Millions of Today Show viewers were treated to the spectacle of a mother who has chosen to be "fat and happy" after years of struggling to be thin (and in the process, unhappy). Despite our team's collective opinion that this message is misleading in various ways, we are happy to use it as a doorway for conversation about the topic.
Weight or Health?
Joni, the blogger, is a 40-year old mom of five, who decided recently that her struggles with weight management over the years had to stop. Big thumbs up to her for that!
Without revealing in the post vital stats about her height, weight, BMI, and other details about her extreme sizes, she showed us a couple of photos. In one, she's in a bikini and in the other, most recent photo, she appears to weigh between 30-40 pounds more. She remarks that the stress of exercise and diet demands led her to be unhappy, and that she put her foot down.
Read the blog post here - we know that many of our clients struggle with weight gain, particularly moms! Joni seems like a loving mother, and we agree that modern expectations for women's bodies are clearly unrealistic. However, we have TWO big problems with the message that it, and the media attention, sends.
1. Getting Fit and Staying Thin/Fit should NOT involve extreme caloric restrictions, deprivation and denial of tasty food. Joni says that she restricted her intake to 1000 calories. And that on this diet she was running 35 miles a week? WHAT?
Your body needs fuel to burn fuel, so when you starve it with 1000 calories, your body responds by storing as much energy as it can. How does it do this? It converts food sources to fat. Never-mind the effect her running was having on such a malnourished body, Joni was clearly abusing her body. Her brain responded with expected sadness.
To burn fat your body needs to use fat as an energy source. Ketosis is the official name of the process, and there are a number of factors involved in your particularly body's ability to make this switch:
- your muscle mass (muscles burn more calories so if you are strong, your body can cruise through carb energy faster).
- the type of carbs you eat (processed carbs are the worst) so take good care to pick items that most directly come from whole grains.
- hormone levels - spikes in certain hormones, due to high stress, fatigue, etc can trigger cells to consume energy from carbs and fat. High carb foods also spike hormone levels, which is yet another reason why long-term results elude so many people.
The bottom line is that you don't have to be miserable. But you do need to be smart about your food choices and maintain realistic expectations.
2. The number on the scale is NOT the most important factor. Joni spent years focusing on her weight, with both successes and failures in terms of the number. She was unhappy throughout this time. She was prescribed medication, at least in part due to this unhappiness, and finally took the stand that led to her recent blog post.
She did not disclose other medical concerns, but based on her comments, photo, and history, one could easily guess that she likely continues to rely on medication for her mental health. She appears to carry enough excess weight that she compromises her skeletal strength, and she likely experiences any number of other lifestyle issues that limit her overall state of health.
Heart disease, respiratory conditions, skin conditions, sleep apnea, digestive trouble, eye dryness, sexual function, and so many other issues are affected by diet and exercise. The big pharma companies make drugs for each of these conditions and will happily condone a cocktails of meds but the writing is on the wall.
It's time that we take a deeper look at what we consider a healthy human. Appropriate weight management is part of it, and it's an important part. How your body functions, how you feel, and how naturally you are able to navigate life without drugs are other aspects that we need to consider.
Joni started the conversation, and we'd like to keep it going so please let us know what you think. Post a comment here or on our Facebook page.