Dieting Madness

Most everything I have read about weight loss points that inevitably people will gain back their losses plus some. I have the same feeling as the person in this article when I see photos or videos of people from the 70’s or earlier. They seem so effortlessly skinny and now we all seem so plump.


My wife has lost 120+ pounds. I, on the other hand, have lost 10 pounds. Her technique is she uses the ‘fat secret’ app on her iPhone. Everything she puts in her body, she gets out the app and records it. She also has a friend who is a running junkie who presses her to do 5k. I make all her meals.

My problem is that I am a stress eater. Every time I’m in the kitchen I’ll binge on whatever’s around. When I go shopping, I give myself a treat. I don’t have the dedication to use the app.

Her method doesn’t deprive a body of nutrients. When people go on a diet, the survival instinct kicks in. It thinks, “I am in a famine, as soon as I get some food, I’ll store it in fat for later.” The mind is also flashing signals. “Remember how you used to eat this? Wouldn’t you like some right now?” A very good book on the subject is Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann which looks at scientific studies of what works without willpower or dieting.

As people have told me, “Whatever works for you.” and maybe I’ll follow my own advice sometime.

Goodreads link to book


Yup. I’m living proof diets and fat-shaming make you fat. At one point I lost 45 pounds in 6 months, only to gain back 90 in 12 months. And that was one of the “doctor-supervised” ones.

A lot of it is about control. The original 45 came on because I was constantly either stuck with only crappy food options, or stuck eating when I wasn’t hungry to be “polite” (and fuck people who insist the only proper mealtime is on their schedule).

At one point it was two cans of diet Coke and a chocolate bar for breakfast (caffeine to wake up, no air conditioning), French fries for lunch, raid the fridge when I got home from work because I was hungry, and then a second, formally cooked meal later in the evening when my ex felt like eating. He’d have an evening-long temper tantrum if I didn’t eat with him, and I had essays to mark and lessons to plan, so I ate with him to keep the peace.

Then mark and plan until midnight, before getting up at 5:30am to do it all over again.

Did I know it was unhealthy? Of course! But the school wasn’t going to change schedule, my ex wasn’t going to stop being selfish, and it was too exhausting to change anything.

I hate the “fat people are just lazy and careless” trope, because I don’t know a single person for which it is true. Weight loss advice focuses too much on what you’re eating and not why you’re eating it.


So, so many things factor in.

  1. Poverty. It’s not just what you can afford to buy, but what you can afford to carry, store, and is available in a food desert. Plus what you have time to prepare. When you are working 3 jobs, McDonald’s is hot and ready and available on the go in ways a good home meal or brown bag lunch is not.

  2. Health and ability. Some people can’t stand long enough to prepare a “healthy” meal, or have trouble handling the steps. It’s also hard to exercise when you are constantly exhausted (see also 1) or in pain.

  3. Genetics. You could literally be starving and your body raid everything other than your fat stores.

  4. Fat does not necessarily mean unhealthy. It may be highly correlated with other health problems, but not necessarily a direct causation. The correlation is not perfect. Even if doctors treat it as such. Often to the detriment of their patients. Indeed, the causation might run in the other direction for some, with obesity being a symptom of something else.

We need to break out of the mindset of it being a simple supply/expenditure equation. There is nothing simple about human bodies and human health.


My uneducated opinion says that part of it is the easy access to fast food, the amount of chemicals and additives and sweeteners loaded into our food and supply chain (thanks in no small part to the powerful corn and sugar lobbies). Also don’t forget about the massive meal portions that have become commonplace. The portion size is a big problem for me - I was raised to clean my plate so I have this mental predisposition to eat way more than I need to because of this. I also have never been able to break through habit is eating quickly so I often eat too much before I realize it.

Any time I travel abroad to places like Europe the overweight people (like me) always seem to be follow Americans. I also notice much of the food is better quality, less expensive, and more reasonably portioned.

Losing weight is fucking hard. I get absolutely zero enjoyment from exercising, and I hate cooking. I come home from work for the day exhausted and the last thing I want to deal with is either subjecting myself to exercise or dealing with meal preparation (“but just cook your meals for the week over the weekend” yeah - fuck that). It just perpetuates a vicious cycle. The patronizing, “just eat less and exercise more lol” really doesn’t help.


Yup. If this were all it took, virtually no-one would be fat.

I went to the Netherlands for a two-week vacation. Virtually all that time was spent either riding around in a rental car, or sitting with relatives, eating either a restaurant meal or pastries. I ate way more, and ate richer food, than I normally do.

And I lost ten pounds.


Funny how that works.

I was in Sweden last year and I was stunned at not only how reasonably priced the food was, but how high quality it was. And the portions we completely reasonable - satisfying without being overfilling. One night I went out to dinner with a co-worker and his wife to a fancy-ish place. We had a full three course meal with wine and some really rich and well made food in the touristy palace area of Stockholm and it still only ended up being around $25-30 person. I didn’t even feel guilty afterward.

In any event, I ate really well, didn’t spend a whole lot of money, and still ended up losing weight. It was pretty amazing.

I had a similar experience in Germany years prior. I ate well, drank a lot of beer, and somehow came back feeling way better than when I originally left.


Yeah, funny how we never discuss how weight gain can be a symptom of stress, even though the cortisol causation is pretty firmly established at this point.

And guess what can be a great cause of stress? Being ashamed of yourself and being shamed for not meeting an ideal. Other sources of stress include living without a robust safety net in a society that prizes “everybody for themselves!” thinking.

