Saturday, July 18, 2009

I am so sick of the lies about exercise, weight and weight loss.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I am tired of people brandishing badly crafted studies to ‘prove’ that exercise is completely unrelated to weight loss. I am tired of people using the fact that government agencies make unhealthy recommendations about diet as ‘proof’ that what you eat is completely unrelated to your weight. I am tired of people using set-point theorizings to ‘prove’ that the weight you currently are is the only weight you can ever be and you are being evil or fighting your body to be any other weight.

The reality is that those studies consider stuff like no-incline treadmill workouts ‘vigorous’. If your treadmill doesn’t go uphill, you aren’t burning many calories no matter how fast you run on it. The reality is that you don’t have to be cheating to be off on your calorie consumption estimates by 100, 200, 500 calories per day. This would of course wipe out any deficits accumulated through exercise. The reality is that you can be losing fat and gaining muscle and ultimately your overall weight doesn’t change, but it doesn’t actually mean ‘exercise never results in weight loss’. You just lost a bunch of fat while concurrently acquiring some muscle.

The reality is that trashing out your body’s natural feedback mechanisms for calorie burning and absorption with bulimia/anorexia/crash diets/etc. can create some pretty weird feedback mechanisms that may make you extrapolate that ‘eating less and exercising more is completely unrelated to weight loss’.

The reality is that exercise and dietary changes create long term weight loss and weight maintenance at those new low weights if people take the time to get to know their individual body’s calorie requirements and arrange their exercise program (for maintenance at a given weight or for weight loss, then maintenance) accordingly. Or weight gain, if your thing is to explicitly gain some muscle. Exercise and dietary changes can work there, as well.

The reality is that studies claiming being a bit fat or even very fat make you live longer mysteriously don’t look at people over age 75, who are incidentally overwhelmingly not-even-overweight. People bashing others over the head with such studies like to leave out ones that indicate being fat and old can lead to dementia onset (for women, according to a pretty big study of hundreds of old women ranging across the BMI scale).

I don’t really know why the people most likely to claim diet and exercise are completely unrelated to weight and weight gain/loss are women, and why they make a big habit out of insisting to other women that you cannot possibly lose weight through diet and exercise changes. I do know that it is crippling, it is cruel and it really really bothers me. As someone who listened to the lies and got sicker and sicker because hey! exercise and diet are totes unrelated to my weight, I hate the dishonesty operating on all sides of this thing.

I hate the badly designed studies that twist data to make their conclusions. I hate the rebuttals/debunkings that are just as data-twisting and dishonest. I hate when someone says ‘I’m 400 lbs and exercise all the time and and never lost a pound, so this proves diet and exercise are unrelated to weight loss!’

Because that someone is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS a woman telling that lie to other women, making them feel that their bodies are chaotic entities they can never really understand, pressuring other women into believing the ancient male-derived myth that female natures are mysterious wacky things that nobody can really get a handle on.

I hate the way patriarchal cruelty gets reinforced by the same women who insist they are trying to offer an empowerment model by pretending diet (as in what you eat and how you eat and when and how much) and exercise(as in how hard, how often, what kind and how long) have zero connection to the workings of a given female body.

I do feel cheated by fat-positive notions that if my weight drops due to having a more active lifestyle and eating less, that I’m an anomaly when this is a norm for men. Over and over men get more active and eat differently/less and watch the weight fly off. But just as often women tell other women that stuff is a Big Media Lie and it can never happen for them and anyway, setpoints! mean your body totally wants to be gaining seven pounds a year. Until you’re in your 70s when mysteriously most people find themselves pretty slim.

We all have different weights that are best for our bodies. Some of them are pretty high according to government charts. Some of them are pretty low.

This is also true for calorie consumption. I was looking up people over 900lbs the other day and in many cases they were carrying hundreds of pounds of liquid, in some cases more than half their total weight. If your internals are swimming around in a bunch of fluid, you can get some pretty healthy-looking statistics precisely because you aren’t full of 900lbs of fat at all. In the case of these people, putting them on starvation diets was ridiculous because they weren’t full of fat at all, but rather had some complicated issue of liquids retention.

