Tag Archives: dieting

Is yoyo dieting bad for you?

So what

Every now and again, a new piece of research pops up to say that dieting, even the yoyo variety, isn’t as bad for us as the diet gurus always said it was. If you take this at face value, it might make you think that the tabloids are right when they admonish fatties that there are no excuses, they should enrol in Weightwatchers again next week. After cleaning out everything that could be considered fattening from the kitchen cupboards, of course.

Don’t take headlines at face value. Most of us are wise enough to question what we read in the news anyway, but some of us (myself included at times) have a tendency to believe whatever we read when it comes to the latest diet and weight loss news. Do you want to know the truth? Of course you do…

According to a report in Metabolism magazine (and not the interpretation put on it by diet magazines) 439 overweight, inactive, postmenopausal women took part in a study – which makes it a smallish study anyway. Around 25% of them (103) were yo-yo dieters who had lost 10 or more pounds three or more times, and a further 77 had lost 20 or more pounds three or more times. At the start of the study all the women were checked, and the yoyo dieters were heavier and had’ less favourable metabolic profiles’ than the women who had never yoyo dieted.

The obvious conclusion would have been that yoyo dieting was associated with higher starting weight and a less favourable metabolic profile, so should be avoided.

But what do you think happened?

They were all put on another diet. The study split them into four groups; diet alone, exercise alone, a combination or a control group.

After a year, all the dieters had lost weight. Well, it was strict! Calorie-controlled dieting that included a weekly group meeting for six months, then monthly meetings, two visits from a dietician, email and phone follow-up and six month food diaries which had to be completed with every morsel eaten and returned with feedback. Exercisers also lost weight, on their three sessions a week of supervised fitness five days a week. It’s a no-brainer really.

It’s hardly a surprise that all the yoyo dieters lost weight. They had all done it before! The issue isn’t whether they could do it; it’s whether it was bad for them to do it. And we don’t know if they managed to keep the weight off, as there was no follow up. Nobody knows how having to be monitored so closely for such a long time affected the women emotionally. Personally, I can’t do the whole ‘keeping a food diary’ thing because as soon as I start writing down every morsel I eat for some slimming club leader, it scrambles my rational brain. I get stressed and obsessed with food. Invariably I cheat, miss things off and ‘forget’ the odd thing too.

As far as pointless studies go, this one is pretty high up on the list. It proves nothing except that women who already lost weight and put it back on can do it again. And again. And again. Did any of us not actually know that?

As far as I’m concerned, eat well, keep fit and enjoy your life. And don’t take anything you read in the news about weight loss at face value!

If you want to read the study, here it is:

Weight Cycling and Dieting

 

A version of this post appeared in a previous blog for FatPhrocks

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Why are we all getting fat?

images doughnuts“The obesity epidemic.”

It’s a phrase that’s bandied around to scare fat people into feeling as if their condition is contagious, and perhaps they should be put into quarantine where no perfect thin people can see them until they are thin enough for society to handle.

But what’s caused it?

The government and most slimming companies say it’s fat. Low carb afficionados say it’s sugar. Some people think it’s all because we’re living in a junk food filled obesogenic environment where high calorie food is cheap and exercise optional. Daily Mail commentators believe it’s because we’re all lazy, greedy and worthless.

I’ve long believed that it’s none of the above. OK, if we’re going to be honest, yes people are fat because they eat too much. That’s bleedin’ obvious. But why? Why are people eating and overeating to the extent that they are affecting their health, whether it’s their physical health or their emotional well being that’s at risk?

There’s no doubt that things have got worse over the last 20-30 years. At the same time, the message that we have to be thin has increased in volume and is assaulting us from all angles.  I grew up in the 80s when there was only one magazine devoted to dieting in the UK, Slimming magazine. There were no celebrity trash rags like Closer, Now or Heat, splashing fat/thin/pregnant/over-botoxed celebrities on the cover and pulling their appearances to pieces for entertainment. There was no Internet. No mobile phones for selfies, no Twitter or Facebook.

Heat

There were no faux-concerned MPs making a big deal about reducing the number of fat people (why not just shoot them?)

You could argue that 25 years ago, there was no need for any of the above because there weren’t so many fat people. But look at it this way. Everywhere we go, we’re bombarded with the idea that we’re fat. Or if we’re not fat already, if we’re not careful, we could end up fat. we’ve all grown up thinking that being or even eating fat is a BAD thing. And this obsession with weight, wrapped up in pretend concern for our health, is so ingrained in our psyches that we find it really hard to ignore it. Of course, some people ignore it. These lucky people are the ones who have a normal relationship with food and rarely give their weight a thought.

