to talk to us, right? Find out how we actually live, how our bodies actually function and respond to energy intake? It basically comes down to, are we reliable witnesses to our own experiences, or aren’t we? Sadly enough, I believe most people think we’re not. There certainly are plenty of liars out there, of all body types, but whether or not someone is telling the truth should be determined by observed actions, not presumed ones. In other words, believe people when they tell you how they live, unless they give you an undeniable reason not to.

And you know what else? If people do drink that much soda in a day, so what? People do plenty of things that aren’t the healthiest, for themselves or for other people, and sometimes they’re even praised for it. People get oodles of headpats for never missing a day of work even if they’re sick or injured, for sleeping only five or six hours a night, for risking their lives having cosmetic surgery or having deeply tanned skin, for being tyrannical despots to their employees as long as they get results. And I’d way rather someone drink a Double Gulp of Pepsi than get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle (or even ride a bike) in any kind of altered state, or ride a motorcycle without a helmet. Seriously, New York doesn’t have better things to spend money on than the soda police? Like making sure people don’t have to live ten to an apartment to survive? Of course, that would mean they’d have to start listening to and believing poor people, too. And we can’t have that.

A Tale of Two Lifestyles (in One Body)

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Long, long ago, in a galaxy (or, at least, a state) far, far away, I was married. My husband adored fast food — his eating philosophy was summed up by saying, “What I want is to drive up, point to a picture of something, say, ‘I want that,’ and have them hand it to me.” He wasn’t much for cooking, and had a serious aversion to washing dishes and other domestic tasks. (Not that there weren’t some legitimate reasons for all of this, which I’ll get to in a minute.) We were usually flat broke and overdrawn, and I was constantly stressed out and exhausted from working and running around trying to prevent our phone bill and such from being shut off and moving to yet another new apartment, and wasn’t up to doing all the cooking and cleaning night after night — so either we ate fast food, or nuked something, a lot more often than I would have liked. I drank a lot of soda, and ate a lot of stuff from convenience stores, and there was not a whole lot of goody-goody whole-grain organic-veggie goodness in my life at all. I got exercise here and there, but it wasn’t very consistent.

Fast-forward about 10 to 15 years. I’m now divorced and living with a domestic partner, and my life is as stable and healthy as it has ever been. I cook lots, eat lots of fiber and very little packaged or fast food, have discovered a whole slew of nutritious grains since quitting gluten for a year (my intolerance seems to have been of the temporary variety, about which more later), avidly attend farmer’s markets and shop for organics at the fabulous local chain New Seasons, and exercise about twice as much as I did in the old days. And there’s a lot less stress, for many reasons, not least of which is that I understand my own disabilities now and have learned to work with them rather than against them, and my partner actually demands very little of me, readily cleans up after meals and takes on many of the domestic tasks I have always sucked at. My soda and juice consumption has declined drastically also, and I sleep much better.

Now, given all this, would you guess I weighed more when I was married, or more now?

Since you guyz are so smart, you probably would guess what most people would not: I’m fatter now. By a lot. You see, I wasn’t taking Remeron then. Also, I’m getting old. Makes a difference.

Am I healthier now? I don’t know. I certainly feel much better mentally, and my stomach is a much happier place. But I don’t even know if there’s any such thing as “good health,” only the current presence or absence of diagnosis or symptomatology. Clinicians can miss your diagnosis entirely, and disease process can be happening even if you don’t feel or see a thing. Your car is highly likely to do some funny shit when your mileage hits the six-figure mark, and it could happen long before that, no matter how industrious you are about changing the oil and getting tuneups and rotating tires. And if you don’t have the money even to do that sort of basic maintenance, it greatly increases the likelihood of something going kablooey. Bodies are like that, too.

This is why I want to rip out what little is left on my scalp when people try to make health and weight all about choices and behaviors. Sure, I could have made the choice to get divorced sooner rather than later. Heck, I could have made the choice to stay single. It’s easy to say that now that I’m not living in a pit of longing and loneliness for someone, anyone, to love me, like I was before I met my XH. But truthfully, I was kind of a mess when I met him. I was always tired. I never had much energy or focus. I was always depressed and anxious. I was constantly dragging the undiagnosed aspie barge behind me, feeling like all I did was to try to get people to like me and to fit in someplace, and all I did was fail. I had to work my ass off every single minute to try to understand things that nonautistic people picked up by osmosis, and even then I never quite got there. Was all that my fault? I think not. So I don’t think “2012 me” is entitled to lecture “2002 me” from on high, and neither is anyone else.

As for my XH, as blood-curdling as his eating habits no doubt sound to the Fresher, Localer, and More Sustainable than Thou crowd, even this turned out to have some basis in biology. You see, he had undiagnosed disabilities, too, among them fibromyalgia and hereditary hemochromatosis, both of which put him in constant pain and completely drained his energy. If you’re not rich, it can be extremely difficult to get whatever health issues you have properly diagnosed, let alone treated; his HHC was discovered by a fluke by an emergency room doctor who correctly played a hunch when ordering some lab tests. Otherwise, he might be dead from cirrhosis now, despite drinking a lot less alcohol than the average man. How are you supposed to cook when even sitting at a table cutting up veggies wears you out? How are you supposed to sort out your food cravings when your blood is overloaded with iron and nobody tells you?

And not only that, as I discovered on my own food journey, your brain often rejects certain foods that are allegedly “good for you” because of previous bad reactions. IANAD, but my completely unscientific hunch is that the reason I was having all that trouble with wheat was because my gallbladder removal was a shock to my digestive tract; that it persisted many months longer than it should have could easily be chalked up to my Sooooper Sensitive System. (I was tested extensively for celiac and other digestive diseases by both scope and blood, all negative.) I still have problems digesting whole wheat and oats, but I have plenty of sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, and brown rice in me to keep things moving. Raw or undercooked vegetables can still be a problem, as can certain fruits, and cow’s milk is still not a happy food, although I can tolerate very small amounts with some Lactaid now. But I would not have responded well to people telling me this was all in my head, or some other nonsense. The reactions were real.

When people have a bad food encounter, it will put them off that food, or at least that presentation of said food; that may be less likely to happen if they already have a history of liking it, but more bad experiences than good will tip the balance. If a mealy apple, a bruised banana, a bowl of mushy brown rice, or some broccoli that goes down funny is their first (or most recent) encounter with that food, it can be difficult to get them to try it again. And in some cases, maybe if they did try it again, they would still have an unpleasant reaction, because Bodies Are Weird (TM). The point is, it’s not someone else’s call to make, unless they’ve actually been asked for help — and even then, there’s always something about another person you can’t possibly know.

Can You Hate My Condition, and Not Hate Me?

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Recently, former Mets catcher Gary Carter passed away from a malignant brain tumor at the age of 57, and a lot of the commentary I saw on the subject came down to (or sometimes, was actually stated directly) as, “Cancer sucks.” In other words, “Cancer sucks because it took the life of this person, who we really liked.” They didn’t mean “people with cancer suck,” did they? Quite the opposite, because Gary Carter would still have been Gary Carter without his having to experience glioblastoma multiforme, and we’d have gotten to experience a lot more Gary Carter without it. And frankly, glioblastoma multiforme is something I do not want. It is something I do not want anyone I remotely care about ever to have. I don’t even want most people I dislike to ever have to have it. It is a truly monstrous, painful illness that is almost always fatal, with a treatment course that can only be described as pure torture, which must be undertaken for the person who has it to have even the remotest chance of survival.

In other words, it ain’t fat. Or, for that matter, autism.

You see, nobody actually dies of being fat or autistic. Really. Either condition can possibly exacerbate other conditions, but that’s not the same thing as direct cause. And neither of those conditions, in and of themselves, causes anywhere near the difficulty that is caused by people believing the world would be a better place without those of us who have them. Does that mean all our difficulties are socially constructed? Perhaps not. But we won’t actually know what’s socially constructed and what isn’t until people are willing to make room for us.

