Fresh starts, clean slates, and you.

French version of this post here, courtesy Stéphanie Potin-Grevrend.

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Happy new year.

Like many of you, I’ve spent the last few weeks eating differently than I do most of the year. There were more cookies, more pastry, more mashed potatoes and stuffing, more candy, more cream, and more liquor than usual. There were probably fewer salads, and certainly not my usual measure of frozen berries.

Outside of my plate, there were other differences: more decorations. More jubilant music. More lights. More television specials. More wrapping paper. More shopping. More travel. More more more more of many, many things. And now as I sit at my desk, on the second day of the new year, there has been a sudden ceasing of it all. Things are quiet. Decorations are put into plain brown boxes. Even the landscape is different, transformed on Boxing Day from muddy green and brown, to a white, rather bare scene, a clean slate.

There is a lot of symbolism attached to the new year, and a lot of pressure building to transubstantiate that symbolism into action.

I have always loved this time of the year, because I, like most people, love a clean slate. It is a yearly renewing of hope, even in times that are deeply screwed-up. I crave hope, I love it, and I absolutely need it. Without hope, life may well end. And the hope of a new start brings with it a sort of pleasing purity, as though the past can be obliterated with a fresh coat of paint, or covered over with the blank paper of a turned leaf. I suddenly want to whiten my sheets, mop the floors, scrub the bathtub. I want to wash my face with something that promises me a new one. And, like a lot of people, I want my nice, crisp, clean salad back on my plate.

Humans being what they are, omnivorous seekers after variety, I think it is natural for us to crave, after a period of sensory indulgence, a sort of purifying restraint. I don’t necessarily think this is a negative thing, though it can, like anything, be taken to destructive extremes.

This impulse, I believe, is so common that marketers and product makers seized on it long ago, and have used it to drive sales of various purifying foods, devices, and ideas. You can (allegedly) scrub out your intestines with a cleanse or a fast, you can purchase a cool, precise bathroom scale to measure your progress toward a purer existence, unencumbered by the smelly inconvenient demands of heavy corporeality, you can buy a diet book that encourages you to purge your cupboards of toxic, processed, messy, fattening foods and replace them with clean, wholesome, unprocessed, sanctified super-foods, and you can take the aspirational grocery shopping trip that will achieve this (and deal with the inevitable fridge full of rotting produce that results when the lustre of purity has been dulled by the messy demands of daily life.)

In turn, these products promising a fresh start have reinforced the impulse toward restraint in the new year, and ingratiated themselves into that natural impulse to become almost official rites. The popular custom of new year’s dieting is an example of the impulse capitalized upon and expanded into a collective tradition, heavy on religious and moral symbolism, but expressed in reassuringly crisp scientific prose, complete with numerical, damn near economic, accounting mechanisms.

They allow you to reimagine yourself not as an animal who lives and dies, eats and shits, who is lustful and afraid, full of inconveniently dark and unknowable recesses, both physical and psychological, but rather as a modern biochemical machine, a neatly-labeled schematic on white paper whose mysteries are laid bare, housing a ghost of pure spirit and light who condescends to eat only as an impatient concession to physical necessity, and who therefore dines on distilled biochemistry garnished with the most forward-thinking evolutionary rationalizations.

By March, it will all be over.

All I’m saying is, be careful out there. Enjoy your sense of new beginnings, follow your cravings for foods that provide a bracing contrast to what you’ve recently been glutted with, but be reluctant to deny your humanness in the process.

It is, after all, what you will come home to in the end.

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Ritual purification in comments.

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122 Comments

  1. Posted January 2, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad you exist. That is all. :)

  2. Posted January 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    You rock.

  3. Posted January 2, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    I made the mistake of wading into a story (and the accompanying comments) on Jezebel about yet another study showing that *gasp* being fat isn’t always detrimental to your health. I’m so glad that I have your writing to come to for a dose of sanity after all of the pearl clutching about how it can’t possibly be correct that fat isn’t an immediate death sentence, and “don’t you know that you’re being irresponsible and promoting obesity” when they report on legitimate, well conducted, peer-reviewed studies showing that our current ideas of “healthy” body weight are pure bull for a lot of people.

    Thank you.

    • Linda Strout
      Posted January 2, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      Or within the same report on fat not being a death sentence some other expert saying you should still lose weight anyway, because it causes you to be miserable and in poorer health.

    • WRG
      Posted January 2, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      Well said, Barbara!

  4. Ani
    Posted January 2, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    A million <3s. I am a living ocean…tides pull me in and out and I love to stuff my face with ham and cream for a week and then eat salads for, let's face it, not as long, but still. Everyone needs to learn to understand their own tides.

  5. Posted January 2, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    “All I’m saying is, be careful out there. Enjoy your sense of new beginnings, follow your cravings for foods that provide a bracing contrast to what you’ve recently been glutted with, but be reluctant to deny your humanness in the process. ”

    This is a beautiful post. Rather than just get angry at this impulse because of the harm it can lead to, you see the good side of it… and the essential human-ness of wanting to deny or transcend one’s humanity.

  6. Posted January 2, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    This was so beautifully written and deeply profound. I want to share it with everyone I know, but fear they won’t listen to you through me because of my fat body. But I will try to overcome that fear and share The Gospel with them anyway.

    Thank you.

  7. WRG
    Posted January 2, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    This is indeed a very poetic post and a great way to start the new year.

    Happy new year to you Michelle. You are a shining beacon of reason in a sea of fear and fat phobia.

    And happy new year to all your great readers!

  8. Posted January 2, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    You guys are all very sweet. Thank you so much!

  9. Kirsten
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I was reading Ellyn Satter’s “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family” over the holidays (which you recommended to me, Michelle!), and one of the things that jumped out at me was around meal planning; she said “give yourself STRATEGIES, not RULES”. (I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the book in front of me).

    What a wonderful approach to the New Year’s Resolutions I’m not making this year. They are not rules for myself to break myself against and fail; they are strategies to help me reach the goals I’ve set. However, my “resolution” this year is to love myself exactly as I am, and I decided that any other resolution would be counterproductive. Not to imply that everyone’s resolutions are reflections of the things they hate in themselves; but that is what they have become for me over time. And also not to imply that I won’t, in Stephen Covey’s words, “make promises and keep them; make goals and reach them.”

    • Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      I never noticed that passage, but I agree, it’s a great way to look at it. If a strategy doesn’t work, you just tweak it. But if you break a rule, you feel defeated, and then you rebel – not very productive. Happy new year!

  10. Cate
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    A voice of hope for us all… <3

  11. Posted January 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    This is a perfect example of why I love you so, Michelle. You appreciate the tidal nature of life and express it deliciously. Most of all, you encourage people to give themselves a break.

    Me? I feel positively giddy this week at the arrival of my CSA box. I intend to enjoy it with rampant gusto… and look fondly back on the delicious cheese puffs and chocolates and steak I’ve eaten over the past week or so as I dig into my equally fabulous and satisfying plate of greens, knowing that my mother’s holiday mashed potatoes (the ones that include butter and cottage cheese AND sour cream as well as toasted almonds) will be waiting for me next Thanksgiving. I only make them during the holiday season not because I don’t love them or because I believe they will make me hugely fat, or even because they’re a hassle to make, but because – to me – they only feel right at the same time of year when Mom made them.

