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I've been interviewed about that weight loss survey - Input Junkie
April 3rd, 2014
11:12 am

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I've been interviewed about that weight loss survey
It's a podcast from New Zealand-- the 05-03-14 entry, from 5:00 to 20:00.

A while ago, I did a casual survey about what people have done to lose weight, and what the outcomes were. I'm interested in the subject because I was getting one narrative from the fat acceptance community (trying to lose weight is very likely to make your life worse) and another narrative from everyone else (trying to lose weight is a reliable way of making your life better).

The interview is at a fat-friendly venue, and I was told I couldn't mention that some people lost weight successfully. I was concerned that I wouldn't have 15 minutes worth of material, but Cat Pause (pause-AY) is a good interviewer, and the interview went well.

I can live with the no-diet-talk rule which exists in some venues. Some people are just sick of diet talk (it's very repetitious), and quite a few have had very bad experiences with trying to lose weight, up to and including eating disorders.

To my mind, a lot of fat acceptance venues have formal rules that limit the conversation, and the mainstream has customs of saying that people only fail to lose weight because they're doing it wrong and/or not trying hard enough which also have a considerable silencing effect. Nuanced discussion of various ways speech gets limited.

One angle the interview reminded me of is the possibility of expanding the survey. Any recommendations for venues? I've been thinking Metafilter. Facebook isn't satisfactory because I want someplace where it will be easy to find the survey again.

Another question is whether it would be possible for anyone to do a big formal survey with random samples-- Cat Pause thought that no one would pay for it. I think it would be expensive, but I don't know how expensive it would be.

Also, any thoughts about questions which would be worth adding? I'm thinking about including age of first attempt to lose weight.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1042696.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:whswhs
Date:April 3rd, 2014 04:01 pm (UTC)
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I was told I couldn't mention that some people lost weight successfully(!?)

That says to me that the people who are making those rules aren't interested in the truth; they're interested in emotional comfort, or in ideological advocacy, or in selling something. It's just as if people who advocated dieting were to say, "you can't mention that some people don't lose any weight, or that they gain back weight." Which I think also happens. I'm all for freedom of advocacy, on both sides, but I think if we ever arrive at truth it will have to be from admitting the actual facts.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 3rd, 2014 04:28 pm (UTC)
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I tell you three times: they're no worse than than the normal people who don't want to hear that trying to lose weight is ineffective a lot of the time and dangerous some of the time.

I'm inclined to think that if you looked at the failure rate for dieting and the dangerous side effects like eating disorders, it wouldn't pass the FDA.
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From:whswhs
Date:April 3rd, 2014 04:42 pm (UTC)
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Sure, and that's pretty much what I was saying. But I don't think much of "no worse than" as a standard. If you're asked what you found out, and you found out that some people lost weight successfully, that's part of the answer. Confirmation bias is a bad enough problem in inquiry without intentionally adopting it as a methodology.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 4th, 2014 04:41 am (UTC)
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Sorry about missing some of your point-- I stopped reading at "That says to me that the people who are making those rules aren't interested in the truth". I should have been calmer, but just possibly you should have been less belligerent.

It would probably have been more accurate to say that they aren't interested in the whole truth.

On the other hand, I haven't seen any venue that's welcoming to the full range of reactions to attempting weight loss. Maybe Making Light could manage it. Less Wrong hasn't done a great job.

I suggest that if you're interested in truth, you may need to listen to people who are accurate even if they're deliberately staying in a limited range.
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From:whswhs
Date:April 4th, 2014 09:15 pm (UTC)
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I'm sorry to have caused offense.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 4th, 2014 09:37 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for your apology.

I hope you will consider the possibility that there are truths to be found even in places where the search for truth isn't impeccable.
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From:whswhs
Date:April 4th, 2014 10:01 pm (UTC)
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I thought about explaining the point I was making, but I considered that explaining shading into justifying or defending—in other words, into arguing that I was actually right and you were wrong, which isn't a very good way to make an apology. I don't think I can respond to your second sentence without committing the same fault. So forgive me, but I would rather not risk causing more offense by discussing the matter further.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 4th, 2014 10:12 pm (UTC)
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Fair enough.

I wasn't sure whether pushing my point was a good idea. It probably wasn't.
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From:whswhs
Date:April 4th, 2014 10:35 pm (UTC)
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We're fans; mutually awkward communication isn't a surprise, and I don't count it as a cause for offense.
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From:ritaxis
Date:April 3rd, 2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
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I'm very interested in whether grand or modest goals and grand or modest outcomes have an effect on mental and physical well-being. I don't know how you'd ask those questions, though.