It’s not just the food, regardless of what’s in it.


Absolutely. But to @ficuswhisperer’s point, put stress, poor food options, and poor quality food together, and the question becomes why aren’t more people fat.


Again, I don’t fit in. I’m at the same weight I was at in high school…waaait, WAITAMINIT!!!

This is “Dieting Madness” am I correct? Not “Weight-Loss Madness”?

Because some of us try to eat to gain weight - which is a diet, just not a weight loss diet - and it really doesn’t work out much better for us, either! Well, me. My mom was the same way till after she had me; that and menopause, I’d think, would turn down her blast-furnace metabolism. Which my dad had and my brother used to have, but chemo turned his down lower.

There’s also emotional problems that affect lack of weight gan/accelerated loss: Depression. Some folks eat a cake, some wish they’d never seen the word! NOT eating because one feels unworthy is a big problem, too. BUT…if this is in fact about weight-LOSS and not just diet in general, feel free to delete this post or tell me to to do it.


I would say it definitely qualifies. You’re the flip side that everyone thinks that is so good, but can be just as much hell. Being on a constant search for calories is no more fun than trying to avoid them. Having to eat like it’s Thanksgiving all the time, even if you aren’t hungry isn’t about eating and enjoying. I know someone who took up drinking beer, even though they don’t particularly like it, because it’s calorie-dense enough to give them a fighting chance.

Plus you still deal with judgement. You’re either too skinny (so if you eat a salad because it’s a nice change), people think (or even tell you) that you need to eat more, or suspect you of being anorexic. If you eat three doughnuts, they’re either stupidly jealous, or think (or even tell you) that if you keep that up, you’ll be a fat slob.

Basically, there is no winning.



A couple of years ago, I had a bout of depression that was worse than any I’d had before, and also different.

Historically, my depression is hungry, and needs so much food. This last one was the opposite, I lost my appetite completely for 6 months, and it never really came back all the way. (These days I am in the realm of normal appetite, mostly.)

I lost 40 pounds, not actually trying to, just difficulty making myself swallow solid foods for a long time. I got some compliments, but only one person asked if I was OK. I was not OK, and it made the compliments feel icky. I had fleeting thoughts of answering the “how did you do it” question with “major depression”, but that didn’t feel right.

Eating well isn’t that easy. It’s more difficult with anything that makes life harder, like poverty, mental illness, physical illness, geographic isolation, stress, or just an overwhelming set of life circumstances. And, all this is true regardless of a person’s weight.


When I was in Wilmington, I helped to found a cooperative yoga studio that rented space from a local ballet studio. One of the teachers was a woman in her early twenties who just looked like the picture perfect ballerina - fair, long straight strawberry blonde hair down to her low back, tall and lean. Her secret? She had Chrohn’s Disease. Her lithe figure was actually illness. It was kind of odd to me that people would actually want to emulate that look.

So many people put it on their own weakness to stick to a diet, but the research overwhelmingly shows that people will reset back to their old weight after successfully losing or gaining. I’ve worked with a doctor for a long time to change my eating habits and I am committed to figuring it out - I have cut out so many things I used to eat - but the sugar is really my addiction and I feel that without confronting the addiction aspect, I will always be addicted. One big motivator to moving and changing up these major factors in my life is needing to create the stability that will help me to make real changes in my life and not just do things for a while and go back to the old.


Have you ever:

  • had people shout slurs about your body size as you entered a doughnut shop to get a coffee?
  • gone to sit down at a café, only to discover none of the cute little cast-iron chairs fit you?
  • had people shout slurs about your body as you were exercising in public?
  • mooed at you as you were crossing the road?
  • agreed to be interviewed on television because you were a subject matter expert, then the TV people changed their mind when they saw you (I just had that happen a year ago)?
  • had to buy all your clothes from specialty shops because regular shops refuse to carry your size, even though 30-50% of people are in your size range?
  • had people remove items they thought were unhealthy from your grocery shopping cart, or made comments about the groceries you were buying?

Some of these things happen to thin people sometimes, and not being able to gain weight is a real thing (and again, body size correlates poorly to overall health). But way more of them happen to fat people.


Wow. I haven’t had that except the size thing, but I have had a few little comments from people when I get involved in sportsy things as they think I am not fit because I’m bigger. But the thing is I really understand how to use my body and control my energy, so even though I’m not really fit right now, I can still keep up with most fit people compared to others who have less body awareness.


No, but when I met a woman I hadn’t known before back in the 1990s and we were introduced, she said, “I hate you, you’re so skinny!” I said, “Pleased to meet you.”, though I wasn’t. Even though, yes, she was smiling and laughing a bit when she said it.


I’ve always had a high metabolism, and I’m at the heaviest I’ve ever been, 165 lbs.

The hard part I’ve always encountered is the family living or co-habitation scenario, where equal amounts of food are meant to sustain unequal people. That leaves me legitimately hungry, and viewed as greedy.


Over-simplified dietary information has done some real harm.

What bugs me is when I read up on it, and discover things which have been known for decades, yet people believe the opposite because of oversimplification.

I once met a nurse at a house party who insisted everyone’s nutritional needs were identical. I was nearly a foot taller than her, so I said, “sorry, do you mean my skeleton and your skeleton need the same amount of calcium?” and she said “yes” without hesitation.

Which, I double-checked later, is not right at all.