Slim 365 – Oprah used it, so should you!

I got a slimming pill ad in my email, and being bored today I decided to open it up. How little has changed since I spent my adolescence dieting on and off with the same ten pounds. Hey, it seemed like a lot at the time, and I’d always been so skinny it was devastating to gain weight, you know! I used to read all the crappy pitches for pills in the back of trashy magazines, and sometimes I’d even order them. By the time I cottoned to the fact that every single one came with a stringent, 1000 calorie diet that had to be followed (when the ads said “Do nothing and lose tons of weight!”) I stopped buying them. I once ordered the one thing that sounded different – Chinese edible crystals that you sprinkle on your food and eat, or dissolve in water and drink, and it would do its magic in your tummy, and you would just lose weight. Eat whatever you want. So I tried it. The third day I woke up at exactly the same time (10 hours after eating the crystals) with the same hard bubbled-out belly that HURT and caused me to spend at least 45 minutes in the bathroom to end it. When I realized what was causing that, I stopped using it. I did leave one packet in water and by the next morning it had turned into a sticky mass of clear slime. Weird. But at least it was different.

I don’t think these companies are even trying anymore. There were always ads that certain combinations of foods could make you lose weight with no effort, that this pill would speed up your metabolism (caffeine, and later guarana), lessen your appetite (again, caffeine and nausea from whatever else they put in it) and a starvation diet would combine to make you skinny by summer! Then came SlimFast and it seemed ok – drink two meal replacement shakes a day – chocolate! which you’re deathly sick of by day 3 – and eat a sensible dinner. I decided it would be cheaper (and the same calorie-wise) to drink two pints of chocolate milk (full fat) – Nestle – and eat that sensible dinner from the menu plans that came with the SlimFast. It worked. Of course I could smoke at my desk then and I spent a fortune on cigarettes, but whatever. Once I tried my doctor’s 1000 calorie diet while doing nautilus and aerobic walking at the gym and lost 20 lbs and looked like a hardbody; that was kind of fun. It took a few months to gain it back that time. I tried LA Weight Loss but the food was so heinous I had to stop in a week – hot lemon juice in the morning followed by rabbit food and Wasa crackers and fake bacon bits. Wasa crackers are evil. (My apologies to fans.) My metabolism changed completely after I had a baby, and that was that. 6 months on Jenny Craig and two hours rigorous workout daily and I lost maybe 5 pounds – yeah, no. I gave up then and there.

But back to Slim 365. (The link and a review.)

Let’s replay the past, shall we?

Block dietary fats, eh? Gee, I thought we learned with starch blockers that blocking one of the three ways you can ingest a calorie was a Bad Idea. In, like, the early 90s. You don’t hear about the miracle starch blockers much anymore. Too many sick people. Now we’ll block fat, like Olestra, and we can have anal leakage so foul that they tell you to carry extra pants and warn that the stain will never come out of your toilet. Yum. Maybe that’s how they suppress your appetite.

Increase your resting metabolism. Caffeine again! I take Ativan to prevent jitters and panic attacks and aid my fight against insomnia; the last thing I want in my body is caffeine to make me jitter and jounce and stay awake. No thanks.

It suppresses your appetite. More nausea! Yay! If I’m going to torment myself, I might as well just buy Dexatrim; it has the same effect. You don’t lose weight, but you feel like shit.

Plus, it cleanses your body! I thought water, kidneys, the liver, skin and the like did that? But hey, if you want to go in for a useless colonic irrigation, go for it – whatever floats your boat. All that stuff woulda been gone the next day anyway, but who’m I to tell you what to do?

Also, Oprah did not use this product nor has she endorsed it. So they still lie.

Do these pitches ever change? The pills? Who buys this stuff?

Webmd says it will improve your skin and help you avoid diabetes. Now there’s a responsible claim. Based, I assume, on the erroneous truism that it’s fat that causes diabetes? Shocker.

You know, it’s just so boring. To read a weight loss pill ad all these years later and find it exactly the same as the ones I’ve ever read – from the pitch, to the false claims, to the things it does…can’t they at least be a little creative?

On Diets

I’m writing this post in response to Meowser’s excellent post There Are Diets, And Then There Are DIETS. It was truly excellent, and made me start thinking about how my very unusual dietary requirements go practically counter to how fat people such as myself are often told they “should” eat.