Most of us fight an ongoing battle with food, even if we don’t think we do. If you worry that you’re going to get fat if you eat whatever you like, deny yourself certain foods to avoid putting on weight (but secretly crave them), think of certain foods as off-limits because you know you won’t be able to stop eating them once you open that packet…you’re caught up in it too. Even if you aren’t fat.

Have you ever wondered why the first thing you do when you plan a diet is stuff your face for the entire weekend before you start?(nobody ever starts a diet on a Wednesday afternoon, do they) It’s how your brain is wired. It’s not just a case of wanting what you can’t have – it’s a throwback to when we lived in caves. I’m not talking about the Paleo diet either. We have two sides to our brain, the conscious and sub-conscious, and the sub-conscious is automatic. It does things for us without us asking it to, like making us breathe, making us feel thirsty when we need a drink, making us feel hungry. Although eating, breathing and drinking are all under our physical control, we get very strong signals to do all three when we need to, and if you’ve ever tried not breathing, you’ll realise that you physically can’t do it for too long before your brain takes over and makes you take that breath whether you like it or not.

It’s the same with food. Your subconscious brain picks up on very subtle cues, and all it wants to do is look out for you, so when it gets wind of the fact that you’re having a fat day and thinking of going on another diet, it starts you thinking about food. It thinks there’s a famine coming. It knows that when you have that feeling, it ends up hungry, so it does everything it can to make you think of food constantly until you give in. It’s out of your control, even if it’s irrational. It’s the same kind of irrational reaction that makes you jump when someone leaps out on you in the dark, or freak out over a harmless two inch house spider. The threat of an oncoming diet spurs your protective mechanisms into making you think of food…all the time.

decisions2

So how does that make people fat?

To put it in simple terms, just thinking you’re too fat and have to go on a diet will make your subconscious bully you into eating things you don’t let yourself eat when you’re on a diet. Some people can use enormous amounts of willpower to resist the subconscious’ nagging. Some people manage it for a very long time and do lose weight. But 95% of them will put it back on as soon as they give up that control, and many end up back where they were or even bigger.

And everywhere, all over the place, are people, magazines, TV shows, websites and more telling us we’re too fat.

We’re constantly scaring our subconscious into making us obsess about food!

How do we stop it, though? That, my darlings, is the tricky bit.

(All this is also explained in much better detail along with some really good ways to switch off the automatic reaction, stop the overeating before it starts, and get a normal relationship with food again in ‘Eat less without trying to eat less‘ by Sue Thomason.)

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The Fast Diet – an update

a-woman-eating-a-slice-of-chocolate-cake

Hmm. I bet you can’t guess what I’m about to confess?

I’m not doing it any more.

Actually, the fasting days were no bother; I was a paragon of virtue and on all the days I planned to fast on 500 calories a day, I did. So from that point of view, for two months I at least demonstrated some semblance of willpower, and a determination to finally nail this diet malarkey. Which I spend all my time informing people doesn’t actually work.

So, why did I stop? Well, the problem wasn’t the fasting days, it was the in-between days. The blurb of the book says that the Fast Diet isn’t suitable for anyone who has had an eating disorder, and in my arrogance and enthusiasm to find the wonder diet, I decided that my binge eating disorder (I haven’t got to that point in the life story, maybe over the weekend) wasn’t a REAL eating disorder so it didn’t count.

Only it started to come back, didn’t it? I’d display an iron resolve on fast days and sit with a saintly smile on my face while my dearly beloved scoffed proper food. I’d ignore the hum of the fridge as my tummy rumbled, consoling myself with thoughts of what I was going to eat the next day. And boy did I eat the day after a fast. Not to start with, but as I got more used to it and started to get a bit bored with the limitations of 500 calories a day, I would lie awake the night after a fast and daydream about food. My stomach would taunt me with horrible gurgling noises and I’d feel strangely wired. Probably my brain telling me to stop sleeping and get up and eat something.