Landon Bryce recently wrote a powerful piece for the Autcast site called If You Hate Autism, You Hate Autistic People. It got me thinking: where is the line to be drawn on hating that certain conditions exist, versus hating people who have them? As I’ve said before, although I realize that other people who have experienced major depression don’t necessarily feel the way I do, I don’t think my life has been enriched in any way by it. I’d be thrilled to death if you could just snip out the part of my brain that hates me, so that I’d never have to think about it again. That is, if you could do it without leaving an even bigger mess behind. So far, nobody knows how to do that, so I rely on the Evil Brain Drugs of Doom to keep it quiet.

And that’s just it. Regardless of what the condition is that’s being discussed, whether it’s something benign-but-vexing like IBS, or something people are irrationally boogedy-scared of like autism or “obesity,” or something that’s actually potentially life-threatening, like 50-or-higher-Beck-score major depressive disorder, here are the questions I’d want to ask myself about it:

1) Do I feel that this condition is something I’d be well rid of?
2) If the answer to 1) is “yes”:
A) Can I fix it without breaking something else?
i) If the answer to A) is “no” for me personally, regardless of whether someone else with that same condition could do so, what price will I pay for the thing I break?
ii) Is the thing I’m (potentially) breaking less important to me than the thing I’m (potentially) fixing?
B) Am I saying “yes” mostly because it’s actually a drag on my functionality, or mostly because other people disapprove of it?
C) Does my “yes” mean I’m required to go to any possible length to try to fix it, over and over and over again, just so people around me can be more comfortable?
3) If I can’t definitively answer “yes” to 1):
A) If I could fix just the aspects of it that cause me the most functional difficulty, without breaking something else, would I be satisfied with that?
B) What are my limits on what I’ll do to achieve that? (And yes, I’m allowed to have them!)

It seems to me that questions 2 and 3 are not being taken seriously in this world. And I want to do whatever I can do to fix that — without breaking something else, of course.

And if question number 1 returns a definitive “no,” regardless of the condition, then that’s the end of that.

But really, it’s up to the person who has that condition to decide that. If you love and respect me, then let me tell you which is which. If I have something that’s truly imminently life-threatening, it’s certainly understandable to hate this thing that could take me away from you, and I probably won’t be all that happy about it myself. If I have something that causes me hideous pain, I can understand you hating this thing that makes me suffer, and I can’t blame you there either; I am terrible at handling pain. I’m pretty sure Gary Carter, wherever he is, doesn’t mind people saying that cancer sucks, I’ll bet he wasn’t too fond of it, either. But he probably would have a problem with people saying he should have tried every woo-woo treatment in the world to try to get rid of it.

Who Gets To Eat What They Love? (Hint: Not Women)

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Let me make one thing perfectly clear. Dairy-related digestive iss-yews notwithstanding, I absolutely loathe cream cheese. I despise pimentos. Mayonnaise rivals ipecac syrup for me in the anti-emetic department. So suffice it to say that Paula Deen’s recipes, for the most part, do not appeal to me at all. I do make a GF/CF version of her cornbread dressing, though, and it rules. I just swap out Earth Balance for the butter and use gluten-free breadstuffs, and also use mushrooms, onion greens, and chestnuts in lieu of the celery and white onion. Yummers.

But you see, I am fat. Fatter than Paula Deen, even. A lot fatter than her, in fact. I’m never supposed to eat that stuff. Ever. At all. Not even for a holiday treat. I shouldn’t even think about it, lest I incur some sort of phantom pancreatic stressor solely from imagining the taste. Paula and I, and maybe you if you are female and have any visible flesh whatsoever, are supposed to pick at salads full of rubber bands with the merest hint of olive oil and lemon while sipping Diet Coke like good girls, day after day after day, even on our birthdays, because if we don’t, we will be punished. We will not have earned the ultimate Upper-Class Good Girl Prize of getting to live to be 100 years old with no health problems whatsoever, which would have been ours if only we had no hipster-disapproved vices of any kind. (Alcohol, coffee, and marijuana don’t count as vices in Hipster Land, not even in mass quantities.) Uh huh. You betcha. Because thin people in their 60s never, ever get type 2 diabetes. Nope, not ever.

For all anyone knows who doesn’t watch her eat every single meal, Ms. Deen does eat more rubber band salads than chicken-fried steaks. But it doesn’t matter. She might as well eat a pound of batter-fried butter cubes every day and wash it down with a gallon of Pepsi laced with a quart of cherry syrup, because that’s what everyone wants to believe she eats. Only bad, bad people get this bad, bad disease, and if you are a woman and you indulge in high-fat goodies and you’re any heftier than, say, Alison Brie, oh boy are you bad. It’s a notion with about as much basis in science as “step on a crack, break your mother’s back” (or for that matter, “don’t drink or wear miniskirts and you’ll never get raped”), and yet, people fall for it. They want to believe. It never ceases to astonish me how quickly certain hipster atheists (regardless of gender) morph instantly into finger-waggling church ladies the minute food gets mentioned. Drink like a man, fuck like a man, oh fuck yes…but never, ever, ever eat like a man. Unless you’re very, very thin — and even then, you’d better watch that intake, missy. Youthful metabolism doesn’t last forever, you know.

There’s a young chef in Portland by the name of Gabriel Rucker. He founded a couple of fancy-schmancy restaurants here in town that I’ve never been to, that specialize in things like maple ice cream with bacon and foie gras brulee and cauliflower crepes with Mornay sauce. People drool at the very mention of his food. The New York frigging Times can’t get enough of him, and they’re 3000 miles away! You don’t go to one his restaurants expecting diet food; they’d laugh in your face. And nobody ever accuses Gabriel Rucker of leading people down the primrose path to pancreatic destruction. Hasn’t happened once. You see, Gabriel Rucker is a man, and he’s thin. Nobody gives a shit if he eats that kind of stuff for every meal; in fact, nobody would ever think to ask him if he does. (I’m guessing no celebrity chef eats stuff all that fancy for every single meal; the cleanup alone would be a massive headache.) And if he announced he had T2d tomorrow, do you think there’d be the over-the-top outrage we see about Deen? Hah. Oh, and also, Gabriel Rucker cooks mostly for rich people. That probably has more than a little to do with it.

I’m getting to think the most radical statement a woman can possibly make these days is, “I eat what I love, as much as I want, and if anyone doesn’t like how I look because of it, they can sit and spin.” Saying “I enjoy inviting entire football teams in with their pet ocelots for a nightly gang-bang with fire rings and crotchless asbestos suits” will be a total yawn by comparison. Look, I do think there are legitimate moral issues surrounding Deen’s endorsement of a diabetes drug. If you want to argue the ethics of celebrity pharmaceutical endorsements, I can’t really object; all of them make me a little queasy. If you want to argue that non-insulin treatments for diabetes have limited efficacy — hey, we can talk about that too. Interesting and compelling arguments can be made either way. But those are separate issues from whether or not she was obligated to open her medical file and her pantry to the whole world, and put a Webcam on herself every time she sat down to eat, the very second she was diagnosed. She was not. Period.

And you know what? Even if she was, and still is, on the fried-butter-and-cherry-Pepsi diet, and even if her health would have been perfect if she’d been a good girl and eaten like she was told, maybe she’d rather not live to be 100 years old if it means office product salads and aspartame for every goddamn meal. Me, I don’t like the taste of rubber bands any more than I like pimentos. Pass the gluten-free skillet-fried pie, please.

Fat Fat Haters

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Last week, as I’m sure most of you know, Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times did a piece called “The Fat Trap,” which was both about the virtual impossibility of significant weight loss (at least without literally making it a full-time job) — and in the end, also about Ms. Parker-Pope revealing, for the first time, that she herself is a fat person and deeply ashamed of it, and promising to do better. Like Ragen says here, even though it doesn’t make any sense.

I actually felt bad for TPP reading this story. I mean, here’s a woman with a job ten million other writers would kill for, and her size (estimated by her to be 60-plus pounds “overweight,” though it’s not clear how she defines that) has never interfered with her health in any way — and yet instead of making her date wear his dinner when he makes some snide remark about her body, she’s ashamed of herself instead. That is some fupped-up cultural programming here, folks. Here’s research, right here in your face, saying that almost nobody can do this, and the few who do don’t seem particularly happy about what they have to sacrifice to maintain it…yet you hate yourself for not being able to do it anyway, and will fall out the window with that Superman cape on again and again, hoping for a strong enough breeze? Yeesh.

