Weight Just a Minute

Wednesday, 17 February 2010
What happened to taking responsibility for our own lives?  I just read that a Biggest Loser contestant has written a memoir about her sugar addiction and that she cannot be blamed for weighing 457 pounds since her condition is "in her genes" and that she is suffering from an addiction.  She says sugar for her functions the same way that crack does for a drug addict and she is powerless against it. 

Just recently film director Kevin Smith was in the news for being kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight.  Try as I might, I cannot find a recent full length picture of Smith which shows his current weight.  He immediately tweeted about the episode (I think to save face).  The airline maintains he could not fit into only one seat and Smith admits he normally purchases two seats on flights.  This was a flight he was bumped to and there were no additional seats. 

My brother and I are lucky because while we have family members who have struggled with their weight for their entire lives, my mother taught us how to eat fruits and vegetables as snacks.  She also taught us portion control which is key.  Most "normal-sized" people do not just show up as a thin adult and live life as a skinny person.  Most trim people do NOT eat whatever they want whenever they want to.  

Four years ago when I was working as a morning reporter in Cincinnati, Ohio, my photographer and I got on a kick where we'd eat on the road every day together at restaurants and fast food joints.  We also bought drinks at Starbucks almost every day and occassionally I would hit up Graeter's ice cream on the way home from work.  Gradually, I went up 2 sizes in clothing and finally realized what was happening when NOTHING fit.  I had to change my lifestyle or I was going to keep gaining weight and soon be very over-weight.  Little by little, I changed what and how I was eating and lost the weight.  Was it easy?  No way.  Am I happier being my "normal" size?  Absolutely.

Now, when I go grocery shopping do I long for Double-Stuff Oreos and cookie cream ice cream?  Yes!  Is it really, really hard to buy apples, carrots and bananas instead?  Yes!  Would I like to eat guacamole and chips every night of the week?  Yes!  But I know that I cannot eat whatever I want and keep a trim physique.  That's why when I go on vacation, I take a break and eat what I like but I can't do that all year round.  It takes self-discipline to stay on the thin side, not just good genes!   

I think folks that are obese also may just not know they are eating in a way that is unhealthy.  Do you notice co-workers who always have fast food for lunch (Super-sized)?  How about those who eat a Dairy Queen Blizzard on the way to work every day?  Extra whipped cream on a double mocha every day?  Cheese and meat and dessert for every meal (and then they complain about their body)?  Those calories add up especially with a sedentary lifestyle.

Yes, genes do play a role in our shape.  Absolutely!  But self-discipline and restraint matters too.  Is it okay for over-spenders to blame their debts on the culture of marketing and Consumerism?  That might be the easy way to explain away the problem.  It doens't hurt as much as admiting we lack self-control but the longer we kid ourselves the longer it takes to make a change.  

Do you struggle with weight?  What are your obstacles to changing the way you eat?


Mr. Cato Cat said...

I am offended. I worked hard for this physique, and if I need two seats (I do manage to take up the whole couch), then it is the person next to me who needs to move or take another flight. Believe me, it is a daily struggle. I take in every calorie I can and try to burn as few as possible. It isn't easy being me, and I would appreciate some respect!

Jeregano said...

I struggle a bit with my weight. More recently than in the past, but not to the extent of Mr. Smith. There are a few bits of this story left out.

1) Kevin Smith only gets extra tickets occasionally, not all the time as Southwest, and only on southwest (because they are cheap) for reasons not pertaining to his size.

2)According to Southwest guidelines on "persons of size" (Q&A here http://www.southwest.com/travel_center/cos_qa.html )the determining factor is supposed to be the arm rest, which Kevin Smith contends he could put down.

3) And most importantly here I believe when you listen and read the whole story is the inconsiderate, inhumane, and prejudiced way in which the policy was arbitrarily enforced. After OKing him for stand by and allowing him on the plane an employee (the same one as had OKed him to fly on the flight) then went in and removed him.

If you care to examine Mr. Smith's side of the story he did release an hour long explanation of the events that evening that has gone mostly ignored by much of the media on his web page. Be warned, the language may be objectionable but it is SModcast 106 located at SModcast.com SModcast 107 is a discussion he has with a young girl who was admonished on the flight he did finally get to take home.

If you a 1 hour long audio explanation by him is not to your liking he did late put up a video explanation of events at www.smodcast.com/finalwords You should be warned that that was filmed on his computer at about 2 minute intervals and was originally put up piece-mail, and so that is something to contend with.

