Friday, November 16, 2012

In A Roundabout Way, Screw The Stats

I was on SparkPeople for a while about six months ago, and dropped it due mostly to bone idleness. I did get a few useful things out of it; their Nutrition Tracker can be set up to track individual nutrients, which is how I found out I don't typically get enough iron and potassium in the course of a day. These days, I take a multivitamin and keep electrolyte drinks close. I think SP's tools are flexible enough one can use it if one's a HAES adherent, but it'd be difficult. The communities and advertising are geared towards weight management.

Anyway, it's time you guys met my imaginary friend.  I popped to my neglected SP blog for this entry:


I don't really want to do this, because the inside of my head is a messy place. But my imaginary friend kind of insisted.

**She's right, I did.**

He's a figment of my imagination dreamed up to counter some bad brain habits. An externalization of the part of me that doesn't agree with the majority -- those parts that insist everything is fine the way it is, because outward form should reflect inward and there isn't anything in me worth much.

**What I'm trying to do is break her habit of cyclic negative thinking, and persuade her to change without resorting to screaming. She's had plenty of people -- some of whom really do love her a lot -- yell at her, use emotional blackmail, shame her for being different. I'm trying to untangle what she is from what she does. She's not a bad person, she's made bad decisions. Thinking she's a bad person full stop gives her the idea that she doesn't have to bother learning from her mistakes. And that's incorrect.**

**She hasn't been listening to me lately because she's had other things going on. SparkPeople looked like it was working, from a lifestyle management standpoint.**

Except that I don't like feeling constantly on the defensive about anything, and sooner or later I'll reject that paradigm. Taking questions of any kind as a sort of personal attack -- it's just one of my fantastic personality issues.

**She's oversensitive about judgement--**

Which is another way of saying I'm a huge drama queen--

**Stop that. It isn't your fault your father couldn't think of a better way to discipline you than to make you feel bad about yourself.**

Oh the nuances of communication. He was probably saying What You Did Is Stupid Don't Do It Anymore; what I heard was You Are Stupid! Stop Being Stupid! Or Else!!! I Can Hurt You!!! Even Though I Never Have!!! I MIGHT!!!!! (a sentiment communicated with that world-shattering bellow). And you know what? Understanding that doesn't make the memories any easier to live with. Just like knowing my mother's problems with touching don't have anything to do with me -- my mother's an incest survivor, she's very protective of her personal space. But I can't help but wonder; is she recoiling because she's uncomfortable with contact in general, or just contact with me? Then I remember that I'm a selfish shit for even wondering that. Go me.

**Sweet one, you feel what you feel. Remember Captain Awkward--**

"It's impossible to work through your feelings when you're berating yourself for having those feelings to begin with.[1]" I'm paraphrasing, obviously.

**You're also disassociating[2]. Go get Mr. Sadface[3] and take some belly breaths.**

. . .


A little.

It's yet another place where a sporting mindset has tried to help and failed, I think. SparkPeople's less about how one feels than the quality of the stats one keeps -- I ate my produce, I drank my water, I stayed in range, I got in my twenty minutes exercise (though to be accurate all four of those things happening at once was rare, what can I say? my taste for vegetables is a work in progress). Sometimes I felt good. Most often I felt whatever it is I feel usually. Sometimes I felt very discouraged and downright pissed at myself. Of all the possible variance in genes and physicality and environment, why did I get the body that can somehow saddle up almost 400 pounds of adipose tissue?

The trouble with applying sport's obsession with stats to health is pretty simple; people aren't machines, life doesn't follow clear understandable rules, and there's no criteria set to determine positive versus negative outcomes. I read on SP once that people intimidated by weight loss shouldn't shoot for an ideal weight -- a 10% reduction in one's current body weight would ensure significant benefits. But is that really a Weight Loss Success? Last time I weighed, I tipped a 520. Subtract ten percent, that's about 470 pounds rounded up. That's still in the Why Aren't You Dead range of BMI and still far outside the socially acceptable range of curviness.

So throw out weight as a data point. What about health conditions? A long-term study on the effects of dieting on Type 2 diabetes was shut down two years early because the data showed calorie restrictions don't produce positive effects[4]. Studies have shown many people with obesity have hypertension, but no one's been able to draw a clear parallel between weight loss and a corresponding drop in readings. In fact dieting often results in a swing pattern of fasting and feeding (weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting), and that *does* have a negative impact on metabolism, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

What I'm trying to accept is that scientific understanding of how the body needs and uses fuel and energy is a work in progress, and the work that's been done so far doesn't support the conclusions being bandied about with such evangelical fervor. I can accept being told what to do if doing as I'm told will keep me safe and happy; weight management does neither. So I'm not going to do as I'm told.

**What do you mean by that sweetheart?**

I mean:

-When I eat something, I eat it because I want to for my own reasons and don't have to justify it to anyone including myself
-I'll exercise if and when I want to, because I like to, and not because I'm afraid of Death walking with me. She does that with everybody, not just fat people.[5]
-My body is not a symbol of a public health crisis. I am not Typhoid Fatty (tm), and obesity is not a public health crisis.
-I don't have to feel guilty for not having the inclination to treat my body like a part-time job. I'm a tax clerk for fuck's sake.
-I will not focus on the numbers (except in weightlifting, where keeping track of work is how you keep from hurting yourself). Instead, I will focus on feelings.

It's not a complete list of principles to live by, but it's a start.

**Do you want to talk about your stab at therapy?**

Not right now.

[1] ". . .  it’s wicked hard to process a feeling when you’re simultaneously beating yourself up for having the feeling in the first place."
[2]Flipping between mature and immature parts of the psyche. I know that's not the proper use of the term. Sue me, I don't know a better word for suddenly turning into a sniveling preschooler.
[3]The little stuffed octopus who lives in my cube. I got him on a work outing to the Dallas Aquarium. Named for his huge sad blue eyes.
[5] Death of the Endless, the Sandman books. I love the idea of Death as a little Goth chicklette, wise as the ages yet whimsical and caring.


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