Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dieting Works; MLMs Don't

The title is self-explanatory yet shockingly controversial.

Tape measures are not part of a healthy diet despite a lot of stock photos that seem to think otherwise.

I have spoken numerous times in this blog about how breaking my leg two years ago dramatically impacted my life. Impacted it like... like a car to the leg, you might say.

Protip: Do NOT Google "broken leg" for stock images.  So.  Much.  Gore.
Because I am a generous god, here's a picture of a cute cat instead.

After my accident I gained more than thirty pounds.  I went from being in peak physical fitness in 2015 and 2016 to the "unhealthy" BMI category.

I have been lucky to have been in a normal, healthy weight bracket for my whole life.  A large part of this is likely due to my lifelong vegetarianism.  Growing up in a normal (that is, meat-oriented) household, I was eating a third less than my family, and much of what I was missing included fat and protein.  (Protein, by the way, when not converted into energy or muscle naturally converts to fat.  This is basic biochemistry; proteins are just amino acid chains and most of those chains include carbon.  After your body breaks up the amino chains into amino acids and ammonia, which is expelled from the body, it takes any remaining carbon and turns them into glucose.  That's right... sugar.  So don't think that a "protein-rich" diet is magic.  It's not.  You still gotta work out.  You know why the Flintstones looked so good?  It wasn't the paleo diet.  It was having to use their legs every day to power their car.)

"But wait!" you protest.  "BMI isn't an accurate way to measure weight!"

It has its limitations.

Look.  BMI by itself is just a measurement. So is weight. Imagine a person says to you, "I weigh 120 pounds."   If that person is five feet tall, that's perfectly fine. If they're six feet tall, that's not healthy. Likewise, if a person weighs 150 and they're five feet tall, that person is overweight, but at six feet, they would be considered healthy.

So, by itself, BMI is probably about as useful as weight is. It's just a measurement. Devoid of context it's probably not very useful, but that is true of almost ANY measurement.  A lot of people HATE BMI.  These people usually say that "muscle weighs more than fat."  These people are mostly fat, not muscle.

I know of only one "overweight" guy who is truly muscular, and he is literally a professional bodybuilder and stunt man.  So... chill out with the BMI hatred, okay, folks?  For 99% of us, BMI is a fine tool that works just fine.

Speaking of measurements, here's an important PSA for you: calories are just a unit of energy measurement. A "cake calorie" is not any different than a "vegetable calorie." If someone tries to say otherwise, they are wrong.  This is like watching a person insist that 10 pounds of steel is heavier than 10 pounds of feathers.

These two plates have the same number of calories.
34 grams of peanut butter = 328 grams of kiwi = 200 calories

Anywho, now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about my weight.  I recently called my mom to complain about my weight gain.  She asked why I needed to lose weight and I told her because I'd gained over thirty pounds.

"So, what, you weight a hundred and thirty now?" she asked.

I shamefully admitted that, yes, this is literally what had happened.  I had gone from about a hundred to well into the 130s.  Realizing I was on a crash course toward actual overweightness, I decided to make a change.

So what change did I make?


No wait.  I mean Plexus.

No wait.  I meant Herbalife.

No wait.  I meant ItWorks.

No wait.  All of the above are predatory multi-level marketing schemes that don't work.

Only one thing works and that thing is diet and exercise.

Side note about MLMs: MLMs target low-income, poorly educated people, especially women, by turning their insecurities against them. And the people who they end up recruiting (and who end up "selling" for them) are people with the most exploitable insecurities, insecurities that probably get even worse through being in the MLM and distancing family and friend support networks.  I don't know of any normal, secure person who would go around implying others are fat or ugly in order to sell a second-rate product.  It's not a coincidence that these products generally promise a quick fix to financial or weight insecurities.

And I know how people struggle with healthy eating and stuff. Lately I've been binging (see what I did there?) on "My 600-lb. Life" and some people really do have addiction issues with food.

Anyone who calls themselves a "chocoholic" might require an actual intervention for their crippling addiction to chocohol.

That being said, it's weird that so many people can look at themselves, think "gee, I ought to change my lifestyle," and then shell out a ton of money for a "magic shake" that they can see does nothing.  (I mean, wouldn't you notice if you hadn't lost any weight after three months?)

This is also one of the reasons I hate MLMs so much. ItWorks, Plexus, Thrive, Herbalife, and other "health" ones basically promise a quick solution to a real medical problem and prevent the people who fall for it from getting actual help. Ditto essential oils. Like, no, lavender can't cure your PTSD, go see a therapist or join a group or something.

People who have unhealthy relationships with food need to deal with both the eating disorder itself as well as the underlying causes.

Story time!

I recently got one of my tattoos redone and was telling my tattoo artist about how excited I am that I've lost 15 pounds recently and am still losing. (My goal is 30-35 pounds.) I'm feeling really good about myself and really working hard to get in shape and just.... you know, accomplished.

So my artist is a big gal. I couldn't tell you exactly how big but I'm going to say probably high 200-lb. category. Maybe even 300-lb.

She immediately started telling me how she used to have a lot of issues with dieting and how she's "never been healthier" since she gave it up.

Like... I get what she's trying to say, sort of. She's talking about mental health. But the thing is, I feel like both under-eating and over-eating are eating disorders, and both are indicative of a need for mental health intervention.

First of all, I don't believe for a second she was ever conventionally "thin." I think that she's one of those people who skips a meal, complains about hunger pains and how awful dieting is, and then ends up over-eating.  (Which is, again, itself an eating disorder.)

This is not what dieting looks like.  Dieting looks like three whole meals a day with carefully controlled portions.  Dieting, in my opinion, should not involve intense hunger pains.  Perhaps a slightly uncomfortable "but I'm not completely full" feeling, but not pains. 