    Sometimes it’s good to save something up for a special time of year.

  12. ezloving
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    The coming of a new year invariably made me feel anxious because of what I was “suppose” to do. After reading your post, I felt much calmer. Why is it so hard for us to give ourselves permission to just enjoy life as it comes? Luckily for me, age has made things better. Knowing there are others out there like me certainly helps too.

  13. Vickie
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    My very best and warmest wishes for the New Year, Michelle!

    I was, as always, looking forward to your next post. But I never expected to have the wonderful surprise of seeing it translated in French, too!

    I had started translating some of your posts for my mom and Francophones friends (without much success, I must say :p) so this is really a treat.

    Merci de tout coeur à Stéphanie! <3

    Vickie

    • Posted January 4, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      I’m glad you find them useful! Stéphanie was kind enough to offer to translate some posts. Right now they are just links to .pdf documents, but when I get a chance I may post them as full posts of their own so they are searchable.

      • Dominique
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        Merci for the translation – very much appreciated!!! I was also translating your texts in french to my non-English speaking family members lately – I’m so glad I can share them right away ! Best wishes for 2013 and please keep being so awesome, your voice is one of sanity, much needed in the great post-Holiday Fat Bash.

        • Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

          <3 to you, Dominique. And I really just need to learn French already, but I am so grateful for Stéphanie offering to do this.

  14. LadyTL
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posts like this. It’s a big help to not feel alone in not wanting to join in with all the hullaboo at the turn of the year. It also gives me a bit of new things to say to people asking why I’m not going on some new diet, joining a gym, etc…

  15. Posted January 4, 2013 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    So full of kindness and understanding! So rare on teh interwebs…

  16. Posted January 4, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    By March? Hahaha! For me, being a good girl is over by the 4th of January. That’s why I gave up on New Year resolutions alltogether.

    Happy new year to all!

  17. Natalie
    Posted January 4, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Can I just say that I’m so very glad you exist?

  18. s.h.
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted to share a realization I just had about my experience over the holidays: it doesn’t matter what your typical diet is like, people will draw their own conclusions about whether you are eating healthy or not no matter what.

    It doesn’t matter that my typical diet is mostly all home cooked, that I aim for 5 servings of veggies a day, that I love kale and brussel sprouts and eat them regularly, that I eat salads for meals on a regularly basis, that I drink ridiculous amounts of water each day (for dehydration/migraine reasons, not weight loss ones), that I don’t drink soda or eat prepackaged meals. Because I buy half and half to put in my tea and that means that I am Unhealthy; because I use almond milk in hot cocoa and baking and that means that I Don’t Eat Well; because I buy cheese and that means that I am Eating Too Much Fat; because I eat cooked veggies more regularly than raw my meals must be Lacking In Nutrition; because I eat avocadoes I must be Gaining Weight since they are Fattening; because I don’t like celery that means that I am Not Getting Enough Veggies In My Diet; because I bake bread and muffins and scones and biscuits that means I must be Eating Too Much.

    (Plus: I must not exercise enough because yoga isn’t as good as walking; I must not be walking enough because I don’t take multiple walks during the day.)

    It’s both depressing and freeing. I don’t set out to eat in any one particular way, but I know that when you line up my diet with what “experts” say you should eat I’m probably doing OK by their standards. But even given that there are people in my life who find reasons that I am eating out of bounds and that if I only listed to them I would be healthy/happy/skinny/etc. Which is depressing because: ye gods, is there no pleasing them? But it’s also freeing because, indeed, there IS no pleasing them, so it doesn’t matter if I have dessert in their presence or put butter on toast or refuse to eat celery because if I can’t change their opinion when I am doing things “right” then why bother to hide when I am doing things “wrong”?

    So after getting back to my own apartment and kitchen where I could cook and eat in peace I bought salad ingredients*, yes. But I also ate chocolate and tortilla chips. I made cauliflower, potato, and kale soup … but I also added half and half to make it a cream soup. I’ve snacked on oranges and carrots, but I’ve also been looking up recipes for some kind of carrot/pumpkin/spice cake to make for my birthday later this week. (As you might guess the most important part of the cake will be the cream cheese frosting!) So, basically: I have been eating in a way that makes ME happy, other people’s opinions be damned.

    *Except, sob, my fridge is acting weird and the lettuce froze after I’d had only two salads. My life, clearly the most difficult of lives. Luckily I still have a bunch of kale left over that I can make salads out of. I prefer cooked kale, but I might splurge and buy some kind of fresh berries. Raw kale+berries+almonds(+possibly cheese)=pretty darn good. Not that this makes up for my fridge acting like a freezer, but what can you do.

    • Posted January 7, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      Since you can never eat well enough for everyone else, you’ve got to just eat well enough for you. Good job :)

  19. acelightning
    Posted January 12, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Off-topic technical comment:

    The RSS feed has been saying that there’s a new entry up for at least twelve hours, but when I click on the link, I get a “not found” error. Guess the servers need a snack break :-)

    • Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:49 am | Permalink

      Ugh, no that was me being dumb last night and accidentally hitting “Publish” on an unwritten post, and then quickly unpublishing it. It’s amazing how fast it ends up on the feed. Ooops.

  20. Posted January 12, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Well put!
    Are you very familiar with the works of Nietzsche? In a way, much of your commentary reinvigorates (in this twenty-first century context) his concerns and reflections on moral sentiment and its reverberations in the Western world. He notices, as you do, a collective drive toward teasing out the mind from the body; self-discipline from desire; undiluted reason from inclination; and, generally, humankind from the rest of its earthly surroundings. And because of these constructed divisions, we sense that our existence is one of built-in disgrace and inevitable failings. The rituals and vocabulary we’ve employed to deal with dieting–or perhaps to envision ‘dieting’ in the first place–certainly appear to be related to ongoing issues concerning cleanliness/the will.
    Wonderfully observant.

    • Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:47 am | Permalink

      I’m not terribly familiar with Nietzsche, but thanks for that description. Very interesting.

  21. Virago
    Posted January 12, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Today’s post (Wasting Food: The SunkCost Fallacy) seems to be broken, and I can’t figure out any way to tell you except to comment on the previous post.
    I LOVE your work. Thank you!

    • Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:46 am | Permalink

      Hi – It’s not broken, it wasn’t intended to be published yet. It’s so far a completely blank post that I was saving in drafts to save as an idea. But it’s very easy to hit the publish button instead. Sorry about that.

  22. Kate W
    Posted January 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    This is a poem. Thank you.

  23. cjmr
    Posted January 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    After reading your entire archive over the course of December, I ordered and am reading Ellen’s “Feeding a Healthy Family”. For years I’ve been fighting with picky children who are at the low end of the percentile charts for weight, while my husband and I are simultaneously trying to lose weight ourselves (at the insistence of our doctors). I had never heard of the concept of ‘eating competence’ before and it has been a real eye-opener.

    For years I’ve always served everyone’s plates in the kitchen, portioning out the food as I had been taught was appropriate portion sizes for each person’s age, and trying to get everyone to eat at least some of everything. Well, last week I made TWO changes. I started bringing the food to the table in serving dishes and letting everyone serve themselves (the 4yo gets assistance for neatness reasons) and started serving two vegetables with each meal and letting the children pick which one to eat. Suddenly, the kids are eating more and a wider variety of food, too. I got told, “Oh, yay! Broccoli!” tonight by my pickiest eater.