I have also read Southwest side of the discussion which intermittently standoffish, offensive, unprofessional, and self-contradictory. Most of the offensive and unprofessional stuff can be found in their first blog, here: http://www.blogsouthwest.com/blog/not-so-silent-bob and the self contradictory part can be found in the second here:http://www.blogsouthwest.com/blog/my-conversation-with-kevin-smith-0

I'm a little disappointed with the level on examination applied to this post before making a prejudgment on the situation and the lack of interest given to any readers, friends, or people who just stumble upon this blog and have HONESTLY struggled with being truly over-weight for all their lives. We don't blame the over spenders, but we try to put in place protections for them from the predatory and unfair practices of those companies or individuals who would treat them like criminals or less than human for their struggles...and of course that is a terrible analogy, because no one carries their debt around on their face for everyone with less debt to judge them by.

I would suggest one other article as well, in addition to the ones that actually have relevance to the facts of this case mentioned above, about how this speaks about one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice and discrimination in this country:

And I guess that is Jeregano's 2 cents.

Jeregano said...

Very very insightful Mr. Cato Cat. It is easy to see you are compassionate and an understanding human being.

LizP said...

While I could agree with the Biggest Loser contestant that they could have a sugar addiction, they are by no means "powerless" over it. Talk to anyone who has battles alcohol addiction. They take it day by day but do not let it make them powerless.

Denae said...

Great comments on this post. Thank you all!

Jeregano - this wasn't meant to be an in depth post about Mr. Smith but that you for the additional information on the case. My point was to discuss self discipline and self control when it comes to what we eat. Restraint should carry over to other parts of our lives such as how much waste we create, how much we drink, sex addiction, alcohol addiction, how much TV we watch...etc.

You didn't mention anything about taking responsibility for our own actions in your comments which was disappointing to me. Yes, discrimination happens at an alarming rate against people who cannot change who/what there are: race, gender and sexual orientation.

I sympathize with over-eaters and their struggles and compassionately defend those who are treated in an inhumane way. However, the blame game doesn't work when promoting a positive outcome and that goes for anyone who struggles with excess.

Ted Stryk said...

I think that good habits, over time, stick. Also, when you aren't used to eating a lot of unhealthy stuff, it might still taste good, but it makes you feel awful. I am not in great shape by any stretch of the imagination, but I do go run several miles every day. Do I enjoy it? Usually the answer is yes, but there are days when I have to drag myself. I have also learned some techniques such as keeping some healthy snacks in the car. I often don't have a lunch break, so I have to eat while I'm driving. This semester I eat when I get to Oak Ridge at about 1:20, so having some healthy snacks is a real help, because since I drive by a lot of fast food joints and eat lunch so late, they can really get tempting.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think we need to acknowledge that there is a huge difference between being 5-10 lbs above your cosmetic ideal weight, being overweight and being obese. People are blessed/cursed with different metabolisms and different frames. Not everyone can look like you no matter how many celery dinners they have. Likewise, a lucky few can eat krispy kremes every day and still be a size 0. You know what I call them ;) I have friends that eat less than me and workout harder than I do and still maintain a larger frame. It is their body type. Genetics are important.
That being said, no one is genetically morbidly obese (barring a major medical condition). Diet and exercise can almost always prevent that. It is just harder for some than others.
But "self-control" isn't always the issue. And I fear it probably sounds condescending. Nothing wrong with having pride in one's personal fitness, but I do think we should recognize that people in every culture have every body shape. Many Americans are overweight - but it isn't just always because they are lazy or lack discipline. Poverty? A lack of education? Depression? Etc, etc...


Ted Stryk said...

I would add that airline seats are quite big, width wise. The people I genuinely feel sorry for and who have a good discrimination complaint are those who are about an inch and a half taller than me and up.

Denae said...

Haha - CC - I bet myself $20 you would disagree with this post. I won! So what do you tell a patient who is obese (and clearly there is a difference between heavy, overweight and obese)? I would assume most doctors would recommend diet and exercise along the lines of a major lifestyle change. Is that also condescending? Weight loss ultimately comes down to having the self control to make a change in diet or as modern-day Americans do now, have a doc cut you up and sew your stomach shut so you have no choice but to only eat small portions. That works too.

Denae said...

Ted - good point about tall ppl on planes. Doesn't seem fair to those who have to sit scrunched up with their knees to their ears!

Anonymous said...

