Saturday, March 10, 2012

My grand unification theory of weight

I have been working all morning on a post about weight loss, obesity, and my struggles with weight over the years, and it is becoming the many headed hydra that ate my brain.  So much history, so much reading and research over the years, and so much web searching to do to explain why I think what I think.  It's a mess, and a writing project that is going to take more than a morning, for sure.

In the mean time though, this is what got me started:

Emily Deans is a great blogger, she is so in line with what I have experienced and found, she is scientifically rigorous, but also open minded.  This is one of many great posts she has on Psychology Today:  Does Obesity Change the Brain? I also recommend her blog, despite the unfortunate name. Evolutionary Pyschiatry.  (The name is unfortunate because any number of people use that term to describe all sorts of ridiculous things like why it's okay for men to cheat in relationships because they are just acting out evolutionary drives.  Clearly Emily Deans hasn't had the misfortune to read that line of drivel.  No, I am not going to link to examples.)

Also, Stephan Guyenet who's blog Whole Health Source I enjoy has a post about obesity on BoingBoing.  Stephan is an obesity researcher and clearly knows a lot about the science and his post is great.  I believe it is largely true, but perhaps not yet the whole truth.

One thing I would add, and others have pointed out in the comments on BoingBoing, is that despite his theory he still falls into the will-power trap.  Stephan ends his article by saying we need to take the "time and discipline," to eat in a way that will overcome the reward aspects of our modern food environment.   The effortlessly slender have this delusion that they are slender because they are better people than fat people, and if we all were just as virtuous as them and limited our serving sizes we would all be skinny too.  This reductionist theory makes me crazy.  I have lot's of will power, I have so much will power I dieted and exercised myself into total physical breakdown, but a very muscular size four.  Woops, there I go again.  See, the personal history sneaks in.  Any way, I think this will-power theory is wrong, the research shows it's wrong, and I will explain why that makes sense to me in light of my history and my reading about nutrition later.

On the other hand, "finding the time and will power to...cook a diet of simple home cooked food, made from minimally refined ingredients" is what my whole blog is about, figuring out how to cook in ways that eliminate the "addictive reward triggering" modern food milieu that causes obesity and ill health.  Where I differ from Stephan is I believe that he is falling into an anti-hedonic fallacy* which I think pervades American medicine.  In this country we believe anything pleasant is inherently bad, and unpleasant things are virtuous, so a lot of what Stephan talks about is eating foods that are bland or not "hyper-palatable."  Yuck, really, I would rather be fat than eat food without authentic flavor.  I also disagree that "triggers reward channels in addictive ways" and "hyper-palatable" are the same.  I believe that really really good-for-you food can also taste great, and that addictive-reward-channel triggering foods often taste nasty.   I get eating Pringles till you are sick, they are triggering addictive reward channels (not a problem for me now, they have gluten and I can't eat them.) But even when I used to addictively eat them they never tasted *good* to me.  Conversely fresh strawberries taste *great* to me, but I have never addictively over eaten them.

I think those reward channels are there for a reason.  I think some people are more prone to falling prey to them for a wide variety of reasons.  And I think we can eat genuinely good, healthful, delicious foods, without making ourself fat or ill.

Any way, hopefully I can think of a way to write about my theory without writing a novel length book about my sad history of dieting, and hopefully I can also find links to some things that represent the thousands and thousands of words I have read over decades that are the basis of my theory.  In the mean time though, you can't go wrong reading Emily and Stephan.

* Ask me some time to tell you more about my "anti-hedonic fallacy in American medicine theory" as it relates to addiction and psychotropic medication.  It's a doozy.  It has an evil twin, the "feeling better at any cost is worth making you more ill in the long run fallacy."  In some ways they seem contradictory, but they are related.  More on this later.

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