    Thank you, Michelle!

    • Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:48 am | Permalink

      This is always so exciting for me to hear from people. I am glad Ellyn’s work is helping your family have happier mealtimes. It’s amazing stuff.

  24. Linda Strout
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I once again need the reminder to keep my mouth shut when my friend who is trying to do weight watchers and lose weight complains about feeling anxious and stressed and then eats meringues and has to deal with the sugar crash. She did not ask for my advice. She wants to be thin. It is her body and her choice. I need to mind my own business and tend to my own knitting.

  25. yami
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    this really hits a nerve in a good way right now. still having issues of ones body for no reason giving too much pain to really want food much of the time and thus having to go for more testing to try and figure the cause but even though i don’t check your posts as often as i used to and am just finally getting the chance to catch up they are still just as good and ring even truer now then they used to. thankyou for pointing out how so much of the foods cycle for when we like to eat them or feel appropriate cooking them.

    • Posted January 16, 2013 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      Thank you yami, and I’m sorry you’re having to go through so much testing and pain.

  26. Linda Strout
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Bah. I am feeling very resentful right now. I am angry about all the lies I’ve been taught all my life. “Eat a little less and lose weight. Exercise and lose weight. You’ll learn to feel less hungry. It takes twenty minutes for your brain to register hunger. Lose the extra weight and you will lose your double chin. If you have trouble breathing, it’s because you are overweight and out of shape.”

    My mood is brought on by all my friends who are trying to lose weight. Like they always do. And complaining when they don’t. Like they always do.

    Yes, if I could waive a magic wand and get back to my high school weight of about 145 pounds, I would. It was easier to find clothes and I would like to enjoy that size without being made to feel fat by my mother.

    I will NOT hurt myself trying to get there though. I’m still trying to think of movement as fun instead of as a way to lose weight (which made me resentful when I inevitably stalled on the weight loss front) and it is tough.

    I am doing the 365 days of taking pictures of yourself. Bonus: I’m learning to use the second hand digital camera my friend gave me. I still dislike my double chin. It’s genetic and permanent. I found pictures of myself in grade school. Big smile and a double chin. I was a skinny kid. So skinny I could not float in the Great Salt Lake. True story.

    This mood will pass. I will make a list of things I am grateful for and stop focusing on the things I don’t have, many of which have nothing to do with weight either way. I will work on my own projects. My life really is good when I stop to think about.

    Part of me still wants to punch somebody, though.

    • Posted January 16, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      It is hard to go through the anger stage, but it’s almost like a stage of the grief process, too. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10894160802278218

      I’m glad you’re doing the self-portraits. I think it can be really helpful. And I happen to think double chins are charming. My husband has always been on the thin/normal side and he has one too :)

      • Linda Strout
        Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Michelle! I drank a bunch of tea, ate some chocolate and now I am watching the Vicar of Dibley.

        I’m going to try to get to sleep early too, since I know I am tired.

    • Kirsten
      Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

      Linda, you just let me know when I cross the line to creepy and stalker-like, but once again your post makes me wonder if we’re some kind of brain doppelgangers. Two weeks in and I am already SO SICK of virtual “friends” talking about their January weight loss, alternately celebrating or bemoaning 1.5 pounds on the scale. It makes me want to unplug my computer until March (except oops, need to work!)

      I also tend to spend some time lately resenting the 20 years of dieting I did. I try not to jump to the conclusion that it “made” me fat, but it’s hard.

      On the plus side (ha!), I just remembered my husband bought those little snack packs of chocolate pudding when he went grocery shopping today. They’re for the kids visiting this weekend, but hey, somebody needs to test them, right? And I think there’s also a cold bottle of white wine in the fridge… you’re right, life is good!

      • Linda Strout
        Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

        Kirsten, as long as you aren’t hiding in the bushes outside my home or work, we are good. :)

        I don’t mind the virtual stuff, it’s the real life friends who get down on themselves, especially when I am the heaviest in the group. :(

        On the upside, I get to eat more chocolate than they do.

        Feel free to friend me on Facebook. :)

  27. Elle
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I just want to mention that I took a second look at Ellyn Satter thanks to your blog. I pretty much threw her infant feeding book across the room when I read that “you must, must, must have family meals!” I couldn’t imagine it. Secrets of Feeding A Healthy Family is giving me a better idea of how to go about integrating eating competence into my family’s life, though it’s very much a work-in-progress as we transition from eating popcorn and other hand-food in front the tv late at night to sitting down with our toddler before he goes to bed.

    So inspiring and restorative to read your blog–thanks for your writing.

    • Posted January 16, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      Haha, that is so funny. I’ve thrown books, too, believe me. But I’m glad you took a second look and found some information that is helpful to you.

      Family meals are hard, I won’t lie. And I don’t even have kids, so they’re twice as easy for me. You always have to start where you’re currently at and take little steps in the direction you want to go. It’s never an overnight change, and I think it is totally fine to start off eating finger food in front of the TV, because at least you are getting fed. But it’s great that you’re taking those steps toward getting family meals together, too. Your kid and your whole family will benefit from it so much over the years.

      I’m to the point where I get really cranky if I haven’t had a chance to sit down and eat dinner at the table with my husband for a night or two, either because work has intervened, or we just decided to sit in front of the TV with pizza instead. We always end up having conversations about stuff and checking in with each other more when we’re at the table.

      Best of luck with your continued progress :)

  28. Alex
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Michelle, I love that you acknowledge this phenomenon of holiday splurge and the resultant craving for a post-New-Year purge. Thanks for reminding me that I have alternatives to the requisite January WW membership. It sounds unsophisticated to my own ears given the milieu of this blog and its commenters, but post-holiday I am afraid I still felt that knee-jerk impulse to, oh, say, go on a diet. I remembered that you’d written a post some months back about adding structure back into eating and logged on to find it, and lo and behold: I found this post. So basically–I have to second the motion that you rock. Just sayin’.

    • Posted January 16, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      I think the urge to diet in the new year is totally understandable, even though it’s definitely not your only option. You’re not unsophisticated, you’re just human like the rest of us.

      My January post-holiday urge ended up being a bunch more fruits and vegetables, which I really was not expecting or intending, but it was a nice change of pace from all the holiday food. I even made a green smoothie and had a momentary desperate urge to post about it on Facebook or Instagram or something, since that seems to be the ritual! I felt so bizarrely virtuous. And then I just laughed at myself.

      • Anne
        Posted January 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Well, green smoothies do totally ROCK! And as long as I don’t do a head trip on myself about them, they are a great addition to my life.

        I posted my New Year’s Resolution on my Facebook page. It reads in part, “be a better friend this year and I want to create more, better balance in my life. I think that should keep me busy for awhile.”

        I think this might be the first time I’ve not made some kind of lose-weight resolution, even if it wasn’t a public announcement.

        I do seriously love New Year’s because I associate it with new beginnings – just as September signals the arrival of the new school year and other new beginnings. I guess I just love the beginning of anything new. Some new things I try will work for me and become a permanent part of my life and some won’t. One new thing I tried in mid-2012 was to quit categorizing foods as good/bad/healthy/unhealthy and (tried to) quit judging myself as a result of those artifical designations. I’ve got 40+ years of judging myself to overcome so it will take awhile but I’m surprised at how far I’ve come.