But this week, TPP published a follow-up to that story, in which she tackles readers’ questions about the original article. And now, actually, I’m kind of pissed. One question reads, in part:

A Slate article on your piece argues that the mentality of these people “resembles the symptoms of an eating disorder.” They suggested that our fat problem is not obesity but that we encourage people to adopt an eating-disorder mentality to fight obesity. How would you respond to this?

To which TPP replies:

I think if a person had epilepsy and needed to adopt a very regimented diet to control that disease, nobody would accuse them of having an eating disorder.


Okay, now that we’re done with the onomatopoeia portion of our presentation…while I’m just some dumbass fatty who works in healthcare, and hence shouldn’t have to give freebies to a frigging New York Times health writer who probably makes more in a year than I will for the entire rest of my life, let’s talk about ketogenic diets for seizures for a moment, K? To begin with, this is a treatment of last resort for refractory epilepsy, almost always used on children with this condition, rarely adults. Refractory means it has not responded to any other treatment — medications, biofeedback, yoga, therapeutic nose-picking, whatever. (I’ll give those of you unfamiliar with my sense of humor a moment to Google “therapeutic nose-picking” and see if it actually exists.) The reason it’s a treatment of last resort is that you have to be monitored like a hawk by doctors and dietitians in order to go on it, and since it’s basically Atkins cranked up to 13 (with way more fat), eating any food away from home other than brown-bag is pretty much an impossibility.

In other words, this is an experimental treatment for epilepsy. Nobody treats you like a self-destructive lazybutt if you get (or your kid gets) a diagnosis of epilepsy and you don’t immediately start preparing pitchers of bacon fat to drink. Nobody thinks you’re a failure and not trying hard enough if you still have seizures while you’re on it. Nobody calls you a liar and in denial if you’d rather keep trying new meds to see if there’s one that won’t make you forget your own name or require 20 hours of sleep every day. Nobody worth listening to for half a second, anyway. You are allowed not to want to do this, not to want to even consider this, because it is a giant, huge, unremitting pain in the gazongas. (Probably literally; in the deathless words of Buffpuff in the old Shapely Prose comments, “you don’t shit for a week” when you eat like this.)

And not only that, no one is expected to remain on this diet indefinitely. Every couple of years, people who are on it are tapered off — again, under close medical supervision — for a few months’ rest. You know what happens if you’re on a low-carb diet for weight loss and you go off of it for a few months? That’s right, every single pound comes back and brings friends with it. It’s like you never did anything at all, and you’ll be treated as if you haven’t.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting fed up to the teeth with fat people who still think it’s our civic duty to sacrifice every moment of our lives to become as thin as possible, especially if they are media stars with megaphones loud enough to hear on every planet. It’s not about what TPP eats or doesn’t eat, or weighs or doesn’t weigh; I don’t give a rat’s toenail clippings about that. If Gary Taubes or whoever really likes eating super-low-carb, if they feel great doing it, if it’s worth it to them — fine. Taubes has claimed to eat no carbs at all, not even vegetables or fruit, because they make him gain weight. Hey, more cherries for me, then. Let him and the other meat-heads have all the five-pound T-bones they want, even for breakfast.

But how you talk about your diet equates very nicely with how you feel about other fat people. Do you actually expect, or at least hope, that all fat people will follow your example? I’ve rarely met a public dieter who didn’t (killer exception: Debra Sapp-Yarwood), though I’m sure there are a few private dieters who don’t make it a topic of conversation. Do you actually think it’s realistic that none of us will touch another carb of any kind for the rest of our lives? Do you actually think it’s sustainable to keep doing hours of aerobics every single day, forever, no matter how sick or how much in pain we are or what else is going on in our lives? (“Sorry, I know you’re on your deathbed, but I really can’t miss my gym time.”) Do you actually — even secretly, in the very pit of your heart — think people are fools not to give up their friends, their hobbies, anything that could possibly interfere with the job of serious weight loss and lifelong maintenance? Then you are an asshole, and I don’t care what you weigh, you are not on my side.

To be fair, I can’t imagine that Tara Parker-Pope would have her plum media job if she didn’t parrot the party line about weight. Gina Kolata can question it if she wants; she’s thin, nobody thinks she’s just looking for an excuse to shove donut holes up her nose. (Not that I can imagine why anyone who’s not on Atkins thinks that sounds like fun, but whatevs.) That boor of a date of hers, in a way, was making a very salient point: people expect someone with her job to be thin, as if she could just flip a switch and make it happen, just will all those fat cells to disappear if she’s smart enough. I’m actually kind of surprised to find out she’s not thin myself, given some of the things she’s said about weight before.

But that just makes this all the more of a letdown. What’s it going to take for us all to be on our own sides? To say, “I deserve a life too, and I’m not going to devote the time that’s pissing away rapidly on the hourglass to counting every single thing I put in my mouth, and sweating it all off for hours, and bargaining with myself about whether I can have a single bite of something when I’m shaking from hypoglycemia, and drinking enough water before bed so I can fall asleep with my stomach full, and hoping I don’t have to wake up to pee because then I’ll be hungry again”? Maybe that’s “a life” for some people. But it will never, ever be one for me.

Sometimes an Apple is Never a Banana

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Oh, uh…hai. Yep, I still exist. I just haven’t posted because I’ve been monumentally busy offline with some disability-rights stuff, and I’ve had to work overtime, and also..well, you know how when you haven’t called someone in a very very long time it makes you more hesitant to call them, because…well, where do you start?

But I just read something that made me say, “Okay, start here.” It was a story about a 375-pound prisoner who was granted a reprieve by a judge of one day for every pound lost, and needless to say, GIANT TW on the entire thing, but the gist of it was that the man lost 25 pounds in 20 days, which shocked even the judge, and that situation was just a big rusty nail on which to hang a bunch of fattypanic and diabeeetus catastrophization on. You know, the US TV networks. That’s what they do.

And then there was this:

According to an August 2011 report, if every obese person decreased his or her body mass index by just 1 percent (a loss of 2 pounds for a 200-pound adult), as many as 2.4 million diabetes cases, 1.7 million cases of heart disease and stroke and 127,000 cancer cases could be prevented.

Okay, that’s one of those “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” situations, is it not? All I have to lose is two measly pounds, and I’ll live forever? Why didn’t they say so? All I have to do is stop taking my stomach medicine and start going doody eight times a day again, and…well, okay, maybe not that. Maybe I could start blowing my nose harder after I sneeze? Yeah, that sounds a lot easier.

Still, I couldn’t help but follow the link back to this alleged study that said any weight loss at all, by any possible means, is the difference between deathly sick and lifetime well. (Warning on more TW, plus video opens automatically at the link.) And then followed another link within that story (same warnings apply). And wouldn’t you know it, it’s just more sub-Wagnerian opera about how we’re “projected” to all be fat and diabetic by the year 2030, using about the same methodology which “projects,” in the deathless words of Paul Campos, “that within a few generations Olympic sprinters will be running at speeds that will hurl them into low Earth orbit and everyone in America will have a plasma TV seventeen miles wide.”

In other words, they don’t actually have any data, it’s just more OMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE IF WE DON’T STOP EATING sillyshit, the likes of which I’ve learned how to screen out because I’d rather not have to add an antihypertensive to my already burdensome drug cocktail. But I actually followed yet another link to the CDC page that made these “projections,” and this passage leaped out at me like Alan Arkin in Wait Until Dark:

One in 10 U.S. adults has diabetes now. The prevalence is expected to rise sharply over the next 40 years due to an aging population more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, increases in minority groups that are at high risk for type 2 diabetes, and people with diabetes living longer, according to CDC projections published in the journal Population Health Metrics. Because the study factored in aging, minority populations and lifespan, the projections are higher than previous estimates.

