Wednesday, October 18

The Bon-Bon Theory

I'm a closet sociologist, I joke; 20 years of self-education, not formal schooling, but I consider the subject fascinating. I am normally involved with some rather 'alternative' topics, which by coincidence is a nice place to study a whole lot of alternative psychology, haha. I'm also very interested in internet communications and psychology, so online "fields" as I call them -- a general sphere of collected websites, forums, blogs, tools and shops that cater to some niche interest -- are always an fun exploration.

Lowcarbing has its own "niche field." It's a fairly small one, actually. There are several large forums, although the larger the forum, the more it is mixed with people doing every imaginable kind of diet including things completely different than lowcarb. I admit, that when I am journaling or reading journals about lowcarb, I feel sort of nonplussed about someone who is instead on weight watchers lowfat/ lowcal/ highcarb eating plan, or something else also very different than mine. I don't mind what people choose -- my best friend loves WW and I love her, so for now, I'm happy for her -- but it seems like it's pretty difficult to give any kind of useful advice to someone besides "Ra Ra" cheerleading, when the way people go about losing the weight is so drastically different.

I read all the lowcarb blogs I can find, and I have 15-20 journals at the LowCarber forum bookmarked to visit daily. Still, it isn't much new stuff to read for a person who reads fast and types fast and is used to high-volume internet activity. It's relatively educational, in a personality profile sense, though.

People who've lost a lot of weight quickly, seem to be the most fervent about the details of their beliefs about food. People who've lost a lot of weight but very slowly seem a lot more relaxed about it; of course, maybe being more relaxed is why they lost it more slowly -- or maybe being forced to develop patience, and to work on the variable details of their body, has made them realize it's a unique journey. People who are brand new to the subject tend to be much more insecure both in the eating plan and themselves but that's no surprise.

People who've been involved for a few months and lost some weight but probably not as much as they hoped, have more of a tendency to be outright rude to others, especially new folks, and I expect there is some of that "preaching it to make themselves better believe what they're doing is right" going on, which you can see in most religions never mind most eating plans. (Note: I'm not against religion. But sometimes genuine love and devotion vs. evangelism aren't well connected, as anybody who's spent time in church oughtta be able to see for themselves.)
I notice that thin diabetics, who eat lowcarb for that reason and not for weight, often don't seem nearly as supportive of or even friendly to the really obese as those who themselves are obese, and I figure some of the cultural bias ("I'm LC because I'm ill, but you're just a pig!") might be in there somewhere.

People who have been educated in anything health-related, even if the tradition is something like personal training (bodybuilding) which has always been more lowcarb focused than the mainstream, are often like anybody else I guess: they are certain they know it all, which is only a problem when several of them are in the same conversation (as they're totally convincing when in agreement or on a thread alone).

It doesn't matter what the argument is. The value vs. negative of dietary fat? Of calories? Of fiber carbs? Of sugar alcohol carbs? Of aerobic exercise? If this weren't low carb I'd say, "Bring popcorn and sit back and watch the show." Watching the debates can be an interest all its own.

The people who've been lowcarbing for a long time seem the most mellow yet no nonsense about it, for obvious reasons I guess. People new to it, tend to make it almost an obsession, but you see that in every field. And to some degree, when you're new and you really have to pay attention and spend time learning and such, it's almost needed.

I notice that thin diabetics, who eat lowcarb for that reason and not for weight, often don't seem nearly as supportive of or even friendly to the really obese as those who themselves are obese, and I figure some of the cultural bias ("I'm LC because I'm ill, but you're just a pig!") might be in there somewhere. This despite the fact that in my view, it'd be hard to find ANY severely obese person who did not have a specific insulin-related metabolic issue -- just like they do, although sometimes self-created in ignorance or by parents, and less recognized as a 'disease'.

I don't like thinking of metabolic problems as a disease, as that makes it sound hopeless, but they at least qualify as a 'syndrome' that exists regardless of your eating habits (though low-carb may help improve the situation). They definitely exist as something that you may have to behave in conformity to for the rest of your life, even if you lose the extra weight that made the problems 'apparent'.