Can I tangent a bit here? I started to ask the question you actually asked and then found myself wandering off into wish land. I would like to see, eventually, some large scientific studies. Because I want to see what really happens when people take different approaches to losing weight, when they do it for diffeerent reasons, what outcomes the outcomes have (like does it make a difference in overall health if a person loses a smaller or larger amount of weight in a shorter or longer length of time, that kind of thing).

The current treatments for certain diseases are lose weight -- not even, "get slender," just lose a bit of weight. For my osteoarthritis and my pre-diabetes, it's "lose fifteen or twenty pounds." For my roommate's gout it's "lose some weight if you can, mostly because the less you eat the less acid-producing material you can ingest." Likewise for elevated blood pressure and some other things I'm not thinking of at the moment. In none of those case is the command "Get slender!" (I even get the impression that I'm being gently discouraged from trying too hard to lose too much weight too fast)

The point of that paragraph isn't to argue about "what's best" but to explain what I'm wanting to see tested. There are studies for these conditions that indicate that these are probably good approaches to maintaining health for the people who have them. But is it different when people don't have these conditions? Are they really less likely to develop them, if, once being fat, they lose the same moderate amounts of weight that people who have them are encouraged to do (we are told this is the case).

That would involve four populations, all similarly fat and matched for age and overall health, dietary practices, and activity level. A fat group, who doesn't have the condition under study and doesn't make any changes aimed at losing weight: a fat group without the condition who doesn't make any changes aimed at losing weight: a fat group who doesn't have the condition and who makes a certain set of changes: and a fat group who does have the condition and makes the same set of changes.

And also the study would have to be large enough and long enough that it would be able to detect significance in the effects of different outcomes.

And it strikes me that, since everyody is so sure of these approaches to these conditions, it would probably be unethical to run the study as I've daydreamed it here.

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From:nancylebov
Date:April 3rd, 2014 04:30 pm (UTC)
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"I'm very interested in whether grand or modest goals and grand or modest outcomes have an effect on mental and physical well-being. I don't know how you'd ask those questions, though."

I'm inclined to think that we need to start with informal interviewing in order to figure out what the big formal survey should be.

Edited at 2014-04-03 04:30 pm (UTC)
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From:ritaxis
Date:April 5th, 2014 06:20 pm (UTC)
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Or even beginning earlier, with conversations like these, where people ask a lot of related questions and then ask how those questions are related.

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From:elenbarathi
Date:April 5th, 2014 05:55 pm (UTC)
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"The current treatments for certain diseases are lose weight -- not even, "get slender," just lose a bit of weight."

That's where I'm at. I'm one of the 'apple-shaped' women, with joint problems, elevated blood pressure and a lot of diabetic relatives, so dropping 20 lbs would be a very smart move health-wise, provided it's done in a healthy way.

I don't diet; never have. But I'm no longer active enough to just eat as much as I want of whatever I like, either. I haven't given up pizza, beer, cheeseburgers, French fries, ice cream, mocha lattes, Subway Melts, ravioli, pot roast with mashed potatoes, cheesecake or tiramisu, and I don't intend to, but on the other hand, I don't have to have them all the time. What I focus on is eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and drinking more water and herbal tea; then I'm not hungry or thirsty for less-healthy choices.

As for exercise, it's not about weight for me; it's about keeping my mobility. There's a lot of stuff I can no longer do, but I can still walk, swim and dance, and I will hold on to those for as long as I possibly can. 'Use it or lose it': I don't intend to spend my old age stuck in the house.

I like your ideas about the study. One of the conditions I'd like to see studied in that connection is orthopedic injuries, especially of the knee. It seems to me that fat people put more wear-and-tear on their knees in general, and come down harder when they fall, but on the other hand, fat people don't go in for the knee-trashing kind of sports so much, so the difference in rate of knee injuries may not be significant. However, what I notice is that a lot of people get fat after knee injuries, because their activity-level plummets.