This does not actually prove that being 500 or 700 or 900lbs with low cholesterol readings is necessarily healthy. Rather, it illustrates that there is something going on that does not really map to established notions of weight. As well, some of those 900lb people were eating eight thousand or ten thousand, etc. calories a day as a norm (a much higher fraction than I actually thought was likely, so it was news to me.)

Also, apparently the shape of your good cholesterol is more important than how low the bad cholesterol is. In fact, this offers an explanation for the vegetarian triathletes dropping at 42 from heart attacks.

I guess for me, the weight stuff is like fertility awareness. Fertility awareness can provide a lot of information about your body, but it is unique to every woman, because our bodies are individual entities and they all work differently, even if larger patterns show up for a few things. With weight, women cannot get ‘large’ and ‘too muscly’, but they can get very very strong. They will probably not lose weight the same ways that men often do in terms of swiftness or amount. And they honestly do not tend to have the same calorie needs as men of comparable size and height.

Not losing weight was making me very sick. I was reaching a weight level where exercise was starting to become difficult to even attempt. And I kept trying to exercise, but would stop because I kept remembering the rhetoric that ‘exercise is useless for weight loss and nobody can really lose weight through conscious effort– it is a mystery how weight fluctuates in us gals’. So I believed that exercise wouldn’t do anything for my weight or my health (because if it didn’t have the capacity to change my weight up or down at *some* level, how on earth could it really do anything for my health?) and nearly ended up back in the hospital.

A lot of women are like me. If they aren’t going to gain muscle and/or lose fat, they have a hard time believing that exercise can improve the health, since they get told by other women that it cannot do either of those things.

Anyway, like fertility awareness, bodily awareness is a state of mind rather than a magic system or methodology. And like fertility awareness, I find it telling just which women claim to want you to exercise at any weight but want to deny that your body is a whole system and what you do with it beyond exercise is also relevant to how it behaves with you.

What I eat is relevant to how my weight rises and falls throughout my life. It is not the *only* relevant thing, just one of them. How I choose to be active or inactive is also relevant. The decision to intimately understand one’s metabolic mechanisms is not dissimilar to the decision to understand one’s fertility and gynecological health beyond fetishizing menstruation.

My genetic inheritances regarding metabolic feedback are relevant, but this, this is NOT the only relevant thing. Yet there is a discomforting level of insistence among women (and only women) that it is all that matters and our actions are meaningless gestures in the wind.

I’m fat, I’m losing weight through dietary changes and exercise, and I’m also gaining muscle. Due to having a trashed-out metabolism from anorexia and also being a very short person, I eat a pretty small amount of calories to lose weight– an amount that would be dangerous for someone taller with a better eating history. But it’s also an amount higher than what most women are told falsely is the only range that will result in weight loss.

I exercise by walking up a lot of steep hills, and never slowly. I do calisthenics and heavy weight training (deadlifting and the like). By the standards of the studies claiming people just gain the weight back, I burn about twice the calories per week the study participants do at ‘vigorous’ levels. Guess what that means? It means scientists don’t know what the heck vigorous exercise is. (In such studies, people generally do one type of exercise and nothing else. The body is very efficient at adjusting to one kind of exercise, which is why people should seek to be *more active* and not just do the same workout repeatedly. Nobody rotates exercises in any of these studies, and unsurprisingly, weight losses will not last without variety in activity.)

I exercise about three hours a week and I burn a whole lot more calories than treadmillers and flat-plain bicyclers working out six or seven hours a week. It is amazing how many calories are burned by explosive, whole body exercises, and by the ‘classic’ calisthenic bodyweight exercises of pushups, crunches and squats. But I mix it up and try to make my daily life more active in addition to a variety of exercises.

I will probably post more about this, because I didn’t realise that all the anti-diet, anti-exercise, anti-health rhetoric was coming entirely from women. Men don’t do this to other men.

Weight, exercise, size and health are very complicated and it’s even more dangerous to say exercise and diet have no relationship to weight than to say they are the only things that do. I have been up and down the BMI scales like many women, and right now I just want to have a strong, healthy body, and I don’t like being told I must have ‘magic genetics’ because I eat less, exercise more and am losing fat this way.

The truth is that people are not honest about this stuff, and studies are not designed to actually use techniques that work for long-term weight loss and maintenance.