The Twinkie Diet

This blog from the What The F&$^ file is thanks to an e-mail from a reader named Sabrina. Thanks Sabrina!

I love getting reader e-mail so feel free to send me interesting stuff at dances with fat at yahoo dot com.

Sabrina sent me a link to the article:  “Twinkie Diet Helps Nutrition Professor Lose 27 Pounds

The story highlights are as follows (let’s pay particular attention to the third one, shall we):

  • Nutrition professor’s “convenience store diet” helped him shed 27 pounds
  • Haub limited himself to 1,800 calories and two-thirds come [sic] from junk food
  • Haub said it’s too early to draw any conclusions about diet

To sum up: For reasons somewhat passing understanding this guy decided to see what would happen if  he ate like crap for 10 weeks, but only 1800 calories of crap per day.

According to the article, he ate a snack cake every three hours in lieu of meals, but at the table with his kids (so as not to set a poor example) he ate vegetables.  To quote the article:

“Two-thirds of his total intake came from junk food. He also took a multivitamin pill and drank a protein shake daily. And he ate vegetables, typically a can of green beans or three to four celery stalks.”

Wait, so do his kids think that a can of green beans or 3-4 celery stalks is an appropriate meal?

During the 10 weeks he lost 27  pounds and his health markers improved:  his “bad” cholesterol went down, his “good” cholesterol went up, and his triglycerides went down.

What does he say about the experiment?

“I wish I could say the outcomes are unhealthy. I wish I could say it’s healthy. I’m not confident enough in doing that. That frustrates a lot of people. One side says it’s irresponsible. It is unhealthy, but the data doesn’t say that.”

He’s exactly right.  We can’t draw conclusions for a bunch of reasons.  Here are some of those:

  • He didn’t properly track his eating before he started the diet to create any kind of baseline
  • It looks like he went from eating a few large meals a day to many small ones which can have an effect on the metabolism, at least in the short term
  • His study had no control group
  • 1 dude for 10 weeks does not statistical significance make
  • The body corrects for weight over time – in long-term weight loss we like to see 5 year success so I’d like to hear from him in 4 years and 42 weeks
  • His results have not been replicated (and I wouldn’t hold your breath for someone to try)

He says over and over not to draw conclusions based on this “experiment”.  I’m not mad at him, he understands the limitations of his study.

But then the article quotes Dawn Jackson Blatner.

She is a dietitian based in Atlanta, Georgia and spokeperson for the American Dietetic Association  (who I personally think should be stripped of both titles for being epically bad at science) who says:

“Being overweight is the central problem that leads to complications like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, she said.  When you lose weight, regardless of how you’re doing it — even if it’s with packaged foods, generally you will see these markers improve when weight loss has improved,” she said.

Really Dawn?  Science is hard, let’s go shopping.

If you read this blog, oh I don’t know…EVER, you’ll know that I disagree with this based on a TON of research that I’ve done.  I’ve not seen any good research to back up anything that she said here, and I’ve seen a lot of research (of course, she doesn’t cite any). She doesn’t know the difference between correlation and causation which activates my eye-roll reflex – studies show that these problems and being “overweight” happen at the same time, they haven’t proven that one leads to the other.   Caloric deficit weight loss methods (eating less calories than you burn) have an abysmally low success rate, and over 95% of people end up LESS healthy than they started within 5 years.  Mostly though, I just want to ask her –  I’m trying to choose between a diet based on cocaine or crystal meth.  Which would she recommend? I mean, whatever makes you thin, right?  Right…?

In a not-that-redeeming slightly lucid moment she did say: “There are things we can’t measure.  How much does that affect the risk for cancer? We can’t measure how diet changes affect our health.”  I find a dietitian saying “We can’t measure how diet changes affect our health” pretty suspect, but I refuse to waste any more time on this woman.  What I don’t understand is why, in an article about a nutrition professor, they thought it was necessary to bring this woman in for an “expert opinion”?  My guess is that they wanted a conclusion and, as a scientist with ethics, he couldn’t give them what they wanted.  Enter Dawn Jackson Blatner.

