So where to begin! How ‘bout: Yes, it’s true that I do have antipathy toward many nutritionists and registered dietitians, because too often I’ve been advised, or heard friends advised, to eat moderately, without ruling out any foods — because the advisers think that advice is sound for everyone, and it’s not.
But that’s nothing compared to advice from Michelle, who bills herself as “the Fat Nutrionist” on her blog. She makes clear, in this excerpt from her very breezy disclaimer, that she’s “not offering medical advice. I'm not a doctor. I'm not a registered dietitian. I'm not a psychologist or therapist. I'm not your mom, I'm not a plumber, and I'm certainly not an HVAC specialist.”
You could say the same of me. She’s opining based on her experience, and so am I.
I’ll add my own disclaimer for this post: “If Michelle is joking, I fell for it.” Here’s what she wrote in her post of Aug. 2, headlined “Nutrition is a game we play”:
”... The bottom line is that you provide yourself the opportunity to eat at regular times.The bottom line is that, at those times, you give yourself free reign to eat WHAT and HOW MUCH you want. Until you’ve got those things down, don’t even bother with 'nutrition.' It will only fuck you up.”
So, you see, eating problems revolve around when you eat, not what or how much. To me, she’s already signaled her advice as faulty, and you should stop reading right there. But I couldn’t help myself.
I did a second spit-take after she endorsed snacking, which I’m completely down with; I eat three meals and three snacks daily myself. But here’s part of her reasoning: “Snacks give you a chance to eat some of the fun, bizarre, ridiculous, delicious, non-staple foods (like Cheetos) that it might otherwise be hard to incorporate into a fully-orchestrated meal.”
What, you couldn’t just have Cheetos as your starch portion? Or — since cheese is practically part of its name, your protein portion?” In fact, if her direction is to "give yourself free reign to eat WHAT and HOW MUCH you want," why can't I just eat Cheetos by the case, if that's what I want?
In the larger picture, she’s advocating for body acceptance: On her “about” page, she says, “I call myself fat because not only am I fat — at five feet, four five-and-a-half inches and two-hundred-sixty-some-odd pounds — I’m also not especially bothered by it. Because the size of my body, and your body, is morally neutral. Fat doesn’t equal lazy or ugly or even, necessarily, unhealthy.”
Morally neutral? Absolutely! However:
To say that being fat is not “necessarily” unhealthy leaves out a lot of truth. Not only is fat rarely a sign of health, being fat does, in fact, correlate with greater incidence of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and other serious ailments. Not everyone overweight gets them, but if you choose to accept your fat, you’re choosing greater risk for ill health and degraded life experience. That’s not intended as preaching; I was fat, and it degraded my life experience substantially, and I don't think I'm the only one. More personal/social acceptance would not have resolved those deficits, even if they would have been nice.
It turned out I needed substantially more self-acceptance — I still pray daily to “accept myself as I am, even as I try to get better a day at a time.” This is weak logically — if I’m OK how I am, why try to improve? — but I’ve decided to groove on the paradox, for today anyway.
But self-acceptance wasn’t going to ease the stress on my heart (the muscle, not the soul-symbol), and it wasn’t going to give me the respiratory health to mount a couple of flights of stairs without puffing and perspiring.
One other thing: If you’re going to emphasize one direction or the other, my experience is that self-acceptance is far less capable of improving physical fitness, compared to how physical fitness can influence self-acceptance. Plain and simple, it was far easier for me to accept myself as I approached normal size.
No matter how successful the fat person is at self-acceptance, getting and staying there against the torrent of signals saying otherwise takes significant psychic/emotional energy. It can be done, yes, but is that where you want to put your energy? Why not put it into physical as well as mental/emotional change? Then you get improved health, both physically and mentally/emotionally.
This isn’t about overcoming all those stoo-pid societal meanies who make it tough on fatties; it’s making a private choice on how I want to live, in fitness or in ensuring myself that my state of being isn’t "necessarily" unhealthy.