        This blog (and working with Michelle) has changed my life for the better. And it has nothing to do with my weight or size.

        And as for my resolution? Being a better friend includes being a better friend to myself. The harsh 8-track tape that plays in my head is being replaced by that of a loving friend who supports her friend.

        • Posted January 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

          Hehehehe. Those are great resolutions. I especially love the part about being a better friend to yourself.

  29. Linda Strout
    Posted January 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I have been trying to find some information regarding fat people in terms of history, both prehistory and ancient and have come up blank. Possibly I would need to study anthropology publications for this.

    The reason I am interested is simply to get more of an idea of what people weighed generally in the past and what they died from.

    Some of the things I have found on the internet include the belief that there were no fat people in the ancient world because there wasn’t enough food to eat enough to get fat, or that only the wealthy were fat (and thus died sooner than their thin counterparts).

    Their are also suggestions that the ancient greeks mocked fat people and ancient doctors diagnosed more diseases in fat people. I didn’t see documentation to back any of this up, but I didn’t spend hours looking either.

    What I did find in the articles reporting these ideas was that through the ages has been a persistent belief that fat people were diseased and out of control.

    I know that humans are consistently guilty of finding evidence to support their beliefs, so I can’t tell if the ideas are cherry-picked or not, or if anybody has even done any good research.

    • Posted January 22, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t read this book yet, but there is a book called Fat by Deborah Lupton that I would like to read. I believe she’s an anthropologist? No wait, she’s a sociologist – http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Shortcuts-Deborah-Lupton/dp/041552444X/

      I don’t know if it touches on ancient history. Looks like it is mostly contemporary, but it might have references that go into ancient history.

      Abigail Saguy also has a book out now called What’s Wrong with Fat? But it also looks like it’s about contemporary history. http://www.amazon.com/Whats-Wrong-Fat-Abigail-Saguy/dp/0199857083/

      Then there’s Revolting Bodies, which might give you more references to go on – http://www.amazon.com/Revolting-Bodies-Struggle-Redefine-Identity/dp/1558494294/

      The Fat Studies Reader might have some stuff for you – http://www.amazon.com/The-Studies-Reader-Esther-Rothblum/dp/0814776310/

      (Sorry, I went a little overboard with all the links.)

    • Mich
      Posted January 24, 2013 at 1:01 am | Permalink

      Someone either here or another blog posted this in the comments a few months ago: http://manolobig.com/2010/08/15/no-fat-people-in-the-past-not-so-much/ (sorry, not sure how to use the tags)

      There’s also the Venus of Willendorf statue from 30,000 yrs ago, and we know some medieval kings were fat (eg. Sancho the Fat). Also in Hippocrates, in the case studies or aphorisms section, he talks about recoveries: usually fat people have quicker and better recoveries than skinny people, but sometimes fat people are more prone to some disease or other. Remember that it’s now accepted that the Hippocratic Corpus is more of a compilation over hundreds of years, so you’re getting many authors’ views.

      From what I understand, Galen in the 2nd century AD believed that fat people got fat by eating too much (which we know isn’t true). So this anti-fat prejudice is somewhat old.

      My boyfriend from Egypt actually told me that fat is still “in” there, and is a sign of beauty. I think the modern media and doctors get confused between health and beauty, since they are not overlapping.

      • Linda Strout
        Posted January 25, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        I really would like to see evidence that people from every walk of life and culture were fat. Then I’d like to wave that in the face of every idiot who claims it is only overeating and our current culture that makes people fat.

        • Kirsten
          Posted January 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

          The WHO, in the midst of a bunch of “OMG teh fattiez!!!1!!”-type garbage, says that obesity is mainly accounted for by genetics.

          So I think I could logically conclude from that, that 1) fat people have always existed, for the genes to be available to be handed down, and 2) that if more people are fat now, then those genes must have been more successful than the thin genes. We must have some kind of evolutionary advantage!

          • Kirsten
            Posted January 25, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

            I can’t find the link I was reading yesterday… bad internet user! So take that with a very large grain of salt until I back up my claim.

            I think it was actually not in their sections on obesity at all, but in the sections on eating disorders, because that’s what I was researching. I will report back when I find it!

          • Linda Strout
            Posted January 25, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

            Groovy! And thank you! I know elsewhere WHO claims obesity is a horrible epidemic so maybe one part isn’t talking to another part.

            Also, if fat retention was designed to get us through starvation times, then it makes sense we are successful in passing down the genes. :)

          • Posted January 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

            Well, the “obesity epidemic” (i.e. the average gain of ~15 lbs in the US, probably similar amounts in other affected countries) is probably not due to evolution. For one thing, the changes in BMI at the population level seem to be too rapid. BUT the fact that starvation/dieting triggers the body to slow down the metabolism and store more food for the next famine, or that epigenetic effects of starvation (“dieting”) lead to heavier children–those are part of our evolutionary legacy. Given that we have both naturally thin and naturally fat people in our population, probably each body type had/has advantages and disadvantages.

  30. nli
    Posted January 27, 2013 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    I have been reading through your old posts and am intrigued and pleased to have found your site. I have experienced disordered eating and weight preoccupation and am working to embrace a life imbued with HAES. So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom in such a straight-forward and effective way.

    In reading through your previous posts, I came across some language that I found hurtful and stigmatizing to people with mental health problems or illnesses. I would like to see more people realize that using the word “crazy” as a substitute for “horrible,” “difficult,” “challenging,” “super fun,” “amazing,” or any other descriptor is harmful. It promotes “othering” and can increase shame in people who struggle every day to just be okay. Increased shaming decreases the likelihood that people will get the help that they may need. Please consider your use of the word “crazy” in future posts and in your “about me” section. In addition to body issues, I have lived with mental illness for my whole life and would appreciate it very, very much.

    With respect…

    • Posted January 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Hi nli, thank you for reading, and thank you for the thoughtful note pointing out my language. I am so sorry if I’ve used some othering terms when describing things, and I will definitely do better in the future. I’ll look back on the things you mentioned and see if I can make some changes.

      • Linda Strout
        Posted January 28, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        Oddly enough, on reading this I found myself feeling resentful at the idea of giving up the word ‘crazy’ as a descriptor.

        I can think of no reason why I should feel that way, since I strive to avoid offensive or insulting language generally.

        I will ponder this to see if I can come up with a reason other than my general dislike of change.

        • Ani
          Posted January 28, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

          Linda, I imagine you find it uncomfortable like most people do when being accused of using so-called “othering” terms — because you yourself in no way have used those terms in a hurtful way.

          As a Functional linguist, this is something that I’ve studied with both fascination and a bit of revulsion. I dislike people trying to take language out of our mouths and make it mean something that they didn’t intend. As if saying “flight attendant” versus stewardess will ever make discrimination go away. As if saying that languages that use a gender differential are more discriminating than languages that use an animacy differential.

          According to the OED, “crazy” originates from the 1500s, meaning “cracked, or flawed”. It later became used to mean “that of unsound mind, or behaving in such a manner”. It hardly seems like it originated in a derrogotory manner, nor is it commonly used in such a way. In the 1920s, “crazy” became jazz slang for “cool”, hence the common-usage these days of “crazy-good”.