Bottom line:  I could start eating 2/3 junk food in the hopes of getting to a  BMI of which Ms. Blanton would likely approve,  but if I didn’t lose weight long term (and I suspect I wouldn’t) and my health failed (and I suspect it would), I’ll bet Ms. Blanton wouldn’t be there backing up my method, confused as to why it didn’t work, and singing the praises of the Twinkie diet.

It’s not called “Healthy Skepticism” for nothing y’all.

If Our Bodies Could Talk


I’ve read several places that 8 out of 10 women and 6 of 10 men are unhappy with their bodies. Virginia over at Beauty Schooled clued me in to a Glamour Magazine study which found that 71% of women “feel fat” (and presumably aren’t happy about that…)

It made me think – what would the bodies of those 80%, 60%, and 71%  say if they could speak for themselves?

If I were my body when I used to feel like this, I think I would have said:

“You’re complaining about my size and shape?  Are you freaking kidding me with this? Do you have any idea how hard I work for you? Breathing, blinking, cell division – millions of things every day that you don’t even ask me to do.  And don’t even get me started on the things that you DO ask me to do.  Could you at least say thanks and go a day without complaining to someone that we have man hands…”

But our bodies never say that.  They just keep doing stuff for us.  Perhaps not to the level that we would like all the time, but you have your body to thank for being able to read or listen to this and I have mine to thank for typing it.

Go with me on this for a minute:  Imagine that your very best friend gets seriously injured and  needs someone to completely take care of them:  wheel them around, feed them, type for them etc., while constantly squeezing a bag to make them breathe, and performing chest compressions every couple of seconds to keep their heart going.  Now imagine that while you are doing all of this, your friend incessantly tells you that your nose is weird, your hair is too frizzy, the shape of your thighs is wrong, your stomach is too big, your upper arms are too loose, and your toes are ugly. Constantly. Imagine that it’s been a week that you’ve been pushing them everywhere they want to go, feeding them, taking them to the restroom, breathing for them and doing chest compressions and all they  do is point out what your “aesthetic  flaws”.   How long until you just want to scream at them?  How long until you start thinking about not squeezing that bag anymore?

Since we are in charge of how we feel about our bodies, I’m thinking maybe we should take a minute to focus on all the completely awesome things about them, and thank them for all of the hundreds of millions of things they’ve done for us in our lifetimes.  No matter what health goals you have, or what you want to do in life, I’ll bet it will be much easier  if you you are your body are a team.  What do you say?

Weight Loss Surgery Makes Chewing Painful

Yup, you read that correctly.  Today’s news from the What the F&$* File:

Dr. Nikolas Chugay invented a little something he calls The Chugay Tongue Patch.  It is implanted on the tongue surgically and is being billed by Dr. Chugay as an alternative to gastric bypass and lapband surgeries.  The patch makes chewing “very difficult and painful”, forcing the person wearing it to rely on a liquid diet.  It can be worn for up to 30 days.  (Be serious, you know I’m not linking to that from here, right?).

Dr. Nikolas Chugay calls it a “miracle patch” and says that “60+” people have undergone treatment.

I kinda can’t believe that I’m taking the time to even point these out, but let’s do this for posterity:

  • I can’t find any clinical trial information
  • While billing himself as an “Cosmetic Plastic Surgeon” and an “Acknowledged Specialist” I looked him up and he is not listed as a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
  • He’s focused purely on aesthetics here, and doesn’t seem to care about health consequences inasmuch as he doesn’t mention anything about health on his website
  • The only side affect reported on the website is a swelling of the tongue for 24-48 hours that “may” cause speech issues which “typically” return to baseline after 48 hours
  • A little bit of research found that it wathnt jutht the tongue thwelling…Not only did people find chewing painful, but they also reported finding activities like brushing their teeth, talking, and swallowing painful with a postage stamp sized piece of mesh surgically attached to their tongue.  I am shocked, shocked I tell you!

Even other doctors are taking shots at this guy.  Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, said  “I’d say the Chugay tongue patch is a daily reminder of how just because your physician has an MD behind their name it doesn’t mean they’re bright.”  Big flaming sack of duh.