Do you see what I see? People with diabetes are living longer. Yeah, isn’t the whole reason they wave DIABETES DIABETES DIABETES DOOM DOOM DOOM LOSE THE WEIGHT ALL OF IT RIGHT NAO NAO NAO FATASS at us all day, every day, because this is an allegedly deadly disease that will first turn us into people with disabilities (which nobody wants to be, of course, because Disability = Tragedy), and then kill us dead before we can get to our children’s college graduations? What are you saying, that’s not happening anymore? Because it’s being diagnosed and managed earlier and only a small percentage of diabetes patients actually experience major comorbidities before they’re very old, at which point they might actually die of something else first? It’s now more like osteoporosis or hypothyroidism, something old people commonly get but is extremely manageable? Well, gosh, that’s not exactly setting my ass on fire to get down to Jenny Craig right away, is it? Surely ABC can’t have that.

I mean, seriously. Is anyone in the Paid Media, or any of the Upper-Class Twits they interview almost exclusively about these matters, paying attention to what’s going on out there? People are losing their jobs left and right and not getting new ones, like ever. Kids are graduating from college with more debt than they’d have to go into to buy a condo, and they’re not getting jobs that actually use their educations, like ever. Those of us who DO have jobs are being worked to fucking death and having our compensation slashed and basically being treated like sled dogs at Iditarod only less intelligent, and we have no recourse because once we lose those jobs we won’t ever get new ones. Like ever. Think that’s going to fuck up our health some, Upper-Class Twits? And if you really want to decrease the costs of diabetes, how about negotiating drug prices like every other industrialized country, so we don’t have to smuggle our insulin down from Canada if we lose our employee-sponsored health insurance? How about limiting the compensation insurance executives can pull down, so that it’s not in the multi-globillions? The poor babies will just have to settle for the $10,000 bottle of wine they have on hand, instead of dispatching an assistant in the Airbus to go pick up a different bottle from the wine cellar at the Amagansett house and bring it back to Antibes because the one they have doesn’t go spectacularly well with abalone. Awwwwww.

Think about it, though. I’m pretty sure the people who run the US government would love nothing more than if at least half the nonaffluent people in this country would just die already. There aren’t enough jobs to go around and never will be, the social safety net is in tatters, they just don’t know how we’re gonna keep all us useless eaters alive for the next 20 years, diabetes or no diabetes. Our dropping dead would make things infinitely easier for them. So if one more potential death sentence gets eliminated, how are they going to manage that?

Today’s type 2 diabetes is not yesterday’s type 2 diabetes. Not only was yesterday’s diabetes rarely diagnosed before the end stages, when gangrene and retinopathy and such had already set in, but they keep ratcheting the definition down all the time; I’ve even seen some doctors recommend a maximum HbA1c of no more than 5. (Mine is 5.7, and I’ve never had a fasting sugar over 92, ever.) So it’s apples to bananas again. It’s as if they managed to increase the average lifespan of prostate-having persons to age 90, then started yowling because the rate of prostate cancer was skyrocketing. Well, no freaking poopie it is! But did you see the AVERAGE LIFESPAN OF 90 part? Really, folks, we should be so lucky that we’ll all be 85-year-old diabetics one day.

Goats Are My Heroes; Or, How What I Don’t Know Keeps Biting Me

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Recently, Shaunta posted about the problems she was having adhering to a gluten-free diet, and it got me thinking about my own situation. During the last six months, I have not intentionally eaten anything gluten-filled (nor have I knowingly eaten anything else on my own personal Sick List) — and considering how much I loved the living shit out of all kinds of gluteny goodies, that’s pretty danged good. Credit given, head patted, oh goody joy.

However. There have been plenty of times when I didn’t look carefully enough, and then got glutened. Back in December, I joked to a friend that I wished someone could “double-blind” me and maybe slip me soy sauce when I thought I was eating tamari or something, that way I’d know this wasn’t all in my head. Well, it ain’t no joke, I’ve “double-blinded” myself plenty since then, and let’s just say that if there were still pay toilets out there, I’d probably be broke by now. Let’s see. There was the yummy dessert tea (Almond Sunset), which turned out to have barley in it. There was the store-bought mole sauce, which had frigging wheat crackers as an ingredient. There was that oh-so-delicious house-made root beer at a local pub…yep, barley again, dammit. There was the oatmeal (*coughMcCann’scough*) processed at an oats-only facility, but likely cross-contaminated during transport. Oh, and don’t even get me started about the number of times I’ve ordered fried food in restaurants without asking if they fried their wings or potatoes in the same oil that they did their onion rings or chicken tenders in, or if any of those things were dusted with wheat flour before cooking. And even when I did get confirmation about a wings-only fryer, I neglected to ask if the jerk sauce I was about to order had gluten in it…ayup.

Why does this keep happening? What’s the point of adopting a special diet if all I’m going to do is cross my fingers and pray that what I just ate doesn’t have any sickmakers in it? I might not make myself ill as often, but if the purpose of this is not to get sick at all by my own doing, I’m falling down on the job. Pretty much literally.

Part of this, I think, goes back to the constant admonitions I experienced as a kid that I was being weird and difficult and a pain in the ass and people were tired of hearing my annoying voice and answering my dopey questions. In Gluten-Free Girl’s book, she talks about not wanting to seem like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, that woman who drove waitstaff and dinner companions to poo-flinging monkeyhood by asking for sauces on the side and things warmed up to just the right temperature. Yep. I’ve had that thought, too — I don’t want to be one of those people, picky picky picky, it’s just food, damn it, one meal out of your life, cook it yourself if you want it just so. Only it’s not just for a meal that I might not find exactly to my liking, it’s for a meal that might well put me out of commission for the rest of that day, and maybe the next day, too, maybe even longer.

So yeah. I have to be one of those people, if I don’t want to get sick. I have to. And that also means limiting my restaurant options to places I know for sure are nontoxic for me, and potentially foregoing stuff I might really like, because it’s not safe for me to eat it, even if the ingredients look okay on paper. Same goes for food at parties, conferences, other people’s homes, whatever. That’s the other mondo sucko part of this. Not that I don’t enjoy cooking, and do lots of it, because I do. But I don’t want to cook 21 meals a week from scratch week in and week out, okay? I just don’t. Who does? So that pretty much means that before I go anywhere, or have anything delivered to me, I have to, underline HAVE TO, do my homework. Call them ahead of time if need be, to make sure that what I’m about to put in my mouth will make it past Checkpoint Charlie at the entrance to my belleh. Ugh. I just have to remember that I’m not the first person in the world to ask them about the gluten (or dairy, etc.), every restaurant gets calls like that all the time. They won’t hang up on me.

Not, of course, that a little experimentation is necessarily bad, because that’s how I find out what I actually can have. Which brings me to the goats — or more specifically, their milk. Since I started accumulating lists of No foods, I pretty much assumed that all dairy products were off limits to me, because I had such terrible problems with anything having to do with cow’s milk (exception: clarified butter, which has no milk solids). But after about five months of total dairy abstention, during which I tried pretty much every vegan cheese substitute there was to try and hated all of them except Daiya mozzarella (which still feels a little weird going down, for reasons I’ve yet to quantify), I finally broke down and bought a small piece of chevre at Trader Joe’s and said, “What the hell, if I can’t eat this, I’ll pass it on to someone who can.” Y-reka! It was SO GOOD. None of that plasticky, rubbery taste I’d been suffering through, and my stomach felt fantastic after eating it. Oh, man, did I ever miss cheese.

And from there, you know what I did? I bought a quart of goat’s milk. And I made some damn mac and goat cheddar cheese (with Ancient Harvest corn/quinoa elbows). Heaven on a fork, and my tummy was so pleased with me! Then I made a milkshake with the goat’s milk and some Tempt hemp-milk chocolate frozen dessert. YUM-MEEE! And I could make my beloved Siamese Chicken Curry with Broccoli and Peanuts, which I’ve made for over two decades and which always tasted “off” when using milk subs, and it was just how I remembered it. And oh, the goat cheeses and sheep cheeses that were out there for me to have. A Brie-like soft cheese that I could have with my gluten-free King Arthur bread! Some ricotta (goat) which I combined with Pecorino Romano (sheep) to make eggplant freaking Parmesan! So two of my former “regular rotation” recipes came back to me, just like that. (Cow’s milk in any form continues to be a no-no; I had some butter the other day, just a small amount, and my stomach gave me the finger.)

