What do dresses and diabetes have in common you ask?
Well, a real concern with your weight.
This fall I am going to be a bridesmaid. This means that I had to measure myself for the first time in ways that did not involve a scale. For those of you, like me, that are fashion-senseless- dress measurements are around the biggest part of your bust, the smallest part of your waist, and the biggest part of your butt. I passed along the information to the dress shop via telephone and to my horror they asked me if I was sure I had measured correctly. It turns out that I am not your standard womanly hourglass. I’m a size 4 on the top, an 8 in the middle and a 6 on the bottom. According to those numbers, my shape is a proverbial deflating ball. I told them to send me a size 6 and I’d work on it. And then I crawled in a hole.
The girl on the phone actually used the word “disproportionate”. Honestly, I immediately began considering breast augmentation and pinching my stomach fat regularly.
Am I a healthy and active person? Yes. Is it shallow to fret about squeezing into the unrealistic norm? Probably. But I do- and I’m not alone.
I have not been able to truly and consistently “love my body”. As a teen I struggled with anorexia nervosa and subsequent anemia. I was so nutrient deprived that I began growing hair on my face. Poor trade off. I wasn’t a “fad dieter”, that was way too much work- I just wouldn’t eat. In fact, I’d starve myself to the point of hallucinating, out-of-body experiences, and episodes of manic depression. Not to mention the fact I was sleeping at least 14 hours a day and missing periods.
Now as a professional adult I battle between wanting to gain/condition muscle (to do my job well) while still wanting to fit into size 1 pants. And frankly, it’s not going to happen. Despite the fact I’m the healthiest and strongest I’ve ever been, I feel refreshed after 9 hours of sleep, and I have emergency snacks in my purse so I can’t “forget” to eat- the dissatisfaction in my self-talk is still prominent.
Our cultural obsession with appearance is hard to escape. It filters through our conversations, and of course we are bombarded with it through the evil media. I play baseball, I see a personal trainer once a week, I hike, and take carrots instead of cookies to work. I pack my lunch, and buy berries and yogurt instead of chips and pop when grocery shopping. But I feel like I could always do better because according to the “standard”….I look like an egg. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I don’t measure my portions, I don’t count my calories, and I don’t have a strict gym schedule. Or maybe it has nothing to do with me.
For the record, while researching for this blog I found MANY “fat to skinny” photos like this….
ONE “anorexia to recovery” photo like this…
MANY “Fat to Fitness” photos like this….
Two sad photos like this (if you feel this way, please talk to someone)…
My least favorite photo like this….
And my favorite photo like this….
Where I am going with all this?
Well, I recently read three articles that made me think about what we eat in surprising ways (weighs?).
The first is an article by Marcie Goldman, “The Only Reason I’ll Post a Bikini Pic,” which begins with pictures that compare her body to Guiliana Rancic. The article states, “E! News anchor Giuliana Rancic has infertility issues that she concludes are a result of her age (35). But just looking at Giuliana, you have to wonder if her difficulty in having children is more than just age. After all, there are plenty of 35-year-olds, not in Hollywood, who are conceiving naturally.”
The article caught my attention not because I want to have a baby, but because I was basically looking at my own before and after pictures. Thriving Marcie now, underfed Giuliana as a teen. It made me wonder what other kinds of havoc I was wreaking on my body by underfeeding it.
Marcie goes on to say, “If [Giuliana] wants to help other women by showing them the hurdles of infertility, I hope she gets to the bottom line: How can you conceive on a diet so low in essential nutrients like fat, carbs and calories? And I might add, do you really need to eat like that to be slim and fit? This news also gave me the chance to see I’m not doing that bad..! I eat more calories in one meal than Giuliana does in a day (yes, literally). My high fat, real food diet including butter and eggs (with the yolks) is serving me very well.”
You can’t build muscle on a low fat/carbs/calories diet, so how could you possibly build a healthy baby. You can check out Giuliana’s diet/workout regime here and decide for yourself- http://www.giulianarancic.com/welcome.php. Now, like Marcie, I “don’t kill myself with workouts and tons of cardio, I ask for extra butter when eating out… and I eat a lot of real, high quality, nutrient dense food.” Go us.
The Grain Brain
The second article, published by the UK’s Autistic society, summarizes the study of a gluten/casein free diet as an intervention for autism. As a former teacher who worked with many autistic students I find this research truly jaw dropping.
“The opioid-excess hypothesis of autism suggests that autism is the consequence of the incomplete breakdown and excessive absorption of peptides with opioid activity (derived from foods which contain gluten and casein), causing disruption to biochemical and neuroregulatory processes. Biochemical evidence has indicated the presence of increased levels of peptides in the urine of people with autism, and previous behavioural studies have demonstrated a connection between the long term exclusion of gluten and casein from the diet and improvements in the behaviour of some children with autism. The introduction of a gluten-free diet to children with autism and associated spectrum disorders (n 5 22) was monitored over a 5 month period using a battery of parental and teacher interview/questionnaire sessions, observation reports, psychometric tests and urinary profiling. Results suggested that participants on a gluten-free diet showed an improvement on a number of behavioural measures.”