So the morning after a fast I was like a Jack springing out of her box. Or would that be a Jill? I’d promise every time to myself that I’d slow down but if it wasn’t nailed down it was fair game. I’d pick all day; something I hadn’t been doing that much before I started fasting. Of course, I wasn’t losing anything either because what I wasn’t eating on a fast day I made up for the following day. Not only that, but I then started eating more on the day before a fast day, telling myself that I had to because I wouldn’t be able to eat it the next day. And that if I didn’t eat it, my other half would.

fast-dietI stopped because it was his birthday, then I had to go for my gastroscopy…and then I just couldn’t face another pre-fast eating session. The last fast I did was a couple of weeks ago, and to be honest I have been a lot more relaxed since. I’ve only really had one day where I’ve eaten in the same way as I did between fasts, and that was because I was incredibly tired and fed up. Just one of those days.

I can see how fasting can work for normal eaters who just want to lose a bit of weight, but my relationship with food is just way too complicated and I don’t want to be bingeing all the time. I’m having a re-think. Do I just accept that I ain’t never gonna lose this darn weight…or try another way?

I’ll have to get back to you on that one…

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So where did it all go wrong?

Christmas 94

This blogging is having an effect on me; I’m lying awake at night and the memories are flooding back. Some of it’s good…I’m blogging in my head, my creative juices are flowing and I’m getting that whole ‘authentic self’ out there. On the other hand, I’m not sleeping very well. Best I get my life story out of the way as quick as I can so I can go back to sleeping properly!

I did worry last night when my hubby-to-be read it and said “You’ve had a sad life, haven’t you?”

No!

I haven’t. I really believe I’ve had a pretty good life, but I’m just trying to show the way food and dieting has screwed up the way I’ve lived it at times. My first marriage wasn’t so bad, we did have some good laughs. The freedom of having my own place meant I loved nothing more than to throw impromptu parties and invite people over. The logistics of this in a teeny one up, one down house were irrelevant. I did make friends in that first couple of years – one or two that stuck around for about 15 years, one of them I only saw a couple of weekends ago. The problem was that I was so miserable at work and it killed the confidence I’d started to grow.

If I’d had the confidence to stand up for myself when I started at Cambridge County Court, and believed in myself a bit more, I might have not ended up pigging out as much as I did to cheer myself up. I just put it down to classic comfort eating. I didn’t binge eat all the time, either. I did go on a LOT of diets and rarely managed to stick to them more than a week or so. I ate a lot of Lean (MEAN) Cuisine meals, half fat digestives and fat free yoghurts, none of which were very appetising. So what made me do it?

Looks are everything, right? I mentioned before that I wasn’t popular with the boys at school and felt like a bit of an ugly duckling. I wanted to be fashionable SO badly in my teens. When I got older I experimented a lot with fashion. Experiments that quite often went horribly wrong, but I still loved playing around with looks, copying styles and getting inspiration from  Vogue, Cosmo, Looks, Elle, and every other fashion magazine filled to the brim with beautiful, skinny models. I went to the Clothes Show and I was in my idea of heaven. I saw Let Loose play live there in 1994. Remember them? Here you go:

I was never interested in looking like Kate Moss but would have chopped my arm off to look like Cindy or Christy or Linda. I even bought Cindy Crawford’s fitness video. Oh my GOD. I have the DVD now (never say I give up) and that routine makes me hurt in places I never knew I even HAD places. She deserved to look that hot.

I even looked into studying fashion design when I moved to Cambridge, but it was too expensive. If I’d got on better with my mum as a teen, I would have got her to teach me how to make my own clothes…I still hanker after doing that now, when I see gorgeous clothes that only go up to a size 16.

Anyway, I was obsessed with fashion, I had a longstanding inferiority complex about my looks and I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be able to look as good as skinny women did in their catwalk size clothes. I thought I’d be happy if I could just be beautiful. I desperately wanted to indulge my love of clothes and be able to wear the clothes I saw in the fashion mags, but I had boobs and a bum that refused to cooperate. Although even in the 90s it wasn’t as bad as it is now, there was still a lot of emphasis on being slim, and it wasn’t just about being pretty anymore, the big obsession was health. Zest Magazine and Health & Fitness became my new friends and I devoured everything I could about nutrition and exercise. I thought about retraining as a nutritionist. That’d help, right? OK, so the slight inconvenience of a three-year full time university course put paid to that idea.

