10-17-2011, 08:21 AM
PART TWO: He undercut his own message by sending me to a school where I played and fought and studied with the same people that he was making an off-limits Other. The surnames Wong and Sanchez were as familiar to me as Williams and Smith. So why were certain kids fine to play with in the sandbox now but not to date in the future? Why were they worth less? If they truly were worth less, why did no one in my school treat them so? Pale Young Gay Panda and a darker friend got in equal trouble for the same misdeed. While trying to marginalize others, my father marginalized himself, a lone voice of strangeness in my fair, orderly school world, and I never imbibed his worldview.
However, had I lived in a homogenous community with powerful voices backing him up, I might have. A gullible young panda could have been convinced that the small differences between us were actually dangerous chasms. How would I have known any better? The seeds planted in my cubhood might have blossomed into a very ugly garden by my adult years. Once entrenched, certain messages are very hard, and sometimes impossible, to dislodge.
Race was only one of the messages I got during that car ride home from the carnival. Packaged with it were messages about marriage and behavior and power and presumed heterosexuality, and that parental love was conditional. It could be withdrawn, and I could be cast out and eliminated. There was also a loaded message about romantic love: that if one day the person who was right for me had an unacceptable surname, I would have to choose between that person and Christmas presents.
We get millions of messages on every topic from the day we’re born, from dress to gender to food to social etiquette to body image to religion. If you rove through MDA journals like Gay Panda does, you read over and over how people battle with very powerful messages that we’ve received since childhood about nutrition. When I read Why We Get Fat last April, I felt like Taubes was taking a shovel to my mind, uprooting one message after another, and it was painful. How could I have been wrong? Of course I knew what was healthy to eat! Those messages were so engrained in my psyche that to sever them as skillfully as he did loosed me from gravity. I had to put the book down often.
I easily fell prey to the mass delusion of calorie restriction and hard exercise as the road to weight loss. There was no challenge to this misconception in my world, unlike the one presented to me by school in the matters of race and worth. When the Atkins diet was popular, it conflicted with all of the messages that I had received about healthy eating. Those messages came from respected sources and there were legions; Atkins was a lone nut-job wanting to make money off an idea as ridiculous as the Grapefruit Diet. Scientists made fun of it. The media made fun of it. So Gay Panda made fun of it. The same thing happened with the Caveman diet. Scientists made fun of it. The media made fun of it. So Gay Panda made fun of it. I treated the very few proponents with the same dismissal I gave Father Panda.
There is strength in numbers. People who disagreed vehemently about race outnumbered my father, forcing me to think critically about his message; the side of calorie restriction and hard exercise vastly outnumbers primal, and I dismissed the minority of loons. Even the failing results of my own body did not convince me for many years to question that the messages of the majority were wrong. The problem was myself, not the information I swallowed with 6-11 daily servings of healthy whole grains. 99% of my messages were the same old treadmill of fewer calories, more exercise. And like a lemming, I followed after them, even as the number on the scale undercut the message.
10-17-2011, 08:32 AM
PART THREE: But just recently, I am noticing a small change. Write an article for Salon bashing oneself for cooking fatty foods at a restaurant and contributing to Americaís weight problem, and I find within the 40 comments a fascinating spread of reactions. There are the expected anti-butter responses at first, and then someone writes in to say that it isnít butter that makes people fat. People compliment themselves for restricting calories or being vegan, bemoan those who stupidly eat bacon when they have heart conditions, and then someone else pops in to say eat meat, drink whole milk, and ditch the soy.
Within this comment thread, itís not 99%-1%. Not even close. The balance is shifting, still heavily on conventional, but no longer a nearly homozygous response. Some primal-sounding people leave very detailed information about what your body does with the nutrients put into it, instead of the mindless Ďmove more/eat lessí reiterations of the conventional supporters. I have been reading diet and nutrition articles for years, but it is now that I see such dissent in the comment threads.
The standard American diet message is failing. Slowly, one person at a time, but it is failing. We see its failure in our own sick, fat bodies. Voice after voice appears in the online wilderness, to join into a greater chorus that slaps the cheeks of beliefs about food we have held since we were young. I didnít need 99% of those voices to shout about Taubes and MDA and primal before I listened. I needed far fewer than that. But I still needed more than one lone voice to pique my interest.
It is terrible to think that had I grown up in a different time and place, with only one voice speaking out in disagreement around me, I would have blindly accepted my fatherís ideology. But with my school, I knew that we were just kids, some of us light and some of us dark, and all of us waiting desperately for the bell to ring. Strength in numbers worked to my advantage in the matter of race. My school, not by words but by practice, taught that character has nothing to do with skin color.
