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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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August 16 2017

Is There a Problem with Weight Loss Culture?

By Mark Sisson
149 Comments

Inline_Is_There_a_Problem_with_Weight_Loss_Culture_08.16.17I recently read a piece from the New York Times in which the author, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, recounts her lifelong struggle with dieting and body acceptance and her relationship to food. She tackles the failure of most “diets,” the fat acceptance movement, the Weight Watchers-as-support-group phenomenon, the Oprah Winfrey body weight yo-yoing. What makes it an effective article is that, rather than cast herself as dispassionate journalist reporting the facts, Akner is elbows deep. She herself is the subject as much as anything else. It’s a powerful article. Go read it.

The article doesn’t come to a neat conclusion. There’s no prescription at the end. It meanders. It explores. It’s messy. I think that’s exactly how most people feel when trying to tackle this diet/health/bodyweight/eating thing: confused, lost, conflicted, overwhelmed. Go look at the comment section from the article, and you’ll see that pretty much everyone got something different from it.

Some were outraged that the writer would argue that being fat is perfectly healthy (she wasn’t).

Some chimed in with their preferred diet, the one that worked for them. I saw a few mentions of paleo, even.

Some recounted their weight loss journeys and struggles and failures.

Some admonished her for not mentioning exercise.

Some gave her diet advice.

It ran the gamut. The comment section was all over the place. Everyone had completely different reactions to the same material.

The article wasn’t about what works, what doesn’t. It was about the insanity of living in the diet-mindset, where every bite of food is analyzed, every calorie label scrutinized, as the people around you drink regular soda “as if it were nothing, as if it were just a drink.” It was the author wanting to accept her body but realizing she couldn’t—and the agony and insanity that results.

I get why we have convoluted things like hypnotic lap bands (hypnosis so good it replaces bariatric surgery) and food relationship classes where you learn how to eat and appreciate raisins. Because people are flailing around inside an obesogenic food system trying to find something, anything that works. But since they’re searching within the confines of the modern food environment, nothing works. Nothing sticks.

It’s also why I think finding a baseline is so helpful, a fundamental starting place that transcends the boundaries we’ve erected. Whatever your life story, you’re still a human. Your ancestors were hunter-gatherers at some point, and the modern industrial food system is novel to your physiology. Eliminating the major offenders—excess carbs and sugar, refined vegetable oils and grains—and restoring the attitudes that used to be normal—fat and meat are perfectly healthy—are suitable for everyone. You can tinker with macronutrient ratios, recent ancestry, “to keto or not to keto,” and all the minutiae on your own time. But those basics work as a starting place for everyone I’ve ever encountered.

You just have to step outside the obesogenic food system that’s been constructed for you.

But look at me: I’m just giving diet advice all over again….

I think my takeaway, however, has to be this: You should never accept your mutable limitations. It’s true that some characteristics can’t be changed. You can’t make yourself taller or shorter. You can’t force yourself to be an introvert or extrovert. But a large portion of what we consider to be shortcomings to our health, happiness and well-being can be improved upon. Like the amount of body fat you carry.

And let me be clear. It’s not about sinking into despair because change can’t happen in a day. It’s essential to accept the process and yourself in it. As for body acceptance, a “goal weight” isn’t necessary. In some cases, it’s counterproductive. You don’t need to turn success and failure into binary options. Better is good enough. Movement is enough.

As much as I sympathize with the author of the piece—and it’s a gut-wrenching, powerful piece, hard to read in parts—I can’t budge on even the mere entertaining of the notion that maybe being overweight or obese isn’t so bad for your health. Those are dangerous waters to tread.

The science is settled. Excess body fat is harmful (not to be conflated with “extra” fat in the right places, which—depending on gender and pregnancy status—can actually be healthy). It secretes inflammatory cytokines and directly causes insulin resistance. It weighs you down, increases the stress placed on your joints. It makes free and full movement more difficult. No one should labor up and down stairs or be unable to hang from a bar or grunt with exertion when they get up from the ground if they can avoid it. And most people can avoid it simply by losing excess body fat.

Even if the fat itself is neutral (it’s not) and merely indicates deeper health problems, losing the fat tends to resolve those problems (or go a long way toward it).

What I found most interesting is that I think the author understands this, too. If not explicitly (she discusses the evidence both for and against the idea of fat as intrinsically harmful), certainly implicitly.

Her inability to accept her overweight body despite wanting to and thinking it’s the “right” thing to do maybe suggests a deeper, subconscious acknowledgement that being fat is unhealthy.

But couldn’t it be social pressures at fault? Many of the commenters, and the author herself, default to the idea that acceptance is “good” and imply that “society” is to blame for our inability to accept our overweight bodies. This argument falls flat for me. Society is made of humans, who are biological beings. Society is therefore a product of biology. Society’s norms and mores don’t emerge out of nothingness. They develop for real reasons. They may be bad reasons, or good ones that become corrupted, but they are real things that arise out of human biology. It wasn’t as if a council of elders long ago decreed that being obese is bad because it’s “ugly” or “unseemly,” and it just stuck. Far more likely is that society has (by and large) deemed excess body fat undesirable because, the fact is, it’s a net negative for human health.

Something in me thinks that people who claim to love their body despite being obese are ignoring or drowning out that inner voice spurring them toward change. Loving who they are as people is of course something else. Nor is anyone talking about physical perfection here. But if they truly do love their excess body fat, they do so at the peril of their health. Self-love doesn’t erase the physiological ramifications of being obese. That’s my central concern.

This weight loss business is hard. I’m not suggesting it’s easy. But hard things are often worthwhile things. In fact, difficulty can be an indicator of worthiness. It’s true that our culture and its food system don’t encourage choices that help us build and sustain our best health. Fortunately, however, we get to decide for ourselves.

Thanks for reading today, everybody. I’d love to hear your thoughts on weight loss culture—for all its truth and shortcomings. Take care.

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TAGS:  body fat

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149 thoughts on “Is There a Problem with Weight Loss Culture?”

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  1. I have not read the New York Times piece yet, but I think Mark’s piece here is very thoughtfully written. I can’t imagine the struggle of fighting with your body throughout your life..I’m fortunate that weight has never been an issue. But I do feel that the basics of real food are a good place to start. Cut the processed carbs, the vegetable oil and the sugar and eat real food. And loving and accepting yourself the way you are doesn’t mean you can’t be trying to better yourself at the same time.

  2. I have not finished the article yet, but I have some immediate thoughts on the whole weight loss / diet phenomena and in fact our society in general.

    Yes, society may be to blame for our aversion to overweight bodies.

    But is not society to blame for the institutions that have propelled us into obesity?

    When humans are forced to work 40, 50, or 60 hours a week to make a living… isn’t it hard not to turn to food as comfort?

    When you can’t pay a bill, or you can but you feel trapped in your job to do it – isn’t it easy to choose food? Whether that’s eating “comfort” food, or eating quick and easy packaged food… you have to think, if we were all a little bit happier, or had more free time, wouldn’t it be easier to eat better?

    If we could walk out our doors and walk down the street to enjoy the company of friends at a coffee shop, rather than walk out our door and then stop because you have to get in the car and drive 10 or 20 or even 30 minutes to see someone you know or do something you enjoy, you might be more likely to enjoy a nice cappuccino instead of sitting in front of the TV with a bag of chips.

    I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say, but I do know that eating better is only a part of the health equation. What is also important (and I think you do a good job of emphasizing this) is community and lifestyle.

    Imagine a country where everyone had time to hang out with friends, family, and enjoy nature. Imagine that everyone could take a nap whenever they needed to. That they could rely on friends and family to share child rearing responsibilities.

    Just my 2 cents.

    1. Maggie, what you’ve described so clearly is the growing trend toward “victimhood” whereby nobody wants to take responsibility for anything. It’s so much easier on the ego to excuse one’s self, put spin on an issue, and place the blame elsewhere rather than shoulder the responsibility ourselves.

      Sorry, but no, society and its institutions are not at fault for our individual shortcomings. That’s nothing but a crutch. As long as we are unwilling to accept responsibility for our own actions or lack of action, nothing can ever improve.

      1. That’s an interesting point and something I wasn’t thinking of as I wrote this. And I do agree somewhat. I do wish that we (society) had more emphasis on community and focused more on lifestyle changes rather than strictly diet changes. Perhaps that is still something to be addressed on an individual level as well. Healthy eating is something that I personally have always been able to prioritize, but I can empathize with others who haven’t been able to.

      2. Say that to the people in Syria getting love bombs dropped on them. Or people in Africa having their families slaughtered by private militias of large corporations. Or the south American people intentionally given HIV infected blood Or the people of India and China. Our ruling overlords can be very cruel. Just because you have certain options does not mean the rest of the world does. The way society is structured there will always be people working 50-60 hour weeks night shift in factories and mines (and that is not healthy). Yes that doesn’t have to be you but it will be someone.

        1. You have a good point here, Alex. In the absence of great dangers, and terrible adversity, we magnify the small issues… Not to mention, I can all-too-clearly imagine how the American obesity problem sounds to starving people in the back country in India, or other places where food scarcity is a daily reality.
          Our obesity problem is very much a “first-world problem”!!

        2. Alex, not too long ago, yours could have been my post if the subject of world affairs came up. It got so bad that I would feel sick and anxious reading about the very situations you describe with people in other countries. I’d give to every charity I could, whenever I could, but for health reasons I had to toughen up, just a little. I had to learn the concept of putting on my own oxygen mask before putting one on someone else. In the same vein I need to work on getting my own physical and mental health in order and stop shouldering the concerns of everyone else. And if I may go off on a bit of a tangent here, a lot of the problems with starvation in the world would be greatly alleviated (I believe) if all societies stopped automatically reproducing just because society and repressive, short-sighted religious orders say so. That includes North America and Europe, by the way. In our part of the world, the second a couple gets married or a man and woman reach their 30’s they get badgered into thinking about having kids. It should be done only on a case by case basis and society needs to start singing a different tune. Until we deal with severe overpopulation, we’re going to continue to deal with a lot of heart-wrenching issues that spring from it. Rant over.
          As for this article, Mark, I couldn’t agree more. Yes, it’s very tough to lose and maintain weight loss. I’ve struggled with extra weight since I was 9 years old. It definitely wasn’t all genetics, it was also due to a lack of healthy food choice due to lack of money. We had no fast food drive-thru windows or junk food in the house, it was just the cheapest their was like white bread with margarine and powdered skim milk a lot of the time. But I accept full responsibility, even while acknowledging that the sugar and industrial fat pushers have made it harder. When you said, “It was the author wanting to accept her body but realizing she couldn’t—and the agony and insanity that results.” I could relate all too well, but it is what it is and I want to be healthy.