The diversity of opinion even within the lowcarb field itself must be so confusing for new folks. On one hand people will tell you things like, "You must eat enough calories" (usually your baseline metabolic minimum) "or your body will go into starvation mode," and I am a living breathing example of a body that does exactly that. Some will say, "You must eat several small meals, rather than one bigger meal, to keep your system digesting, because fasting causes the starvation response," while somewhere else, people are saying that fasting and eating only one meal a day is a really great thing they recommend.

You'll get lectures on how fat actually helps take OFF weight and hence some oils each day are good, "find some way to incorporate them into your diet," while others go on about how you should minimize fat, something easier said than done on a lowcarb diet, since most protein has fat (and you will not find anything low-fat going into MY mouth; usually that stuff is in my opinion better considered a frankenfood).

This reminds me of my stepmother, who is diabetic, and who basically is supposed to avoid much calories, fat, cholesterol... interesting, since I've done a great deal of reading suggesting that the fat (and even cholesterol) with sufficient protein and low carb will take care of a lot of blood issues, not to mention butt-size issues, and greatly improve a lot of insulin issues as well.

Typical of course, modern medicine prescribes pretty much everything that will not only eventually kill her, definitely not save her, but will ensure she is appropriately miserable in the meantime. It is pretty damn difficult for people to do a diet that restricts nearly everything! (As I say, no eating plan helps if you're not on it. It needs to be possible, sheesh.)

There are an astonishing number of people with eating disorder problems in the LC field. I suppose there are just as many in WW and other eating plans, but perhaps because I've never known anybody with that condition, it always seems surprising to me. In particular the binging and getting fatter (as opposed to the binging and purging -- they are probably in WW instead, hahaha).

I gained over 200 lbs in less than 2 years in my mid-20's. During that, I worked 70 hrs/wk, commuted 4.5 hrs/day on the worst highways, and went to night school. I was stressed out and sleep deprived. I ate one meal a day: Del Taco at 1-2am, before crashing into bed to get up at 6am. Bad lifestyle? Wrong eating? Yep. "Gluttony"? No. "Lazy"? No. Gimme a break!

But this leads to the one thing that I see described, mourned, and opined everywhere, and that gradually has started to really kind of bother me. Not that I mind someone describing their experience -- at all. If Jane's experience was that she binged on massive junkfood and four McD's meals all the way to 350 lbs, well, that's Jane's experience, and it's good that she shares it, and supports others in doing so.

But I call this the "bon-bon theory" and to me it is one of the most pervasive prejudices against the severely obese. It is essentially the paradigm that says if a person is massively overweight, that it's obvious they got that way from sitting around eating like a massive glutton all the time... as opposed to some genuine metabolic problem which, if anybody else had it, might have had the very same end result. It is rather irksome. 382 extra pounds of bon-bons! Yeah... riiiight.

I think it's one of those things that side effects get confused about:

1. Gluttony will make you fat.
2. Serious insulin resistance will make you fat. The more serious, the more fat.
3. Untreated repeatedly abused food sensitivies can contribute greatly as well.
4. Stress contributes hugely.
5. Eating carbs before bed reduces growth hormone in sleep, that contributes.
6. Sleep deprivation contributes.
7. Insert about 40 other factors that contribute to weight gain here.

I gained over 200 lbs in less than 2 years in my mid-20's. During that time, I worked 70 hours a week, I commuted 4.5 hours a day on the worst highways in the nation, and I went to night school. I was massively stressed out, and seriously sleep deprived.

I ate one meal a day, not a huge one but more than a small one for sure: Del Taco (pure carbs!), just before I crashed into sleep at 1-2am, to get up the next day by 6am.

I did not know that a massive dose of carbs whacked your insulin levels, or that combining this constantly with growing overweight to obesity would create an insulin resistance issue. Much of my family deals with what to me is obviously IR, but they are oblivious... after 40 years of dieting for some of them, it's second nature to assume they are obviously lazy pigs.
Binging is an eating disorder. Not all severely obese people have an eating disorder, though most of them clearly have a metabolic disorder even if it is combined with an eating problem in some (not all) cases.
I hear people online talk about how they successfully lost weight, but how they gained it to begin with because they used to just totally binge on massive junk, and then felt bad, and then did it again, and kept growing, and so on. This is an eating disorder. I don't know why that should be considered normal. I don't even understand this really. Sure, I've eaten dessert I shouldn't have at a restaurant, or too many slices of pizza, or even 'whatever I wanted' when I felt my weight was increasing and hopeless to control, but my problem is usually eating at ALL.

