|Thoughts about weight loss and diet change
||[Jan. 30th, 2016|09:11 pm]
As always, I want to start out with the following disclaimers and beliefs I have about being fat.|
- A person can choose not to lose weight, and should be respected for that choice.
- A person can be fat and quite healthy. Indeed, some people can be a hundred pounds heavier than average and still have absolutely normal and healthy blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels -- have none of the consequences typically associated with being fat.
- A fat person can have health problems that are completely unrelated to being fat, and therefore, the habit of Western doctors to dismiss the health concerns of fat people with "oh, just lose weight" is a horrible thing that has had intolerable and unforgivable consequences for friends of mine.
- Disrespecting or mocking people for being fat, or, for that matter, skinny, is reprehensible. This includes mocking public political figures with whom one disagrees.
- It is a bad idea to compliment a person on rapid weight change until you know whether it was deliberate. It's embarrassing and bad to compliment someone on their pancreatic cancer.
- People metabolize food differently, and burn energy differently. It is possible for two people to eat the exact same amount of food, and have the exact same amount of activity, and one person gain fat while another loses it. Some people's bodies extract calories much more effectively than others; some people's bodies are able to move and work much more efficiently than others. A person who is inefficient will have a tendency to maintain a lower weight than a person who is efficient. These efficiencies are affected by genetics, epigenetics, and internal biome, among many other factors.
- And this is important enough to put in the list multiple times in multiple ways -- there is no moral component to being fat or not, whether it's a result of how your body works, or your lifestyle, or just how you like to perceive your body. If the body you are most comfortable in, the body which feels most right for you, is fat, then that is the body you should have, and anyone who has a problem with that should fuck off.
There are probably other things I want to say about it, but that gives you a sense of the things I believe about it.
Having said that, I'd now like to talk about my own, deliberate weight loss and resultant positive health changes.
Because I ALSO think that the things I've said apply to EVERY choice of body type. Except anorexia nervosa -- I don't think of anorexia nervosa as an acceptable choice. That's hypocritical, but, oh well. So I'm a hypocrite.
That said, I'm going to put in a cut tag here, because I know that some of my friends Just Don't Want To Hear It. A lot of people have just dealt with this shit too much during their life, so don't want to hear people talking about deliberate weight loss. And you shouldn't have to.
See, yeah, some people can be healthy while fat. I'm not one of them. My blood pressure, cholesterol, resting heart rate, and blood sugar are all negatively impacted by fat, and I don't have any strong body-identification with being fat that means that being fat is worth that price for me.
Not any STRONG identification. But ... more about that later.
Lis and I joined Weight Watchers just over four months ago. As of today, I've lost fifty pounds, a rate of just over two pounds a week, which is basically the very top end of what is probably healthy. It's still healthy, but much more than that would mean I might be doing something dangerous. I would call my weight loss atypical, and I can't take credit for the overall rapidity. But I CAN take credit for the FACT of it in the first place.
Lis has been losing at a more typical, but still significant rate; the amount of fat she has decided to lose is about half the amount I have decided to, and her rate is about half mine. So, percentage-wise, we're doing similarly.
And my resting heart rate and blood pressure have dropped a LOT since I lost this weight. They went from "well, it's not really DANGEROUS yet, but we definitely want to keep an eye on it" (which is where all my numbers were) to "woah, that's really, really good."
Haven't had blood sugar or cholesterol checked yet. I have no idea of cholesterol has changed, but I strongly suspect blood sugar has improved.
My waist has gone from 42 inches to 32 inches. 32 inches is the lowest it's been since just after college, when I had no money for food and was starving. People keep asking me if I've gotten new, larger glasses; I haven't -- rather, my face has gotten smaller. And, just today, Lis and I went down to a place to have our body fat percentage measured scientifically. As of today, I have a % body fat of 22.8% -- and, at a guess, I probably started out at about 50%.
In case anybody is wondering: if my lean body mass stays the same, and I got down to 5% body fat, which is dangerously low and is where you start dying, I would just barely still be overweight by the BMI chart.
So, how do I feel about all this?
Really, really ambivalent.
First, it is NOT a lot of fun to cut back on my favorite foods. I haven't ELIMINATED any foods, because that's a sucker's game. If you give something up forever, you're sunk. Well, I am, anyway. I can cut BACK on stuff, although I really don't like it, but I would give up on weight loss before giving up on chocolate, or bread, or spaghetti, or ice cream, or foie gras. (Of that list, interestingly, foie gras is a lot less bad for me than any of the others. I mean, a LOT. More about that later.
Second, I sometimes feel FATTER than I did fifty pounds ago. When I was 235 pounds, that was just, y'know, me. I had no intention of ever changing it; it was just who I was, and I was comfortable with it. The reason I decided to change was a thread where folks in who worked in ERs in poor areas down south were talking about people who came into the ER with diabetic necrosis, but, before that, while I intellectually knew that I could be eating better and being more active, and that my numbers probably could be better, I didn't really care about it. Being fat didn't, and doesn't, particularly bother me when I'm over two and a quarter C's.
