Saturday, March 31, 2012
There's tons of research out there -- just google -- indicating that men have a huge advantage in the workplace if they are tall. Presidents of countries, leaders in law and medicine and business and finance: it clearly can't be coincidence that so many of these guys are tall. And we can all carry ourselves proud, stand tall, as tall as possible. Women can even wear heels!. But everyone understands that you can't actually make yourself taller through your own choice or your will power. So there doesn't seem to be a problem with overt workplace discrimination against shorter people.
What about fat people? There's also lots of research in both the US and Canada on "fat discrimination" in the workplace. I sometimes think it's the last kind of in-your-face discrimination still right out there.
Of course it's absolutely not politically correct to discriminate against people on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin. And it shouldn't be. Those kinds of discrimination may still occur but just about nobody finds any of it acceptable. People -- lots of them -- speak right up. Or shun those who are mean to minorities. There's been real social progress, and not before it was time. In part because we know that none of these qualities is a choice.
But there hasn'be been nearly as much progress towards acceptance if you're fat. Discrimination in the workplace against fat people still seems to be (pardon this bad pun, please) pretty widespread!
That's because if you're fat it's your fault, says Steve Siebold. And much as I'm a "fatloser" fan (fatloser.com is Steve Siebold's terrific free online mental toughness program on weight loss) I do think that his "it's your fault" message is pretty harsh. And not helpful.
To make it even worse, in the popular perception "fat" attract a big cluster of other negative associations. If you're fat, you're lazy, lacking self-respect, lacking self discipline, slow-moving . . . and a whole lotta other non-flattering adjectives.
And in the popular perception, remember, fat is your choice. So if a fat person is choosing to be fat, that would make it OK to treat a fat person with something less than respect. In the workplace as well as socially.
Well, I don't think so. Fat discrimination based upon "fault" is contrary to all of the research about how hard it really is to lose weight , and how hard it really is to maintain weight loss, and how multifaceted the causes of weight gain are. Yet justification of fat discrimination is one great big fat presumption which still seems to be alive and well out there. The result? People can be mean to fat people with impunity. All of that "person of size" and "fat acceptance" stuff to the contrary, fat doesn't seem to be working well at work.
Fat doesn't work to advance careers in business and the professions. And it doesn't help much in more personal relationships either.
A fat politician? It used to be OK -- think Winston Churchill. But: not any more. They're all running for office --literally and figuratively. All the time. Those of you familiar with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's very public battle to lose weight will be well aware of what a target he is for excessive and bloated disdain and contempt -- well beyond any legitimate or reasoned criticism of his municipal policies.
A fat CEO? Think thirties movies: fat business guys with cigars also used to be OK -- but now not so much. Corpulent and corporate don't mix. We're a lean and mean economy, needing nimble and quick role models. Steve Jobs was not a fat guy. Not at all.
A fat doctor? Nooooooooo. Bad enough being a fat nurse, even a fat ward clerk (yup, that would have been me for about three years while a young student). Fat in a hospital setting: sure it's there, just like everywhere else in society. But fat is not healthy. So fat is not acceptable anywhere in health care . . . not at all.
A fat lawyer? I was. Not a good look. Lawyers are supposed to be rational, logical, applying the law and precedent, controlled. Fat means out of control. Fat is not helpful in the courtroom. Even if you're hiding under the robes we Canadian lawyers do get to wear here!
A fat teacher? As a role model for children, given the international obesity crisis? I was a slim and fit college teacher . . . . and then fatter . . . and then less fat again. My weight fluctuation really had an effect on young adults' respect for me. I'm betting (based in part on what my own kids said about fat teachers in public school and high school) that being a fat teacher at those grade levels is even tougher. Huge huge pressure to be hip and happening.
A fat waitress? I've waited tables . . . and the tips are way better (weigh better) when you're looking good. In part because then you're perceived to be really hustling with the burger and fries and Coke ("Yeah, I'll have the extra large, thanks. What kinda pie ya got for dessert??").