That was an easy bet! I will spare you my rant. But, tell me this, why are do cities like Detroit and Memphis have a mean BMI so far above cities like NewYork and LA? Is it that the entire population lacks self-control? Or do education and income level play a role?
And telling all patients who are fat to just have "self control" without addressing underlying emotional and social issues is a bit like telling an anorexic just to eat more. Not very productive.
That being said, I do think obese patients should have to buy two seats.



Anonymous said...

Genetics play a role in weight, as well as income level, education, environment, stress level... and on and on and on. The question of WHY someone is obese (and I'm limiting this to the truly obese, not those with a few extra vanity pounds they would like to be rid of) is infinitely more complicated than a lack of self control. As if you may say to someone, "Yes, it's a pity you're poor. Why haven't you tried being rich?" You may not realize you're speaking from a position of privilege, and by not recognizing that, yes, this post does come across as a bit condescending. You have the benefit of a strong education, genetics that lean on the side of thin, parents that taught you about healthy eating habits from childhood, and you make a livable wage. Good things to remember before judging others.

<3 Mel

Denae said...

Okay, okay! I might be over-ruled on this one if CC and Mel are both saying I need to back off. Thanks for your comments and indulging me in discussion and debate everyone.

Anonymous said...

We loooooove you!

CC (with apologies for the grammatical errors above. Must stop writing comments at stop lights)

Annie said...

Interesting post. I noted that you wrote "it takes self-discipline to stay on the thin side". I often wonder, how thin is thin enough? Every day, I hear people complain about their weight and their non-existing fat asses. I wonder how they see themselves? Being fit and healthy is one thing. Just striving to be thin is quite another. I've battled with my weight all my life. I'm not obese, no, but I am not at my happy weight. I think a lot of it has to do with what you eat, yes, and stress levels and lack of sleep. Being morbidly obese is different than packing on some extra pounds. Not everybody can live off veggies and fruit, but that doesn't mean it's ok to eat a supersize burger every night. Moderation is the key. The portions in America is WAY bigger than what I get in Norway. Also, we usually boil our food instead of frying it, and we eat small sandwhiches for breakfast instead of eggs, sausage and hashbrowns. I've gained 20 pounds since I moved to America, but I know it's my own fault. Still, I don't obsess over it daily. If my clothes fit, I'm happy. And I know one day I'll get into my skinny jeans again ;)

Denae said...

CC - you didn't have any grammatical errors. I refer to any of my mistakes as "typos." ;)

Annie - so glad you commented! I know you've always said your eating habits changed when you moved to the US. Perhaps the overeating trend is also cultural as you alluded to. I noticed people ate differently in the UK but then again everyone has to walk from A to B there so that's another variable.

Amber said...

I appreciated this post because of your honesty, Denae!

You are wise to recognize how lucky you are to have grown up with parents who taught you good eating habits. I grew up on the typical West Virginia diet... pizza, hot dogs, and Pepsi & Kool-Aid. (Seriously, what parent in their right mind provides only sugary drinks for their kids?!?) I had sweets after every meal as well as for snacks. I never saw a carrot on my plate until I went to college, much less zucchini, broccoli, spinach, etc. My parents still don't eat fruit or vegetables. And, surprise! Everyone in my family has had weight problems except for me. I am the only one who has learned to eat somewhat healthfully but even still, I find it easy to creep back into old habits. But truthfully, I SHOULD be 200 pounds.

I observed over the years, especially with former nursing home coworkers, that those making lower incomes do tend to make unhealthier choices. I'd routinely go into the break room and find a housekeeper or CNA eating half a bag of Chips-Ahoy and a Coke for lunch (or something equally disastrous). I can understand why. When you make $9/hr because you really don't have the family support or mental ability to get a better job, and you're working 50+ hours a week and raising 3 kids, where do you find the time or motivation to cook properly? Creating APPEALING meals from healthy ingredients on a rock-bottom budget usually requires a time investment and a bit of skill or imagination. It's so much easier to get cookies from the gas station or hit the dollar menu at McD's, it tastes better, it costs about the same, it's instant gratification, and there's no cooking involved. So who can blame those folks, really? That's the reality of their situation, and they pay for it with their health. No surprise that the poorest states have the highest obesity rates.

However, those who have a bit more cash to spare can usually swing by the nearby EarthFare when they're in a time crunch. I think that those of us falling into a higher income bracket don't have as much of an excuse not to care for ourselves and eat a healthy diet.

Anonymous said...

Hey Denae - what's a sedimentary lifestyle? Is that doing so little movement that you actually turn into a rock? ;-)

Denae said...

Ouch. Brutal spell check trap. Thanks for catching that. Haaaa! A rock!!