          In fact, I would bet heavily on the side that since the invention of newer words to represent mental health and mental illness that the use of “crazy” as a word to refer to mental illness is in the 0.1%. My family is a genetic funbag of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and clinical depression. I’ve never heard anyone refer to them as “crazy” except in the more conventional way of having done something odd or something cool, or both.

          Are the origins of the word even hurtful? Has crazy ever been used specifically as a derogatory comment? Not that I can tell. Sure, people have probably said it and made it hurt. Believe me, being told I was a pig hurt. I’m sure as hell not going to ask “pig” to be removed from vernacular. It’s got other uses. So does crazy.

          Another example: As someone recovering from seven years of anorexic behavior, I do flinch from time to time when I see people in magazines and other publications use the term “anorexic” simply to refer to someone who is skinny, or who throw it about like it’s just a word. To me, it’s not. To me it is every neuroses, every tiny detail of pain in my life. But to the person using it, it’s just a word. They mean no harm. As a single person, I can’t and have no desire to campaign to get a word out of common usage.

          As a functional linguist, my job is to see language how it exists. We do not try to control language because it is a force of its own. How well has it gone, trying to force “ain’t” out of common use? Not so well. So we let it be and we document it. As a person recovering from severe ED and an abusive marriage, I have learned that we cannot change the words that other people use. But what we can do is monitor our own responses, our own reactions. I believe personally that the whole idea of “othering” language is babying those who simply have not come to terms with what they are dealing with within themselves. I try not to use words that I personally believe have a venemous power, but I will never ask someone to censor themselves because I am touchy. As long as you aren’t using the word “crazy” in a mean way, use it. Because we’re all a little flawed, cracked, sometimes we act as if we’re mentally unsound, and yeah, we’re also cool.

          • Linda Strout
            Posted January 28, 2013 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

            Ani, that is very interesting. I knew about the jazz era usage of crazy, but not about the earliest uses.

            It really is pretty common – crazy paving, crazy cake.

            I will be aware that it (and other words) can be problematic for some people and try to use precise language if it is called for.

  31. Linda Strout
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
    • Posted January 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I’ve heard about this, and frankly if people want to intermittently fast recreationally and they find it doesn’t harm them, yay for them, but it’s not a guarantee of anything, nor is it a badge of moral superiority. Most people I know find fasting really uncomfortable (and thus damaging to their quality of life), and/or they have underlying ED tendencies that might be aggravated by this. Frankly I don’t put too much stock in particular nutritional theories claiming to lead to significantly longer life, other than the basics – get enough to eat, and eat a variety of different foods. To me, it’s like the endless quest for the fountain of youth – a fool’s errand. It also brings with it the possibility of risks, and physical discomforts, that are often glossed over in favour of the perennially preferred storyline, which, in every single case, basically amounts to: “Food is bad for you! Eat less of X, or eat less in general, or hell, maybe just stop eating altogether and live for eternity!” That is messed up, frankly.

      • Linda Strout
        Posted January 28, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        Everybody does seem to want a fountain of youth, or at least health. I suppose if we could control what hundreds of people ate over a decade, we might really find out what works and why, but that isn’t terribly practical.

      • Linda Strout
        Posted January 29, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        It occurred to me while driving to work that while some people encourage fasting as good for people since humans historically never knew where their next meal was coming from, nobody is really advocating we reintroduce parasites into our systems, even though historically every human had a parasite load and there is some evidence some autoimmune diseases are a reaction of the body not having any parasites to fight.

        • Mich
          Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:43 am | Permalink

          That is interesting about the parasites. Our bodies are primed for a fight, but no one comes to show, so we attack ourselves. Like punching yourself in the face.

  32. Alicia
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Hi everyone, I’m a longtime occasional lurker who’s never commented before. I’m de-lurking now because I could use some help finding some Health at Every Size resources and would be so appreciative if anyone around here could point me in the right direction.

    I’m a university student and as part of my job as an RA I need to hold educational events for other students. I’m trying to organize one based on HAES. The guest I’m inviting to speak about nutrition doesn’t have much background in HAES specifically, but he does seem to think that focusing on healthy behaviors rather than weight loss at any cost is the way to go. We haven’t met in person, but we’ve been exchanging emails, and some of what he’s written has indicated to me that he believes that one effect of adopting healthy behaviors is weight loss (or at least the avoidance of obesity). As I understand it — and please, someone correct me if I’m wrong — HAES argues that one should adopt healthy behaviors because they will reduce one’s risk of problems like heart disease or diabetes, but that adapting healthy behaviors does not correlate with weight loss or obesity avoidance.

    Basically, I think this guy thinks healthy weight is secondary to healthy behaviors, and healthy behaviors lead to healthy weight in the very long run anyway. I want to argue that “healthy weight” doesn’t really mean much and shouldn’t be even a secondary focus (except for certain rare cases). I’m trying to find studies that support this (preferably ones I can link him to). I’ve found these — http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3041737/, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/93/4/836.full, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19857626/, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0021968185901146 — but none of them get 100% at what I’m saying, so if anyone knows of something a little more on point, I would be really grateful if you could point me in the right direction.

    Thank you!

    • Elle
      Posted February 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Alicia, Linda Bacon’s book Health At Every Size cites several studies on this point w/r/t exercise, in her chapter “We Resist Weight Loss – Exercise is Not the Weight-Loss Panacea. She also has some sections talking about the lack of lasting weight loss based on diet, and these are also carefully backed up with research citations. I don’t have time to type it all up, but the gist is that the weight loss is minor. I strongly recommend you get your hands on her book, both as a resource for your persuasive efforts and as something to lend around to the kids on your hall. Your library may already have it, if not they will probably acquire it if you request.
      http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/548569597

      Linda also is available as a speaker–maybe you could get her to visit as a follow-up to the event you’re planning. I’ve seen her speak and she is great.
      http://www.lindabacon.org/speaking.html

      • Alicia
        Posted February 5, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Elle! I’ve talked with this person some more and now we’re on the same page.

  33. pat
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I am presently a writer and found this site doing research for an article. Since I’m also retired and don’t have to make a specific amount to meet bills, if I find something of interest, whether apropos to the topic or not, I spend time reading it. While you focus on self image and the problem society assigns to overweight, there are also problems with being too thin. I lose weight easily. If I’m under any type of stress, I drop between 15 and 20 pounds in two weeks. I drink lots of water, which also leads to bathroom visits, which leads physicians to test me for diabetes, thyroid and once for cancer. There never was evidence of any bodily malfunction throughout my 60+ years. I can’t eat some foods, such as milk products, but otherwise, I eat when I want and what I want, most of it is healthy food. From 6 pm until about 4 am, I begin eating, taking few breaks. Last night I was on a grapefruit, potato chip and nutrition bar kick. Sometimes it’s raw vegetables with dip. I’ve weighed approximately 115 to 120 pounds and am 5’8″ since I reached maturity. It doesn’t sound like I have any problems right? Not so, I’ve faced people telling me I was bulimic (I have a problem throwing up even when I’m sick), anorexic (I eat when I’m hungry and if I need to gain weight–when I’m not) or have some other mental problem. So you see, no matter what weight you are, someone will find fault. It’s their problem–not yours.