Regardless, she went on this whole rant about how she was the MOST unhealthy when she was dieting and how much healthier she is now, and I'm sitting there thinking, no, you're clearly overweight, and that isn't healthy. And in terms of mental health, if you're struggling with an eating disorder, GET HELP. The solution to an eating disorder isn't "be fat and be happy about being fat." It's SEEING A THERAPIST.

I don't think people should value themselves based on a number on a scale but honestly, her whole speech about how she's "healthier" now that she no longer diets struck me as utter garbage. And she's said other stuff in the past about having body issues, being bullied as a kid, et cetera. (I mean, she's literally a person who does body mods for a living and has a ton of body mods herself so it seems somewhat obvious to me she's unhappy with her physical appearance.)

 She's the kind of person who I could totally see getting into a weird essential oil MLM.

It was also very discouraging for me.  I've been working my ass off to get in shape and it's PAYING OFF. Virtually no one in my life has said "congratulations." Mostly it's overweight people saying things like, "I can't diet, it's so hard to work out, you don't actually need to get in shape because you're already so good-looking, you should love myself the way you are, etc etc..."

Loving myself is the whole reason for my dieting in the first place.  I love myself enough to want to be the best me.  My body is a temple, damn it!

You know!  Poorly cared for and falling apart!  Possibly cursed!  
A temple!

I'm so frustrated by how the overweight people in my life are reacting to my own weight loss.

If fat people believe in "healthy at any size" and that people should love their bodies REGARDLESS of size then how come my losing weight is so offensive to them?

I think this kind of rejection of my own weight loss is largely (heh) an indication that, deep down, people know that being overweight isn't healthy and that it's for the best to be an active person without a lot of excessive weight bogging you down.

I said it already, but let me say it again, because it bears repeating: food is fuel.  Not therapy.

 Sorry folks.  
It's a bitter pill to swallow.

Here's an easy exercise to determine if you are emotionally eating:

Ask yourself if you are so hungry that you would eat a raw hunk of broccoli, or a carrot, or a cucumber.  If you said "yes," go eat that.  If you said "no," then you are not actually hungry.

 Instead of turning to food for comfort, try booze like the rest of us!
(Disclaimer: do not do this.)
(Also, alcohol has a LOT of calories.)

I have been dieting on a 1,200-calorie-a-day regime and have already lost over ten pounds with ease.  (1,200 calories may sound alarming but keep in mind, I am not that big.  My basal metabolic rate is only 1,500 so I'm on track to lose about a pound every ten days, which is well within reason.)

One of the tools I use is MyFitnessApp, which I like because it has an option where you can scan the barcode of what you're eating.  People tend to grossly underestimate how many calories an item has.

With the exception of vegetables, which are insanely low in calories.  A whole bag of frozen broccoli is less calories than a single glass of wine.  (Wine has a lot of discretionary sugars.)  Vegetables are amazingly good for you because they're dense in nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.  Unfortunately, people tend to think they don't like vegetables.

Story time!

 I have a couple of good friends who are self-described "carnivores." They invited me over for a big Thanksgiving meal and I agreed.

Now, I'm a very strict vegetarian, but I'm not a dick about it. For Thanksgiving there's usually a lot of sides I can have, so I wasn't too worried.

I showed up and there were about 3 or 4 dishes there that I could have, as usual, which was great: corn, carrots, green beans, and mashed potatoes.

The mashed potatoes had so much butter in them they were literally unpalatable. The other three vegetable dishes were just frozen vegetables that had been boiled or straight from a can. I had never been so utterly disappointed by Thanksgiving in my life. (Mind you, they were very hospitable and I choked down what I could to be polite but it was all so bland. Except for the potatoes. The potatoes were just straight-up butter.)

The thing that shocked me was that they had no concept that vegetables could be seasoned. You season meat, don't you? You put it in gravy or pour steak sauce on it or whatever, right? Yet to them, vegetables were a food that didn't need preparing whatsoever. Vegetables, to them, come in a can or a bag, and are served lukewarm without any spices. Not even salt. The best dish was the green beans from the can; the stuff that was from a bag (the corn and carrots), that had been boiled, had no flavor. It was just slimy vegetable texture. No actual taste whatsoever. They had literally somehow boiled out all flavor, vitamins, everything. It was basically just fiber, just... raw plantstuff.

 Yum! - no vegan, ever

It became imminently clear to me why they think they hate vegetables.

Vegetables don't have to taste bad.  Here's the world's simplest way to make a bag of unseasoned, frozen vegetables (green beans, brussel sprouts, broccoli, okra, et cetera) taste good:
  •  Throw all that shit in a pan. 
  • When it starts to sizzle, add a tiny amount of white vinegar.
  • Splash some soy sauce on there.
  • Season with onion salt, garlic salt, celery salt, and paprika.  Now that shit should look brown.
  • Optional step: add hot sauce.  
Boom.  You're welcome.

By the way, if you are exceptionally lazy and can't be bothered to mix onion and garlic powder together, you can literally buy them pre-mixed in a spice called "Creole Seasoning."  I did this because I am myself exceptionally lazy.

If you're lazy like me, boy do I have good news for you.  The ultimate motivating tool aside from looking ultra sexy megahot is, of course, money.

If you sign up at HealthyWage.com you can actually earn money for losing weight.  I'm poised to convert my 30 extra pounds into $1600 smackaroos.

Smackaroos would be a good cookie name.

In short, my advice for you, whoever you are, is as follows:
  • Eat more vegetables than sugary processed crap.
  • Know what you're eating, and how much.
  • Don't join an MLM.
  • Sign up with MyFitnessApp and HealthyWage instead.
  • Follow through with lifestyle changes to better yourself.
  • Recognize that those changes are hard.  But that you're worth it.

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