          1. The world is not overpopulated with Europeans or North Americans.. and curiously those populations tend not to be the ones who are starving. Maybe your antinatalist rant would be more effective targeted at the third world. People don’t get “badgered” into thinking about kids, it’s part of our biology, true “primal” living.

          2. Yes, actually people ‘do’ get badgered into telling people when they’re planning to have kids. I’ve seen it in young newlyweds as well as with couples in their mid-late 30’s. And there is overpopulation in developed countries. One need only look around and talk to the professionals who deal in adoption and child welfare/poverty to know that.

        3. Alex, I wasn’t speaking globally or catastrophically. Some people truly are victims through no fault of their own, as you point out. However, on a smaller, more individual scale, not all victims are blameless. Some set themselves up for their own victimization through their unwillingness to assume any personal responsibility..

      3. It’s neither one nor the other. Blaming “societ” for all of our problems only reifies the power of this abstract concept to rule over our daily lives. At the same time, Maggie is right – our current western worls is structured in extremely unhealthy ways that make it an uphill battle towards health. But talking about “individual reaponsibility” bypasses all of the structural/contextual elements of obesity that truly are outside of our control (see Julit Guthman’s work on obesigens if you are interested). Having spent most of my life battling an eating disorder, the “just get control” over eating, your body, your exercise, etc. is infuriating. No one would expect a coke addict to just snort in moderation, but that’s what you have to do when food is your addiction. It comes down to a mélange of control, mindfulness, and making good choices that set you up for success. I’ve also lived abroad for several years of my life, and never had the same societal/cultural pressure to both eat all the things and be a size 0. There are some cultures where fat just isn’t maligned the dame way it is in the US.

        So this has turned into more of a novel than I planned. I just wanted to make the point that it is so easy to be reductive, or culturally relativist, but it’s really such a more comex question than one or the other. Simple answers/explanations should always be a red flag.

      4. Thank you!

        While it’s human nature to avoid taking responsibility, it is the mark of a mature person who does. My friend’s professional expertise is in Behavorial issues in,training, clinical, and therapeutic scenarios. Boy, do we have some interesting conversations, including our own lives and experiences; we were a couple many years ago and we can now talk very detached about ourselves.

        Maybe it’s a sign of my “old age-ism,” but I honestly think the pervasive sense of being a victim is new. When I worked at a Boy Scout camp in 1999, I was appalled at how un-male most of the boys were. Always looking for the easy way, a lot of crying and homesickness.

        I am nowhere’s near being a Macho Man, but it was so obvious that these boys had never gotten the messages of what it means to be a man: Sacrifice and Responsibility. You would be astounded at the changes in behavior I got by using two little words: “Buck up!”

        I know someone will take issue of my super abbreviated description of what makes a man, and I don’t mean women don’t have similar traits, but I do think females are more likely to feel sorry for a person and be enabling.

        “You do or you don’t,, there is no trying.”

        1. You just described my experience with scouts in the 70’s, my dad’s in the 50’s, and my grandfather’s in the 30’s. Try as I did, my kids were not into scouting so I couldn’t repeat your experience in the 90’s.

          I was homesick and crying and my scoutmaster literally said “buck up.” When I got home my dad told me that “in his day we were tougher….”

          A couple days later my dad and grandfather were talking and my grandfather told us how kids in my dad’s troop were homesick and crying n the 50s and then my grandfather told us “when he was a kid, kids were tough and knew how to act.

          Perhaps your experience is part of a larger trend in forgetting what it’s like to be a child and remembering experiences in a better light than they actually were.

          1. Mike, I fully accept the possibility of what you are saying. No doubt that I’ve some selective memory at work. And BS camp was the first time I experienced being homesick. I don’t recall crying, and maybe I’ve forgotten my buds that did, but if so, it’s because it wasn’t rampant.

            We were dropped off (mostly from station wagons!) on Sunday afternoon. No one called home, no one got calls unless it was an emergency. Thursday evening parents and family visited, then back home Saturday.

            In 1999, there were pay phones outside the camp office. Most kid were allowed to call home, and many mothers called the office to see if her snowflake had survived the thunderstorms she saw on TV. I do remember one scoutmaster that forbid cell phones or pay phone usage except, for instance, a birthday in the family. Guess what? Much happier and productive boys with those boundaries in place.

            Maybe it isn’t so much that we were tougher, but that the expectations were higher? And the system in place supported that?

            There was also rampant “grade deflation,” I think the term is. Hiking, camping, and cooking merit badges were signed off while the boys had hardly done the work. I remember one night of bad thunderstorms and the boys walked out of the camp to the road head as if refugees. This is a camp already set up with all the food there! They were just dispirited and the staff went right along with them.

            And yes, I can remember very specific scouting events with the same weather related dispiriting challenges. Rain, storms, high altitude challenges, but we persevered; no one came to rescue us..

            (And a whole ‘nudder jaw dropping difference, how many kids had to go to the clinic twice a day for their ADD meds.)

    2. I work 10-14 hours a day, usually six days a week, and still find time for healthy meals, exercise, and hanging out with my crowd. It’s tough, yes, and there are some things I have to give up (more walks in nature, which I dearly miss; I substitute walks around my two-acre yard), but it’s necessary. If someone is struggling to make time for important things, I suggest reading Brian Tracy’s books on time management and overcoming procrastination; they’re also available as audiobooks.

    3. Maggie, as an architect, I concur that our environment affects our quality of life!–at least that’s how I see your post. Many of us get established in suburban environments that build in isolation, so you wind up not connecting to friends as much as you like, or spending a lot more time in the car. In addition to more people moving back into cities, there’s also a growing movement called cohousing, in which people create communities to provide stronger social bonds; these are not “intentional communities” or religious groups, just people who want to be able to share meals, child rearing, neighborly help, etc. They typically have a group of smaller houses around a community space (cars in back) with a larger shared communal facility (kitchen, dining, woodshop)…kind of like a condo with benefits I suppose.

    4. I love what you wrote here. It really spoke to me. I’m an American who has lived in Europe for the past 8 years, so I identify with much of what you write. Interestingly, I’m reading a book now titled “The Nordic Theory Of Everything” which is a really interesting discussion of this.

    1. Rig D., thanks for your note. We’re still experiencing some glitches with our moderation functions, which is slowing down the clean-up. That said, we’re prioritizing the culture of the forum as a respectful communal space. There’s no room for harassment.

      1. You’re a brave man for entering into this discussion. I think any subject as emotional as this typically devolves into binary positions that are nearly impossible to navigate. More nuanced thought tends to get crushed by the steamroller of “I’m right, you’re wrong.” I appreciate you tilting at windmills though!

      2. THANK YOU!!! We really appreciate your getting the forum back on track. It really is THE BEST forum on the internet. We look forward to having a safe, respectful place back where your message can be discussed and others can be helped.

        1. Ontario, thank you! I appreciate your note – truly. Clean-up is definitely a work in progress and will be for a while, but I hope we’re more or less back on track now.

      3. My two cents worth Mark (and you get what you pay for LOL), a forum I am active on has identified trustworthy individuals to act as moderators and they take turns helping to moderate the content a couple of hours on the days / nights they donate their time. Takes people with good judgement, knowing when to chalk something up to “free speech” and ignore, or a gentle warning the commentator may not be respecting others, to removal of content and in some cases removal of accounts. Just some “food for thought”. 🙂

        1. Thanks, HealthyHombre. We’ve done just that in the past, and I’m not ruling it out in the future. Our first order of business, however, is getting the moderation tools fully functional so whoever is moderating can do so with success and efficiency.

      4. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mark!

        Long timer since you saved my life in 2009.

  3. I have a problem with the whole “fat acceptance” movement. I have struggled with my weight my entire life, until I found you forever ago. I have friends who have given up and while it’s great to accept your body at whatever size you are, it’s not ok to do so and then pound down mac & cheese and oreos every night. At some point, you have to take responsibility for your health and stop being lazy.

  4. Mark’s article and the NYT piece remind me of the This American Life Story about the reporter that lost and kept off weight using phentermine, (similar to amphetamine.) This story is a perfect compliment to the contents of these articles. Instead of dealing with self love it deals with love between people when one is or isn’t obese. Would her husband have ever loved or married her if she had been fat and does that mean that her marriage is built on a lie that she is skinny? Act 2 if anyone wants to give it a listen / read. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/589/transcript

  5. Having helped literally hundreds of people lose weight there is a huge difference between accepting where you are while making healthy changes and flat out ignoring the health concerns that come along with being obese. Being happy with yourself while still being overweight is an admirable thing (I know plenty of skinny folks who still struggle with self-acceptance). However, embracing obesity as if it is some kind of new fashion trend is a dangerous place to go.

    I have never encountered a client (been a fitness director for 12 years) who was whole-heartedly happy with being obese. I have however worked with folks who are obese who have made peace with where they are at while being committed to being healthier.

    I do not believe anyone truly wants to be obese or unhealthy. It is hard to be in shape, no doubt, if it were easy we would all be lean and mean. However, it is silly to embrace obesity and poor health to help people have better self-esteem. We can teach folks self-acceptance while still embracing the fact that something needs to change if we want to live a long and healthy life.

    1. Beautifully put, especially “there is a huge difference between accepting where you are while making healthy changes and flat out ignoring the health concerns that come along with being obese.”

  6. The primary theme of human evolution is concentrating nutrition.

    Over millions of years, our ancestors unlocked new ways to pack more nutrition into smaller spaces. Better hunting; tool use for food prep; cooking; all emerged hundreds of thousands of years ago. All enabled the unique suite of human adaptations we take for granted.

    As our ancestors’ brains grew larger, cultural innovations supplemented their innate abilities. They learned to exploit seasonal foods, fermentation, food combinations, a whole universe of nutritional lore handed down from generation to generation.

    In the last 100 years all those millennia of progress have been wiped away.

    Traditional cuisine, humanity’s most important technology, is going extinct before our eyes. Bit by bit, we replace it with unnatural pablum that even the insects reject.

    Modern men and women are like the barbarians of the Dark Ages pondering the achievements of the Greeks and Romans. They’re hopelessly lost, painfully conscious that something priceless has been lost to them, yet not knowing where to begin.