One might wonder if there's a statistical difference in obesity in those with treated vs. untreated knee injuries. This is something I've never seen addressed in any of the discussions of health-through-diet-and-exercise, to the point where it kinda smells like an elephant hiding in the living room: it's worse than useless to tell somebody "You should get out and walk more!" when it hurts them to even walk to the bathroom because they need knee surgery. This nation is full of people with unadressed mobility issues, and the assumption that they're not life-threatening is dead wrong.
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From:ritaxis
Date:April 5th, 2014 06:29 pm (UTC)
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While talking to my physical therapist, we came to realize that while my weight has exacerbated my issues in some ways, it has actually been protective in other ways. The ways we were talking about: I have no sign of osteoporosis whatever and can expect that to continue: and also, the way my weight carries has tended to make my legs align better than they might have.

These are also things I'd like to see investigated. Not just specifically those things, but I'd like to see grand comparisons of physical condition among matched people. I believe other advantages might emerge, and that knowing those things would lead to better approaches to both healthy and unhealthy people of all sizes.

As for the unaddressed mobility issues: I definitely hear you. Honestly I think a yearly visit to the physical therapist would be good for everyone no matter what their condition. And the social good resulting from widespread better orthopedic care would be amazing.
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From:tahkhleet
Date:April 4th, 2014 02:56 am (UTC)

oh, as an aside

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Since I think this is the second time you got interviewed? (or did you mention it would happen much earlier and now this is the after action?)

I didn't change my eating habits (I don't use the word diet because that implies something temporary) to lose weight to look good, or even to be "healthier". I wanted to lose weight in order to spend less money on food, because healthy food is _expensive_. I've learned a lot of scary things about regular processed and semi processed food in particular. I've noted my body's reactions to gluten, GMO foods, salt, msg, and refined sugars (after getting on a diet that had none of these things for a couple of months). So my commitment here isn't about fear of fat in any way shape or form.

For what it's worth, while fear is what got me into the eating thing in the first place (fear of having too little money, fear of health from eating cheap food), what's kept me around was noticing little things like "oh, I don't normally wake up with a bad taste in my mouth anymore" (which I used to think was a regular part of being alive). Or "you know, regular processed food tastes really vile". Or "yah, if I have refined sugar, I do get a mood down swing fairly reliably." When I treat my body as something I appreciate, which I want to spare unnecessary stresses to, things _are_ better. This has come a a surprise to me.

So I think stress is a huge thing, and any lifestyle change anyone makes has to be rooted on arriving at a positive reason to be doing it. Or eventually you just get tired of the energy expenditure and decide the bad outcome can't be THAT bad. I think most of why dieting is so destructive is because people don't have time, leisure and training in self awareness to notice the _good_ things about changing their diet. They just have a boojum they're running from. Given we have so many things threatening and stressing us, expanding our awareness of threatened-ness is seldom going to be something we'll hold onto normally if we have much freedom to do otherwise.

I admit, though, its hard to do this. Even after all the success I've had in this change of perception, the beginnings of key habit changes always comes from terror. But the habits only stick if I outgrow terror.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 4th, 2014 04:34 am (UTC)

Re: oh, as an aside

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It was just the one interview-- I announced it when it happened, and then it took a while for it to get posted and a little longer after that for me notice it had been posted.

It's amazing how much work it can be to realize that kindness to yourself makes sense. I've been working on that in regards to movement (a much more subtle problem than food). Let me know if you're interested.

Edited at 2014-04-04 04:34 am (UTC)
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From:libwitch
Date:April 4th, 2014 02:58 pm (UTC)
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Random person here (bored looking at f of f lists). There is the National Weight Control Registry in the US. Its not a survey as such, but it a self reported study (those that are 18yo or older, have lost 30lbs or more and kept that off for at least a year).

It doesn't matter where you live, or what your weight was when you started, or what the weight loss resulted in - just that you kept at least that amount off. It gathers dietary habits, exercise habits, and lifestyle habits of those that have had successful weight loss in order to try to determine patterns of what works and what doesn't.

http://www.nwcr.ws/default.htm
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 4th, 2014 04:13 pm (UTC)
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Thanks. It was mentioned in the comments to one of my previous survey posts.

It's not the grand survey I'm looking for because it doesn't look at all the things people have tried and all the outcomes.
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From:cathyr19355
Date:April 12th, 2014 05:16 pm (UTC)
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Bah. It seems to me from what you've said here that mainstream sites have one kind of limiting filter up, and fat-friendly sites have another (though, apparently, the fat-friendly sites are less limiting in what can be discussed on the topic).

Better to make your own venue and discuss all the aspects to try to get at the truth. Oh, wait, that's what you're trying to do here, right?

Good job. Keep it up.
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