On a personal note I have recently begun cutting back my gluten intake for a different reason- Alzheimer’s. Both my mother’s parents were afflicted by it and after watching their decline, I hope that is one trait that didn’t get passed along the gene pool.
According to Neurologist David Perlmutter, “The link between gluten sensitivity and problems with brain function, including learning disabilities, and even memory problems, is not that difficult to understand. Gluten sensitivity is caused by elevated levels of antibodies against a component of gluten called gliadin. This antibody (the antigliadin antibody) combines with gliadin when a person is exposed to any gluten-containing food like wheat, barley or rye.
When this happens, protein-specific genes are turned on in a special type of immune cell in the body. When these genes are turned on, inflammatory chemicals called cytokines are created. Cytokines, which are the chemical mediators of inflammation, are directly detrimental to brain function. In fact, elevated levels of cytokines are seen in such devastating conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and even autism. Essentially, the brain does not like inflammation and responds quite negatively to the presence of cytokines.”
But why would gliadin cause inflammation in the first place? Haven’t we as a species always eaten it as part of our diet? Well, not really.
Back in caveman times farming had not yet been invented. Cavemen may have had a handful of grain here and there when they found it in their path- but definitely not the 6-7 daily servings recommended by Canada’s Food Guide. This begins to explain why nearly 40% of the population has some sort of grain sensitivity/allergy.
Furthermore, refined wheat (i.e. white flour used to make white bread, biscuits, cake, pasta, etc) has a high glycaemic index. This means that blood sugar levels will run high after eating wheat, which in the long term causes obesity, diabetes, syndrome X and heart disease. Running a high blood sugar stimulates release of insulin which is a growth promoter and is undesirable if you wish to avoid cancer.
There’s that D word again.
The third article was a summary of Surgeon Peter Attia’s TedMed Talk. “He tells a story of a night in 2006 when he was doing his surgical residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital and was paged at 2am to see a woman with a diabetic ulcer on her foot. She was in danger of needing an amputation.
“Looking back on that night, I’d love so desperately to believe that I treated that woman with the same empathy and compassion that I’d shown the 27-year-old newlywed who’d come to the ER three nights earlier with lower back pain that turned out to be advanced pancreatic cancer. I passed no judgment on her — obviously she had done nothing to bring this on herself…So why was it just a few nights later that as I stood in this same ER and determined that my diabetic patient did indeed need an amputation, why did I hold her in such bitter contempt?
The answer: this woman had Type 2 diabetes and was obese. Running through Attia’s mind was the idea that, if she had just watched what she ate and exercised a little, she wouldn’t be in this position.”
This hit home because- as a medic I have done this too. I have cursed people in my head because of their “obvious” unconcern for their growing tub of lard. I have been annoyed by having to carry/move these overweight individuals around- risking injury to the back I work so hard to protect- because they don’t take responsibility for their health. (I have also felt this way about drunk drivers, but that is a very different entry). I have thought things about obese people that are way less kind than you would expect from someone whose job is to care for others.
The part about Attia’s talk that really blew me away was this: “Three years, later Attia’s framework shifted. Despite eating well and exercising often, he began to gain weight himself. He developed metabolic syndrome, a pre-cursor to diabetes in which a person becomes insulin resistant. He started to question the assumptions he and the majority of the medical community made about diabetes. He wondered: could it be that insulin resistance caused obesity and not the other way around? Could it be that, in the same way a bruise forms in order to protect the body after an injury, that gaining weight is a coping mechanism for a deeper problem at the cellular level?”
Oh crap. I’m probably an assh*le.
Attia goes on to explain that nutrition science is ridiculously underfunded- nutrition studies can’t produce the same monetary security that drug studies can. Not to mention that the studies themselves are hard to control- humans aren’t laboratory mice. A lot of our nutrient knowledge is actually epidemiology based opposed to evidence based. Attia “sees a disconcerting paradox at work when it comes to our health: while people are talking about eating healthily and exercising perhaps more than ever, we’re seeing no reduction in the rates of obesity and diabetes.”
What if obesity is more often a sign of underlying issues and we’ve been overlooking it? I’ve (we’ve) been doing some pretty serious victim blaming.
- Love your body more for what it can do, and less for what it looks like
- Limit your gluten
- Eat high quality food
- Eat more for nutrition and less for taste and comfort
- Listen to your body’s needs
- Balance your activity level
- Tell your doctor if you are gaining weight for unknown reasons
- Pass no judgement
My father is probably going to hate this- but here is my own “The Only Reason I’ll Post a Bikini Pic”. I’m still learning to be proud of myself. You can eat food and look good too, even if you naturally have the frame of a flat basketball. ;)
Before (you can see my spine through my shirt and lack of muscle tone)
After (25lbs heavier and a hundred times stronger)
Thanks for reading,