Fat in retail? Where it's all about looking good in the clothes that are for sale? Ummmm. Tough one. I can't recall I've very often seen a heavy clerk in a high-end or high-fashion clothing store: and I'm betting that's not a coincidence either.
A fat parent? The most important job most of us will ever have. There are lots of fat mothers and fathers: it's an occupational hazard. No sleep, cleaning the scraps off our kids' plates, unable to schedule time for the gym or any time for ourselves. The fat mother is not the one featured in all the stories about the hot young "yummy mummy" thing, though. Uh uh.
I've been a fat mother and yeah, I wanted to stop sending the message that fat was OK to my own kids. They watched me struggle with various diets, peeling it off and putting it back on. They didn't believe me when I said over a decade ago that I was done being fat. But that time I did take it off for good. My kids did see my final battle and they do see the ongoing effort it takes for me to sustain weight loss. I'm thinking that they respected it. I'm sure DH did -- and does -- and that he appreciates it too. "Fat discrimination" at home? Didn't feel that myself, but I'm absolutely sure (in the context of divorce law) that many fat parents/husbands/wives do.
Is any of this fair? Absolutely not, of course not. It's offensive at so many different levels, it's hard to know where to begin.
But is it reality? It seems to be.
So: how do we deal with it?
I'm increasingly fascinated by this whole phenomenon of "fat at work" and I've been thinking about it lots. So I'd love to hear about your experiences being fat and maybe becoming less fat, in the various jobs all of us do.
If you're interested in sharing your experiences here, you could just cut and paste the section of this blog between the emoticons and answer whatever questions interest you. . . . and of course add any other comments that you like.
Lots of us are wrassling with these issues and I'm pretty sure we would love to collaborate on our responses and strategies!!
What do you do to earn a living?
Have you experienced discrimination related to size at work?
Did you speak up and confront it?
Or did it just make you miserable? Miserable enough to leave the job?
Do your co-workers help you with your weight loss efforts? Or sabotage you? Deliberately? Or just without thinking?
What could co-workers do to support you in your weight loss?
When you lost weight, did you get new thinner-person "creds" not really related to any change in your actual workplace performance?
And does that make you feel like an impostor?
Or help sustain your motivation to keep the weight off?
And what about fat discrimination in the really important workplace: as parent? As spouse?
Sunday, March 25, 2012
We don't use the word "diet" here at Spark People much. Not a word I like much either. But I do use it, myself. And I've recently blogged on the topic.
For me it's always going to be necessary to diet. Permanently.
And it's going to be necessary to tolerate -- even savour -- being hungry. Every day. Human beings are meant to experience hunger. Thin people do experience hunger. Because hunger signals that I'm ready for my next meal. And hunger signals that I will enjoy that meal even more.
However, in that context, I've been thinking about commercial "diet food". The whole focus of diet food and diet cooking is on eliminating hunger. It's a billion dollar industry. And hunger cannot be eliminated if weight is to be lost and cannot be eliminated if weight loss is to be maintained. It's a delusion.
Those 100 calorie pouches, the special cookies that are calorie reduced, the baked instead of fried chips. I don't buy that stuff. In my experience when I did, I just ate more of the calorie reduced foods until I'd had six reduced-calorie cookies instead of two regular cookies, amounting to the same number of calories, or maybe more. Self-delusion. Although (never wishing to be boringly consistent about anything) I do use sugar substitute moderately, Splenda being my favourite.
And I've been thinking about diet recipes too. There is a big focus here at Spark People and in a million cookbooks and magazine articles on lower-calorie versions of favourite foods with the promise that they are "just as good" or even better, more flavourful. The calorie reduced cheesecakes made with low fat cream cheese and sour cream, the fudge brownies with applesauce instead of butter, the ovenbaked "fried chicken". And yup, I've contributed a few of those recipes too. None of them do taste quite as good as the original. Because they don't appeal to all of the senses -- the mouthfeel of fat, the crispiness of fat, the crunchy sound of caramelized sugar, the smell of butter-soaked popcorn. So maybe if I had a slightly bigger portion of the cheesecake it'd be good? No? Delusion again. I've had to come to the conclusion that cheesecake is not for me. Fried chicken is not for me either.