Everyone dieted. It was a way of bonding with the women in the office, even if I didn’t want to be there. Nobody questioned the fact I was on a diet/off a diet. nobody could stick to a diet for long, it was just the way it was. I didn’t think there was another way, although by now I’d read Shelley Bovey’s ‘Being fat is not a sin’ and did start to wonder whether I was just wasting my time trying to be skinny when I was clearly not meant to be. But I soldiered on…

I was trying to be everything to everyone. The excitement of being a newlywed was wearing off, and I thought maybe I should change…Husband #1 was pretty fed up with me being such a miserable cow about work all the time. I did apply for job after job but didn’t get anywhere, further denting my confidence. I wanted more attention from him but didn’t know how to tell him that I was feeling taken for granted. Towards the end of 1994 I finally did it..I escaped the Court and was offered a job working for Trading Standards, to start in January 1995. I was over the moon! I celebrated by going to a friend’s house, helping her polish off a good proportion of the cheap spirits her parents had just brought back from a ‘Booze Cruise’ (remember those?) and throwing up in a bucket all the way home. Husband #1 was not impressed at all, in fact I think he drove over those speed bumps a little TOO fast to serve me right.

I called in sick the next day (well I *was* sick, and anyway, what were they going to do, sack me?) and when I returned to work, the Chief Clerk banned me from going out with the others for a Christmas lunch. Yes, really. I told you she was a cow. Then, the day I left, after the rest of the office had clubbed together to buy me a leaving present, she practically threw two CDs at me, spitting “Here you go. They’re by some band called Oasis. Never heard of them,” and flounced off, her nose in the air.

I remember as Husband #1 picked me up from work that night (I think he’d forgiven me for the vomiting incident..just) we put one of the CDs on in the car. “Whatever” by Oasis. “I’m freee-eee to be whatever I…whatever I choose…”

I stuck my fingers up as we drove away, mouthed a final “F*** you!!!” and looked foward to a new start. A new job, a New Year diet and a new me. Be careful what you wish for…

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This girl thinks she’s fat

Belstead House 1987

Singing to ‘It’s a Sin’ – what an exhibitionist!

Obviously, she’s not. And in the interests of historical accuracy, when this picture was actually taken, in July 1987, I didn’t think I was fat. A couple of months later though, and I was on my first ever diet, aged 16.

Just so you know, although I’m spilling the beans now on my curvy life, how it feels to be fat and what it’s really like to have an eating disorder that makes people think it’s alright to call you names, I might mention a few people or events that affected me over the years in the next few blog posts. I’m going to add a HUGE disclaimer here and now. Although I won’t name anybody anyway, I want to make it totally clear that I don’t blame anyone for anything. My problems, my journey and my feelings are all mine, and if other people have inadvertently messed with my head or flicked the wrong switch, it’s not their fault. Right, now that’s out of the way, I’ll begin.

Where do I start? I guess that picture? 1987 was mostly pre-diet or PD. I’d been a skinny child, short and flat-chested until I was about 15 years old. I wasn’t one of the popular girls, although I was really good at being best mates with all the lads, because most of them wanted to go out with my best mate. I say ‘best mate’ with my tongue in my cheek because she was actually a bit of a cow to me, in the way that only a 16 year old girl can be to another 16 year old girl who she thinks is beneath her. She used me because my English coursework was way better than hers and I used her to get access to all the people that wouldn’t have spoken to me if I didn’t hang around with her. If that meant I had to face the occasional no-show or leaking of an embarrassing note I’d written her to the entire fifth year, at the time I was OK with that. Mostly.

I had never been described by anyone as fat when this picture was taken and the thought had never crossed my mind. Blissful times. It all changed when, after I’d been to stay with my Nan in Brighton for a week, my mum casually informed me that Nan had remarked on the size of my legs. OK, from that picture you can see that they aren’t the skinniest of thighs but I was mortified.

“I’m not fat” was my response. “Get the scales down from my room,” Mum insisted. “We’ll see how much you weigh.”

To cut a long story short, I weighed a smidgen under 10 stone and went on a diet. This diet involved a lot of Edam cheese and tuna in brine, with Ryvita. I think I’d copied it out of Just 17. I lost sod all, despite a bet with Mum and Dad that I couldn’t lose a stone in a month. I probably still owe them that tenner. Sorry!

I don’t know to this day whether my Nan REALLY said I had fat legs. It was fair to say that as a teenager I didn’t see eye to eye with my mum and at the time I didn’t believe her, but I still wanted to impress her and get her approval…and I think that’s the root of a lot of my foodie issues. I wanted to be thin because I thought people would like me more. I know how silly that sounds and as I’m writing it now I’m thinking “I’ll have to take that out. I sound neurotic.” Still, in the interests of being ‘real’ I’ll leave it in.

scan0017

Aged about three. Definitely NOT fat!