I have orthostatic hypotension, brachycardia, vasovagal something-or-other, and generally horrible circulation. These are all generally spawned from too-low blood pressure, or hypotension. I also have lipedema, which though thought largely genetic, is also associated with hypotension and poor circulation.

Because of these conditions, I have to make sure I eat a sufficient amount of things most fat people (and most people in general) are told aren’t generally good for them:

1. I have to make sure I’m salting my food.

2. I have to get enough sodium in general.

3. Every morning I should drink a cup of strong coffee.

Keeping hydrated is something else I need to do, though I need to make sure sometimes to:

4. Drink water with some kind of sugar in it.

I also should:

5. Stay away from alcohol. Even a glass or two could send my blood pressure through the floor, as it is a depressant.

6. Stay away from other depressive substances.

And exercise? I need to:

7. Be careful and don’t do cardio training for any solid length of time (like months). Cardio training can lower your blood pressure and heart rate.

Also, guess what else lowers blood pressure? Calorie restriction. So:

8. Do not diet for weight loss.

Additionally, women with lipedema are usually told:

9. Do not diet for weight loss, since there is a much higher incidence of anorexia in women with lipedema. Dieting will not remove the lipedemic fat, the metabolism of the cells of which are damaged and the lipedemic fat won’t “shed.”

So all in all, with my various very genetic (all passed from my Dad’s family) disorders that are tied into hypotension, dieting for weight loss, and cardio training, are generally prohibited.

What happens if I don’t follow the prescriptions to keep my low blood pressure at a reasonable rate? I didn’t, for a few years, so I know the answer to this:

I generally feel ill. I pass out after getting out of the shower, on a humid day inside or outside or in the car, feel ill after exercising, feel ill all the time in general. Foggy, can’t think, nauseous, can’t breathe, headaches, dizzy.

I was lucky. Only one time did I pass out and get slightly injured; the other times I was able to “take myself down” once the symptoms of fainting starting cropping up. But as anyone who’s watched “Million Dollar Baby” knows, it only takes one bad fall to pretty much end your life.

So is a weight-loss diet, the antithesis of what *I personally* need to eat for *my personal* optimal health, worth paralysis or death?

The person who refuses to sit next to me on an airplane, or the subway, or a bus, or the train, thinks so. The person who has to look at my cellulite on the beach thinks so. Tam Fry thinks so.

What do you think?

A short comment about comparing fat and racial prejudice

I’m reposting a short comment I made on Nati’s Plushus blog about comparing fat and racial prejudice. I’ve been silent on this a long time, because I spoke up long before I had really coherently put together my thoughts in a way that would most clearly represent what I had to say. Additionally, I’ve been studying moral panics and moral crusades as a historical phenomena in the interim, and it has really enlightened me as to how certain patterns of superiority-and-deviance have repeated themselves, in different forms and degrees, over and over since practically the dawn of mankind (I can’t go back further than the Epic of Gilgamesh, sadly lol).

Here’s my comment on this post by Nati:

This argument has come up before on the Fatosphere and other fat activist sites, and I think sometimes the argument can get heated because people are coming into the argument with a lot of baggage and not paying attention to the real point.

Fat prejudice is like racial prejudice because they’re both a form of prejudice. We can learn from racial prejudice in the fat community because although fat prejudice is at a much, much more rudimentary stage than the peak of racial prejudice, the concept underlying the two – the creation of a deviant class based on group characteristics that have nothing to do with character or personhood – is the same.

How familiar are you with the idea of the moral crusade or moral panic? Underlying many of the worst prejudicial movements is the idea of, “You deserve it (in a moral or absolute sense),” or “We’re doing it for your own good.” Some of the worst crimes perpetuated during the peak of racial prejudice were in the name of this fallacious moral crusadership.

I think, like with much in history, we can learn the hard lessons of the racial prejudice period (which some would claim is still in full force, and I agree, though it’s changed its form a bit) and apply it to how we go about fighting fat prejudice.

It’s not about who had it worse, it’s about this idea that groups are singled out and persecuted while being entirely innocent. That is what all prejudice, regardless of the degree, has in common.

How Dare You Be a FAT Girl Scout?