    • Posted February 4, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      It’s not that I disagree with any particular statement you make here, Pat, but your comment as a whole makes it sound like you think no one here could possibly realize that thin people get mean comments about their thinness. (It has a mansplainy (thinsplainy?) tone–although I realize that you may or may not be a man.)

      This topic is actually brought up so frequently in Fat Acceptance spaces that it is on the list of frequently asked questions on the This Is Thin Privilege Tumblr.

      Some people in Fat Acceptance will say that thin shaming is just as bad as fat shaming; some people will say that they’re both bad but fat shaming is worse. I’m in the latter camp, because although making nasty comments about people’s appearance or assumed health is a cruel thing to do in any case, in the case of fat people those comments are reinforced throughout our society.

      • Posted February 4, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        It is a topic that tends to come up over and over again. I think some people mean it to show solidarity, like, “in this world of ours, you’ll get crap whether you’re fat or thin,” which is sort of true. But it does kind of give the impression of continually trying to re-center the conversation around thinness or the trials and tribulations of thin people, which – while a real thing that does happen – is obviously not the intended focus of fat acceptance or most fat acceptance websites. This blog isn’t purely about fat acceptance, granted, and I absolutely stand in solidarity with people of any body size who are discriminated against or harassed. But, as you said, one is institutionally reinforced and the other isn’t, and while the experiences may sometimes show similarities or overlap in certain ways, there is a different stigma in our culture attached to fatness than is attached to thinness.

        (And I am somewhat anticipating that people will now show up to yell at me about this comment.)

        • Linda Strout
          Posted February 4, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think anyone should be harassed about their body size, but dammit, when I go clothes shopping and struggle to find things that I like and that fit properly, I feel descriminated against. I’ve seen average sized women spend ten minutes finding what they want in their size. I’ve spent hours and not had much luck.

          A couple years ago I was at a writer’s conference and the underwire broke in my bra. I noticed there was a Macy’s within walking distance, and I thought, a-ha, they are a big chain and will likely have my bra size.

          They did have my size, but only in minimizer styles. When I complained, the saleslady who was helping me walked away and didn’t come back.

          Do thin people have this sorts of things happen? Not having been thin or flat-chested since I was ten I don’t know.

          /rant

          • Posted February 5, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

            It is hard for some thin or small people to find clothing, yes. This is part of the irritation of ready-to-wear clothing as a phenomenon – those on either end of the bell curve are going to be SOL sometimes. People who are very tall or very short similarly get short-changed.

            The thing is, the actual distribution curve in our population with regard to weight is shifted toward the right of the curve – meaning more people are above the mean/average weight than are below it. But I very much doubt the availability of clothing sizes reflects the population accurately. I believe it is probably skewed toward smaller sizes, though people who wear a very small size are still likely to have difficulty.

          • Mandy
            Posted February 23, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

            Well I’m “thin” and to be honest I do have a lot of trouble finding clothes that look good or fit me properly. Many things that are in my “size” either are too big or uncomfortably tight and also there are things about my body that make me feel insecure about myself and I think that really does happen whether a person is fat or thin. The fact is that whatever our size we need to work on liking our bodies as they are and just keep weeding through the clothes racks until we find something that looks good on us and that makes us feel confidant.

          • Linda Strout
            Posted February 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

            I suppose it is a side effect of mass manufacturing.

  34. s.h.
    Posted February 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Off-topic from this post, but I thought that you might find this interesting: http://justbento.com/handbook/bento-courses-2013 I think it relates a bit to discussions on this blog about structure, cooking, and meal planning and could be a resource for people who want to start thinking about that stuff, but on a managable scale.

    It’s a pretty low-key totally free course designed to get people thinking about making bentos, typically to bring in to work for lunch. Her blog isn’t totally a safe space since she talks about trying to lose weight and being healthy (and she talks a bit about how much protein/veg/carbohydrates you should pack in a bento, but I interpret that to be more a rule of thumb to get people thinking about what they might want to pack). YMMV But aside from that the class is a really basic way to start thinking about meal planning in a way that is non-judgemental of people’s food choices & skill levels. (She starts by showing how you can pack McDonalds chicken nuggets into a bento!) And bentos can be a really great way to make meal planning fun. I’ve been enjoying reading along.

    • Posted February 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      Oooh, very interesting! Thanks.

      • Eva
        Posted February 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        As a note, the author (Maki) has recently been through cancer treatment and is dealing with diabetes, which is her motivation for weight loss. Der other blog, justhungry.com (which I’ve followed for years) had some interesting posts last year about how her cancer treatment affected her appetite and thus career as a food writer.

  35. Anita
    Posted February 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    I have been sitting next to the office’s Valentine’s food display all day, and if I hear one more fat and food shaming conversation, I am going to snap and dump the contents of the chocolate fountain into the fax machine. THAT would be a bad thing.

  36. Mich
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    Above somewhat, someone asked about fat people in the past. I found some!

    At http://archaeology.org I did a searched for fat in the search bar, and several pages came up (not sure how many were relevant), but the first result was about gladiators and how they were fattened up to make a good show, since fat will bleed and bruise more and be visible to crowds at the back, and makes for more oogling as a spectacle.

    http://archive.archaeology.org/0811/abstracts/gladiator.html

    The article is from 2008.

    • Linda Strout
      Posted February 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      That was me! Thank you! :)

  37. Linda Strout
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Gather round ye science nerds, for I have obtained KNOWLEDGE.

    I poked around the Archeology site but didn’t find any more information about humans and their various body weights in the past. So I poked around Wikipedia and discovered a subset of anthropology called paleodemography or the study of past populations. I thought “Ah-ha, these are age and height people, so they must have weight in there too.”

    No, they did not.

    So I thought about it some more and looked up forensic anthropology, since that is the study of identifying people from their bones, which would include weight.

    Turns out there is not a great system for figuring out a person’s weight from their bones. I came across this document: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Ys0ojq3rsn4J:www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/227932.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiORbI4xLBbQhJuPpDugMMJt96wAO1nwpva5OwmOKyG_0d6kRTe0wclE484LgND4TLDgcdYgKjZbiB7OE8Iggsr4WBAjIiE889FheDejXAkaK7TU19176lM2q6Va1EzVHt6YyPX&sig=AHIEtbSfl2-qPQcGqAImeAcvs0DF7a4xzQ

    AKA Body Mass Estimation from the Human Skeleton written in 2009.

    By combining two methods, the study was able to correctly identify the weights of about 85% of 150 individuals.

    I didn’t read the whole paper, but it pointed out several instances where nutrition and activity affected the bones and could lead to incorrectly identifying the weight of the individual.

    So, are scientist able to accurately determine the weight of past populations? Probably not, and it seems as though nobody has really bothered.

    When I majored in anthropology in college, I can’t recall a lot of information regarding the weight of any given group that was being studied. It was family trees, politics, food gathering and so forth, but not a lot else. I only got a BA, so there may be more detailed info about diet and health in the medical anthropology fields.

    My take-away from this is that all the current hysteria about the ‘overweight’ population has no founding in historical fact. We don’t really know what people weighed at different times and places. Oh we can look at paintings and writings, but even with my lowely BA, I can tell you that it is very little information to go on when describing an entire people.

    We do know that in the past that populations did leave evidence of malnutrition. That doesn’t mean they were necessarily skinny, which would not have been ideal if they were. We just know that they didn’t get enough of certain types of nutrition that left marks on the bone. They could still have gotten fat by continuously eating to try to get enough nutrients. We just don’t know.