    Humans without concentrated nutrition are fish out of water. Watch how they flop around and gasp for air as they suffocate to death, never comprehending their predicament.

    Most end up in a series of cargo cults, grasping after the ornaments of health, unable to distinguish causation from correlation.

    Only a fortunate few study anthropology.

    Only by rediscovering the arts of concentrating nutrition can humanity survive.

    As you can see from articles like this one, there isn’t a whole lot of time left.

    1. Great insight. Our food system is broken and a lot of people don’t realize it until later in life, when substantial damage has already been done. It really is about the quality of food, and reconnecting with the traditional cuisine that many of us have lost touch with.

  7. The thing with which I struggle is that I will never feel good enough in my body no matter what it looks like. There have been times when my body fat has been really low, and I still only see the flaws. I know Mark has talked about accepting that one’s ideal body composition may not be the covers of Men’s Health, but that is much easier to say that it is for me to do. I still feel lousy when I look in the mirror even if I am healthier than I was before.
    Society may well be a biological creation, and that creation has many motivations for creating things of its own. One of them is the desire for money, and there are a lot of people making a lot of money by telling folks that their bodies are not okay. I’m certainly not saying that being obese or overweight is healthy, but I also find a bit of irony in Mark saying things like, “no one is talking about physical perfection here,” as his eight pack adorns the banner at the top of the page. I hope this doesn’t inspire a bunch of vitriol, and I also think there is a middle ground to this conversation that is missing – somewhere between Men’s Health and obese. Just a relatively healthy guy looking for acceptance from himself.
    I’d love some more information on this site about self-acceptance and self-care once a person has plateaued at a healthy place that isn’t the same as his image of a great body.

    1. Without reading your comment first, in think I may have just said the same thing. ?

    2. One strategy that I’ve found very transformative for me is to talk to my body like it’s my favorite pet. For instance, I don’t point out all my cat’s flaws – I tell him how beautiful he is and what a good cat he is every day, so I started doing that to my body. I dry brush it before my shower and say “Who’s a good body, you are! Who’s a pretty body!” Just like you’d say to a beloved pet. It’s silly and makes me laugh but it feels nice. When I exercise I try to take time to be grateful that I get to inhabit this body. If it weren’t for this body I wouldn’t be here, so I feel very lucky. I’ve done it consistently for the last 9 months or so and have lost quite a bit of weight without as much of the struggles I’ve had in the past. Plus I’ve learned my body LIKES to run around and be active! Who knew? I always had an exercise=punishment attitude in the past. I even talk to my body around exercise like a pet now too – “Who wants to go for a walk? Who wants to go play?”
      Now when I pass a mirror, instead of the normal ‘ugh – you have two chins’ or ugh, gravity sure did a number on you’ I’m like – wow, my butt is actually very cute. It’s not 100% but it sure is a 180 from the way I used to view myself.

      1. Yes! A therapist once asked me if I’d treat an animal the way I treat myself – I was horrified by the thought. She then pointed out that I, in my freshly envelope, am an animal. It had a powerful and lasting effect on the way I treat myself.

  8. A different perspective: I am overweight. I have struggled with it my entire life, despite having 4 siblings with no food or weight issues growing up. I’ve been normal weight for years, then overweight for years. Sometimes is is pretty easy to lose, sometimes the scale will not budge, even using the same methods. I think for anyone who has struggled, they know the issue can be complicated. It is not really a 1 + 1 = 2 situation all the time. There are many factors at play-physical, habitual, psychological, communal, genetic, etc. For many of us, we have to address every single one of these obstacles successfully at the exact same time every minute of every day to achieve weight loss. Many of you who have never had an issue will not understand or sympathize, that for you, 1+1 = 2 all the time, and anything else is just denial. It may be true for you. Maybe it is denial, maybe not, but nobody wants to be fat. But if you are not successful losing weight, you can only hate your body for so long before that mind set destroys you, or you come to some measure of peace with it. Regular life sometimes takes up every ounce of energy you have-caretaking, family deaths, jobs, etc. It’s hard to share this on a “fitness” site, but this is a perspective/reality for many people. We are all just trying to be our best self, healthy, happy, kind and as fit as we can be.

    1. I so agree with you, Colleen. I may have said something similar. My comment is awaiting moderation because I used the “s” word, I think (not the sweat word).

      People should be viewed as worthy because they are PEOPLE. We should view ourselves as worthy because we are PEOPLE. Sometimes accepting ourselves has less to do with “being ok with being fat” than it has to do with loving ourselves because we are not ashamed of the caring, capable people we are, regardless of size.

    2. Have you ever been on the Primal Blueprint for a continued time length? If so, were you still overweight?

      I’m curious, so hit me up.

      1. Stefan M, I am a 60 year old female and I work with a trainer 3X/week because of physical issues. I have struggled with weight my entire life (well, since the age of 9). I have been Paleo for the last 6 years. Other than the 15 pounds I lost right away, every pound lost was/is excruciatingly slow. To the point that year before last, I quit keeping track of my food. Still devotedly Paleo, I gained back all the weight that I had lost. This year with an osteoarthritis diagnosis in my left hip, I have had to really knuckle down to lose the weight. By knuckle down I mean accounting for every morsel that I eat and carb cycle on days I work out. I don’t know if it is because I am finally far enough past menopause or if I just had to be very strict with calorie in and out, but I am finally losing weight. 27 pounds down this year with another 13-23 to go. The reason I say 13-23 is because I have had that goal in mind for years, but now am not sure that will be enough fat lost for my hip issues. Good news, my BMI is finally under 30, and that is cause for mini celebration for me.

        1. bharris2455 Reading about your 27 lb weight loss put a big smile on my face– I’m very happy for you. I know what it’s like to be menopausal and feel like I’m swimming upstream and not getting anywhere (I turned 60 in January), but I’m hoping that my weight will start moving again. I lost quite a bit in the beginning, but have stalled. Thanks for sharing 🙂

          1. Tee Dee
            Thanks for sharing. I also turned 60 in April. I had to really focus on macronutrients and be pretty strict with Fat/Carb and Protien ratios. A little higher carb on days I work out. A little higher fat on other days, plus a cheat/splurge meal (5 Guys Lettuce wrapped burger and half a small fry) once a week. Best of luck to you, I know it is possible!

      2. Hi Stefan, yes I have had time of 100% primal, some of 80/20, some of half/ashed, etc. The only times I lost weight consistently was when I was 100%, that is also when the appetite beast calms down too. I started with a Whole 30, then went primal. I should add I also have lots of gut issues, and ended up having emergency colon surgery, and am still recovering, which screws things up. But the last time I was working it 100%, the scale was stubborn, but I was under immense stress, so that might have been a culprit.

  9. For 35 of my 41 years I toiled with my weight. The negativity permeated the physical and psychological aspects of my entire being. Two factors really prompted the change, the first of which was an absolute disgust with myself. This allowed me to completely scuttle any and all notions that I had regarding diet, exercise and improving myself physically. I compiled all of those failures, condensed them and like an empty beer can tossed them over my shoulder.

    This was not done while experiencing a grand epiphany, I was exhausted and simply more open minded due to frustration and exhaustion at past fitness efforts.

    It is a journey with peaks , valleys and doldrums but it has paid enormous dividends. Eating has become not only far more enjoyable but a task that I plan in advance. Shopping, cooking, cleaning, packaging, storing and studying nutrition unearthed a passion I never knew that I had. This attention to detail bled into other aspects of my life elevating both confidence and state of being.

    Its not acceptable to be unacceptable. There is a rational and scientific reason that people are critical of themselves regarding excess body weight. Trust your instincts , that voice inside of your head will never lie to you.

    The fitness movement is a tangle of clever marketing, confusion, panacea, hostility, jealousy, fads, bright colors, misinformation and deception. Success can be achieved with sunlight, gravity, open spaces, a pull up bar and a skillfully written grocery list.

    I am still learning, everyday…but after wandering out of the darkness of the “Weight loss Culture” and shedding all of its baggage I am never going back.

  10. Oh my darlings, no no no….do you have any idea how much hurt you have caused to anyone who has dedicated themselves to try losing weight and has been unsuccessful….and who, against all odds in this narrow minded world, managed to love themselves and the bodies you find so unlovable? This IS fat shaming, and it’s all the more disturbing because it’s couched under your concern for the health of the overweight, as if that makes it valid. We all have different bodies and some people really are unable to lose weight and maintain that loss. And how glorious that there are people in this world who love their bodies no matter what anyone else thinks of them. Look at what just happened in Charlottesville…..substitute the word “Black” or “Jewish” with “Fat”. Shame on you.

    1. Ida I admire your passion and agree with your essential premise that “fat shaming” is wrong wrong horrible and wrong and is on the same level as racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia and ageism. Where we disagree is your assertion that someone in the health and fitness industry, who by definition has the role to help improve all aspects of our health, is fat shaming when suggesting that acceptance of excess weight (i.e giving up) is an optimal strategy. If I hire a trainer or a dietitian to help me with my fitness / health I expect them to respect me regardless of how much I weigh, as I would my neighbors, friends, coworkers, family and a stranger on the street. I also expect them to be candid about what steps I might take to improve my health, much as I would expect from my family physician.

      1. Agreed. Race, age, sexual orientation, gender, etc aren’t the best comparison in my opinion because they cannot be changed. No one is born obese, it is something that results from various inputs, it’s not an immutable qualityof a person. A person may naturally be bigger or carry more bodyfat, but that doesn’t mean being obese is just something to sit back and accept. There is a vast difference between fat shaming and trying to help people be the best version of themselves.

    2. Shame on those who cry “fat shaming.” Being obese is NOT evolutionarily acceptable. I will not pretend you are OK even if obese. This is PC’ism amok. (And I am a die hard liberal, but I don’t have blinders on.

      Have you ever looked at the grocery carts of obese people? In the majority of cases, the obesity sources are glaringly obvious. OK, maybe some folk are doing their best thinking whole grains, etc., are good for you. I’ll cut slack. But 95% of the time the cart is filled with utter CRAP that doesn’t take a genius to see.

      I’m not talking about those that are maybe 25% over ideal weight, which is quite a bit. I’m talking 50%, 100%. When I was headed for that 50%, I took control and changed my life.

      I understand how hard that is. I’ve backslid 3 times, although never approaching that old weight. I read the NYT story Mark refers to; I feel her pain even if not a lifelong issue for me. But I do know this: Ultimately, calories count. Yes, you may have to deal with new, lower “set points.” No, life isn’t fair.