So now artisan cheese, or at least some of it, can be part of my life again. If only someone would make a great gluten-free artisan bread…

Happy Musical Blast From the Past: The Rubberband Man

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Because I thought we could all use one. I know I could.

This is a live performance of the 1976 smash hit (#2 pop, #1 Hot Soul in Billboard) by the Spinners (The Detroit Spinners in the UK) featuring the late, magnificent Philippe Wynne on lead vocal, as shown on the 1970s US TV series, The Midnight Special. According to The Billboard Book of #2 Hits (yes, such a thing exists, although they only did it once), Thom Bell and his lyricist, the late Linda Creed, wrote it to cheer up Bell’s son, who was being picked on at school for his weight. It’s all about a “short fat guy” who uses a giant rubberband to make funky music. (Lyrics here.) Check out the rubberband dance action at the finale!

BADD 2011: (In)(di)visibility

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2011
meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Blog note for newcomers: Welcome to my world! All first-time commenters (or those whose IP addresses have changed since they last commented here) automatically go into moderation; I am in the U.S. Pacific Time Zone and work nights and sleep days, so it might take a while for me to approve your comment. Trolls, however, can expect to be immediately perma-spammed. Thanks.

I am not divisible from my fat.

– Marilyn Wann

How do we separate You People from this terrible condition you have and make you normalnormalnormal? How? How?

I’m a big fatty and a big autistic. There are differences between how I’m regarded in society because of my fat, and how I’m regarded in society because of my autism, but the big difference for me is the issue of individual blame. Nobody has figured out a way to rank out autistic people for “giving themselves autism,” not yet, so all the catastrophizing about autism centers around how did we as a society damage so many brains all of a sudden, and how can we stop? (Of course, those of us who were diagnosed in adulthood, or clearly had autistic ancestors whether they got the diagnosis or not, could tell them they’re asking the wrong damn question, but we’re usually dismissed as either too autistic to see beyond our own noses or not autistic enough to understand. Funny how that cuts in both directions.)

But fat people get blamed for their fat from here to Sunday, and every Sunday after that. It’s all about the naughty things we put in our mouths, and if we’d only stop, we could be normalnormalnormal forever…right? Never mind that almost nobody manages to lose a third or half or, gods help us, three-fourths or more of their body weight and keep it off for good with no physical or mental health consequences whatsoever. Somebody, somewhere did it, just like somebody, somewhere fed their autistic kid the “right” diet and made them normalnormalnormal, so that means it will work for everybody, everywhere.

I know there are people in fat acceptance who don’t like their fellow fatties defending their “good health habits,” that doing so defends classist and ablist tropes about how we somehow owe it to the world to be perfect angels with no vices in order to earn the “good fatty” badge (while thin people are perfectly free to have all the vices they want, as long as said vices don’t show up on their thighs). I understand where they’re coming from, but it’s also true that being perceived by others as being self-destructive and unreliable costs us jobs, educations, housing, medical care, and so on. The perception of fat people being self-destructive and unreliable is directly rooted in the idea that if we just tried a little, normalnormalnormalcy could be ours, and we just don’t feel like it, pass the chocolate-covered French fries. But for most of us, achieving the state expected of us wouldn’t just be a matter of trying, it would be the equivalent of earning a Ph.D. in astrophysics while simultaneously working swing shift as a police officer and raising triplets as a single parent — and we’d never get to stop. Maybe someone can actually do this, but expecting it to be a routine occurrence is, frankly, an expectation not supported by existing evidence.

I’m spared this expectation when it comes to my autism. But I also know that almost all the research on autism is going into prevention — “catching it” as early as possible, preferably in utero, and if not, then in babyhood so that as many autistic tendencies as possible can be beaten back with various therapies. It’s not going into what I can expect of my autistic brain as I age, or into services that might actually make my life better, or into improved diagnostic tools for adults, or even much in the way of assistance for autistics of any age whose families are not affluent. In fact, this focus on prevention pretty much rules out making any effort towards improving the life of any autistic person who insists on presenting as autistic after the age of, oh, 16 or so. We’ve been written off as useless employees, bad relationship partners, people whose judgment can never be trusted, people whose executive function in all areas renders us incompetent, and even too dangerous just to be around, just because of our diagnosis. Get to know us as individuals before deciding we’re wastes of skin? Hah. Never happen.

Make no mistake about it. In both cases, it’s divisibility we’re fighting about. It doesn’t much matter if divisibility from our “abnormalcy” is thought to be a matter of individual initiative, parental effort, or sweeping societal change. The basic assumption is that there’s a normal person underneath waiting to be liberated, and the goal of finding that normal person “trapped” in a defective body should take precedence over everything else.

But Meowser, suppose there WAS a cure for those things? Wouldn’t you want it?

Short answer: Not as much as I want a cure for my irritable bowel syndrome. That really blows some chunks.

Longer, more serious answer: That depends. What else would this “cure” do to me?

The very nature of fixing things means you run the risk of breaking something else. Sometimes that risk is worth taking. Not eating gluten or cow’s milk (I can handle goat’s milk in limited amounts) is a royal pain in the patootie, and I dread going back to New York and being surrounded by great pizza and bagels and cannolis and challah and wondering how I’m going to avoid succumbing (and subsequently spending way too much of my trip in the john). But I remember the days of crapping my brains out and having horrible gas pains pretty much every day of my life, and I don’t want to go back to that, thanks. That “fix,” so far, seems to be worth it.

But if you’re Officially Fat, you already know what it’s like to be faced with the hard sell of a “cure” that turns out to do more harm than good. We’re faced with incredible pressure to take diet pills that will inevitably get pulled off the market because of serious health sequelae, get surgery with an incredibly high risk of death and complications, or spend every spare minute we have working out like hamsters on a wheel while running a serious energy deficit. This is not optional; in many cases, we must actively disobey our doctors not to take the “cure” that’s offered us, even though the evidence that it will actually make us permanently thin is pretty damn sketchy. I don’t have to, because my doctors are smart enough to know that telling people they have to lose half their body weight in order to improve their health is ridiculous. But I’ve seen enough medical records through my job and talked to enough of my fellow fatasses to know that this makes me quite privileged indeed.

The “cures” offered so far for parents to try to “fight” autism are either extremely risky (chelation, avoiding vaccines) or much too expensive, time-consuming, and socially isolating for them to be doable for most families (full-time ABA, GAPS/SCD diet), and the evidence that they actually help autistics is not exactly clad in iron, any more than the alleged cures for “obesity” are. What makes anyone think any subsequent so-called cure is going to be any different? Wouldn’t you more or less have to have a full brain transplant in order not to be autistic at all (as opposed to simply finding it easier to pass for nonautistic)? And if you have a full brain transplant, how are you still you?

Recently, codeman38 commented on Shakesville that while he wouldn’t want the full brain transplant, he wouldn’t mind having an “off button” for the autism to be used in certain situations. I know what he means. I can’t drive a car because I get momentarily overwhelmed by everything whooshing through my filters; I wouldn’t mind a “cure” that would allow me to turn it off while I was driving. But again, if I take it, what else is it going to do to me? I’m already on some pretty serious chemicals for major depression that have, for the last 20 years, pretty well mulched what was left of my metabolism; I accept this, because to me, nothing is worse (or more life-endangering) than feeling like you’re a piece of shit that deserves to die as painfully as possible. Is Asperger’s in that same category of soul-sucking, life-threatening puke vortex? I don’t think so. Not enough of one that I would monkey with my other major organs in order to turn my brain “right side in.” Whatever that means.

Want more BADD? Click here for the full list!

How A Bowl of Oatmeal Pissed Me Off

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Right now, as I’m typing, the number 1 most e-mailed story on the New York Times site is Mark Bittman’s evisceration of McDonald’s oatmeal. The article pisses me off, and I’ve been trying to figure out why it pisses me off so much. It’s not because I’m such a big fan of either McDonald’s or oatmeal, both of which I’ve always considered to be food I eat, if I ever do, because it’s there and not much else is, it’s not something I ever really crave. (Your mileage on either may, of course, vary, but that’s just me.)