After 15+ years of living on one meal late in the day for the most part, getting myself to eat several small meals during the day is hard as hell. It's a pain. It takes time. It takes planning. And frankly, since I have *trained my body not be hungry until evening*, it also takes eating when I am not particularly hungry, no matter what fire and brimstone people preach against doing that. When I'm around others (even very thin people), they usually end up commenting: how can you get up early, stay up late, and eat and drink like nothing?! I'm very focused. If I'm busy, I don't even think about food until nighttime, or unless someone drops it in front of me.

At times in the last 15 years, I have tracked my calories, and even "matched food intake with" someone I was living with. I steadily, though much more slowly than that initial period, gained weight -- even when they lost it on the same food. And my basal metabolic rate, at over 400lbs, is incredibly high -- like 4000 calories or something -- so you know, it seems physiologically impossible that if you're only eating like 1500 calories a day or less, that you would not be dropping weight at the speed of light. I'm here to tell ya, if I eat it in carbs, I am gaining weight. And since I'm a total carb addict -- whole milk and anything breadlike -- it was easy to do that. I didn't know I had a problem with those foods. I didn't know lowcarb was the answer. All I knew was that allegedly calories were the factor, and no amount of vastly lower calories than my BMR did not make me lose weight. At all.

I don't lose weight unless I lowcarb. Period. And even then -- the eating many small meals, vs. a few or even one bigger meal, seems to clearly make a difference. So, I can only conclude that for me, carbs are the culprit AND, a seriously overactive body 'survival starvation instinct' is as well. Even now, losing weight on lowcarb, I don't lose quite as much as the "calorie math" would suggest. I'm frankly getting pretty sick of the whole calorie-obsession in our culture; I recognize its reality in most cases, but it clearly is not the main criteria for metabolic problems.

Off the subject: I wonder if childbirth and infanthood issues could affect the body in some way. I wonder because I notice with cats, if they are malnourished as young kittens, they are completely distorted for food the rest of their lives -- they will happily eat popcorn and spaghetti if you let them because they'll eat anything. It just seems that some innate-response of the body to food is a bit distorted. Makes me wonder what infanthood issues may 'set up' for the body as 'survival instincts'.
When I hear somebody on a forum opining that everybody should quit whining about metabolism because the fact is if they weren't total binging gluttons they wouldn't be fat, I just sigh. (And on occasion, nobody else has permission to be fat; a person will be happy to diss others for being so since to them, "There's no excuse." These are the people SUPPORTIVE of others. Gosh. Hope I never meet the people who aren't!) Sometimes, I just can't help but feel my eyes roll up in my head.

I call this the "bon-bon theory" ... the paradigm that if a person is severely overweight, it's obvious they got that way from severe gluttony (as opposed to metabolic problems). 382 extra pounds of bon-bons! Yeah... riiiight.
Living with severe morbid obesity for years, and this after formerly being a performer, where looks and how people reacted to me were a big deal, has been a helluva education in "social stigma" and "assumptions" and "biases".

If I were black, with magenta hair and a nose ring, a lesbian, and an open pagan witch, I would not get half the bias I get for being so obese. (I'm just trying to think of groups of people that commonly deal with unfair bias, for that example.)

Obesity is the one stigma that transcends all colors, cultures and other social groupings. When it comes to weight, most people are not biased: they despise all severely obese people equally. It's usually not-quite-hidden, of course, in sneers they can't quite prevent, in active avoidance (conversations that go carefully around you, or don't even hear you), sometimes in instant hostility with no cause (such as women who project their self-loathing on you the instant they see you, as if you are taking on not only the weight they've been fighting with terror, but everything else they hate about themselves as well).

And a great deal of that bias is because of THE BON-BON THEORY: because people feel certain that when they meet me, and I weigh over 400 lbs, my gosh how I must be the most insanely gluttonous, lazy person alive. I can sit down to dinner with them and eat 1/3 what they do, and that won't keep them from critically eyeing my plate as if I shouldn't be eating that. They're completely unaware and unapologetic that they've just eaten enough carbs and calories for 2 days in a single meal -- if it doesn't make them fat personally, they're oblivious!