With the way I'm eating now, increasingly I don't use recipes. As for the requests for my "soup recipes": I would love to help and I'm flattered to be asked but I don't really have any. My soup is comprised from whatever's in the cupboard and the freezer and those veggies in the fridge that need to be used up from last week's salads.
But what I'm learning is that out-and-out "diet foods" -- commercial product, or my own "makeover" versions -- are seldom satisfying. Although I 'm not totally consistent, primarily and increasingly I'm finding that my omelettes and oatmeal and soups and my salads (staples of my diet) are tending to be "real food". By which I mean, not commercially calorie-reduced or revamped versions of higher fat originals.
Real oatmeal, old fashioned type: not the prefab pouches. Of course there aren't any calorie reduced radishes or tomatoes or bell peppers or arugula. All those raspberries and blueberries and apples are by definition "full calorie". I do often choose lower fat or fat free dairy products (yogourt, feta, milk) but I'll eat full fat old cheddar and full fat butter rather than processed cheese slices or ersatz margarines. I will eat full fat cashews or nut butters and avocado and salmon: all good fats. Provided I have them in controlled quantities. Very controlled. And not every day.
I can't have some of these real foods in sufficient quantities such that I'm not going to feel hungry. I do feel hungry. Every day.
Hunger is not an emergency. And no amount of "diet food" will prevent me from feeling hungry anyhow, if I am going to sustain my calorie range. And maintain my weight.
No amount of exercise will permit me to eat whatever I want either.
I am going to be hungry. I am going to savour my hunger, savour my meals. Real meals. Because real food is more satisfying to me.
Gotta grow up and accept this. No whining. No regrets.
Less is more.
Don't misunderstand: I'm not "lecturing" on this topic, not at all.
This is a new core belief I have deliberately adopted, and I'm repeating it here primarily for my own benefit. Repeating it until I believe it, act upon it and realize the results.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Slurped up my last bowlful of a stellar peanut butter chicken last night: it had lots of Asian vegetables (water chestnut, snow peas . . . ) and buckwheat noodles, and big chunks of garlic and ginger. Plus Thai green curry paste. Loved it!
This week's soup will be Cajun black bean and sweet potato with celery, shredded carrot , green pepper and brown rice. It smells very very spicy! And it's colourful -- chock full o' vitamins.
Good thing too: the miserable cold I've been fighting off has wrestled me to the ground (sniffles, streaming eyes, generally achy/breaky), and my taste buds will be requiring powerful flavour if I'm to taste anything at all.
Now I'm heading off to sit in a steaming hot tub. Exercise will have to wait a bit . . . and I'm not worrying about that too much, I always do return to the gym. And weight loss maintenance for me is at least 80% control of nutrition.
It was a busy week, and lots awaits me on my desk: but I'll get through it. No need to work this weekend. I'm lying low.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
TUFFMUFFIN, aka DH, comments humourously on my "Best Dressed" blog with respect to my "success" in inveigling friends to make clothing donations to me. He points out that people give me their clothes when their own weight has increased, such that their clothes no longer fit 'em. And he advises, sagely, "The secret therefore is to make friends with those not inclined to Sparkpeople ways."
He's kidding. I don't deliberately focus in on making friends with those who are gaining weight. Surreptitiously feed 'em up!! No matter how enticing their wardrobes might be!!
However, he made me think.
Why have I been so unsuccessful in "recruiting" friends to join SparkPeople? Which would have meant that they could have kept their clothes and worn them themselves?
I don't know.
Until TUFFMUFFIN himself signed up a couple weeks ago (AND he's already lost 3 pounds!!) I had influenced not one person -- not one at all -- to become active on SparkPeople.