Based on a ton of research, I believe that the best shot that I have at health is to consistently engage in healthy behaviors rather than trying to achieve a specific shape or size.  Even if you don’t believe that, can we not draw a line at surgical implants that render us incapable of chewing?  Seriously, I don’t care what health problems someone might have, does anyone think that they can be solved by not being able to chew?  Just to be clear,  liquid diets have an abysmally low success rate over the long term (around .0017 people out of 100).

As usual, I’m not telling anybody how to live.  If you want to attempt to change the size and shape of your body by making chewing difficult and painful, that is your right and I respect your rights to do what you want with your body, just as I want my rights respected.

I am asking people to consider stopping and asking themselves a question though, and in this particular case that question is:

“Is the thing I’m about to do completely and totally batshit crazy?”

If, after some retrospection, they find that the answer is yes, then maybe rethink the impending surgery?

Exorcising Exercise?

Oops – I thought that I made this title up but it turns out that it was actually coined by the brilliant Golda Poretsky.  I got a linkback from her blog and realized my error.  If you don’t know of Golda and her work then I would definitely recommend a visit to her site –  she is amazing!

Several studies have indicated that physical fitness is a much better indicator for health and longevity than weight.  I am a fan of exercise and I do it a lot (it’s a big part of being a competitive dancer).

However, the word “exercise” bugs me, and I hear the same thing from a lot of people of size.

I think it’s because we hear it so many times from people in the context of losing weight. (If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been told that I need to “eat less and exercise more”, I would never have to work again.)

Or maybe it’s that we’ve been sold the “Biggest Loser” exercise concept where you have to be grunting, sweating, screaming, and puking while being emotionally abused by an egomaniacal trainer for exercise to have an effect.

I can absolutely see how people in the Body Positive Movement who’ve been pummeled with the concept of exercise as a weight loss tool, or a punishment for their weight,  might reject it along with their decision to reject the diet industry and the concept of intentional weight loss.  I can see how I could have easily ended up there.

For me, though, exercise is important because I’m a dancer.  It’s also important because I am committed to my health. I don’t have to be thin to be healthy, but in my experience I need to participate in healthy behaviors to be healthy. For me exercise is one of those.  Except I almost never call it exercise anymore – I prefer “movement”, or “working out”, or “going to the gym”.   I hate euphemisms for fat (I am not “pleasantly plump”) but I prefer euphemisms for exercise, a little weird perhaps but there it is.

To be clear, I don’t think that exercise is a moral imperative – people have the right to be sedentary just like they have the right to drink like fish, be bad drivers, or never look both ways before crossing the street. I’m not trying to tell anybody how to live.

I’m talking to people who may desire to move their bodies more, but are  not doing so as a retaliation or rebellion against everything that society is throwing at us about exercise and out weight.  We can certainly choose that, but in the end we are the ones who are likely to suffer.

If you find yourself stuck in a bad relationship with exercise, I would suggest finding an activity you like and doing some of that.  If “traditional” exercise (step aerobics, anyone?) isn’t your thing, find something that is.  Gardening.  Dancing around in your living room.  Tai Chi.  Cleaning your house. Whatever floats your boat.

I would also suggest choosing the activity each day (“I think I’d like to do some gardening today”) instead of making grand future plans (“I’m going to work out 2 hours a day, 6 days a week”).You can block out time in your schedule for movement ahead of time, but consider picking what you most feel like doing to fill that time as it comes around instead of way in advance. That way it will never feel like you are slogging through something that you don’t like.

One of my favorite things about making healthy behaviors my goal rather than a specific weight or size is that I get to succeed early and often.  If my goal is to move three times a week and I do some gardening today, then I hit part one of my goal.  Time for a butt-shaking happy dance of success and victory!  If I dance around the living room on Friday and take a pilates class on Sunday because that sounds good to me, then I’ve kept my commitment to my health, had three awesome successes, and enjoyed myself in the process.  Now I’m in a healthy place mentally and physically which supports me in keeping my commitments to health tomorrow and the next day.  Woot!

You can make whatever choices about your health that you want.  I just suggest that you be certain that they are truly your choices and that you’re not making them because of, or to spite, anyone else.