The body wants to eat its weight in calories, usually. And severely heavy bodies tend to need energy to lug it around more than smaller ones. So there are plenty of obese people who "eat more than a thin person would" -- and that's considered overeating. I consider that eating for their weight. It's eating enough to gain more weight that is overeating. I've seen fat people 'overeat' who didn't when thin; it was their changing metabolism that made them fat, and as they got fatter, their body demanded more calories and more carb-energy so they began eating more.

As I know from my experience, sometimes "overeating" can simply consist of ingesting one meal a day even at calories less than half the basal metabolic rate. If your body is thrifty enough and concerned enough for your survival, you could store carrot sticks and cottage cheese in fat cells just to be safe. You might not have much energy, but anybody obese can say to that, "So what's new."

Obesity is the one stigma that transcends all colors, cultures and other social groupings. When it comes to weight, most people are not biased: they despise all severely obese people equally.

Someday, just as an experiment, I'd like to rig a wetsuit to add about 300lbs to someone's body. Put it on anybody, and then say, "Alrighty then! Go about your day." And watch how easy it is NOT to function with that much weight, how exhausting the smallest things are.

Recently I bought a pair of tennis shoes; finally, shopping in the men's dept., I found some that were wide enough in side and toe-box to fit me. I'd been wearing slip-on shoes, zero padding or support, for years. I didn't realize until I began wearing the shoes, that when I was not wearing them, I was walking normally -- that is to say, I was "slowly hobbling," with every step in major pain, especially if I'd had to spend any time walking on hard floors (say, shopping at walmart). I didn't realize how MUCH pain I was in with every step until I got shoes, and enough of it went away to make me aware of it.

Add that, and chafed-to-bloody thighs and under-breast areas, and other really charming side-effects of severe obesity, and nobody oughtta be wondering why the severely obese are not more active. Most of them don't even want to MOVE. Any of my thin friends, if they had the conditions of raw skin I've had over the years, they not only wouldn't be walking around shopping trying to pretend they weren't in pain, they'd be in ER! They'd be off work, well bandaged, getting major sympathy from friends. But no, when the conditions are a side effect of fat, that humiliating condition, people won't admit to it. They will just hobble, and walk slowly trying not to move their legs much, or try not to move too much lest a bra rub an already raw and bloody chafing area, and maybe even cause them to embarrass themselves by crying out in pain in public.
I've *gained* weight while eating less than half my BMR in calories and doing aerobics. You can ruin your insulin and metabolism, and I guess I did. Now, I resent being considered a lazy pig. That is not always the cause of obesity. It's a horrible prejudice. Lowcarb is the ONLY thing that my body responds to for weight loss. I could cry for not finding it 15 years earlier. But I have it now.

So I guess you might say, that being really obese is hell enough. People -- whether fat, thin, formerly-fat, or what, who add to that daily unjoy extensive public opinions about how, 'come on, they know, they were really a pig and it made them fat so most others who are really fat are just pigs too, fess up y'all!' -- sigh. I don't say much (and nothing in those areas) because I respect everybody's right to say what they think, and especially to talk about their own experience.

But it is a little frustrating that it seems to just perpetuate the bon-bon theory in the world at large, and to even see it IN the lowcarb field, where more recognition of insulin and other metabolic issues exists than anywhere, is such a bummer.

I am currently tracking my weight, my calories, my carbs, my protein, and for 18 days straight I have lost half a pound a day. According to my basal metabolic rate, compared to calories, I should be losing twice that much. And I've eaten the calories I eat now without low carb and still gained weight. So obviously, it is not about calories or food ingestion in SOME cases.

Binging is an eating disorder. Not all severely obese people have an eating disorder, though most of them clearly have a metabolic disorder even if it is combined with an eating problem in some cases. Yes, it's fair to call "binging made them fat" a bit of a 'generality'.

But as long as an entire class of people are sneered about, dissed, etc. based on a "generality," it is still plain and simple, PREJUDICE.

Which frankly is pretty lousy no matter what it's about.