    Oh, and those gladiators? Extra fat helped keep them from getting seriously injured. It acted as internal padding.

    • Posted February 26, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Ha, this is fascinating, thank you for checking it out and reporting back!

    • Mich
      Posted April 16, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      I found some more on ancient obesity: the ancient Romans and Islamic philosophers/medical wrote a bit about it (if they wrote it, it existed).

      http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(05)66907-3/fulltext

      I remember on Junk Food Science blog by Sandy that she quoted another doctor who said that treatment for obesity hasn’t changed in 2000 yrs. Seems like we’re on a wild goose chase on fixing fat people, same as the quest for immortality which is as old as Gilgamesh.

      • Linda Strout
        Posted April 16, 2013 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

        That is terrific! Thank you!

        Looks like we’ve always had obese people and interventions have never worked well to make them slim.

        Sometimes the human race is collectively very stupid.

      • Posted April 17, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        Whoa, awesome, thank you!

      • Mich
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        Ragen posted this on her blog the other day: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/22/the-obesity-apologists/

        Quotes some authors who say the treatment hasn’t changed in 2500 yrs. Some of the comments are bigotted though.

    • Mich
      Posted May 21, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      So I just was looking up some stuff about the Victorians and their “diets” *heh*, and found this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2672390/

      It’s an article about the structure of their food intake, causes of death and such from about 1850-1880. Very interesting , but also very preachy. Have a look. They don’t talk about “obesity as a problem” though, since it wasn’t really seen as an issue then either.

      • Linda Strout
        Posted May 21, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

        That is a very interesting article! I don’t really want to work as hard as the Victorians, but I am trying to shove more fruit and veg into my diet as well as do a bit more physical activity.

        Convenient food is a wonderful thing, though.

      • Posted May 22, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Wow, super interesting! Great find.

    • Mich
      Posted May 24, 2013 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      SCIENCE!!!!

      So I have a story to tell how I got this book: I found a used copy of “Galen: Selected Works” for $17 in the Oxford World’s Classics edition. I got it at the Students’ Union run bookstore at University of Calgary. Today it’s out of print, and depending on where you can find a copy (not many left) they run from $200-$2000. Wow. And it was only just published in 2001, a few years before I bought it.

      Anyway, I was checking the books in that to see what he said about fat, obese, overeating, etc. I found….. nothing. There is no discussion about how fat people are a drain on society, or are weird abominations that must be studied to find out why they’re different. Mind you this book is not a complete works. I haven’t found a complete works in English, only Latin (medieval).

      There is one book called “The Thinning Diet”. But this is not about making people thinner/skinny. It’s about thinning the humors when they get out of balance. There is another book that discusses the “recent invention” of dietetics. It was unheard of before about 400BC, that you could heal through the diet (diet as in what you eat, eg. a guinea pig’s diet is hay and veggies). It was unknown to Homer. The book is called “To Thrasyboulos: is healthiness a part of medicine or of gymnastics?” He refers to Plato’s “Republic” about gym:

      “Now, whether in Homer’s time there was also a third branch of medicine, the ‘dietetic’, I would not like to conjecture; but my elder, a man who may more readily be believed to have some knowledge of Greek affairs, the philosopher Plato, indicates that the ancient followers of Asclepius did not engage in this part of the art at all. That there are these three branches, however, and that the art of treating bodies which are not in the state of nature is called ‘medicine’ by all Greeks, can hardly be denied. There was not yet a term for the art of gymnastics in Homer’s time, nor is there any individual called a ‘physical trainer’, as there is a ‘doctor’; and indeed, even in Plato the term ‘gymnastics’ occurs very rarely, as he prefers to call the practitioner of this art ‘child-rearer’ rather than ‘physical trainer’.” (chap. 33)

      Basically “gym” had only just been created before Plato, and it was considered a bum job. For more about Galen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galen

      The book I used: http://www.amazon.ca/Selected-Works-Galen/dp/0192824503/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369453409&sr=1-1&keywords=galen+selected+works

      Some books by Galen about food: http://www.amazon.ca/Galen-Properties-Foodstuffs/dp/0521812429/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369453409&sr=1-2&keywords=galen+selected+works and: http://www.amazon.ca/Galen-Food-Diet-Mark-Grant/dp/0415232333/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369453409&sr=1-4&keywords=galen+selected+works Perhaps the “people get fat through eating” is to be found in those books?

      Have fun, I’ll post something on Hippocrates later, if anyone’s still interested.

      • Twistie
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        Keep it coming, Mich! I’m very interested, for one.

      • Posted May 25, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Galen was…interesting. I read a tiny bit about his theories in, I think, Walter Gratzer’s book Terrors of the Table. I can’t remember if that book included anything about Galen’s perspective on fatness, if he had one, but I think he did mention Hippocrates, but not in any great depth. Anything you want to share is more than welcome here!

    • Mich
      Posted July 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Sorry for getting back so late. I checked in Hippocrates’ works and he has even less about nutrition than Galen. There was one instance though where he discussed if someone wanted to lose weight he advocated vomitting, and if someone wanted to gain he advocated eating more and cutting out activity. We already know the results of these are not that good, but that was all they had. Hippocrates was far more interested in hot/cold/wet/dry and the 4 elements than anything else. Plus his books are compilations and edited books, and nobody really knows when he was alive or if he even existed.

      This book Medieval Medicine: A Reader by Faith Wallis is a fantastic book. Just published a few years ago and contains many medieval documents, from Greek, Latin, Old English, Old French and Middle English sources. The author is also publishing a medieval medicine book as part of the Very Short Introduction series.

      http://www.amazon.ca/Medieval-Medicine-Reader-Faith-Wallis/dp/1442601035/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1375035929&sr=1-2

      • Linda Strout
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        That sounds super-cool! Thanks for sharing!

  38. suzanne
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Hi,

    1. Sorry this isn’t relevant to the post
    2. I think you are an awesome writer with excellent ideas and a wonderful attitude. Glad to be introduced to HAES, in particular.
    3. I was just reading this article on an unschooling website and it made me think of your blog (I’m not an unschooler, but love to read about it for some reason): http://sandradodd.com/eating/control
    At first it is a little strange to read because it is made up mostly of responses to forum posts. But it becomes clear. Just thought there was a chance it might interest you. Would parenting this way in regards to food be something you would advocate?

    • Posted February 28, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Hi Suzanne – I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I glanced over it and it is really interesting. There are similarities between the approach described and Ellyn Satter’s approach, which is the one I agree with and recommend to parents. There are differences, too – for example, Satter recommends structure and a few forms of restriction, tempered with permission at other times: http://www.ellynsatter.com/using-forbidden-food-i-51.html

  39. Hollie
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Strange coincidence that I came upon this website today after recently deciding that I was done with months of obsessive calorie counting and being miserable. After just deciding to eat what I want (sometimes KFC, sometimes fish and rice, it’s not the end of the world), I am
    A) Much happier, as every meal doesn’t come with 20 minutes of worrying whether I’m ‘allowed’ to eat it.
    B) Not tired all the time, as I’m getting the right amount of food for ME, not some arbitrary average member of the population.
    C) Not hungry all the damn time.

    Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been thinking for a while!