One of my most vivid anti-fat memories from childhood was the summer I attended a Girl Scouts day camp. It was my first camp experience, and it was filled with the smell of rotting pine needles (lovely), swimming in a warm forest lake (even lovelier), and learning how to build fires and recognize poisonous plants.

What could mar this fuzzy, nostalgic memory of youth? One incident, which brought home to me, perhaps for the first time, that fat people are deviant, meant to be ridiculed and ostracized until they conform.

It was morning. Our camp counselors were older girls, who stayed overnight in the tents (unlike us little kids). They would often hold a sort of “pow-wow” in the morning dew, with the little kids sitting on logs in rows before them. They would talk about what they were planning to do that day, and give us our counselor assignments (I recall it was the first time I heard the word “latrine”).

Most of the camp counselors were thin or average. However, I recall that one of them was fat. The interesting part of this is that I don’t think I even realized it until that morning, when she was mocked, marginalized, and raked over the coals for the sin of being fat.

Before our assignments were given out that morning, a practical joke had been planned by a couple of the thinner counselors. One girl, a particularly sour-faced brunette with a ponytail, pulled something out of her pocket.

“What’s this?” she asked the little kids, who were speechless. “Is it a big pillowcase? Or maybe a sheet? It’s just — so — huge!!” And she stretched it over her head.

It was a pair of panties. Specifically, the fat counselor’s panties.

Now, in retrospect, the counselor wasn’t really that fat, nor were her panties nearly as wide as they were made to seem. In fact, she was likely about the size I am now, perhaps a bit fitter (I’m much more sedentary these days than I used to be, due to the thinness of my extra time and pocketbook, certainly not due to desire). But that’s really beside the point. The point was that she was markedly larger than her thinner counterparts, and THAT was her crime.

The fat counselor’s face went beet red, and she feigned a laugh. The little kids then began to laugh tentatively — sadly, so did I. Suddenly, that particular counselor looked a lot more grotesque to me – ridiculous, even. The mind of a child is particularly malleable to suggestion, and the suggestion that she was deviant due to her size made her LOOK like how they were painting her – bigger, grotesque, unwanted, unlovable, mean, lazy.

The fat camp counselor had the grace to laugh it off (though visibly humiliated), pocketed the panties when given back to her, and that was that.

However, that experience was to paint my vision of fat people and, as I moved from a slightly pudgy seven year old to a markedly pudgy thirteen year old, my vision of myself. It wasn’t until these past two years, when I’ve been involved in fat acceptance, that I’ve retraced this old memorial and laid a bouquet or two at its feet.

I wonder what that fat counselor is doing now, and how her life went as she got older. I hope she has found happiness and acceptance (especially from herself). I wish I could find her again, to tell her I am sorry for laughing at her, sorry for not knowing what I know now.

Of Breasts and Money

Or, you know, health care.

This was a comment I made on BL’s last post and she requested that I make it a stand-alone for further discussion. I was so flattered I did it immediately.

Ok, I haven’t read all of this one yet (BL, you have a terrific talent for composing amazingly rich, thorough, well-referenced posts that can take days to really absorb! Wow!) but I’m loving it. Richie, I haven’t read your part of the actual post, but the comment you left above is amazing – it’s kind of like a mirror of BL’s talent; meaning, to be able to put SO MUCH into so few words! In other words, at the risk of sounding gushy, I feel like I’m in wonderful company here.

Deana struck a big nerve with me – that part when people from places with socialized medicine tell us how great it is because it’s free, and that we should have it for free too, always cracks me up. I knew a Swedish woman (oh, she was obnoxious) who used to love to tout what a wonderful economy they had there, and how morally superior they were as a people because all their medical care was “free” and in fact their society was so free and un-greedy that if a stranger wanted to sleep for the night in someone else’s backyard, it was just customary that you let them do so. Even if they didn’t ask first. (Which sounds like trespassing and a dangerous practice, but hey, they’re all just good and non-dangerous and so forth.) Anyway, point was that I kept explaining to her that the word “FREE” did not mean what she thinks it means. I kept asking her what she thought free meant, and her concept of it was so shallow that she really thought it meant that one didn’t have to pay for it.

Look, when I was 15 years old, that’s what I thought it meant too. But when you’re a 40-something year old woman who claims to be a PhD and you don’t understand what “free” means even when someone explains it to you, there’s a problem.

