Thursday, August 20, 2009

How (Perennially) Fat People Diet: Part 1

While this series is self-contained, I'd suggest reading these three postings first:
"Losing Weight Costs $1000/pound"
"Your Body's Just Trying to Accommodate You", and
"Nothing's Ever Shot To Hell".

Index of This Series:
Part 1: How (Perennially) Fat People Diet
Part 2: Skipping Breakfast/Lunch
Part 3: Huge Dinners
Part 4: About Protein
Part 5: Night Snacking
Part 6: At the Gym
Part 7: The Bipolar Diet
Part 8: Hapless Helplessness


Many fat people are on seemingly perpetual diets, yet they remain perpetually fat! Surely they're doing something wrong! Indeed, as I've departed their ranks, I've come to see that they're doing everything wrong! Today we'll look at the approach many of them take. Then, over the next few days, we'll examine why these methods are so ineffectual - or even counterproductive.

I'll draw a distinction between dieters and dieting fat people. Many dieters are previously thin people who for some reason (e.g. bed-ridden recuperation), have put on a few pounds. Others are weight lifters who've intentionally "bulked up". Dieting fat people are a separate - and spectacularly unsuccessful - breed, and they have traits in common. Of course, not all fat people do all these things. But many of them do many of them:

1. Little or No Breakfast or Lunch
They just don't get hungry early in the day. And that's ok. Not eating is good! It feels virtuous. Time spent not eating is time well-spent: an accomplishment. Eventually, the hunger reflex departs and it's hard to imagine eating more than a yogurt or a piece of fruit early in the day. The righteous feeling of asceticism somewhat offsets the shame of being overweight. I may look like someone lacking self control, but if you only knew...!

2. Large Portions at Dinner
Hey, if you've fasted all day, there's no harm in loading up at dinner time, right? Especially if you're eating a....

3. Low Calorie, Low Fat, Low Protein Dinner
Dieting fat people know to watch their ingestion of calories, fat, and sugar. But they also avoid protein. Why? Because their usual protein sources are caloric bombs. Hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, tacos....all that stuff is, obviously, unfit for dieters. So they sidestep the protein and ingest great big bowls of things like brown rice, vegetable chili, and other virtuous-seeming carbs. Plus, something sweet for dessert - fruit-based, because the sugar in fruits is much healthier and less fattening than other forms of sugar.

4. Night Snacking
Strangely unsatisfied by their virtuous huge carby dinner, they snack all night. They generally don't binge on especially unhealthy snacks (though sometimes they do, when cravings get the best of them). On good nights, they merely ingest lots and lots of relatively low-calorie carby stuff. But even if they scarf a bag of chips or a slice of frozen pizza, they figure they can get away with it, given their low overall daily calorie count. After a day of fasting, and a fatless, meatless dinner, a bit of pleasure seems justified!

5. At the Gym: Hammering Away
Few fat people keep up consistent gym regimens, but those who do tend to hammer away at some part of themselves. They do 30 minute grueling death marches on the stair master or relentlessly work their abs on those great big plastic balls. You'll find few fat weight lifters at the gym, and few on the treadmills for more than a visit or two. Pilates classes, however, are full of fat folks - none of whom ever seem to slim down. They flock to pilates because they feel that by Crunching! Away! Again! And Again! at the muscles beneath their swelling tummies, they'll melt away The Problem.

6. Special Occasions
The above regimen is quite unpleasant. It leaves one feeling vaguely but deeply discontent, battling endless cravings, and experiencing a sour sort of near-hunger which eating never quite satisfies. As the long day of fasting rolls on, there's a light-headedness and lack of energy. Mood swings are the norm. Consciously or not, this is accepted as penance for being fat, and this penitent, sacrificial feeling, in and of itself, ought to translate into lost weight!

To preserve sanity, there are periodic "special occasions" when one goes off the diet in a limited way. Lasagna, steak, cupcakes...eating like a human being again. Such meals are perceived to have been "earned" via prior sacrifice. But while they may satisfy emotionally, they don't leave the body feeling satisfied. Rather, there's a sense of unwellness, which the mind seizes upon as shame. And so the harsh regimen of fasting and the gym hammering is resumed with a reinforced attitude of sour aggression.

There may also be binge periods of a few days or more where one falls totally off the wagon. That's to be expected amid months or even years of dismayingly fruitless dieting.

7. Hapless Helplessness
In spite of relative low daily calorie counts, and the feeling of hardly eating anything (with much of the day spent fasting), the weight never budges. Cholesterol, and perhaps blood sugar and pressure, remain high. There must be a hormonal or metabolic problem; I diet and diet, yet the weight never comes off. There must be something uniquely screwy about my system that keeps me from losing weight. Since my effort isn't rewarded, I eventually come to make less and less effort.

Continue to Part 2

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