So, how did things change? Not a lot, after that first failed diet. I hardly lost anything and then I put it back on again. To be honest, I wasn’t all that bothered. I knew I wasn’t FAT exactly, although I was starting to get really conscious of my legs and bum now. It didn’t stop me eating for long. I just overate for a bit and then cut back a bit, then overate, then dieted for a day…you can imagine. I’m going to admit this now, because it was a long time ago. Mum, I used to go to the bakery on my way to work most days when I worked in the chemists shop, and buy a steak and kidney pie. Hot. And I’d eat it for BREAKFAST. *the shame*

I was a big eater from a very young age. Mum told me that when I was about 18 months old she and Dad left me with my doting grandparents for a week or so while they went on a delayed honeymoon to Austria. When they came back, I’d been overfed and put on rather a lot of weight, even for a baby. Although people weren’t so obsessive about fat babies and children in 1972, Mum was still horrified. We’ve talked about it since when I’ve been trying to figure things out, and we both think I probably got a bit stressed and panicky because I thought I’d been abandoned. Of course, I hadn’t, but all I knew was that mum and dad weren’t there and so I probably cried. A lot. And got very clingy. And got fed. So from a very early age, being upset meant being fed. And I always got overfed at my Nan’s.

I had a happy enough childhood. I was always on the lookout for an eating opportunity though. As soon as Mum’s back was turned I’d have my paws in the biscuit tin. If I found 50p down the back of the sofa (thanks Dad) I’d be straight down the corner shop and spending it on sweets. Mum was always watchful of her weight and mine, and we (me, my brother and sister) were brought up on healthy food (well, typical 70s- 80s food really but we very rarely had takeaways or a Wimpy. And there wasn’t a McDonalds in Bognor…)

I remember Mum telling me I’d get fat if I didn’t watch it. And she was right….

(More next time…)

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Gorgeous and Full Fat

I finally got around to reading ‘Health at Every Size‘ yesterday. You know Hildawhen you have a book that you really know you want to read but you just never quite get around to it? HAES was one of mine.

Then I read the post I reblogged yesterday from Alexandra Roumbas Goldstein – and I knew I had to get on with it and read the damn book!

It made me angry, happy, determined and a whole misxture of other emotions. This is the science they don’t tell you when you’re being lectured about your weight at the doctors for the umpteenth time (and we all know you only went in for antibiotics for a throat infection). It’s liberating and it’s eye-opening.

Right from the start, Linda Bacon debunks the idea that dieting works. From the ways your body tries to resist weight loss – and it’s a crafty bugger – to the ways we’re misled by big business into eating foods that keep us fat, dieting, feeling shitty about ourselves and more. She even suggests that exercise isn’t the weight loss Holy Grail we’re led to believe. It might stop us GAINING weight and it’s undeniably a good thing to be as active as we can be, but it doesn’t make most of us skinny.

HAES also gives you a whole heap of figures contradicting the idea we’re all going to die young because we are a size 16 or more.

You’ll just have to read it for yourself if you want to get the full benefits. I think I’m going to have to read it again myself, especially the bits about how to stop dieting. There’s a lot in there that’s not entirely new to me – I have to thank Sue Thomason for introducing me to the idea that there might be a world beyond Slimming World in the first place. But for some reason the research, the science, the figures and the detail made it all feel real.

Women who followed the HAES advice were happier, no longer struggled with food issues (Amen to that) and improved their self esteem. But what about their health? Well there were no massive weight losses. The author says she lost a couple of stone but nothing major. But before you decide it’s not worth doing and search Amazon for 2013’s next diet best seller, read on. The women who followed the HAES programme had lower cholesterol and blood pressure and were more active than before they started the plan.

The control group of dieters lost a bit of weight – but gained it back.  Their activity levels, cholesterol and blood pressure all stayed the same or got worse, as did their depression levels. Half the dieters dropped out before the end of the study while only 8% of the women following the HAES plan gave up.

The dieters’ self esteem dropped. The HAES volunteers soared.

So no, they weren’t skinnier, but they were healthier and happier. And the dieters were neither skinnier, healthier OR happier. So it’s a no-brainer really.

Diets. Don’t. Work.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world to get to the point where you just give up on the idea of dieting. I mean really give up. But you know what, it’s well overdue for me. I’m tired of it. The relentless pressure and bullying, the stress of trying to lose weight and busting a gut (last year I managed to lose a stone…but put it all back on again). We all want to be happy and healthy, so what if there is a way to be both without being in the BMI chart ‘acceptable’ range? I’m willing to take that chance…

 

 

 

 

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