Not about the Marie Claire Mess

Instead, it’s about why I’m grateful for the Marie Claire mess…

If you haven’t heard, a blogger at Marie Claire posted a blog in which she talked about finding fat people gross.  (I’m not quoting the article and I’m not linking to it from here. For all of those waking up wondering “What grand and glorious adventures will I have today?” that’s just not how I want to start their Monday. Nor will I give this girl more publicity by publishing her name.)

The reaction is what is interesting to me.  Suffice it to say that there was a huge outpouring of pissed-off-ed-ness.  There were over 3000 comments, almost all of them negative.  I heard somewhere (unverified) that 28,000 negative e-mails were sent.

And here’s why I’m grateful:

One of the things that concerns me about the Body Positive Movement is the number of people I meet who think that they deserve to be treated poorly because of their size.  An article as ridiculous as this can perhaps galvanize us and draw a line in the sand that says “Ok, now you’ve gone too far” and I think that with where we are as a movement, right now we need that line.  Here’s what I’m hoping people got out of this experience:

You deserve to be treated with respect

In every interaction.  By everyone.  That doesn’t mean that people will always treat you with respect, it just means that if they don’t it’s an issue on their end, and you don’t have to make it your issue.  Can you imagine picking up somebody else’s baggage at the airport and thinking – “I don’t know who this person is, or how they came to pack these things, but no matter what’s in here, I’m going to wear it!”  So there you are, wandering around the airport in bondage pants and a paisley shirt rethinking your strategy.   That’s exactly what we do when we choose to take on someone else’s issues as our own.

You Do Not Need to Measure Yourself with Someone Else’s Ruler

I know someone who claims to have a phobia of little people.  Some of her friends entertain this  –  offering  her understanding and solace.  I find it abhorrent – these are not spiders, they are freaking PEOPLE.   I once had a  dance judge tell me that she “couldn’t stand to look at me” because my arms were too fat (hi Cindi).   It is my firm opinion that anyone who has that kind of issue with people  – whether it’s because they are little, big, disabled, a different color etc. is fully responsible for doing WHATEVER IT TAKES to overcome that issue, or just shut up about it.  Of course we’re not the boss of everybody’s underpants, just our own.  So while we can’t control people vomiting their issues all over us, we can deftly step aside and not get any on us.  You get to choose how you react to what people say. So instead of internalizing someone else’s prejudice (“if she says I’m gross, I must be”);  try something more like “Wow, she’s a crazy bigot and her prejudice is not my problem”. How you allow something to make you feel is your choice.

You are Not a Stereotype

Some of my favorite responses were people who fought back against the myths the blogger had clearly bought into about weight and health. This is where I think people really allow  themselves be affected by society.  As a fat person I am constantly sold the idea that someone can look at me and ascertain my eating and exercise habits and general health.  Well, that’s just bullshit.  But fat  people choose to buy into it.  They hear over and over again that all fat people eat too much and are lazy and sick, so they think “I must eat too much and be lazy and sick.  That’s my fault and so I deserve to be treated badly”.  May I just suggest:  NoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNo.  First of all, more and more research is finding that people’s natural body size varies widely.  Of course, that research is being drowned out by the diet, pharmaceutical, and weight loss surgery industries who want us to believe that omgdeathfat! is coming for us; and by people who want to feel superior by putting us down, and by well-meaning people spouting myths because they’ve not done their research.   If you feel that you would like to be healthier, then I would suggest looking for ways to add more healthy behaviors to your life (eat a little better, find movement that you love to do.).  In any event, you are not responsible for making your picture fit anyone else’s frame, and the only thing that people can tell by looking at you is what you look like.

So thanks, crazy prejudice blogger, for giving us an opportunity to come together as a community, I really appreciate it.

Speaking of my fat arms, I was part of a photo shoot today with Richard Sabel, an incredible talented (and more than a little bit patient) photographer.  I’ll be blogging more about it later, but for now here is the first picture.  This is the dress that I was wearing when the judge (hi cindi) said that she couldn’t stand to look at me.  I wish my feet were more pointed (I think in this frame I am coming down and relaxing them to land on the oh-so-comfy-concrete floor) but I love my 284 pound healthy body in this picture, un-photoshopped,  as it should be!