Now, I am coming to a point here, please bear with me. I’m going to do it in a roundabout way. If it’s too long and boring, I won’t be insulted if you skip it; fair warning that I’m long-winded tonight.

Ok, let me start with Patch Adams. Has anyone seen that movie? Because Patch Adams had this dream of a new style of medicine (and I found it pretty gross that even though his idea got his dear friend murdered he still thought it was good, but that’s an aside). Clearly he was an intelligent man and a talented doctor; no argument there. But when he wanted to practice his style of medicine, he and his friends had to raid the supplies of a nearby “stodgy” hospital – the kind that was hampered by the necessity of, you know, PAYING for the stuff they used to help the sick people. In other words, they STOLE the stuff and then called it “free.” And this was supposed to be a good thing. See, if you do it for a good reason, it doesn’t matter what the unintended consequences are (such as, say, the hospital losing expensive supplies that they had bought and thus needing to cover their losses, probably by being horribly mean and charging even more for their services). It was all very light-hearted, and one of those fun “bonding” experiences going into the hospital and stealing stuff for their own patients. It made them the good guys, because they were doing it to help people for free. But it wasn’t free. There are people working for low wages in the places that MAKE those cotton balls and bottle that rubbing alcohol and ship it and drive the trucks that deliver it, and they have to be paid. There are people who harvest the cotton and people who grow it and people who chop down the trees to make the tongue depressors. There are all these millions of people involved in doing the WORK to get those supplies to that hospital.

There are doctors who spend many years in school studying very difficult subjects and sacrificing years of their lives who either have to have rich families, or take out massive student loans which later have to be repaid, then further years working as residents with scant sleep and a very demanding physical and mental task. There are nurses who spend years studying as well, then spend their own years dealing with rowdy drunks who end up in the ER after fights and sometimes get combative, who barely have time to eat and spend countless hours on their feet and putting people on bedpans. There are orderlies who have to do a buttload of heavy work.

Do these people not deserve the money they earn? All of them, from the cotton pickers to the surgeons? What right does anyone have to steal the fruits of their labor or to demand that they shouldn’t receive their salaries? Where does anyone get the idea that just because they themselves might not have to pay for any of it that that means it is FREE? None of it is free.

To socialize it only means to shift the cost somewhere else and add an entirely new level of bureaucracy in order to administrate it, which means that it costs that much more to pay the people who do THAT part of it. Which is, on its surface, a net loss. If you can still find an elderly doctor, the kind who used to hang out a shingle (I have one myself, and it’s a rare treasure) they will tell you that before costs started going through the roof with the first bureaucracy (insurance, and later the worse HMOs) it was little to no trouble to treat most patients at a reasonable rate and have more than enough to treat poorer patients at a reduced rate or for free. But with each new bureaucracy and each resulting increase in COSTS, it became more and more difficult to keep treating people for free or on the cheap, and thus more people ended up *needing* more help, and more bureaucracies and more cost increases, in a vicious cycle.

But what galls me the most about all this occurring and spiraling ever downward is that all these horrible things – that dirty dirty word – that whole **profit** thing, was what went into research and development! The more money the medical profession made and was allowed to actually keep and use, the more nifty new things they could INVENT and learn about. Profit, in the medical profession, translated into BETTER medical care, better machines, new and better treatments, new and better medicines, more help for people to live healthier and more enjoyable lives. But all our entitled people can see is that some of those guys drive a fucking Porsche and dammit, I don’t have one, so why should he? Well, why SHOULDN’T he? Haven’t they helped make things better for us all? It’s the same with everyone being mad at CEOs for getting big bonuses (I’m not talking about AIG here; this has been an issue way before bailouts, which are a different animal.) Everyone wants to bite the hand that feeds them because that hand has a pretty ring on it. Prettier than mine, thus bad.