And truth be known, I already do most of the things that foodie scolds like Bittman think I should be doing (even more so now that my diet has been purged of stuff that makes me too ill to function), and I’m sure they’d be pleased as punch if not for the fact that I’m DEATHFAT, and thus, in their eyes, automatically in need of a conservatorship even without taking my brain cooties into account. I like the fact that Bittman, in his own way, is trying to make cooking less intimidating, and gods help me, I actually like some of his recipes. I’ve made his cornmeal pancake recipe (without the pine nuts) a couple of times, and it’s wonderful. And easy.

And I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea to talk about perceived versus actual convenience, having once been married to someone who thought it took 30 minutes to empty the dishwasher and 40 minutes to drive from San Francisco to Reno. If you have access to a grocery store, cooking space and instruments, plus a little heat-retaining storage container for your oatmeal, he’s probably right that it’s faster to just nuke some rolled oats or put them in milk and let them soak while you’re in the shower, than it is to go to McD’s. And he’s probably also right that there’s more nutritional value in that then in any kind of “instant” oatmeal, and it will be cheaper, too.

So why am I so irritated with the article? Well, for starters, Bittman is one of those “you must cook” people who make me want to throw eggs on the kitchen floor deliberately. There was another article of his that I’m too annoyed to want to bother looking up now, where he said having lousy kitchen facilities was no excuse for not cooking; after all, he lived in a place with lousy kitchen facilities, and he just asked a neighbor if he could borrow theirs! Yeah, ahem. That’s IF you know people with a better kitchen, and IF you know them well enough to ask them if it’s okay to make a mess in their space, and IF they’d say yes, and IF they don’t live so far away that everything you make will get cold by the time you get it home, and IF it’s actually safe for you to be there by yourself, and IF you can manage to carry all the stuff over there and back…all of which, of course, will be a slam-dunk for every single NYT reader, since poor (or disabled) (or geographically isolated) people don’t ever read it, and if they do they’re not in the NYT’s prime demographic anyway, so nyaah.

So I’ll admit it, Bittman was walking a fine line on my personal Annoying/Useful scale already. And I think I hit upon what pushed him over to the annoying side; it’s all the stuff about ZOMGCALORIES and YUCKCHEMICALS, and although he doesn’t mention fat people specifically, he might as well. MCDONALDS AND THE UNWASHED MASSES IT’S PRACTICALLY A RECIPE FOR INTERPLANETARY FATTY BOOM BAH DOOM. Now, granted, most of his article focuses not on how people have tuna cans where their brains should be if they think this stuff is “healthy,” but on how McD’s should be ashamed of themselves for telling people it’s “healthy” when it’s not. Why, he demands, couldn’t it be made with honey and skim milk instead? (Er, maybe because they tested it and people didn’t like it?)

But all you have to do is read one page of the comments to know that the implication is exactly what Bittman intends; you ARE a tuna-brain if you eat this stuff, ever, even with a free coupon. Making your own oatmeal, or your own whatever, is what sets you apart from the hoi polloi, who are foolish enough to think five minutes waiting alone in the drive-through for a little peace and quiet is some sort of gift. Because you know EXACTLY what it’s like to have to work two jobs to feed your kids and only get three hours of sleep a night, and one more set of dirty dishes plus a microwave mop-up shouldn’t faze anyone, period, end of sentence.

But seriously, is this stuff any worse for you than instant oatmeal you buy in the market? Or at Starbuck’s? And frankly, with my digestive wonkitude, it’s practically the only thing I could eat there for breakfast (hold the cream), if I was on the road or something. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the onus against “processed” food, and I wonder where the line is for the foodie scolds. Isn’t everything we eat processed in some way? Is my brown-rice pasta, which consists of brown rice flour and water, a “processed” food? After all, that’s not how rice looks coming off the bush, right? My Daiya (non-dairy) cheese is processed all the way, and Whole Foods sells it proudly. Fish from the fish market? Well, it’s not like they have a boat and a net and a freshly stocked lake in the back of the store and they just throw it off the boat to you; someone has to take the bones out and clean it and pack it and treat it to prevent spoilage.

Look, I’m all in favor of nutrition, and I’d definitely say that if millions of people have to make the choice every day of “eat McDonald’s or starve,” that’s a pretty sad state of affairs. But then again, I don’t see anyone rushing in to fill the vacuum with anything better — that is, of comparable price point, ubiquity, and near-universal digestibility, plus more optimal nutrition. Know what’s really not healthy? Not eating at all. I’m not sure where the foodie scolds get the idea that it would be better to let poor people starve to death than give them McD’s, but way too many of them seem to believe that, and it’s scary.

Quickie Reblog: Fategories

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

I don’t usually do this, but hey, if cutting and pasting’s good enough for D** S***age, it’s good enough for me. About a year ago, I did a post called “Fategories” (yes, I finally fixed the spelling in the post, although I can’t manage to fix the URL), wherein I came up with my theory about why so very many people are so very eager to hack up unsolicited diet tips anywhere there’s fat people, especially fat people who say they DON’T want their farkakte diet tips. It’s because there are four basic human metabolic categories, and people giving the diet tips mistakenly essentialize their experience in getting and staying thin as universal.

To wit:

Category 1 is people who can get and/or stay thin through no effort whatsoever; in fact, they would have a very hard time not being thin, if ever called upon to do so.

Category 2 is people who can get and/or stay thin with a token effort — that is, doing so doesn’t take over their entire life. (Although they might not be able to get quite as thin as they think they should be, if their body ideal hovers somewhere below a BMI of 20.)

Category 3 is people who can get and/or stay thin (or even anywhere close to it) only by devoting their entire lives forever to the cause.

And Category 4 is people who won’t be able to get and/or stay thin (or anywhere close) no matter what they do.

Most diet-tip hacks are category 2’s, who mistakenly think everyone else is a category 2. But occasionally you do get category 3’s who think everyone should have the exact same degree of obsession that they do (and for the most part, either haven’t passed the 5-year mark or haven’t lost more than 30 pounds to meet their goal). And sometimes you get category 1’s who are blissfully unaware of their genetic privilege.

Once more, with ketchup: If you think you believe in human diversity but you draw the line at body size, sleep requirements, physical and mental ability and predisposition to sustain daily multi-hour “vigorous workouts” forever, and indulgence in the desire to have a decent-sized slice of one’s own birthday cake…you don’t believe in human diversity. One of the Slog posters on Lindy West’s post said something like this, which I will shamelessly paraphrase in order to avoid crashing my browser and yours with a mega-comment thread: If you only need five hours of sleep to feel fresh and alive…GREAT. If you never eat sugar or flour and never ever want to…FABULOUS. If you have such a great time in the gym at 5 AM that you never want to leave…WONDERFUL. If a spirulina shake at lunch fills you up for the next six hours…CONGRATULATIONS. Really. But why does everyone have to be your clone?

The Happy Foods List (A Work in Progress)

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

After my last post, The Well-Rounded Mama asked me in comments whether I had plans to do a post about what stuff I can eat without tummy trouble. Why, yes, in fact, I did. And here it is.

Now, bear in mind a few things:

One, I haven’t tested everything yet in isolation, particularly some fruits that are out of season. I’ll be marking a few items as subjects for future research.

Also, I’m still trying to figure out for how long a problem food is going to continue giving me problems; I’ve been known to have asplodey after one bite of an ostensibly safe food, or even after drinking water. Eating or drinking anything is bound to stimulate the gastrocolic reflex, especially if it’s feeling particularly sensitive (as mine does for the first few hours after I get up). But chances are pretty good that if asplodey happens immediately, it has a lot more to do with something I ate quite a while before that. Maybe even a few days before that, for all I know; transit time can be tough to pin down.

And I’m not going to discount stress — including the unbelievable amounts of stress I was subjected to pre-aspie-diagnosis — as a factor in stomach upset, either. Not to mention decades of ibuprofen and naproxen overuse for my killer cramps because my first GYN scared me by saying, “There’s a death rate on the Pill.” (Right, doc, and there’s no “death rate” on hurting so badly every three weeks that you want to yank your uterus out and flush it down the john?) Nor have I ruled out the possibility that my problems could be a harbinger of something more serious, and I’m actually strongly considering getting scoped in order to rule that out. But when I’ve eaten something my southern half disagrees with, I do start getting inklings of it pretty quickly.