Let me hasten to say right away: this wouldn't be information I'd offer up. I don't proselytize, "Let me tell you about SparkPeople." Kinda delicate: hard to interpret any other way than, "I think you need to lose weight". And: most people absolutely don't want to hear that. Not at all. So it's generally a topic I don't broach. (I quickly learned when I was looking for new "homes" for my own size 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, and 10 clothes, as I was downsizing . . . . expensive clothes, in many instances . . . . that there were not going to be any takers. There is apparently no tactful way of offering up clothes "that I'm now too thin for" . . . that corresponds to offering up clothes "that I am now too fat for". So I finally took mountains of them to the thrift store . . . . ).
A few of those who knew me when I was 230 have asked how I lost the weight. But that was more than a decade ago. Old friends have got used to me at my current size, and the majority of more recent friends and acquaintances have never known me fat.
But, quite a number of recent acquaintances have asked me about how I stay (relatively) thin. People at the gym, for example. Or work colleagues. Or clients. Or just casual friends.
When asked, I have mentioned Spark People. Probably at least 100 separate times, maybe more. But (before TUFFMUFFIN signed up, and he really doesn't need to lose much weight, if any -- a couple more pounds at most) only ONE person was interested. That would be my totally wonderful hairdresser, who has cut my hair for over 25 years. And yeah, he does use the site . . . but only the nutrition tracker. Nothing else.
My sister tried it. Did not like it. Waaaaay too complicated. Overwhelming. Weight loss shouldn't require so much effort. My daughter tried it. Ditto. And same with everyone else to whom I've mentioned SparkPeople. They've maybe been kinda shamefaced, reporting back, but they've been definite. Unanimous. "It's not for me."
How come? SparkPeople offers an amazing range of services. And information. And supports. And incentives. The nutrition and fitness trackers, the weight tracker, recipes, the meal planners, the exercise videos, the teams, the points, the goodies, the friends . . . . You can use as much or as little as you choose, of all that's on offer. So what's not to like?
I don't know.
I like it. Obviously. I've been here almost three years!
SparkPeople is not nearly as "in your face" as fatloser.com. Or even Judith S. Beck's "Diet Solution". Or Susan Estrich's "Making the Case for Yourself". But although SparkPeople may be kinder and gentler: people I know don't sign up.
And then, in addition to those who say they're desperate to lose weight and never sign up at all, I'm also still struck by the number of people who "fade away" on SparkPeople. Some of whom have apparently not lost any weight. But just given up. Some of whom have lost weight and so think maybe they don't "need" SparkPeople any more. Not realizing that maintaining is even tougher than losing. (Some of these "former losers" do return, having left and regained, for a further shot of support. Which is inevitably given once again, unstintingly and unquestioningly.)
Weight loss is not easy. Weight loss maintenance is even more difficult. And probably the right question to ask would be, "Why is Spark People so successful in helping people lose weight and keep it off", rather than "Why don't more people sign up?"
Gotta say, however, that I still wonder. Being fat is no fun: unhealthy, uncomfortable, unsightly. And if that sounds harsh, I don't mean it that way . . . . heaven knows I've lived it. Live in fear of reliving it!
I'm thinking: would some kind of preliminary screening questionnaire help? To assist people in signing up for just those services initially that are going to work best for them? So that they don't get overwhelmed? So it seems less complicated? For example, the nutrition tracker is key for me. I'm not a very good "team" person, or "challenge" person . . . but there are people here for whom that's the heart of the Spark program. And others for whom the running is the big thing. Or the message boards. It probably depends upon time available and personality.
Obesity is an epidemic. SparkPeople is free. It works. Why oh why don't more people make use of this amazing SparkPeople resource?
Has there been any research done correlating those who are most active in various areas with those who self-report most success in weight loss or maintenance?
Any thought about a "graduated introduction" to SparkPeople services? Maybe earn eligibility for beyond-basic services by earning points . . . for example, log in 30 days and you get the meal planner, log in 60 days and you get the exercise planner?
But keep it simple to start. Would that help?
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