Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's All In How You Look At It

176 lbs. and I just fell off the HCG wagon a little. However, back on tomorrow AM. There will be a price to pay and I knew that, but I accept the consequences of my actions.

One of my favorite movies is “My Cousin Vinny.” There’s a great scene where Vinny is trying to convince his cousin to keep him on as counsel for the murder trial (I don’t think I’m acting as a spoiler here. We’re talking a 20 year old movie). Vinny has a deck of cards and he’s explaining how the prosecutor will make the case. He compares the prosecutor’s work to building a brick wall:

The D.A.'s got to build a case. Building a case is like building a house. Each piece of evidence is just another building block. He wants to make a brick bunker of a building. He wants to use serious, solid-looking bricks, like, like these, right?”

He pulls out the Ace of Spades.

“He's going to show you the bricks. He'll show you they got straight sides. He'll show you how they got the right shape. He'll show them to you in a very special way, so that they appear to have everything a brick should have. But there's one thing he's not gonna show you..”

He turns the card on its side.

“When you look at the bricks from the right angle, they're as thin as this playing card.” And the Ace of Spades is suddenly the Joker.

(Quotes pulled from IMDB)

I think about this scene when I’m listening to two different sides (usually Democrats v. Republicans) discuss the meaning of a particular piece of news/poll/statistic/study. People who cite to studies will give you an interpretation shaded to bolster his/her case.

I am trained as a lawyer (don’t hold it against me) and despite the fact that we had a crappy, self-indulgent disbarred practitioner for legal writing, she did teach us that when you come up on decisions that contradict your point, you still have to include them (and, to make sure the other side sees it, you precede the citation with “But see”). Mainstream American debate on whatever point doesn’t have this nicety to it. If it’s a Republican debate, that’s your opponent’s reason for living.

How does this relate to The Great Weight Debate? Well, in this corner, we have what is essentially the Republican echo chamber (Yeah, I’m not crazy about those guys. Can they not put up ONE viable candidate? Or is it time to bring back the Whigs?) saying that Americans are obese and getting bigger, that the impact on the American health care system is significant enough that people should put down the Big Macs and go for a walk and that anybody who is not of normal BMI or working to get there should immediately start doing so.. Oh yes, and we’re all going to die of Type II diabetes complications. This explains why Jillian Michaels has a career. And we should all wear Spanx. This is the John Birch Society of health because to them, fat is the Great Commie Threat; It’s ugly, it’s evil and those who have it deserve to be treated like crap.

In the other corner, we have the pushback group who advocate for Health At Every Size. They make the point (a valid one) that not everyone of size is ill or about to get ill, that not everyone over the normal BMI is joyriding in a Lark scooter and collecting disability for being obese and unable to work. I remember a Newsweek article from years ago (I’m thinking 6 or 7 years at this point) discussing weight in America and focused on various people (Understand that my memory is not what it used to be, so I make no claim of reliability), including one woman whose picture was in the magazine. She was an aerobics instructor with a “stocky” build (I don’t remember her height/weight, but the BMI was over the sacred 26%). She didn’t fit the willowy wiry model of aerobics, but they did a blood chemistry panel on her and she had EXTREMELY healthy cholesterol (even broken down to LDL, HDL and triglycerides), low/normal blood pressure and pulse. Anyway, the HAES movement wants people to be aware that not everybody who doesn’t fit the body ideal is a slug, an eyesore and a drain on the economy. HAES wants to make the point that it is as unacceptable to treat fat people like crap because they’re fat as it is to treat people like crap because of race/color/creed/sexual orientation.

I agree with that because it’s not acceptable to treat people like crap unless they’ve actually earned it. For instance, the Fucktard at the gym bitching me out and calling me “fatty” because he didn’t get his way is not acceptable. Me calling him “a sorry-ass motherfucker” BECAUSE he had just bitched me out is perfectly acceptable because he’d earned it fair and square. And I’ve seen him verbally abusing other people who “got in his way”, so…

Each side addresses the largeness of America: The “lose, lose, losers” see it as a call for people to reassess their lifestyles and change them. The “don’t bother” group see it as confirmation that we’re fat, we’re going to remain fat and we should just accept it and each other. And each side shows you the brick from a different angle.

I’ll tell you a truth that the polarized sides of this debate (and the demolition derby that passes for an American political system) won’t want to admit to themselves or us:

The truth lies in the middle. And that’s where all the work gets done. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and it’s generally either end of the spectrum that’s doing the loudest squeaking, never mind the wheels that are spinning and functioning just fine (Yes. I’m a middle child. How did you know?).

This is not a bed and we are not fighting over who gets the blankets. It doesn’t all have to be one way or the other.

Let me tell you another truth: we feel most comfortable surrounded by people who are like us and will strive to bring those people to us. I have an ex-friend who was sedentary, significantly overweight, was on an array of meds to address the usual complications of sedentary overweight (high blood pressure, cholesterol, acid reflux, arthritic joints) and, channeling her inner 13 year old, doing the opposite of her doctor’s orders by eating crap and sitting on her ass. Not only that, she was actively undermining my efforts to get in better shape and overfeeding her dogs because she wanted them heavier (despite the vet’s orders. And she would tell me about another friend whose dogs were overweight, overfed and diabetic and how she condemned that friend for how SHE treated HER dogs. Yeah). When I resisted her efforts, it contributed to the rapid and hideously ugly breakup of the friendship because I wasn’t supporting her values. She was also pissed because I refused to share onion rings with her (Hey, if you know going in that onion rings are going to aggravate your acid reflux and keep you up all night, you have one of two choices: either skip the onion rings to avoid the bad consequences or, if you elect to eat the onion rings, shut the fuck up about how sick you feel. Nobody jammed them into your pie hole against your will).