    • Posted February 28, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      That makes me really happy to hear :)

    • Ani
      Posted February 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t thought about KFC in years. Thank you for solving my lunch apathy today :)

  40. Katherine
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    I just wanted to say your site helps a lot. I’m a counselling student who will graduate soon and am going to make sure I never use any sort of food or body shaming. I’m fat and am in the process of fat acceptance. I’m going to add it to my other social justice principles and use it to inform my future practice. I’m hoping in the future to potential study nutrition, do my Masters in Counselling and potentially set up a practice based on addressing issues surrounding food, body image and disordered eating. It’s big dream but it’s what I want to do.

    • Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      That’s awesome, Katherine! I’m glad to hear you’re working toward acceptance and that you want to make it a part of your future practice. People like you will help change the world for the better :)

  41. Mich
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Not sure if anyone is interested, but last night when I was shelving books at the library where I work, there were a bunch of books returned about WW2. One was called “Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and and the Politics of Domesticity” by Amy Bentley. I took a flip through it and it looked very interesting. Loads of pictures of posters, book covers, magazines, etc. There were cookbooks written about “how to stretch your sugar”, and how to raise a family on food stamps. There are 2 reviews on Amazon.com.

    Seemed an interesting book that I’ll take a look at later, but it’s all about “keeping women in their place” even though it seems they have more public roles (eg. working). Would be interesting to see how rationing impacted the US during the war. Apparently England had rationing until 1953 or 1954, well after the war ended. There is a BBC article from 1954 about how the “housewives” were thrilled when the rationing was over. I haven’t found any info on Canada yet.

    • Linda Strout
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      That does sound interesting. I don’t think there was much rationing here in the US. I know Britain was hit hard by it.

      • Twistie
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        There was rationing of food, gas, and cloth in the US during WWII. I believe rubber and a couple other materials generally needed in the war effort were also rationed, but I don’t know any of the specifics on that. I do know that once the war was over, so was the rationing here in the US.

        I have a collection of WWII era recipes in my cookbook collection. These are recipes designed to help women (because men don’t cook, you know) stay within their ‘points’ and still get enough food on the table. It features many recipes featuring offal cuts (liver, kidneys, hearts, etc.), desserts sweetened with fruit juice instead of sugar, and plenty of exhortations to save up the drippings from the rare slices of bacon you could get.

        As for cloth, there were government regulations as to the maximum amount of fabric used in a single garment. That’s one reason separates and fabric blocking were such common clothing design features in the first half of the forties. It’s also a big part of the reason so much draping, crinoline, wafting scarves, and pleats were so popular in the fifties.

        In the US, the rationing ended almost as soon as the war did. I’m not sure why rationing of food continued for another ten years or so in Britain, but I know it did.

        • Mich
          Posted April 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

          If you watch those old Disney cartoons with Donald, there was rationing of rubber. There was a cartoon where he blew a flat, and had to repair it with stickers, another cartoon where he made a plane with a rubber mold. Of course exposed to water it melted.

          I think with Britain being so hard hit with bombings and being closer to the fighting, and being part of the fighting, contributed to their not being on top after the war. The USA had the resources and the power to help win. I think there were projections in the beginning of the war of how much more costly in lives and $$ it would have been before the Americans came in. With the Americans fighting on 2 fronts, it ended sooner than expected since they kept hitting the enemies.

          There is another Disney movie about this too, called “Victory Through Air Power” that was made in 1943/44. It’s in those collector’s grey tins. I think it’s one of the best movies that Disney ever made, showing how each country benefited or was devastated based on its geography.

    • Mich
      Posted April 21, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      OK I found the article from the 50s about the end of rationing: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/4/newsid_3818000/3818563.stm

      I think Canada was the only country that was sending food, since the convoy system was Canada’s major contribution to the war effort. If you’re in Canada, the History channel here had a 4 part special a few years ago, that might still be on the website: history.ca. If you can’t watch the video, I think there was some written material on it too.

    • Mich
      Posted May 7, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      I’ve been reading a book for the past couple weeks called “Victorian Literature and the Anorexic Body” by Anna Krugovoy Silver. There’s a sample on Amazon. It’s about how the drive to be thin was new in the Romantic period and took off in the Victorian era, and was the major driving force behind excessive dieting, tight-lacing, and food restriction for women. Thin women with waists of 17-23 inches were “ideal”, and conquering food hunger was a mirror of conquering hunger for sex, and that a women was in total control of her body, submitting it to her will.

      Of course the average woman was much larger. Other developments were chronic anemias in women since eating meat, especially red meat, was seen as “manly” and would excite the animal passions. Red meat is high in iron and would have solved the anemia. Over the course of the century it became apparent that dieting was bad, and doctors were no longer prescribing tight-lacing for women to look their hottest, and a magazine for teenage girls called “Girls’ Own Paper” responded to letters which asked about dieting, that you should stop dieting and be happy with what you have, because God gave you this body.

      The author is quick to draw parallels to today with the diet-culture, but on the same page negates that too. In Amazon, it appears to be a frequently cited book among other books about Victorian lit. I’m reading it through ebook on my uni. library site, but it’s well worth checking out.

      • Linda Strout
        Posted May 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

        How come we don’t seem to put as much effort into controlling men as we do women?

        • Mich
          Posted May 7, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

          Patriarchy? Men are stronger? And can hurt us? Satire usually reverses the roles like during the suffragette movement there were novels written about men staying home, taking care of the kids, and what voting would mean for them.

          I have a couple books on Galen and Hippocrates, so I was going to post on that other comment I started, about their comments. Check back soon. ;)

      • Posted May 8, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

        This sounds great and I want to read it. Thank you for sharing!

        • Mich
          Posted May 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

          Oh good. I also read a review in a journal that said they author was breaking new ground. She looks at non-canonical literature, like etiquette manuals, magazines, fashion, and novels/stories not normally considered as “Victorian”. She inspired me to read some of them, like Elizabeth Gaskell. There’s even a whole chapter devoted to children’s literature, since that has always been didactic (aims to teach) and not escapist like other types (eg. choose your own adventure).

          • Posted May 9, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

            I really love Elizabeth Gaskell.

    • Mich
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 1:05 am | Permalink

      I found a couple more books about food rationing, mostly to do with war. One is called “The taste of war : World War Two and the battle for food” by Elizabeth Collingham, and the other “Food and war in twentieth century Europe” by Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska. Basically Nazi Germany had food production and self-sufficiency as a major goal, and getting rid of those “useless eaters” was a good way to do it. Also the Americans had more food, so they were able to come out on top, not starving like the Dutch or English. The second book looks at the WW1 too, and certain aspects of how countries changed after it. There’s even a chapter on Jews in the German army, and about kosher food.

      I haven’t read either yet, just saw them in the catalogue, wondering what else my library offered on food rationing. Looks to be worth checking out. They are both published in 2011.

      • Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        Wow, very interesting! I may have to put these on my list. I have about a million food-related books to be reading, yikes. I don’t know if I will ever get through them all.

  42. Mich
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    I was watching “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” with Wallace and Gromit the other night, and the whole thing got started with Wallace’s diet. As I got watching it more I thought that the whole thing could’ve been avoided if he’d never built that gizmo to lose weight, then he’d never mind meld with the rabbits.

    I used to think the movie was funny, but now I’m not so sure.

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