But strength in numbers worked against me in the matter of nutrition. If twenty people tell you today that you look tired, and one says that you look energetic, which are you likely to believe? Iíd go home and get in bed. But if fifteen say tired and six say energetic, youíll throw up your hands and take a look in the mirror for yourself. A message fails by the strength of its opposition. David did not beat Goliath by becoming equal in size; he beat Goliath by a well-placed zinger.
Last week I forwarded MDA to a curious friend who wanted to know what zinger has led to my weight loss. Who knows if she will take it seriously? She probably wonít (and Valhalla help me if she reads the journals; my secret will be out). But maybe you also forwarded MDA or Taubes or Robb Wolf to someone who is ready to hear it, and then this chorus will gain another singer. And slowly, slowly, a new message will get out, and the old one will fade away.
10-17-2011, 08:37 AM
UPDATE: (in explanation of * and **)
* Strangely, Mean Kitty was the stuffed representation of the very nice mother cat character Duchess from the Disney movie The Aristocats. I have no idea why she was the villain in my stuffed animal kingdom, but I’m sure Freud would have a field day with it. In case you are curious about the character of Cancer Sheep, he turned out to be nice but dim, and failed math three years in a row.
** I remember only two events of note: one in which we all agreed that Asian kids were good in math, and a bizarre incident in which I was not invited to the birthday party of an Indian child in my class because his parents thought I was Swedish. They invited every other child of Caucasian descent in my grade. Gossip the next Monday was that the party was a blast with fantastic goody bags, and I was crushed. I’m also not Swedish, as far as I know.
But I do feel that I need to qualify this part of the post. While one panda parent was adopted and I do not know all of my origins, I look white. I do not remember a single slur being cast at my school, or a fight based on racial tension, but discrimination can be quite nuanced. A darker classmate of mine may have had a very different experience than the halcyon one I describe. Just because pale Young Gay Panda didn’t recognize it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.
10-17-2011, 10:51 AM
For no apparent reason, my weight finally went down today. I have been on a pause since late September. Nothing changed in my diet to cause it, and nothing changed in my diet to break through it. This morning I hit a new low of 187.2.
For those of you like Gay Panda, who repeatedly look over their daily foodstuffs trying to discern which one is causing an irritating pause, sometimes the answer is nothing at all. I did the exact same thing, for almost the same length of time, through most of August. My body decided it loved 195 and refused to budge until the end of the month, and then suddenly I crashed through it. I lost slowly through much of September before hitting my next pause as my body decided that no, it really, really loved bouncing around 188-190.
The hardest lesson for me in weight loss is waiting it out.
10-17-2011, 11:12 AM
Congratulations on breaking the plateau, Panda! For the record, I'm glad you took after your school and not your father in this instance.
There are two wolves fighting within a man's heart, one is Love, the other is Hate. The one that wins is the one you feed.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world. - Jack Layton
The Primal Adventures of Griffin - Huzzah!
10-17-2011, 11:24 AM
Panda, reading your journal is like the memoir companion book to all of the Primal and Paleo literature. Also a sharp commentary on the state of our sheep-like group consciousness.
I too have been pleased to see the message spreading in comments on blogs and news articles about health.
And I too believed that my stuffed animals played when they were out of my line of sight. I blame it on "A Little Princess".
10-17-2011, 01:38 PM
Thank you! I was surprised to see it this morning. I'm also glad that I took after my school's philosophy. It has led to a far richer life experience than my father has had.
Originally Posted by Griffin
10-17-2011, 04:27 PM
Do you know what is so horrifying to me? How I believed that I had well-developed critical thinking skills, but I really didn't. I never once questioned eat less/move more. EVER. I just didn't, even when it didn't work for me. It makes me wonder what else in my life I accept as fact when it's not.
Originally Posted by namelesswonder
I loved the Cuaron remake of A Little Princess. (Or perhaps you are talking about the Shirley Temple one, which I haven't seen in so long that I've forgotten it. Or perhaps you are talking about the book, which I don't believe I ever read, and probably should.)
10-17-2011, 07:37 PM
shirley temple was my FAVORITE, but I definitely liked the version better with the girl with ringlets and the turban guy with the monkey. Watched on repeat for so many years. Also could be a toy story induced illusion? They're pretty good with the quick freeze.
10-18-2011, 12:27 AM
Looking forward to more posts from you