So here goes:

Stuff I can eat when I first get up: Hoo boy, this has been the landmine for me. For a long time, I was getting up so late that my breakfast was my partner’s dinner. I’ve since realized that I can’t really do that; I have to acclimate my digestive tract to the fact that it’s expected to receive nutrition after being in a stupor for the last 9 (give or take) hours. Now I make sure there’s at least a few hours between the time I get up and the time I eat dinner-type foods, and I make sure to have something small first. I’ve tried high-protein breakfasts, mixed carbs and protein, just carbs, high fat, low fat, medium fat, big breakfasts, little breakfasts, medium-sized breakfasts, fruit-only breakfasts…you name it.

And this is what I’ve come up with: The best thing for me is a small bowl of gluten-free cereal and some hemp or soy milk, and if I handle that okay, follow it up half an hour later with some berries (frozen if off-season). My favorite is Mesa Sunrise Flakes, which I get in economy bags from the local hippie stores; they taste great, and I’ve never had any belly rebellion after eating them. If I have to dash and don’t have time for that, I carry some raw cashews and some Mary’s Gone Crackers with me, and eat either or both them when I get peckish. I may look for a different GF cracker besides MGC, though; they taste fine, but sometimes they make my teeth hurt. (If you have recommendations, feel free to share.)

Stuff I don’t know about because I haven’t had a chance to test it yet: Cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, melons, grapefruits (who knows; oranges seem to be on the “no” list, but small amounts of lemon and lime juice don’t bother me), asparagus, artichokes, cauliflower, clarified/drawn butter (or ghee).

As long as I’m mindful of when I’m about to reach salicylate overload (I can tell if I’m starting to feel agitated apropos of nothing in particular), I can consume the following: Broccoli (must be careful of undercooked stems due to FODMAP issues), eggplant, olives, spices, herbs, coffee, tea, peppers (though I hate bell peppers and pimentos), yams, zucchini, cucumbers, spinach, water chestnuts, alfalfa sprouts, berries, dried apricots, grapes, almonds, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, cornmeal, pine nuts, pistachios, macadamias, mint, pickles, popcorn, wine, rum, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce.

FODMAP-listed stuff I know I can work with are the following: Anything in the onion family as long as I don’t eat the white parts of the flesh (I can cook with it for flavoring), broccoli (beware undercooked stems), carrots if cooked or shredded and I have a little dextrose with it, tomato sauce or ketchup if I have a little dextrose with it, any legumes (including soy products and any flours or noodles made from legumes), brown rice as long as I don’t go too hog-wild with it, pomegranate juice (it’s tart, so I just use a little for flavoring fizzy water), small amounts of honey, fruit sweetener (including agave), or even HFCS (which I avoid for metabolic reasons, but if some sneaks past me on rare occasion it’s not going to kill me), coconut milk or cream, small amounts of sucrose (table sugar) or brown sugar (i.e. table sugar plus molasses). Gatorade, SweeTarts, and Smarties are my go-to sources for dextrose at the moment, though I’m considering getting some dextrose powder to see if it’s more effective.

Foods that are generally no problem for me at all (see above for caveat about breakfast): All nuts not listed above, any kind of fish, meat, or poultry, all non-gluten-containing grains not listed above (oats can be okay depending on processing), tamari/liquid aminos, all vegetables and tubers not listed above, bananas if they’re not underripe or overripe, mangoes, small amounts of dark chocolate if not made with milk fats, garlic, salt, eggs, all oils not listed above, Earth Balance spread (indispensible in baking), vanilla extract, gluten-free beer, sparkling water, fish sauce, liquid smoke, hemp milk.

I just got an Imperia pasta maker and am starting to make my own GF pastas (flour blend is 1/3 garbanzo, 1/3 cornstarch, 1/3 tapioca — it doesn’t taste beany at all once it’s cooked). YUM! I also ordered some Better Batter flour mix to try out, so that my partner can (I hope!) go back to doing the baking he used to do before I started tinkering. (He’s not doing the same restrictions I am, but he also doesn’t want to bake things I can’t eat.)

I’m sure I’m going to forget some things and have to add them in later.

With that in mind…got any good recipes for me?

2011 Resovolutions, Part 2: The FODMAP Not Taken

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

I used to fantasize writing a universal cookbook for eating theorists. Each food would come complete with a citation from one system or authority claiming it the most divine edible ever created, and another, from an opposing view, damning it as the worst pestilence one human being ever fed to another.

Steven Bratman, MD, Original Orthorexia Essay

So for all the operetta involved in this dietary change, how much did it benefit me? Well, let’s just put it this way; it helped quiet down my noisy belleh, and I actually got a surprising brain boost out of it. I had thought all that stuff about leaky guts and opiate peptides was woo, and maybe it is, but the fact of the matter is that it made a difference in functionality for me. When I adhere to GFCF, I don’t feel like a totally uncoordinated stumbledrunk (most of the time), and I have markedly less agitation and anxiety and don’t stim as much as I used to. It could be that only a small percentage of autistic folks actually do get this benefit, but I do seem to be one, though a “cure” it ain’t.

As it were, though, I was just scratching the surface. Sure, I’m “sensitive” to food. I’m sensitive to air and water, why the hell wouldn’t I be sensitive to food? But the question nagging me was, was it really going to be every food that was going to give me problems? Do they even make diapers in my size? Yeah, I know a certain tiny percentage of post-chole patients do have issues with bile salts (warning: grody stuff in link) and have to go on something like Questran, but my patterns didn’t seem to fit that. Some foods really have been okay. But here’s the thing: When they diagnose you with IBS, what’s the first thing they tell you to do? Eat a high-fiber diet. Which usually means lots of things like whole wheat bread, brown rice, lots of veggies and fruit. And these are undoubtedly wonderful things for people without major intolerances to have a lot more of, if they can.

But after I ate an apple and a pear from that Zabar’s basket, I knew there had to be more going on than just gluten and dairy stuff. Apples! Apples are health food, right? Keep the doctor away, right? Yeah. I had a childhood that was more or less one long stomachache, and do you think anyone would have taken me seriously if I’d complained that apples made me feel yucky? But they do, and the shrink sez it’s a common thing for autistic folks to have problems digesting. Along with pears. And tomatoes. And onions, which I’ve never liked much anyway but are undeniably useful for cooking.

So then I did some poking around and discovered the mostly-unknown-in-the-U.S. disorder called fructose malabsorption. Apparently, about 30% of the population in Western nations has it to one degree or another. Thirty percent! With rare exceptions, that usually doesn’t mean we can’t eat any fruit sugars, but that we have to know what our limits and triggers are. This covers not just fruits or their derivatives (including everyone’s favorite chewtoy, HFCS), but also many veggies and beans. (Does Michael Pollan know about this?) And in some cases, it can lead to problems digesting wheat and dairy, too.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that small amounts of Gatorade (which changed its formula in 2010), along with SweeTarts and Smarties, can help me digest things like tomato sauce and carrots, because the dextrose in them helps balance out the slight overbalance of fructose to glucose in the veggies. (These are the hard-candy Smarties known as Rockets in Canada, not the chocolate-based candy by that name sold outside the U.S.) Doesn’t do squat for me with apples and pears, though, or with any savory veggies or grains…oh well. But Gatorade! It keeps the doctor away! For reals now!

And more poking around still uncovered a condition called salicylate sensitivity, which we auties (among others) can also be subject to, and which covers the triggers I have that aren’t accounted for above. Guess which foods are highest in salicylates? Yes, that’s right — pretty much every produce item that’s not on the FODMAP list. (And Donna Williams, an autistic author based in Australia, says documentation exists that veggies are being bred these days with extra salicylates, which are supposed to protect against cancer.) Not to mention tons of nonfood stuff like aspirin and ibuprofen, and most commercially available shampoos and soaps. Holy frigging gluten-free donut holes, Batman. Maybe there’s a good reason some people resist chowing down on ten-foot piles of produce — we don’t just get a little farty eating undercooked broccoli stems, we turn our tummies into skin-covered Cuisinarts doing it, no matter how many times we try over and over again to “get used to it.”