But now, I notice where that extra body fat is. I mean, I want to get to, let's say, somewhere between 18 and 20% body fat -- and I am TOTALLY AWARE of where those last five or ten pounds are on my body right now. I can point to them. And they bother me. When I had sixty pounds of fat more than health would have wanted, I didn't care about them. They didn't bother me. Those last five or ten, though? THOSE bother me in ways I've never cared before.
And I'm not completely happy with being smaller, anyway. This is partially about how we men are socialized in our culture, and partially just how I think about myself.
See, I'm short. And I am happy with that. But I am not SMALL. And people react to me like I have a significant presence, and a big part of that presence is just my plain old physical presence.
My superficial understanding of traditional-ish Polynesian culture says that they have this concept of "mana", which was basically power, presence, influence, that sort of thing. And part of that -- a small part, to be sure, but included in it -- is your just plain physical size. A bigger person is more powerful than a smaller person. When I have an image in my mind of a powerful Polynesian person, I'm imagining someone built along the lines of a sumo wrestler -- very strong, and packed with both fat and muscle.
Or, y'know, for that matter, a sumo wrestler. If I'm imagining a person with sheer power, a rikishi is definitely one of the first images that comes to mind.
My new body shape is farther away from that. When I see myself in the mirror, I see less power. And I don't like that.
Second, I'm far less able to handle temperature. The time I can stay in a sauna or steam room is maybe HALF what it used to be. And I get a lot colder a lot faster in cold weather. I've lost my insulating layer of blubber, and I rather miss it.
I haven't really gotten a chance to test my alcohol tolerance recently. I actually suspect that won't have gotten a lot worse -- as it turns out, body fat doesn't do as much to help alcohol tolerance as people think. It's lean muscle mass that increases tolerance. Fat people generally have a lot of lean mass, as well, because carrying around fat is constant weight training, so a fat person will typically have a higher tolerance than a thin person -- but it's not so much because of the fat itself. So, if I've lost fat without losing too much lean mass, that's probably still more or less okay -- but that IS a side effect of being fat that I like, and, if it's lessened, I will miss it.
I'm worried that I might be a bit more susceptible to injury, too. Having a lot of fat means that your internal organs have a lot of cushioning, and that you have padding in general. Things hurt more when I get whacked with stuff. A lot of stuff is just less physically comfortable with less padding, and my ability to just soak up damage if I need to -- something that I don't need often, but which DOES come into effect OCCASIONALLY when dealing with bramble thickets, shoving machinery around, stopping heavy things from going where they oughtn't, and so forth -- is seriously compromised.
And, of course, I just plain don't have the inertia I used to. I've got fifty pounds less mass keeping me where I want to be, if some outside force tries to move me. I don't like that.
A lot of this stuff can be partially replaced by working on increasing my lean muscle mass, but still -- there are a lot of advantages to body fat that I have lost, and I am not happy about it. Unless I choose to get fat again, I will never have those advantages again.
Oh, there are benefits. In practical terms, this body shape is at least as physically effective. First, I've gotten a LOT of flexibility back. I'm pretty close to as flexible as you can be without really working at it, and without having any sort of potentially worrisome hypermobility. I mean, I know a fair number of people who are more flexible than I am, but they're generally martial artists, practice hatha yoga, or have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or something like that. But I'm finding out that my joint mobility has been hampered over the past couple decades by packing fat in and around them.
That lower moment of inertia that I mentioned before has benefits. I can do cartwheels again, for instance. It's been a long time since I could do gymnastics, other than, perhaps, back shoulder rolls and aikido rolls, so that's nice.
Having lower mass means that I can maintain faster movement longer. I can run for an hour, now, for instance. Just because it takes less energy to shift 185 pounds than 235. And my vertical leap is coming back.
So all of those are nice.
But, yeah. Ambivalent.
And then there are the cooking changes. I've had half a whoopie pie in the past five months. I've had two cider donuts. I'm probably eating barely five percent of the amount of cake, cookies, chocolate, donuts, muffins, and pies that I would otherwise be eating. And I'm not happy about that. I MISS that other 95%. I'm not cooking with anywhere near as much fats and oils -- I've used, like, half a stick of butter in the past five months. Total. For everything.
I'm eating goddamned low-fat cheeses. And I'm grateful for them.
I haven't baked. At all. I mean, I've used the oven for souffles and frittatas and stuff -- but you know what I mean. Baking.
Now, that's not COMPLETELY bad. I spent my entire life learning to cook in one way, and I'm now having to start all over again and learning to cook a completely different way. And that's actually kind of fun.
But still. Ambivalent. I get to figure out entirely new cooking techniques and dishes and recipes; everything I'm doing is different, and I like that.
And I also hate it. Because I'm NOT doing everything that I've spent forty years learning how to do. Well, maybe thirty-eight. I don't think I was really allowed to do a lot of stuff in the kitchen before I was about four or so. But I HAVE been helping put food together at least that long, even if it wasn't until a few years later that I was allowed to use anything sharp or hot. And while there are a lot of skills that are still relevant, there are a lot that aren't.
So, that's where I am right now with weight loss. I'm doing it, and doing it successfully, and I'm deeply ambivalent about both the process and the result.