Hmmn. I think this is my first rant on this blog! Heh. Now it's "real." ;-)


Newbirth said...

Wow. I don't know what to say. Just wow, just post.

Alex said...

I don't remember how I found your blog, but I enjoy your writing and your share most of your opinions. Thank you for writing...I have just started living the low-carb way. I have lost 17 pounds in two weeks. Most of the information I have about low carb I have gotten from Jimmy Moore/Livin LaVida Low Carb and Kimmer/


Cindy said...

I love reading your blogs!!! Thank you!!

One of the things that I found gratifying when I first started low carb (low carber forum) was hearing so many people also say that they couldn't loose weight with "conventional" diets, even on less than 1000 cal a day. I know people thought I was lying, and there were times I thought I was crazy! It wasn't until I started reading Dr Atkins, and later Protein Power and other books, articles that I realized that I'm likely insulin resistant and carbs are poison to me.

And yes, there is a great deal of hatred of the overweight and obese!! I think you may have hit the nail on the head saying it's fear of being fat themselves that causes people to act the way they do. In any event, it's the one form of desrimination that is not only acceptable, but often encouraged.

Anyway, keep on posting...and keep on fighting! You're doing great!!! Keep it up!

Sherrie said...

I really enjoyed reading this, I have linked to it on my forum for the others so hopefully they will read it too.

Very well said!

Laura said...

I just found your blog and I applaud you for your effort. It is sad that people can not be kinder to each other. I wish you success in your journey and I will be following you online. Like you I have a great deal of weight to lose (at least 120 lbs) and I am overwhelmed by the journey in front of me. But knowing there are others like me helps me know I can do this with a little help from my friends.

Low Carb Band-It said...

OMG - ask my family how many times I have said some of these SAME THINGS to them??

It gets SOOOOO old hearing Old WW Leaders or people who are supposed to be "supporting" me on email lists, accuse me of CHEATING or not "really being honest" with what I'm eating - trying to get me to ADMIT my eating disorder of choice (binging, purging WHATEVER) - because "they all have it, so I must". These are people who actually lose weight quite easily - never got "that big" and can't understand why I have so much trouble losing on a low-fat diet. DUH!!! I've been saying for years there is something MORE wrong with me that what's "normal".

THANK YOU for this GREAT post. I'm going to be putting a link to it on my blog because EVERYONE needs to hear it!

PJ said...

Yeah, I also have friends who do Weight Watchers, and I swear, EVERY single time the topic of food comes up, no matter what I have said in the past that should make it clear this isn't an issue, they say something like, "Weight Watchers is the best thing that ever happened to me because it really makes me pay attention to what I eat. You know... if you just write it down... I think you'll see..."

And I'm thinking, WTF is wrong with this person? Is it that they think I'm lying? Is it that they can spend a week with me and be oblivious to the fact that usually my problem is eating at all, not eating too much?

Most hilarious, what part of, "How do you HIDE something like 3,000+ extra calories a day?!" don't they get??

Literally, our entire cultural media has BRAINWASHED everybody into believing that being seriously obese means the person must be sitting around eating 8 burgers per meal and entire gallons of ice cream and so on.

The basics that any bodybuilder coach can tell you -- that overeating will make you fat, but undereating and then eating badly in compensation is what usually sparks the most major obesity -- are unknown to the population at large.

I think the low-fat high-carb diet literally makes people constantly starving and they end up obsessed with food and trying not to eat, and they just can't help but project that on everyone else.

On lowcarb, the appetite suppression of ketosis let alone the satiety of eating a lot of protein and fat, makes the whole food issue pretty different.

LCband-it: you need to get away from ANY people, groups or lists that don't treat you with the respect of trust. The whole "wear the piggy-face because you're a lb of water weight heavier this week" that weight watchers started out with is still there sublimated in other behaviors, I think! Many of the people at's forum are pretty decent. You might consider a journal there. You'd get support from people who actually have a clue about body chemistry.

sussex said...

PJ there is something wrong with this article -- whole sections are repeated, and bits are indented (and later repeated). Don't know what went wrong :-(

PJ said...

Thanks sussex, it looks like blogger did some template update that ATE both the blockquote and a 'pullquote' style class. I put at least a version of them back and now it makes a little bit more sense I think! - PJ