      But everyone who is obese has and makes choices. To say that they are OK is enabling.

      1. OnTheBayou – Wouldn’t it be so nice and tidy if it were that cut and dry. It isn’t. If it was, I would be the thin, fit person that I try daily to be. I never wanted to be overweight. There is no junk in my shopping cart. I’m allergic to corn so that eliminates most of the grocery store, all of fast food & most restaurant foods. No sodas, nothing in a box. You would find all the organic, grass fed & finished, low carb, no sugar, wild caught, healthy fat, buzzwords foods. Many things I have to order online because the ideal foods are not available locally such as Primal Kitchen. I hate bread, seriously. IF daily. Yet, here I am, still 70+ lbs overweight. If I workout to much, I gain. My body loves to store fat no matter what I eat, when I eat or how little I eat. I absolutely HATE it, but it is my reality. Not everything is always so simple.

        1. I reread my post, I read yours twice. I think I was fairly tolerant, not holding perfect weight as the standard. And just because I point out that most of the time said obese people have poor shopping habits doesn’t mean everyone does. A general comment is just that.

          No, it’s not simple. No, it’s not easy or fun. No, it’s not fair. Yes, will power and self-discipline suck. I was skinny as a bean pole as a teenager, slowly gained to a good weight by middle age, then later, kept on going to 43% over ideal. It isn’t fair that I used to have to eat 4000 kcals/day just to maintain, now I have to hew to 2000, (the FDA hypothetical 35 Y/O, 135# woman) which is only 100kcal above my BMR. And I weigh +/- 200 pounds. Not scientifically explainable, at least yet.

          Recent studies of the Biggest Losers who have kept the weight off are eating 600-800 kcals/day less than theoretical maintenance intake. Not fair, not fun, but there’s the reality.

          It’s been proven time and again by rigorous science that most dieters seriously underestimate their caloric intake. The ultimate bottom line is CICO, regardless of how far afield the hypothetical numbers, life circumstances, and foods are. There was a guy in the UK who weighed 500 or so pounds. He stopped eating for two years. Took supplements, was under the care of National Health, do not try this at home in the USA. Not so strange, he attained his ideal weight. How hard it was for him to maintain it afterwards, I’ve no idea. And it still would be about CICO.

          There may be many “valid” reasons for obesity; cultural, psychological, foods available or thought to be good but are obesogenic. I get it. I was talking in general, about the dare I say, “bulk” of obese Americans. Eat less and one will lose weight.

          Guaranteed. (Not saying there may not be secondary health problems, I’m only talking about weight.)

          1. Eat less and one will lose weight- I wish! I eat less and only GAIN presently. It’s backward with me, sadly.
            Working on ridding my life of STRESS so I can sleep more than 4 hours or 2 hours at a time, eat more than one meal a day without gaining FAT. A work in progress. ?

      2. On the Bayou: how do you explain ancient art depicting individuals (usually women) who are clearly obese? The anatomical accuracy of these drawings and figurines make it plain that they were taken from life. Some of this art is 35,000-40.000 years old.

        1. Sure, Venus of Willendorf.

          Since I wasn’t around then, I can only make conjecture. Perhaps a fertility rite for select women? I have a vague recollection of such a thing, contemporary Africa, the women eating and eating to meet the cultural standard.

          But I wouldn’t call such things anything like the norm. Especially since HG’s had to be pretty active.

      3. Here in Australia where I live I’ve seen the same thing.The best person to deal with this would be the Finance Minister rather than the Health Minister. (Or in the States the IRS rather than the Surgeon General) What I am saying is that we should treat junk food the same way as we deal with tobacco and tax the backside out of it.
        While I am no admirer of Russian president Vladimir Putin, one has to give devil his due where he deserves it viz his recent pronouncement that:

        “We as a species have the choice to continue to develop our bodies and brains in a healthy upward trajectory, or we can follow the Western example of recent decades and intentionally poison our population with genetically altered food, pharmaceuticals…… and fast food that should be classified as a dangerous, addictive drug.”

        “We must fight this. A physically and intellectually disabled population is not in our interests,”

        I rest my case.

    3. Ida, I agree with most of your comment, but we part ways completely when you accuse Mark and the people who have commented here of “fat shaming.” Telling it like it is might be uncomfortable for some people to read, but nobody is shaming anybody here–other than you in your last sentence.

      1. Agreed, Shary. I didn’t see any fat shaming here and it’s highly unlikely to come from people like us on this thread who have struggled and endured ‘others’ fat shaming us throughout our lives. Sorry, Ida, but as was said above, you’re the only one who is shaming others here.

  11. Shaming the overweight often makes them want to eat more to comfort themselves. People who have been sexually abused often use weight to hide themselves in hoping the abuser will no longer find them attractive. Being kind to one another whatever we look like is good.

  12. Wow, Mark.
    What a thoughtful piece.

    This whole topic just makes me sad. I do struggle sometimes with which is worse: this “fat acceptance” culture that seems to be emerging? Or the “perfection” culture that we have had for so long?

    I don’t believe that someone’s size dictates their worth. People of all sizes give love, receive love, and contribute to society. And yet many of your success stories’ authors have written about wanting to play with their children or be active outside of work, but until they lost weight, they just didn’t have the energy & stamina. They weren’t unloved or unworthy, they simply couldn’t participate actively in their own lives.

    Perfection is also a detractor. When someone works so hard to lose weight only to find themselves with extra skin, or that they still have “junk in the trunk,” or never find thier abs even after years of a primal lifestyle, it can be disheartening. All this work, and for what? Sure they sleep great, their allergies have abated, and they have enough energy to get through the day & then some, but there was always the secret hope that they would end up looking like you, (or your wife, or some other cut, sexy person). I think this is where some of that fat acceptance comes in: “well, I’ll never look like that… why even bother…?”
    I am NOT advocating this attitude, I’m just saying I’ve seen it. It’s easier to give up before starting than start & not get where you want to go, especially for those who have been on the losing side of yo-yo dieting for decades.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, Mark. You have a passion for helping people get healthy & not go crazy in the process.
    And keep dishing out those reminders that this is about HEALTH. Few will achieve perfection, but ALL can improve.

    1. And, even though some of us look a bit more plump than we want we may still pass the LGN test. ?

  13. Just read the Times article–excellent piece–and thank you for covering it, Mark. The psychology is fascinating. For myself, having lived “Primal” for about 5 years, almost reaching an ideal body composition, then adding some weight, expectations can be insidious, like a mean, nagging voice. I’ve realized that unless I move a lot more than I do, I will carry a few more pounds than would be ideal. But I move a lot, have a business to run, a busy family life, and yeah, a bit more stress than is ideal. My health is good, energy is good, blood panel has great numbers…sounds good, right?…but that voice wants those extra pounds gone. Expectations. Just have to try to be grateful for all the good and not beat myself up. Keep the movement positive.

  14. “Something in me thinks that people who claim to love their body despite being obese are ignoring or drowning out that inner voice spurring them toward change.”

    I agree, Mark. But I’m not standing beside you while you start dodging.I have an aversion to flame throwers. LOL! I can see that one-liner making it to some obscure “obesity, love your body” forum somewhere. You will suddenly become the anti-Christ of the fat-acceptance movement.

    But thanks for the read and great thoughts on that article.

  15. I read the article. Her fundamentally confused relationship with food — and if you haven’t read the article, I’m not being mean, that’s a big point — reminds me to wonder what’s going on with Ray Cronise’s Kickstarter project “Our Broken Plate,” which was to answer exactly that question

  16. I now understand what it is to enjoy a lifestyle that keeps the weight off and have a good life. I could wall paper my home with the number of books I got each time I joined weight watchers. Now, a change, the new ww holistic plan has helped me lose 40 lbs to now be 132 with over a 10% loss in body fat . I am 5’5″. They now encourage so much that is in mda. Even “forest bathing” last weekin our meeting. It is so much about creating a shift that allows me to live and not have to white knuckle it through my life. It’s about sustainability over perfection. In the meetings I have supportive tribe.
    That said we just talked about how the name is still weight watchers. Do not see that changing soon. It really is a lifestyle program. The ultimate n=1 blueprint. Nothing etched in stone. Even the points system. I work out so I eat plenty. So much of their is advice is to play with concepts. Meditate, be primal, write your own. Just do not feel you were “bad” if you put that feedbag on and eat that cheesecake. Just get back on trac.
    That said when you see the extremely obese sharing their struggles,I want to say…eat real food.

  17. Being a man it has always been easy for me to lose weight. I have recently lost over 50 pounds just by eliminating junk food, processed foods, etc. I eat three times a day with a select balance of everyday food that I prepare myself – vegetables, protein, carbs and fat – all strictly portion controlled. The concept of dieting is very simple, eat the right foods in the right amounts. Overcoming the mental and physical obstacles is not so easy for some.

    1. My Dad used to lose weight by cutting out his beloved apple pie and ice cream. LOL! Sadly the 5 women in the family weren’t so fortunate.

  18. Thanks. Just what I needed to read today. Much appreciated.

  19. Mark, thank you for the article. I’ve gone up and down throughout my life entire life too but at age 48.5, I am facing a situation that what I have done several times in the past to lose weight is not working. I have been eating fairly well for about 4 or 5 weeks now and I have not lost weight. I’ve almost eliminated sugar and bad carbs. I eat carbs, only from fruits and vegetables. I lift weights. I am fairly strong for my age. I also walk or run a few times a week. I’ve been down a couple, up a couple, down, then up. I am basically where I started over a month ago. Doing this exact routine in the past has caused me to lose 1-3 lbs per week! I am thinking this is age related?

    1. Couple of things you might look at John. One is eating enough fat to become “fat adapted”. There is so much anti fat propaganda in the media it can be hard to eat enough. The second is intermittent fasting without which I personally cannot keep my weight right. It can be done but it does require some effort and understanding. By the way I am 59 so it is definitely not age related. H.ave a look at intermittent fasting

    2. It’s almost always hormonal when a weight loss wall is it. And yes, it’s age related in the sense that hormones tend to become deficient and/or unbalanced as we age. I hit the weight loss wall last year and found out (through my own research, not my doctor) that I have a thyroid problem. No, it didn’t show up on my doctor’s exam. But through my own research and treatment, I realized what the problem was. So, research hormones and ask (but don’t rely on) your doctor for help. May pay off!