Oddly enough, though, beans don’t bother me at all. Not even if I eat them with pickled cabbage slaw. I’m weird, I know.

I’ll probably keep thumping away on this drum until I die or get a knuckle-ache, but one more time for old times’ sake: Insisting that everyone “eat healthy” (or be thin) is a form of ableism. All of us can’t fucking do it. Oh, they think they’re not talking about people who have Medically Documented Problems eating fiber by the yard, but when we’re potentially talking about almost a third of the population, most of whom have no idea why they can’t “learn to like” stuff that’s allegedly good for them, something is getting lost in the conversation.

Dr. Bratman published his orthorexia article in 1997, but most of what he wrote still applies. Like him, I can’t help but be flummoxed by the fact that, after all this time, after all this study, after billions of human volunteers happily and unhappily offering their bodies up for the cause, nobody can come up with a unifying theory of nutritional medicine. Instead, what we have are handfuls of theories about what’s “good for us,” all of which cancel each other out. Is it possible that some people thrive as veg*ns? Sure. Is it possible that some of us really do have metabolic issues requiring a relatively high consumption of animal proteins? Sure. (Remind me to go on for about six weeks about low-carbing sometime, but for now I’ll just say that going to the grocery store and seeing apples marked with skulls and crossbones would make me snortlaugh to the point of hiccups.) And is it possible that some people have to be every bit as careful consuming “healthy” food as they do eating “junk”? Sure. But that seems to be too much complexity for all the eat-like-I-do gasbags out there to process, just like they can’t process that being fat doesn’t cause diabetes any more than male-pattern baldness causes prostate cancer, and that as much as we might like to prevent prostate cancer, we’re not gonna cure it with hair transplants.

The dietary changes I’ve made pretty much require me to learn to cook all over again, learn to grocery-shop all over again, learn to eat out all over again — in other words, all the things they tell us we have to do if we want serious weight loss. (Fifteen pounds is not serious weight loss for someone my size.) So yeah, I’m capable of doing that, if there’s a clear and imminent benefit to doing so. But here’s why it usually doesn’t work (especially in people who don’t binge) for losing and keeping off any more than minor amounts of weight, if that: people get hungry. Very few people are capable of ignoring constant, gnawing hunger for decades, and very few people can endure the disorientation of forcing themselves into ketosis for years at a time, either. If I pass a pizza place, I might lament the fact that I can’t have a slice without giving myself a terrible tsura, but I don’t have to keep telling myself you’re not hungry you’re not hungry nobody your size can be hungry you just think you’re hungry don’t eat don’t eat don’t eat don’t you want to be liked? Instead, if I’m hungry, I can reach in my bag and pull out some almonds or GF crackers and a portable squeezy tube of hummus, and have something else.

And if I want the pizza bad enough that I’m willing to endure the attending asplodey, I’ll have it. This is where “intuitive eating” becomes a process that incorporates left-brain knowledge about what I can physically handle and what I can’t (as opposed to “demand feeding,” which basically means giving the right brain whatever it’s clamoring for and trusting that I can handle it, whether true or not). I can have what all of me wants (and can afford, of course). And so can you, whatever that is.

2011 Resovolutions, Part 1: GFCF, Meet HAES

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

So. In the interests of turning over a new leaf, I’m going to try to be as un-grody about this as I can. Today is my four-month gallbladderversary. Yep, I celebrated last Labor Day by emergently having my gallbladder out. I had intractable stomach pains that weren’t going away no matter what remedies I gave them, called the advice nurse, who told me I’d better see a doctor pronto. Since my regular doctor was off that day, I went to urgent care, described my symptoms and history, and it took them about ten minutes to figure out that my gallbladder was on fire and it needed to come out right away.

And I have to tell you, these folks should get some kind of medal for treating a fat chick decently. They weighed me, because they had to for general anesthesia, but never gave me any crap about it; the closest was when the surgeon told me that my gallbladder might be hard to get to because of my “build” (which could have referred to my splendiferous hooters as much as anything else). But they didn’t have to cut me all the way open, thank the elves and faeries, and this doctor had pretty obviously done this operation enough times that he could do it in his sleep, so really, everything went down like guacamole.

Until I had to start eating solid food again. And then, as ever, I started to discover that many of the foods most enjoyed by the northern half of my body made my southern half threaten secession.

As you know if you’ve been reading here a while, I’ve had stomach problems pretty much my whole life, and they only got worse after the surgery and never seemed to get any better. About 16 months ago, I wrote about possibly changing my diet to figure out if I could isolate potential triggers. I got great comments on that post, and a couple of folks suggested I try an “elimination diet” — that is, for a few days only eat a few things I know for sure are safe, then gradually re-introduce the questionable ones until I zeroed in on the culprits. I finally tried that, and sure enough, I found that the old autistic bugaboos gluten and casein were giving me the lion’s share of the trouble, so I cut those out.

Yeah, that’s right, MY INSURANCE BLAAARGH folks, I actually did give up most of my favorite foods (soy sauce! I practically swam in that!) for better health, so I don’t want to hear any puling from the VIP seats that I’m self-destructive and don’t take care of my fat self. Pizza, pasta, cheese, butter, milk chocolate, ice cream, yogurt, bread — all of it went, or at least the gluten-and-casein-full versions of them. I told myself that I could eat anything I wanted; I just had to be prepared for what might happen if I did, which was basically going to be the Disneyland fireworks display, only not in color.

You see, I’ve pretty much had to plan my entire life around proximity to an unoccupied toilet. It’s terrible. I have IBS-A (anybody wanna cure that already?), which means I alternate too fast and too slow, and that gives me very little margin for error when it comes to what I eat, and also limits the kind of medication I can take for it. I just had enough. My goal was, no more having to drop my library book or my cooking or my browsing in a store to race to the crapper, no more dirty looks from salespeople when I stunk up their bathrooms and didn’t buy anything because nothing looked appetizing anymore, no more stomach cramps, no more straining, no more uncontrollable fart attacks in public, no more sweating and praying while on the bus or train or in a car that I would make it to the next bathroom on time. And when I say “no more,” I mean no more than the average person; everyone has that stuff happen a few times a year, but not a few times a week (or sometimes, a few times a day).

Gluten-free, by itself, is a pain in the butt, but it can be worked around. I got wheat-free tamari (including little packets to take to sushi bars), found some cool new recipes, including one for red velvet cake that my wheat-eating partner said he liked better than the kind I used to make with wheat and dairy, and he doesn’t blow smoke up my nethers about things like that; he actually ate more of the stuff than of my prior recipe. For me, no dairy is the real pisser. So I didn’t tell my mom I was doing this, and she has never in her life sent me food (other than tea), and what did she send us for the holidays this year? A fruit and cheese basket from Zabar’s. OH MY FREAKING GOD. You can find (or make) gluten-free baked goods that taste great, but I’m sorry, nobody is ever going to find a decent casein-free substitute for luscious Camembert and extra-sharp cheddar. I actually ate a slice of Tofutti mozzarella and some Daiya cheddar after trying that stuff, and I wanted to cry — but alas, even with Lactaid, real cheese goes down like spackling paste.

And yeah, I knew all about orthorexia and nocebo/placebo effect and the dangers of restricting too much for no good reason, and I really wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just doing a number on myself about this, because eliminating entire categories of food really is a big deal. It’s expensive and a pain in the ass to eat this way, and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. No longer can I just “grab something” just anywhere — convenience store, fast-food, pizza — and eat on the run. I must have contingency grub with me everywhere I go, lest I be somewhere the treyf ain’t safe. Most restaurants are now off limits for me if I want to avoid the possibility of asplodey, and the asplodey-proof places are more expensive. (Hawthorne Fish House, I love you to death, but really, $16 for a small basket of oysters and chips?). And make no mistake about it; with GF and CF products, there is price-gouging, and I pretty much have to prepare every meal from scratch now. There’s no way in the world I would do this without getting something — or several somethings — out of it.

Did I? Tune in tomorrow and find out.