Sunday, March 21, 2010

Harding & Kirby: Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere

Here at femonomics we're big fans of Shapely Prose, Kate Harding's fat acceptance blog. So, when I saw her book Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body on sale at Borders for $3.99 (sorry Kate), I had to pick it up. The book proved to be just as witty and readable as all of her and co-author Marianne Kirby's work.

The book has a lot of great things to say, that are helpful for anyone who thinks negatively about their body (not just fat people, or even women - unfortunately most people seem to suffer from this). As a relatively thin person, I don't feel fully qualified to critique the book, but it did really get me thinking. I had plenty of ah-ha! moments while reading, as well as some discomfort in having old prejudices and patterns of thinking challenged.

The main point is for (fat) people to stop worrying about what they weigh or how they look, and to be happy, along with specific mind-steps to get there. The most poignant essay in the book regards the fantasy of being thin, wherein people postpone living until they lose weight. Don't do that!

One minor criticism I have is the notion the book promotes, however, that the amount of calories consumed is unrelated to weight. I will admit that the relationship between food and weight is quite complicated, but am pretty sure there is at least a correlation. However, the book's argument that dieting is unhealthy is compelling, to the point that you really should talk to your doctor before embarking on any such course. Overall, the book is a pretty quick read and mind-expanding, and I recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read the book, so fans of Harding should chime in and correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the main point of the calories-weight argument is that most people assume there is a direct, formulaic relationship between calories and weight. Even nutritionists will say things like this: It takes X calories to maintain your current weight, so if you eat X - 500 you should be at your goal weight in Y months. This simply isn't true--your body adjusts to the nutrients available to it, and your pattern of weight loss is likely to be unpredictable. Certainly if someone drastically reduces their calories all of a sudden they will lose weight for a time, but for how long and how much isn't known. This article from the NYTimes explains this phenomenon, but also contains some obesity fear-mongering I know Kate wouldn't like. Moreover, they might begin to gain weight again while eating the same amount of calories, as this study shows--participants were eating fewer calories while regaining weight than while they were losing.

    That is the intra-personal relationship--what the correlation looks like for one person, and it's much more complex than what most people think. There's another correlation that most people overstate, which is that between calories and weight in the general population. If you look at someone half your size, you naturally assume she eats fewer calories than you. Someone larger, you assume she eats more. But because everyone's metabolisms and genetics are different, it's very difficult to make this assumption. There might be, as Mongoose says, some correlation, but I bet the variance is huge, for both skinny people and heavier people, and that there's a lot of overlap people wouldn't expect: skinny people who eat just as much as heavy people and vice versa.

    Where I guess I diverge with Harding is that I think there are problems with how we as a society approach food and eating, and I do think this might be leading to higher instances of obesity. I think for some individuals, finding a natural, healthy balance in their eating (along the lines of what the Fat Nutritionist suggests, from Ellyn Satter) might help them be healthier and maintain their equilibrium weight, whatever that is.


Commenting is now open, but we'd love it if you chose one username so other commenters can get to know you. To do this, select "Name/URL" in the "Comment as" drop down. Put the name you'd like others to see; the URL is optional.

Any profanity, bigotry, or synonyms for "[ ] sucks!" will be deleted. We welcome criticism as long as you're making a point!