So the long and short of it is, you socialize the health care further and further, eventually completely, and medical progress comes to a grinding HALT. Doesn’t this bother anyone? Do we think there is no further progress coming? Because human ingenuity, combined with the means, derived from profits, can make amazing progress and can KEEP making progress. What the hell good is free health care for everyone if they’re never going to find a cure or invent a decent machine to even diagnose what’s ailing you? It sounds good now because we HAVE already made so much progress and we think it’s good enough where it is – but it can be better, and why shouldn’t it be? Why shouldn’t it be ALLOWED to become even better as we go? I know they spend a lot of it on bullshit like Viagra and baldness cures, but that’s because there’s a demand for these things, and it isn’t stopping anyone from seeking better treatments for cancer. If they make more money on Viagra and baldness, they can also spend more on lupus and fibromyalgia, can’t they? So why not? Supply and demand WORKS. And pray tell, if doctors are not going to be earning more money than anyone else, or are going to be taxed so heavily that they are just not allowed to make a profit, who is going to spend all that time and money to BECOME one? It’s like that ridiculous comment Obama made that capping salaries in an industry will draw MORE and BETTER people INTO that industry…WTF? Does that even make sense to anyone? So not only does progress stop, we give no one any incentive to dedicate their lives, and so much time and work, into even providing the service. Fewer doctors, not more.

Also, and I think I’m winding down here, the fact is that because supply and demand works so well, and because profits in fact do many good things for many people, for the common good, the market is self-adjusting, IF it’s left alone. So let me veer off into economics, though keep in mind that this applies to medicine just as it does to everything else. Because yes, it IS a business – the supplies, the service – that’s what it is. (People who think it isn’t, don’t bother telling me because I can not comprehend your thinking there; I think I’ve already illustrated why it is in fact a business, an industry.)

Let me compare this with breastfeeding for a moment because it’s a perfect analogy. When a baby is new it will nurse quite frequently, if he’s allowed to do so at will. The breasts, feeling the demand of the suckling by the infant, begin to produce a steady milk supply. If the baby goes through a growth spurt and requires more for a week or two, the breasts quickly adjust to the growing demand and produce even more. When the baby slows down and stops making the same demand on the breasts, in a day or two (though it’s a bit painful for that day or two) produce that much less. It adjusts quite naturally; and any nursing mom knows that if she wants to have some to save or to donate to a milk bank, she has to place additional demand on that breast by pumping when the baby isn’t eating. When the baby weans gradually, the milk dries up and you don’t produce it anymore. Another resource – solid food and other drinks – has taken its place, it isn’t being demanded anymore, so no more is made.

Basically, the body reacts like this: if a breast feels “full” for too long, it sends a signal to the factory that it’s making too much and tells it “too much – make less!” If a lactating breast is suckled and is consistently empty, it sends a message to the factory, “not enough – make more!” Aside: this is why I get so angry when people get bad nursing advice from ignorant doctors, though this is less common now. Basically, breast milk spends 1 1/2 hours in a new baby’s stomach to be processed – so at first you feel like you’re doing it constantly. But if the baby is allowed to continue to demand it, and everything is working properly, the breast will start to produce a much fuller supply; it all ends up being self-regulating. Yet I have witnessed famous pediatricians tell a new mother, whose baby was nursing every two hours (which is pretty good – it can be a lot more often, believe me) that she should cut it DOWN to once every three hours, because she should let the breast become “full” first so that the baby would have more there to drink. Um – if you have read this far, you know what that means, right? It means that her breasts, feeling “full”, would send a signal to her factory saying “too much – make less!” If she took his advice, I can guarantee you that woman was formula-feeding within weeks. If that. This is the whole problem with the practice of “scheduling” – it’s all right to schedule a baby who is drinking formula, to a degree. But if you distort this bodily process with a false schedule, your factory has no way of knowing how much to make and when – this is one reason why about 77% of mothers nurse for the first week or two and then stop – you can’t schedule, or regulate a self-regulating system. It is a *distortion* of the natural process of supply and demand. Now apply this reality to the market.

If there are 10 million prices and the people involved in each industry allow the demand to set the price, then adjust their production of each thing based on the demand for it (which is what happens when they are left alone to do it) then production of some things will go down and others will go up. How in bloody hell can a bureaucracy, from above, attempt to regulate such a system beyond the very obvious things like protecting people’s property rights? (That is, the right to make, own, earn and produce, along with the enforcement of contracts and the protection of them from bodily encroachment.) Every single distortion of this type screws with the natural, self-regulating process of the market. A bureaucracy can not POSSIBLY hope to try to direct the methods in which people ought to employ their capital or their production – it can only cause shortages in one place and overages in another place. We used to use whale oil in this country. When it became too expensive, people couldn’t afford it and it became obsolete, so we started with kerosene. This all happened without the government *telling* people to stop using it or making it – the prices did that. The supply and demand did that. This is why oil isn’t going to “run out” anytime soon – when it gets too expensive, as it did a year + ago, people stopped using so much of it. No one had to force them to do that – they started walking more when they didn’t need to drive, etc. Prices did what? They fell.