    3. If it worked in the past and now it’s not, I would guess age related too. I surf for a couple hours a day, supplement with HIIT on my spinner bike, planking and pull ups. I eat super clean, high fat low carb but I’m 51 now. Guess what, it gets harder every year. Harder to keep the muscle mass, harder to keep the leanness. Ive noticed at ever decade or so, you body shifts. So you have to shift too just to maintain. So it appears I know how to manage my 50’s now and when I hit 60 I’ll have to adjust again.

      1. Oh to be 51 again Clay! I felt great and in some ways was at my physical peak at that age … which maybe is a sad commentary on my fitness prior to that LOL.

  20. I have so many thoughts on this. I’ll try to break them down logically.

    1. As a former fat man (350 pounds, now down to 190-ish, hopefully forever), I was never happy with my body, but I was happy. It may sound weird, but I had accepted my weight and molded my life around it. It took hitting the floor, hard (literally) to wake me up and make me do something about it. Everyone has to find their own motivation, and until you find it, nothing will work. Now, looking back, I see just how miserable I was and I am determined to never go back!

    2. As a late-middle ager (60), I grew up in an era where we trusted our doctors, and to an extent, our government (yeah, I know…), and as I learn more about my health I see how wrong some of that was. The issue that I faced, and, frankly, still face) is who to trust. There is so much information available to us now between books, web sites, pod casts, YouTube video, etc, and a lot of the folks putting it out there sound like they know what they are talking about. I don’t have the knowledge to refute any of them. Give me a computer, unlimited internet access and enough time and i will run myself around in enough circles to cause analysts paralysis 😀

    Right or wrong, after reading The Primal Blueprint and, most recently, The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet, they made sense to me and I have decided to trust in them. As i am looking to maintain my loss, the macro ratios recommended by the Jaminets make sense to me, but with quite a bit of influence from The Primal Blueprint. I am 4 months into maintenance and doing well, so it must be working. I am 60, 6’2, 190-ish pounds, 15% body fat and I feel great! I need to bulk up some and build muscle, so I am working on that. Having never been much on working out and gyms, that is a completely different culture and possibly another article! 😀

  21. This is a really tough one for me…I went from a “healthy” standard American diet (little bread, mostly sandwiches/salads, limited sweets, little to no processed food) to hardcore Paleo in early 2014 to combat stomach problems. I completely cut out alcohol, sweets, all grains, all legumes, all dairy, went completely grass-fed and pastured, even limited my beef and meat intake, and ate something like 75% of my daily calories in organic vegetables. I jumped onboard the exercise train and began working out 1.5-2 hours every day, very intense weightlifting with HIIT, went outside, did hiking, etc., and followed the primal lifestyle in almost every way. I lost weight, and my menstrual cycle too, and now I have been diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea. I feel like I overcorrected and went beyond “healthy” to “too healthy” and now I’m currently infertile. I agree there is a problem with weight loss culture, but I would even say there’s a problem on both sides. I was seduced by hardcore Paleo values, plus beautiful photos of women who could apparently live the lifestyle and be perfectly healthy. Well, I went from being overweight with a menstrual cycle, to a perfect weight and infertile! I’ve actually had to gain weight and eat more, and it’s been extremely difficult to do that while I’m bombarded with media messages about losing weight, exercising more, eating cleaner, over and over again from every conceivable outlet. I just wish I would see more messages of pure “health” not bundled with weight loss/exercise regimens built in. Health has been more about mental clarity and inner creativity for me now, because the more I hear about weight loss/clean eating, the more nervous and stressed I get about the fact that I have to ACTIVELY eat more and exercise less, or I’ll never be normal again. So…yes, I would say there is a problem with weight loss culture. I’m sorry, I just can’t identify exactly what it is. I would say that it often misses mental health as a clearly important factor.

    1. That’s a telltale sign of the FAT: “Female Athlete Triad”; a common cluster of disordered eating, osteoporosis, amenorrhea. It does result in infertility.

      Your sure-win ticket to FAT (lol) is overtraining, on top of caloric restriction, on top of inadequate macronutrient ratio (you need glycogen & insulin for fueling grueling anaerobic efforts), on top of too little recovery time. Low, chronic baseline inflammation levels… Infertility… Hormonal imbalance, moodiness, fatigue, sleep disorders, frequent injuries.

      It strikes me, in all honesty laid bare, that all anectdotal shortcomings or malfunctions attributed to the Primal Blueprint practice are the result of fallacious thinking: mostly feeling immortal as per euphoria, or amplifying each practice to the point of obsession; especially in combination. Because more of a good thing is always better, right?

      The truth is, in this stew of extremism, caveats and subtleties simply can’t be noticed. They wash away in the face of a white-black, strident, cartoonish reality.

      I mean you no offense. An introduction to the ancestral health community through Paleo is a harsh one indeed. It can appeal to ideological fixation or toxic infatuation to an imaginary ideal. This is the very thing Mark professes against. I recommend you read Mark’s “CrossFit” series and the “Primal vs Paleo” article. This is all about experimentation, research, and listening to your body; not ignoring it for a greater ideology.

      I know I’m talking to your past self, but entertain me for a bit.

      From what I’ve read, I’d say you should work on experimentation and opening up. This may include protein overall, or organ meats, or reintroducing dairy & legumes (they aren’t THAT bad). Also, filling in any existent nutrient deficiencies. It’s also a good idea to eat way more carbs during training days. Each body is different, and some do better with a higher baseline level of daily carbs; what’s your recent ancestry?

      Stride to rest, relax, walk, play… And at the end of the day, be content of what you’ve achieved. And drop what you couldn’t. It’s about framing a healthy relationship with yourself. This battle is as much mental as physical. But it doesn’t have to be a battle at all. You can surprise your brain with how adaptable you are. Synchronize your body image and your mind, to make a symbiotic relation.

      And do so without neglecting the downwards/upwards progress of each, as well as the potential for their betterment, is what I think this article is trying to get across.

  22. I have lost 68 pounds by not eating sugar or carbs of any kind. I was always thin until I had my second baby and ended up in a wheelchair due to slipping a disc in my back and my thyroid collapsing. My son was 11 lbs at birth. I went through rehab so I could walk again, but the stress of the traumatic birth and subsequent collapse of my thyroid caused me to be unable to lose the pregnancy weight as I had done before and I also gained weight while unable to walk. It took me over two years to walk again and get my life back on track. I eat 100 percent paleo, it is amazing to look and feel like I did before the trauma. People ask me all the time why I am so thin, I tell them exactly why. But most people are so addicted to sugar and carbs they cannot stop eating them. Interestingly my chiropractor told me that my muscles are stronger in my back since losing the weight. I highly recommend everyone bite the bullet and eat paleo, you will never go back. I look at least 15 years younger. It is amazing!

  23. And still, in all of this discussion, nobody addresses the great question posed by Gary Taubes – why do we accept that some animal breeds are more prone to gain and carry weight than others? The specific example Taubes gave was cows. If a farmer wants to fatten up a cow, he knows which breeds will fatten the most quickly. Nobody questions whether it has anything to do with the mindset or socialization of the cow.

    1. I am so glad that you raised this point! Even within breeds (which are all the same species). There are individuals that fatten super fast, while others are what farmers call hard doers. These individuals eat just as much fattening food as their chubbier kin, and get just as little exercise, but may never reach the weight of fat-marbling of some pen-mates.

  24. Mark,

    Thank you for this post. Really.

    As someone who has struggled with weight all my life, I truly appreciate your calm and rational perspective. A wise man once said, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” 🙂 I have some goals that I have delayed without honestly intending to do so (i.e., I would commit halfheartedly… I would “try”), and I have definitely noticed that the silly tug of war taking place in our minds is exactly due to being bombarded with contradicting messages. After all, isn’t it so much easier to convince ourselves that we should take the easier path of “acceptance” because society’s expectations are too grand? Or because we don’t have enough money, or time, or the right genealogy.

    If I had to pick one thing that stuck out to me most: you are absolutely right when you say that hard things are often worthwhile things. Learning to appreciate the journey and the effort is what makes the entire endeavor an adventure.

  25. I completely 100% agree that being overweight is physically unhealthy. There’s no way to deny that really, all the science backs it up. But my question is, isn’t mental health just as important? I’ve had eating disorders on and off since I was 17 (21 now), and I know full well that being overweight is unhealthy, but if I try and lose weight and am not extremely careful with the method I use, I get in a bad place mentally. In my opinion, while ideally being your average weight is the best for you, I do indeed have to learn to love my body during the times where it weighs a little more than it should. Because if I didn’t, I would just stay depressed.

    1. Mental health is absolutely at least as important as physical health. Fortunately, the more I replace grains/sweets/booze with fat, the better I feel and cope in general. It’s a shame we reach for sweet things when we’re stressed since they just seem to amp up anxiety whereas fat is very calming.

  26. “Society is made of humans, who are biological beings. Society is therefore a product of biology. Society’s norms and mores don’t emerge out of nothingness.”

    Society is a product of philosophy. Philosophy is about how we relate to reality, make sense of the world around us and acquire knowledge. Morality (how we treat ourselves), ethics (how we treat each other), and politics (how society is organised) comes from that philosophical basis.

    I know you didn’t mean it this way, Mark, but be careful with the society-from-biology angle as that’s the same justification for eugenics, racism and all that flows from those corruptions.

    “They develop for real reasons. They may be bad reasons, or good ones that become corrupted, but they are real things that arise out of human biology. It wasn’t as if a council of elders long ago decreed that being obese is bad because it’s “ugly” or “unseemly,” and it just stuck.”

    It’s true that, biologically, excess fat is bad. But I suspect as well as for health reasons, many people lose weight for aesthetic reasons The great works of art don’t tend to celebrate diseased imagery. We associate slim, glowing bodies with health, not because we calculate body fat percentages and insulin sensitivities when we look at them, but because they project an example to which we aspire. They are heroic in that sense. It’s an abstraction of the underlying healthy state.

    The idea that we should accept a diseased state when we have the power to change it is a philosophical problem, particularly prevalent these days. It comes down to the admonition, “How dare you judge me!”. And people get away with it because it is conflated with other, more reasonable demands, such as don’t judge people by their skin color, sex or other such factors. But those things cannot be changed, they are who we are. But obesity is not what you were born with or something you are unable to change, yet it is presented as being in that category of attributes. The ridiculous irony is these ideas are often held by the same people who demand that something like gender be fluid regardless of what their DNA has to say about it. Yet to suggest they lose some weight is considered an attack on their innate humanity.

    The problem’s in the head, not in the body.

