Thursday, November 1, 2012

Do you need to lose weight?

 I do. I’m one of those women with an “apple” figure. Actually, more like a caramel apple, with two sticks (legs) instead of one, and (on any given day) surrounded by sugar.

‘Apple’ figures pack fat on the torso: back and visceral organs (as opposed to ‘pears’, who pack it on the hips and bum). Apple is the body type most at risk for heart disease (already present in my family of origin) and as I am closer in age to *cough* 50 than 30, I really have to get serious about achieving a normal weight for my height (right now I’m about 30-35 pounds undertall).

One of my sisters who is quite health-conscious (and not undertall) told me about this BBC documentary: How to be Slim (6-Parts—about an hour total) on YouTube.

I am usually sceptical about watching such program because these days, so many reports and studies try to blame obesity on all kinds of crazy things (like McDonald's restaurants or civic bylaws), but I must say, this doc had me by Part 1 with its stunning declaration that:

1. Eating too much food makes you fat.

It also included a few other tips, some of which I had heard before:

2. Lean proteins will keep you feeling satiated longer.

And some of which I hadn’t:

3. A high calcium diet can help you excrete double the amount of fat than a low calcium diet (take-away: dairy is NOT off-limits)

4.  SOUP ROCKS!! (I love homemade soup.) It can help you feel satisfied longer than “solid food” with the same caloric and ingredient content.

Part 4 of the video addresses why we overeat, but not really.

The emphasis was on external things like portion control and being aware of what, when and how much one consumes (all good and necessary info, but doesn't address the heart--or perhaps soul--of the matter).

This was a LOL quotation for me:  “Diet scientist still don’t know exactly why we overeat.”

Hey, the saints and Church Fathers know! It’s called “fallen human nature” (concupiscence) which leads to one of the Seven Deadly Sins known as gluttony. “Our hearts were made for Thee, O God, and they cannot rest until they rest in Thee.”

Whatever our personal reasons for overeating (and some of us have several): boredom, depression, stress, laziness, greed, default mode… our hearts and souls are hungry, and we are trying to fill them with Oreos, a supersize bag of potato chips (“crisps” in the UK), buttered popcorn, a 24 ounce steak, a bucket of fried chicken, a pan of brownies, gourmet ice cream, and so on and so on…

The “small portion” thing does not address the greedy-needy heart. Control really has to come from within, and the vast majority of us need God to do most of the heavy lifting in the willpower department.

Anyway, the real killer moment for me in the BBC documentary was when doctors showed an overweight woman (Andy or Andie, not sure of the spelling) an internal image of her body. Seeing all the fat around her vital organs scared her into making some changes in her life, and me into resolving to make some changes in mine. I totally don’t want to drop dead of heart disease any time soon, if there is anything I can do to help it.

I'm not saying the BBC video is some kind of life-altering production, but I found it inspiring and motivating, and some days, that's all you need. If you watch it, I hope it inspires you too. My weight has yo-yoed quite a bit (down during Lent; up again afterwards) for the past half-dozen years, and I'm tired of it. Especially since I know how all this works, and had a successful weight loss (38 pounds in 18 weeks back in  2000, which is a story unto itself, part of a journey that could fill a book). 

Anyway, I’m going to give it one more shot and try to start a new chapter. Really. I hope.

 Stay tuned.


  1. I hate to differ - well, actually, I'm happy to differ in this case. Almost everything we've been told about why we get fat is wrong. Totally wrong. Google Gary Taubes. He's a science journalist who's done a ton of research, and written several books - one for general consumption (pardon the pun) is "Why We Get Fat, and What to do About it." Not a diet book but a book that shows how we accumulate fat and how to stop accumulating it.

    Science has known forever (there's nothing new in the fat game) that we have a "fat accumulation" problem. Insulin is the driver of fat accumulation.

    Keep insulin levels low and steady and fat cells don't open and get stuffed full.

    Way too much to go into here but eating too much and moving too little is NOT the problem. Have you ever seen overweight marathon, and ultra-marathon runners? I have run with them many times and believe me they train long and hard, and don't lose weight - they gain muscle but they stay very heavy.

    Atkins has been personified as the devil incarnate but when you look at what he recommended so many years ago, you see that his style of low carbohydrate eating was the gold standard decades before we all got fat in the 40s and 50s. The research is all there - vested interests (soybeans anybody?) have kept us in ignorance - and fat!

    This is a serious issue. As we follow the government food guides we get fatter and fatter. Can we all be fat and lazy and not know what to do about it?

    Watch the documentary "Fat Head" and check out Tom Naughton's blog. Check out Mark's Daily Apple. Check out Peter Attia's blog. And definitely check out Gary Taubes. Check out Volek and Phinney (not sure of spelling). They've got a book out on the actual science of fat accumulation and why it happens - The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. Full of research, over years and years, that shows it's not eating too much, but what we eat that's the problem.

    I'm quite passionate about this subject!!!! Turn the food pyramid upside down and eat that way: lots of butter, eggs, meat and fish, with greens on the side. Don't eat bread or any wheat products. Stay away from too much fruit. Don't eat sugar in any form. The weight will come off and stay off as long as we don't go back to "eating normally" once goal weight is achieved. Agreed that protein is satiating but fat is even more satiating than lean so forget the boneless, skinless chicken breasts!!!! Eat the skin, eat the dark parts, and cook with real fat - butter, lard, etc. and by golly you'll stay satisfied for hours.

    I agree that we do sin through gluttony and sloth. But this is a completely different problem. After all there are, I think, 5 different ways to be a glutton according to St. Thomas, aside from simply eating too much - being finicky, eating too many "dainties" and spending too much money on food are some of what he says are gluttony.

    Sorry to go on and on but I'm on a crusade to get people to listen: what we've been doing for so many years is obviously NOT working. Otherwise why do we lose weight on "whatever" plan, including low calories in Lent!, only to gain it all back?

    Ok, rant over! Barbara

    1. Just one clarification: I don't consider Lent a diet plan. Calories are reduced as a byproduct of mortification. Resumption of overeating after Easter is not "eating normally"; it's gluttony. If anything, the repeated years of before/after Lenten "yo-yoing" only proves the "Simple Math" theory: caloric intake in excess of your needs = weight gain; caloric intake sufficient to your needs = weight loss (and eventual stabilization).

      Overweight athletes (yes, I know they exist; I've watched professional football and baseball) can burn all the calories they want, but what are they eating? Exercise will avail nothing if you eat too much for your needs.

      Incidentally, I like fats; indeed, I'll go one further and say that since Jesus declared all foods clean (even with his divine foreknowledge of modern science), there are no foods that must be avoided: certainly not bread--not even junk food. All things in moderation.

      I'm afraid I consider all versions of food-related conspiracy theories an insult to human intelligence, integrity and free will. :)

  2. Mrs. P., thanks for telling me about this video. It was really interesting, and just your description of that lady's fat-enrobed organs made me lose my appetite. I've dropped five pounds since you told me about it, so I think I've discovered the REAL cause of obesity: some ladies not telling some other ladies sooner about videos where you can see fat-laden organs. Let's both blame that other, slimmer sister, and have a fun-sized Kitkat to make us feel better.

  3. If St. Thomas could have foreseen the sheer amount of time, energy and passion we (western) humans spend researching, reading about, fretting about, talking about, writing about, obsessing about food, dieting, and weight loss, would he classify it as yet another form of gluttony? Or maybe he would go one further and label it a form of idolatry. Food for thought.