Anyway, whether it’s medicine or groceries or any product or service in the world, it’s not supply and demand that has caused problems – it’s distortions in supply and demand by *regulation*. I, for one, do not want to put my health care in the hands of a faceless bureaucracy that, for all its facelessness, can still put me in jail and use deadly force against me. It’s bad enough that so much of the money I work for is taken by this same faceless bureaucracy at the point of a gun – and yes, it is at the point of a gun – they put you in jail for not paying that money, don’t they? That’s force. It should only be used extremely sparingly and for the purposes of protecting people from harm and fraud. This is what the founding fathers fought and died for, and while I know we’re not going to get back there in my lifetime, I’ll be damned if I will allow it to KEEP going further and further in that direction without a fight. This giant isn’t sleeping.

Ok, if you aren’t asleep by now and have actually read this monstrous comment, and if it made any sense at all, please please do have a look at this essay, which explains it all in a charming and entertaining way. It’s Leonard Reed’s classic, I, Pencil. Please skip the foreward by Milton Friedman until after reading the actual essay, ok? It kind of ruins it if you haven’t read it before.

P.S. Did you know that if the AIG bonuses were split evenly among the population of this country we would each get 43 cents? Hehe. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

Too Fat To Work – Send Money

There follows, in this article, after the picture, a bunch of names and weights, reducing these people to numbers and letters. Nevermind that. There follows a description of the horrid fatty foods they are forced to eat because they don’t know and can’t afford any better. Let me tell you, “Bacon Butties” sounds good, and I would eat them without a second thought if I knew what they were and if they were as awesome as they sound. Or maybe they suck and home-pan-fried bacon is better – and I’ll eat that, too, if I want. (I ate 4 slices the other day and they were positively wonderful!) They tell us how many calories these people eat in a day, as though it’s relevant to anything. (3000, if you were wondering.) But…this entire article is a bilious and ludicrous mish-mosh of nonsense. They eat this, they wish they could eat that, but really it’s genetic, and the bottom line is they deserve more free* money. What in the hell kind of message is that? It doesn’t even make internal sense. They want more money for being fat and not working but they want to avoid street harassment for their weight by eating vegetables and fruits which they can’t afford because of us greedy fucks and if only they could they could lose weight and not be harassed and then they could work and not be harassed but it’s all really genetic. Go ahead, read it, see if it makes more sense than that.

Look, I want to support the cause of people who are fat and deserve the same rights as everyone else – ALL the rights AND RESPONSIBILITIES of everyone else. I will not judge you for being fat. But let me tell you something, I work with people who are easily TWICE the size of these people in the picture, who make, frankly, a fuck of a lot more money than I do. Who make, in fact, what I only dream about. They get a tad annoyed when they get deeper taxes taken out of their paychecks to pay free* money to people who just don’t WANT to work. Sometimes, if you are fat, I understand that you can’t do ALL the jobs anyone else can do. You might have to drive a hi-lo or sit at a desk and do shipping paperwork, you know? But why not do SOMETHING? Now if you, as I do, have real concerns like asthma, you have to find work that understands this and allows you to sit. Like in a hi-lo. Or behind a desk. You have a MIND don’t you? You can’t do ANYTHING? ALL you can do is leech off the rest of us, who are EVERY BIT AS FAT but have to EARN our daily bread?

EDIT: I dashed this off in a hurry, and re-reading it I don’t think I was careful enough to add disclaimers, and frankly that was careless of me. While I don’t believe in confiscatory tax dollars to be spent on programs that aren’t in the legitimate scope of the government, of *course* I know that A) some people really need help and in a civilized society there can and should be many types of voluntary charitable organizations and options to provide that help. Not everyone can work a wage job or farm the land and there are many genuine needs. There is no reason for people to starve in the streets and I know that people are generous enough to not want that (apart from a few objectivists who wouldn’t mind that very much and B) Reporters, and especially this one, are often jerks and this thing was so full of weird spin I didn’t know where to begin.