  27. “And most people can avoid it SIMPLY by losing excess body fat.” Thanks! That helps a lot! SIMPLY lose fat, that”s all. What’s wrong with you fatties?

    1. Yes…..it really did come across as too ‘simple’ didn’t it? I agree.

  28. “As for body acceptance, a “goal weight” isn’t necessary. In some cases, it’s counterproductive. You don’t need to turn success and failure into binary options. Better is good enough. Movement is enough.”

    This was the single most important take away I had from everything you said, Mark!! Our society is obsessed with a certain type of physique and ‘look’ to the point of nearly ostracizing/ shaming anyone outside this ‘ideal’. Movement is better than non-movement. Some weight loss is better than none. EOS! To each his own path and choice.

  29. By spending 2 to 3 hours a day obsessing over food I lost 50 pounds in the 1990’s. Whe I stopped obsessing I regained 70 pounds. In the 2000’s I lost 80 pounds. I spent about 4 hours a day planning meals and exercise and logging my food intake. So far in the 2010’s I’ve regained 90 pounds.
    I don’t have time to obsess 5 hours a day to lose weight and then gain it back with bonus extra fat.
    I’ll probably do it, but if I manage to lose the 100 pounds I ‘should lose” I sure hope I die before I regain 120 pounds.

    1. Hi Jim,
      I am wondering what you were doing in these 2-4 hours per day, in which you were planning your meals. I can understand that you do not have that much time to continue. What I do not understand is why it would take so long??

      1. It was 2 to 4 hours per day obsessing over food and exercise. Planning, buying, cooking, logging, scheduling times for buying, cooking, exercising. Dealing with hunger and cravings.
        I had more trouble losing weight than I had quitting smoking from 3 1/2 packs a day (cold turkey). And it was all wasted as I gained back everything I lost and them some.
        What I have learned is that is if I do manage to lose weight, it will get worse when it comes back. That is what my weight loss experience has taught me.
        But I fell so lousy now, that I’m sure I’ll enter back into that yo-yo thing again. I’m just not looking forward to the obsession and the belief that ultimately it is pointless.

  30. If I may add my opinion and thoughts on this article, I think the author of the NYT piece displays perfectly the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. I would imagine that Grok didn’t spend any time looking in the mirror worrying about how he was going to look at dinner that night in his new threads. I think the biggest primary hurdle we face is WHY we want to change from what we are right now. I didn’t get results by feeling bad about myself and punishing myself for it (Which is really what all diets are, a form of punishment because of how you feel about yourself.) I got results by eating great food Mark told me about, and playing. Yes, running is playing, biking is playing, lifting is playing for me and it can be for anyone if they change their mindset. Sure, I couldn’t play a lot at first, but I got better at it!!

  31. I have not read the article referenced in your post so I can not comment on it directly. What I know is that at the age of 47 I have spent the better part of my life at war with the very machine which sustains my life. I have hated my body since as a young child of 6 I was told to suck in my tummy. The message I received early in life was that my body and my appetite was not to be trusted.
    Last year, at the end of my rope, in tears and desperate for help after trying every diet, exercise plan under the sun and even surgery, I met the Dr. who finally was able to negotiate a cease fire. He explained why my brain had high jacked my appetite due to a high carbohydrate low fat diet and he also told me it wasn’t my fault. I was an addict and I needed help. Huh?
    Long story short, I was diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder. I’m coming up on my one year anniversary of sitting in his office in tears desperate for help. I have not weighed myself since but I’ve Gone down several clothing sizes. Better yet, my soul is weightless. I’ve come to understand that I am a part of the animal kingdom and that food is merely fuel to allow me to live. I eat ONLY when I am PHYSICALLY hungry. I have to feel hunger before eating because my mind will trick me into thinking it’s hungry when really I’m experiencing anxiety or I need soothing for emotional reasons. Food does not serve that purpose. Just like alcohol or drugs or sex or spending money does not serve that purpose. Food/eating is a numbing agent like any other addiction. So I take it one day at a time trying to maintain my ceasefire.

    1. So glad to know you finally found what works for you, Chantal–all the best! 🙂

  32. There are cultures that are not White that do indeed praise “fat” – particularly fat women’s – bodies as beautiful. I think that it is important to remember this aesthetic as a powerful assertion of one’s culture.

    1. That’s very true Melinda, yet I’ll never forget seeing a documentary about a particular culture in Africa that wanted new brides to be fat. They had the idea that it portrayed a voluptuous, fertile image if the young woman packed on a good 50lbs or more. The bride-to-be was made to eat and eat and eat, regardless of natural hunger signals and was not allowed to take on any physical work so that she wouldn’t burn off what was being gained. But the most unforgettable aspect of all was when the young woman was interviewed on her own. It broke my heart to see how miserable she felt with the added weight. They felt their movements were much harder to make, whether simply bending down or attending to personal needs like bowel movements, etc and they just didn’t feel like their true selves anymore. It was really sad to listen to and watch.
      That’s why I just can’t ever give up on losing enough weight to have good blood pressure and blood work as well as simply feeling comfortable doing things like tying my shoes or having to suddenly run for some emergency situation. I don’t do any formal exercise, but I enjoy walking and I don’t hesitate to lift heavy things or do yard chores and I have found that a very low carb diet is what keeps my blood glucose normal (I was as close to being diagnosed with T2D as you can get and asked my doctor to wait a bit longer before prescribing anything so that I could try paleo and low carb.) Fortunately, the change in diet brought my A1C down to 5.4 and fbg to 6.0, so my doc is happy with that and so am I.
      That said, I feel it’s absolutely wrong to shame others for whatever size they are, yet I don’t expect anyone to be praised for ‘just accepting themselves as they are.’ I also agree with someone else who said that many very overweight people (but NOT all) don’t exactly eat a healthy diet and often turn to starchy comfort foods, plus chips and plenty of sweets. I’ve seen it myself in grocery stores and did it myself when I went through a phase of “just accept yourself the way you are no matter what size you are.”

      1. I am so glad you are doing well! I am White and was constantly harassed as a child and young woman about any ounce that I gained by my family which created an obsession and constant discomfort about my appearance. However, I am observing that no one on this forum seems to acknowledge that cultural understandings of what is beautiful and desirable in the White culture and cultures that are not White are quite different. Health and comfort with one’s size and appearance interact in culturally complex ways.

        1. This is so true! I have a friend of Caribbean origin who is naturally very thin and flat-chested. Her relatives are constantly berating her for not putting on weight and achieving a fuller figure.

  33. Hmmm, I’m going to stir the pot a bit. I understand that on this forum it is likely all participants are people interested in good health and being lean. However, if someone accepts their body size, really what business is that of mine? As someone who is normal weight, yet has spent WAY too much of her life obsessing and angsting over perceived imperfections, I don’t feel that I have the right to pass judgment. As an educator, I’d like to see our young people–ESPECIALLY our young women–pay more attention to developing skills that will make them leaders in their careers and communities than to the size of their rears. I’m also really uncomfortable with equating obesity with laziness. There are often far more psychological and physiological issues going on–just as I wouldn’t want to automatically label a struggling student as dumb. And hey, if someone like Tess Holiday can make a career out of modeling at her current size, more power to her. I don’t find her body particularly attractive, but I think her face/hair and makeup are gorgeous and I’m not willing to just write her off. She is showing larger women that they can take pride in their appearance. And, to be a bit more philosophical, how much time and energy do many of us waste not being satisfied with being enough, right now? Looking good is great, but being good is even better.

    1. I’m with you there! I’ve always been normal size/weight, but spent most of my totally obsessed with weight loss, unhealthily restricting food in terms of quantities and types. Going Paleo, while it helped me with healthier eating, also enabled me to be the most eating disordered I have in my life, where my life revolved around orthorexia and dieting, not people, not adventure, not true growth. Just lots of fear and control and weight loss that ultimately became hormonal and metabolic issues.

      Finally, recently, I’ve made a peace by telling myself that I love myself unconditionally whatever size and shape I am, that I get to eat whatever I want, whenever want, however much I want. It was scary, but I finally got to the place where I have a balanced and healthier way of relating to myself and food. I’m glad for all the people who write about eating disorder recovery, because their stories and ideas have helped me a ton.

      I’m still grateful for this blog, but I have to remind myself to do what works for ME, THIS body, at THIS moment, and not to blindly do health experiments that work for other people. I also remind myself to celebrate my own imperfect beauty and inherent value, and every other person’s too, no matter what their size or shape.

    2. Beautiful, Lisabeth.
      You must be a wonderful role model for your students.

  34. I read the article. It made me sad. There should be a way for people to strive for greater leanness and health WITHOUT SHAMING THEMSELVES AND HATING THEIR BODIES!!! We, the human animals that we are, ARE programmed to eat more food than we need when it is plentiful, since through history, you never knew when there would be a famine. So, in a time and society where the famine never comes, we have a problem. People do get their emotions deeply invested in this, and those without a problem tend to be judgmental, and there we go… 🙁

  35. I’m really glad to hear Mark express this feeling. The fat acceptance thing regularly makes me grind my teeth, especially when children are told to accept their flab and resulting poor health by the very people who fed them all the junk in the first place. I always want to tell those being subjected to the fat acceptance propaganda: You are worth better than that. Even if you were a really horrible person, even if everything the little nagging voice in your head or the bullies in the playground say about you were true (which it probably isn’t), you would still be worth the best health food can give you. That is your right as a sentient being and nothing that you are or do or that happens to you can ever take it away.

  36. As humans, we all know that we can do, feel, and look “better” because we have a drive toward personal growth and improvement. Even those who have a fixed mindset subconsciously know they could get better, which is why they get so ornery when they’re faced with that fact.

    When someone knows they “could” lose weight, but they’re not losing it, it sets up for a huge emotional battle. Unfortunately, so many look for the quick fix, even though that has never worked in all of history.

    Your point, Mark, when you stepped into giving diet advice shouldn’t be overlooked.

    “Eliminating the major offenders—excess carbs and sugar, refined vegetable oils and grains—and restoring the attitudes that used to be normal—fat and meat are perfectly healthy—are suitable for everyone. You can tinker with macronutrient ratios, recent ancestry, “to keto or not to keto,” and all the minutiae on your own time. But those basics work as a starting place for everyone I’ve ever encountered.”

    It’s in this now “boring,” fundamental, daily choice of avoiding the stuff that hurts us the most, that most people can live a very healthy, relatively lean lifestyle. It just takes consistency, and a commitment to stop getting drawn into something new every week. Which is hard to do in today’s society. It might be boring, but as you said, it works for just about everyone.