Clearly, I have no strong sense of identity because I don’t give a damn what the people around me look like so long as they’re good people and treat each other (and ME) decently. Middle child.

On the “get skinny” side, we have Dr. Oz (I’ve started watching his show. With a notebook because there are some tidbits of info actually worth writing down) who will have shows featuring the guy with the P90X training system and people who have dropped a bunch or weight or the guys who hosts “Extreme Makeover: Body (or whatever it’s called), Chris Powell. . He also had a show with one of the leaders of the Health At Every Size movement and sought to actively debunk everything the man said. Politely and with respect, but he didn’t give ground. I’ve taken to giving Dr. Oz the Mr. Spock “one eyebrow up” skeptical look since his show is supposedly about promoting better health, but seems to spend a lot of time demonstrating expensive anti-aging treatments that require multiple visits to a dermatologist with lasers and other heavy equipment. His sponsors are also weight loss systems (and yes, they can choose their sponsors), so a lot of the time, I feel like I’m watching an infomercial disguised as a health show. Although Dr. Oz has a kindly demeanor, he makes it clear that if you’re overweight, you should be actively working to not be. He brings up the failure rate of keeping weight off (95%) to emphasize the need to make lifelong lifestyle changes.  And he hates HCG.

On the other side, we have several bloggers whose column names are variations on “Fat Athlete.” While they’re not slyly selling goods and services that are in line with their beliefs (and sponsoring their blogs in exchange for promotional consideration), They write about the pressures on people of size to lose weight, the fact that people of size are treated like crap for being overweight and that the other side is vicious and shrill and mean. They themselves are equally as shrill and mean, casually slinging the offensive term “fatty” around to refer to overweight people (and would roundly condemn anyone who used the term “homo” or “faggot” to refer to homosexuals). At least one or two of them are not living up to the “eat sensibly, exercise and still be fat” mantra as I know them personally and their notion of eating sensibly is sitting down to a doubly generous order of barbecue. (Hypocrisy REALLY bugs me). It’s Newt Gingrich pressing to impeach Bill Clinton for having an extramarital affair with a staffer while ol’ Newtie Boy was carrying on an extramarital affair with one of his staffers. You want to have the barbecue, God bless and pass the napkins, but don’t try to pass it off as sensible eating. The fact that most people do not keep weight off once they’ve lost it (95%) keeps getting brought up as support for the “why bother” position. They also hate HCG.

And into this game of Rolly Polly Red Rover, enter Jennifer Hudson. And me.

Ms. Hudson has an Oscar, Golden Globe (I think), a Grammy and a successful career despite (or because of) “losing” American Idol (which, like the rise of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, shows you just how much America prizes mediocrity. Guys, your votes don’t count. If and when they find that the winner is known once the show “goes to Hollywood”, you heard it here first. You’re just providing an easy revenue stream with your calls). 4 to 5 years ago, she was a size 16. While pregnant with her son (now 2), she decided that she was going to make permanent lifestyle changes to lose weight and enhance her health. Once it was medically okay (son was born, weaned), she began working with Weight Watchers and has now dropped 80 some lbs, wears a size 6 and has written a book. Ms. Hudson speaks of feeling inadequate and a failure at a larger size despite all the awards, movie roles and recording. She felt this way because she was unhappy with her body. And she decided to change her body.

Dr. Oz was all over this. She came on his show and talked about the changes she’s made in eating, how much she likes the points system, what she does for exercise and how great she feels, physically and emotionally. On the Red Rover scale, she’s heading over to that side.

HAES DEEPLY dislikes Jennifer Hudson’s weight loss. They cite, accurately, that she had the awards, the great income and all the American-recognized marks of success even at her larger size, but condemn her for feeling like a failure because she was unhappy with her body at the larger size. They’re losing this particular episode of Red Rover.

Each side is portraying this particular brick from the angles that support their contention.

In terms of the “surround with similar people,” Jennifer Hudson is no longer a similar person. She won’t support them ordering the onion rings and then bitching about the after-effects and they’re pissed.

I am in the same boat as Jennifer Hudson, although not as far along as she. Look, if you are GENUINELY happy with your body and all its limitations and quirks at any size and you have that emotional stability, then yes, you are truly enjoying Health At Every Size. If, however, you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, well, then, we’re back to the onion rings: either make changes to something that will please you or, if you choose to do nothing, than you give up the right to bitch and moan about the consequences. We are both (and I’m confident for speaking for Ms. Hudson in this very limited instance) very happy with the changes we are making/have made to our lives. And nobody has the right to bitch about our happiness at what we’ve done/are doing or otherwise try to take ownership (“I’ve been telling you to do this. I’m glad you finally listened.” “Well, that’s one way, but it won’t work. You should do this instead…”)

Except for the ex-friend, I have not run into any emotional resistance to my efforts and desire to carve out a body that is more pleasing to my eyes, is stronger and more capable. The only resistance is coming from my body and tonight, I broke the calorie-intake limit to eat up some ground sirloin. I was craving it and it was about to expire (didn’t want to waste the money). I thought about it long and hard and I know the scale will have a higher reading in the morning and I’m already feeling the heaviness from the extra beef. (I really need to get back to an acupuncturist for the appetite control. It worked before).

Here’s my point: Neither side of this argument is completely right and neither side is completely wrong. Yes, we should strive to make our bodies the fittest and healthiest that they can individually be, but we’re being shown ideals that are nearly impossible to achieve. And we shouldn’t feel entitled to judge a person’s humanity and/or fitness to live based on size, but if you’re going to talk the “I’m perfectly healthy just the way I am” talk, you’d better be prepared to walk the walk (that includes full and completely honest disclosure of eating habits you claim to be sensible).

Figure out a way to share the blankets.

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