    All the other stuff is small stuff. Distractions that lead to arguments, confusion, and the loss of attention on the basics that work.

  37. “Something in me thinks that people who claim to love their body despite being obese are ignoring or drowning out that inner voice spurring them toward change…Self-love doesn’t erase the physiological ramifications of being obese. ”

    Thank you for saying this. There is a critical difference that often seems to be missed between “It is okay to be overweight” and “I am not less worthy as a person because I am overweight.”

  38. Having lost 157 lbs myself many years ago thru diet and exercise, I find it difficult and down right annoying to read all the “love yourself the way you are” and the anti “body shaming” articles that are constant these days. Yes, you should practice self love, it’s important for your mental health. BUT anyone who says “I’m happy as I am, I don’t need to be a size ‘whatever'” is only (in my opinion) using it as an excuse to give up. I am very proud of what I accomplished many years ago and know that we all only get one chance at life, why not make it your best one?

  39. Has anyone noted the bodies of the ancient goddesses? They are mostly extremely FAT!

  40. I do think that we have to think more about “society” – because not all societies (cultures) reject fatness or even obesity. Indeed, in some societies, thin is NOT in, and the skinny are to be condoned with. Mark appears to be suggesting that there is an inherent biological drive to seek leanness, expressed subconsciously by the group as a social organism. Were this true, there would be no deviations across space if through time, yet a cursory search of, say, US historical norms, or a current-day cross-cultural evaluation, reveals high variation in body size values.

    I think Taffy made a valuable point: perhaps US society sets unreasonable goals for body size. For me, I spent decades pursuing the ideal body. I am not, never have been obese; even at my heaviest, which I thought was obese, I was at the top end of normal weight for my height. It took really intensive research for my undergraduate honours thesis for me to fully internalize the fact that bodies are different! A woman with an hourglass figure who becomes obese is a fat hourglass. A fat apple-shape thins down to a thin apple. A woman with a short torso will always have a thicker waist and higher WHR than a woman iof the same ethnicity, height, weight, and hip circumference, who happens to have a longer torso.

    I accepted that I have an ideal weight and a reasonable weight. To maintain my ideal weight (5lb lower than my current weight) requires ceaseless vigilance, which seriously impairs my quality of life. I effortlessly maintain my current weight, and have a rather relaxed diet. I just quit obsessing over whether a food is primal! I mostly eat high-quality single-ingredient foods, but it worries me not at all to have crepes with my home-made plum jam for breakfast, as I’m doing today.

    So, back to body image. I do not want and of steel. I do not want to hang from a bar. I couldn’t care less about planks. I like to walk and to swim. As an archaeologist, I shift buckets of soil, chunks of rock, boxes of artifacts, and piles of books and papers. I also sit long hours at my computer, researching and writing. Sometimes I look down at my tummy and wish it were flatter, but I still have a WHR of 0.77, and that is just plain good enough. When I get home, I want to sit in my garden with a cup of tea, watch the birds, and plan the plants for that awkward shady corner. I just don’t care enough about my little bulge to have at it with crunches! Also, at 58, I have cumulative damage to my spine and my right arm.

    Taffy’s article only scratches the surface of the deep cesspit of body culture in hyper-westernized cultures. It’s as if there is never a good-enough state. Women like me, whose weight is just fine, are not good enough. We’re not doing burpees, we’re not cross-fitting, we’re not agonizing about our inability to fit into a size 6 when a size 8 is actually very comfortable and even s little loose. Taffy points out the ridiculous idealization of the size zero!! I’d say that most women, even if they died of starvation, would have a skeletal frame that would still bust the seams of a size zero sheath dress.

    Body rejection goes way beyond obesity. Manufacturers’ sizes reflect this, what with vanity sizing on one hand, and the idiocy of size zero on the other. I’m sick of the continuous ruffling through garments in stores! Some of my jeans are size 4, others are size 8. They fit identically; should I feel good about myself on the days I’m wearing a size 4, and bad when they’re an 8? I’d like to see clothes sized by actual measurements: waist W”, hips H”, bust B”, crotch rise C”, innerseam I”. That way, those who want to drive themselves from 34″ to 32″ hips can do so – and brag about their tiny jeans -while those with 38″ hips can happily and easily find a pair without taking a tape measure to the racks. Sheesh, even sizes Small, Medium, and Large, are variable across manufacturers!

    I’d say that it’s more important to focus on health than on size. There are a heck of a lot of skinny, unhealthy people out there. Most people who die of heart attacks are normal weight. A lot of skinny athletic people are shocked to find they’re pretty-diabetic; diabetes is under-diagnosed in thin people simply because their health providers are hung up on diabesity and don’t screen their thin patients. One of the “fittest” women I know is thin, muscular, highly athletic – and has high blood pressure, very high triglyceride levels, and is edging very close set to prediabetes.

    An overweight woman (or man) who makes lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure, raise HDL, or reduce fasting glucose levels, will very likely see a reduction in body size. This is also likely to stick. Foolishly, the cart is before the horse in US society: its assumed that simply losing weight will improve your health, instead of considering that improving your health may lead to weight loss.

    Also to be considered: obesity has been a fact of life for at least some people since the Upper Palaeolithic.

    1. Thank you Suzanne and Gracie.
      It is so hard for humans not to think in binary ways- all this or all that. Fat acceptance should be termed “human acceptance” and seen as part of social justice. Excess adiposity does usually have negative effects on health as that tissues is more metabolically active in terms of releasing harmful substances, increasing insulin resistance, hard on the joints, etc. But how a person experiences their body varies and quality of life is in the eye of the beholder.
      And of course, lower levels of fat (as Mark pointed out) are protective to organs and bones, are used to produce breast milk and are not linked to increased cardiovascular risks depending on its distribution.

      Separate the condition of obesity from the person and remember the saying “looks can be deceiving.” Stop making assumptions about other people and jumping to hateful, snide conclusions reflect you think you are somehow superior to others.
      That slender, fit-appearing person may not eat well, may not be active, might be a smoker, might have an eating disorder. YOU DON”T KNOW. Jim Fixx was a famous runner who died of a heart attack.
      We need to all calm down, slow down and curtail our sense of entitlement to criticize.
      I love Marks articles for this reason because he is not extreme and he does not shame.

    2. Thank you, Suzanne. I also roll my eyes at the idiocy of a ‘size zero’. Loved your remark about women getting down to their skeleton and still trying to squeeze into a “0” 😉 Right on with regard to those who are thin, yet prediabetic/diabetic. We’ve gotten too far from reality and still love making sweeping generalizations about one another based strictly on physical appearance.

  41. I love this piece, and the NY Times article that inspired it. It does broach a very touchy subject. While I agree with Mark that excess fat is likely detrimental to one’s health, I disagree that because “Society’s norms…don’t emerge out of nothingness” that we shouldn’t consider them with a very critical eye. Social pressures and norms around weight may have begun as a biological distaste for a state of poor health, but I believe they have evolved far beyond that to the detriment of many people’s mental health. My own experience with – and recovery from – anorexia are a testament to the fact that it is a very fine balance to strike between self-improvement and self-acceptance. So yes, a person who more predisposed to poor health due to overweight should be proactive and change his/her habits out of self-love. A person who is driving him/herself crazy over a spot of cellulite here or a love-handle there should probably air on the side of self-acceptance (provided the lifestyle is generally – but NOT neurotically – healthy).

  42. I read that article too. I thought it was better than most “fat-acceptance” diatribes. I have several women friends (one is a physician) who insist that being obese is not really a problem. One even said that she would change doctors if her doctor told her to lose weight. Fine, that’s her right if she wants to live that way. But I think it’s crazy, for all the reasons, mentioned above. I know a great many people in my age bracket who have had to have knee and hip replacements because they have been overweight their whole lives.

    One friend was told by her doctor that it was ok that she was obese because her cholesterol and blood pressure were normal; a year later, she was diabetic and had neuropathy, and has never really recovered her health.

    Another friend recently told me that I was courting an eating disorder because I track my calories using the fitbit app! She also thought that my regimen of eating six cups of vegetables a day was bad, because it was depriving me of “good nutrition.” The amount of ignorance out there about what’s good nutrition is appalling. I think that explains a lot of the obesity.

    I am old enough to remember when the number of overweight people was quite small. And you never saw a person who was a hundred pounds overweight. Now in the rural South they are quite common.

    1. The amount of nutritional ignorance that is out there is definitely appalling, including among medical professionals who should know better. I suspect that a good percentage of people who can’t lose weight on what they assume is a Paleo/Primal/Low-Carb diet aren’t really low-carb at all and don’t realize it. Success does require a bit of boning up on what causes weight gain/loss and what doesn’t.

      People these days often don’t comprehend that you actually have to cook your own meals. You can’t just eat out of a carton or a box or in a restaurant and hope to lose weight and keep it off. I think that’s the main reason why, years ago, there were very few overweight people. Everybody prepared their meals from scratch with real ingredients. They didn’t drink a gallon of soda pop every day or eat super-sized fast food; they didn’t eat store-bought sweets at every meal; and they didn’t ingest a lot of processed foods full of crap that does God-only-knows-what to the hormones and the body’s normal functioning. The trend toward convenience food has done us no favors as a society..

  43. To me, the biggest issue that our society faces in terms of the “weight loss culture” are the actual practitioners. While I truly believe that everyone enters the industry with good intentions, individual bias enters into play and the practitioner is at fault.

    It’s really easy to write someone a diet and hand it to them because YOU know it’s good but is it really good for them?

  44. I don’t sympathize with the authoress at all.

    She’s fat, failed to lose weight, and is now lying in order to rationalize her choice to stay fat.

    I would sympathize if this was a double-digit IQ working class person.

    But this lady is writing for the New York Times. She claims she tried Atkins and South Beach…those diets work, and not just for “certain body types”.

    This means she simply gave up.

    While we can and must do our part to fight the plague of poor nutrition advice, fat people should also be shamed.

    1. Thorfinnsson- you should feel ashamed of your self-righteous attitude.

    2. Thorfinnsson; you obviously have a right to express your opinions like everyone else, but did you happen to read the comment by Lotus Rising? She is a perfect example of someone who did the diets ‘that work’, yet she could not lose any weight until she got help with her severely underactive thyroid. You have no idea what others may be dealing with, so take it easy on your judging of others. And since when did it become ok to “shame” someone for their physical appearance. We can shame someone for unethical, immoral or criminal ‘deeds’, but not for their appearance, imo.

      1. No, I did not read the comment.

        Thyroid problems exist, but they are rare. Generally speaking someone is fat because he prefers being fat to discipline. I’ll make allowances here for less intelligent people given how we’re bombarded with poor dietary advice. Harder to figure out which diets work when you’re not bright.

        There is nothing wrong with judging people, and shaming people who do things that are bad is a good thing–including shaming people for slovenly fitness and appearance.

        Shame and judgment are powerful motivators, which is why dingbats are always saying it’s wrong…they personally don’t want to deal with the emotional discomfort of feeling shame.

        1. Yet, even among the slim and healthy they tend to agree that shaming and humiliating can have some very negative effects on others because it’s really no one else’s business. That said, your insulting manner is a good indication that trying to convince you of anything is futile. People like you can shame, but those who are the recipients of it can simply scoff at your attempts and acknowledge within themselves that you haven’t the slightest clue as to what they are dealing with; such as in the case of people like Lotus Rising. Perhaps while you’re busy pointing and shaming others, you can take a look in the mirror and make sure you’re a perfect human being in every way first.

          1. Shame and humiliation are supposed to have negative effects on people. Perhaps we should shut down the prisons because they make people feel bad?

            The authoress of the NY Times piece is a woman in the arena and part of setting the national conversation. Her piece encourages giving up and embracing lies. This is shameful conduct.

            People’s health have second order effects that impact the rest of us. We all pay the bill in increased healthcare costs, reduced labor productivity, and if I’m going to be frank–living in a physically uglier society.

            As to Lotus Rising, she is the exception, not the rule. I wish her well. How many fat people were there one century ago? How many fat hunter-gatherers were there? Did our genotype undergo radical change in the past century?

            Your last point is an absurd canard. If one must be perfect to criticize, then there will be no criticism. Criticism exists for a reason–to hold people accountable.

            Appalled to see this sort of claptrap on a paleo website.

  45. Good post; interesting comments. Here are mine: I’m pushing seventy and have lost almost 50 pounds over the past 22 years and kept it off, through dietary modifications and exercise. The eating plan requires continual tweaking as we learn more about food and bodies. (Oh – I’ve also had breast cancer twice.)

    Upon reading the article, I was struck by the notion that some folks may fail because they employ a diet with an end point rather than a lifestyle change which is perpetual. If you react badly to certain foods, you probably will continue to do so. Add to that the question I wanted to ask: Yes, you are eating paleo, but HOW MUCH are you eating? I find that makes a difference. It is astonishing how little food we really need.

    That said, we are all bioindividuals and there are factors such as stress that play an important part. Another piece of the puzzle for me was having blood work to identify food sensitivities via antibody formation; these were too subtle for me to have discovered through an elimination diet. That last tweak lost me eight pounds around my midsection where I was holding fat/fluid to wall off the ‘toxins’ or food substances the body did not recognize as such. And these were seemingly innocuous foods.

    Self love? Okay. I see continual room for self improvement, and given that most chronic illness we now know begins with what we eat, and that it is a good life goal to stay out of the medical system as much as possible, appropriate dietary/sleep/exercise/hydration habits are an excellent first step.

  46. I think the dialogue needs to change to “you need to be healthy to lose weight” instead of the other way around
    Lymphatic problems, hormone Inbalances, heart problems can all cause weight gain.

    Take lipedema for instance. 10% of women have it and it causes FAT THAT DOES NOT RESPOND TO REGULAR DIET AND EXERCISE. Yet we ignore it.

  47. I could not loose weight whatever I did. Not on Primal, not on Paleo, regular exercise is a challenge because it might take a week for me to recover from it. I lived for two years on a anorexic amount of Paleo, 500/800 calories per day and I did not loose weight. Until I figured out, for myself, (thanks doctors for the last twenty years of ignoring my symptoms) that among other autoimmune diseases I need to inject B12 and I am severely hypothyroid. Since I started taking natural desiccated thyroid the weight started melting away the second time I titrated up. I lost 70 pounds in ten months. It was really true that my friends ate four times what I ate and they were thin and I was fat. Nothing would make me loose weight and I now see that I have a very weird view on food. Every bite I eat I feel bad because it might make me fat.
    And it’s so very frustrating to do years of research, eat healthy and very little and yet nothing would change.
    I’m not fat anymore but I still feel bad about eating and I am scared of getting fat again
    I just gained a few pounds…. I would rather die than get fat again with nothing to be done about it

  48. Thank you for this. It comes at a time when I realise that health is health and to live a healthy life, the consumption of food outside the way we are designed as humans to eat is detrimental. Full stop. Having Familial hypercholesterolemia I have battled against the standard western diet but having previously lived a primal lifestyle and then rejected it on the advice of doctors, I was lost and became sick and unhealthy, wrapped up in a negative spiral of what to do, which diet to follow! I am not lost anymore. Inspired. Thanks Mark!

  49. I have not been overweight my whole life, actually I’ve been rather stable until I hit menopause at 37 like my mom and grandma did.
    However, every few years I would gain 5 pounds pretty much out of the blue, no eating more food, exercising less, just bam, more girth. I finally was 30 pounds over my normal weight.
    During this time I did not feel like me, my opinion of me was not based on society’s opinion, only my opinion.
    Fast forward to about 5 years ago, I was able to lose the extra weight by using HCG drops and kept it off for 4 years using primal eating and being active. Then, STRESS from outside sources seemed to sabotage the status quo. Sadly my weight started to increase even though I did not eat more or outside primal. Very stressful on top of all the other stuff.
    So, NO I am not and probably never have been influenced by others as to how I should look, it’s me and only me. I wasn’t raised with TV or magazines of perfect people,. I wanted to be a Hawaiian girl with long black hair and tan skin at 6, but my ancestors are from the U.K. So fishbelly white was my skin and blonde was my hair.
    I’m currently struggling to have a good self image with the 15 pounds I’ve grown albeit reluctantly.
    So there, I’ve weighed in on the topic.

  50. When I initially read the article in the NYT, I was not surprised. I know this experience to be shared by many. I was heavy for many years – starting as a child, then adolescent, then an adult. I have had Hashimoto’s since I was 14. I have had four children. I have a full time job that can be very demanding.

    Having said all that, I have also lost 100 pounds and kept it off for five years. My “anniversary” is August 22nd. 🙂

    So, my take on all of this is:
    – There is no such thing as (fat) shaming. People have opinions. They express those opinions. Those opinions have nothing to do with me – now or when I was heavy. In other words, they need to own their opinions (feelings on the subject) and I do not need to engage them at all. Ever. I also need to own whatever reaction I might have to those opinions, so…
    – Self awareness. Understand what makes you tick. Own it. Live life on your terms. There is no need to take on other people’s feelings. You have enough of your own. When you “feel shame/guilt” based on somebody else’s input, you choose to do so… Remember that.
    -Most everyone can lose weight. It’s not easy. Maintenance is hard. But, it can be done if you eat real food and exercise regularly, stay consistent, inform yourself on your particular variables, and follow up accordingly. It shouldn’t be this hard, but reality is what it is. Work with what you have.
    -A positive, self-affirming attitude will go a long way. Be nice to yourself, be nice to others.

    Wishing all of us good health and happiness.

    1. Great input, Dana; thanks and Happy Anniversary tomorrow! 🙂

  51. I wonder how our societal attitudes might change if we all had to wear tee shirts with our blood pressure, fasting glucose, and triglycerides levels in big bold font?

  52. Thank you Mark for your honest and interpretive discussion on this topic. I am also one of those people who struggle with my weight and did WW, Paleo, Keto and then Slim4life. Paleo/Primal worked best until I got food poisoning. Gained it back in recovery. Your comments were just what I needed to stay the course and stop accepting my weight.

  53. I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life. I had a twin brother who ate far greater quantities but never gained an ounce A unhealthy attitude with food and mental health issues led to 20 years of severe bulimia. I am now “cured” according to the mental health system but left with thyroid and metabolic problems in my 40’s and significantly overweight. I feel like i have spent years being conned to eat high carb, low fat (when not bingeing and purging obviously) by a health system that was more focused on food lobbyists making money. People who look like me are the casualities of most eating disorder programs yet our stories are never told-you only hear of eating disorders of teenagers not the women in their 40;s, 50’s and 60’s that i have met in eating disorder groups.

    Like the origina lNYT author, I did WW multiple times from childhood-how do you count binge and purging in points? (joke). Now I’m trying to work on the whole foods, low carb first and deal with the weight later. I’d like to be able to exercise but Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome make most things painful, despite four surgeries so I am working on it. I guess I just wanted to offer another perspective. You might walk past me on the street and think of me and simply fat and lazy but I’m trying to get better.

  54. I have read both articles, and I must say I feel deeply for the woman. I’ve been in a position where I felt everyone around me could be so carefree about their food intake while I had to obsess over it, and had that hopeless feeling of the (seemingly) inevitable fate of being overweight regardless of what I did. My aha moment was threefold: realizing any obsession I had was mine to own and mindfully ridding my life of the things that spurred that obsession, taking off the lens of immediate gratification and looking at long term health rather than losing 20# in two weeks, and finding the primal way of living. To suggest it is a simple turn in the road is downplaying, but once those things clicked, my weight stabilized. I would love to say I no longer struggle, but it’s just not true. I do know that the way I feel and move is important enough to me that I prioritize in, and living within primal guidelines gives me boundaries. When I began to feel my obsession lifting, I realized how much of my mind space and energy was invested in nonsense. I am grateful to be part of a community that values quality of life and being thin as a side effect of being healthy, rather than the end all be all. Hopefully our author finds the same peace

  55. Having dropped 25 pounds since March by finally kicking gluten and sugar to the curb, limiting my red meat, and strength training, I know that lighter is better: better clarity, better energy, better self confidence. I still have a “weighs” to go, but like the article said, anyone who seems to say “I’m okay with my extra weight” is really not telling themselves the truth. Long term good health is dependent on shedding excess, unwanted weight. The improvement in outward appearance is a great side effect of the weight loss.

  56. What a great job articulating all these points, which are so relevant for all these folks trying to lose weight. Accepting and loving yourself doesn’t have to mean accepting that your body will forever be fat. And acknowledging that if you’re overweight or obese, losing weight is important for so many reasons. Being overweight is just not healthy — or comfortable. And for many it’s just the beginning of going down a road with lots of problems, disease and heartache. And thank you for reminding us that we are not necessarily striving for perfection 🙂