I was surprised to read that "The average American woman wears a size 14, and women wearing size 14 and up account for 67 percent of the population . . ."
Just to clarify, my surprise is not aesthetic-based, but rises from health concerns. Obesity, especially belly fat, puts strain on the body, prematurely aging it. Managing weight with a healthy diet does not make one immune to disease—I always think I'm dying of some new malaise every few months—but wouldn't one want to enjoy a higher quality of life if one could?
Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watchers, recently passed away at the age of 91, at the same triumphant weight of her major initial weight loss, 142. Chances are, if she had remained 214 pounds, she would not have seen 80, never mind 90.
Nidetch learned that social support is key, along with personal responsibility:
Trapped in a gluttonous secret life, she decided she had to confide in someone. She invited six friends, all overweight women, to her home for what turned into a group confessional, an exorcism of caloric demons that was the informal beginning of Weight Watchers. They all went on a diet, pledging mutual help through the abysses of anxiety, doubt and gnawing hunger. It worked. They soon brought more overweight friends to the meetings. Within two months, 40 women were attending . . .
“We ourselves hold the instrument that makes us fat,” she said, waving an imaginary fork in a 2011 interview with The Sun Sentinel of South Florida. “I just shake my head when I see someone eating cake and saying, ‘Oh, I wish I wasn’t heavy.’ But they keep eating the cake!”
We have the power. Although that potato kugel at a kiddush this week got the better of me.
Taking the importance of eating habits further:
I was quite delighted to learn that the system of calculating calories is inherently flawed, overstating numbers (before you get too excited, the calories for junk food are quite accurate). But the calories for fiber-rich foods, proteins, and nuts are being reported as being higher than they are.
The system is most accurate when the foods are easily digested and all of their energy is made available to the body — as they are when consuming highly processed carbohydrates. But in the past few decades, scientists have begun to understand that a substantial number of calories are lost in the effort to digest food. For example, meat and nuts are harder to break down, and so the body expends energy trying to digest them.
In the end, some foods are also not fully digested: significant portions are excreted, and so those calories should not be counted, either. Nuts are among the hardest to digest, and estimates of the calories they contain by the old method are the furthest off — the counts are about 25 percent too high, according to recent research by David Baer, a nutrition scientist at the Department of Agriculture.
Calories are not created equal; the composition of the food itself is also a factor, how the body digests it, stores it, and uses it.
The body resists weight loss by increasing hunger, he said. In his clinic, patients are not expected to count calories, but instead learn how to choose types and quantities of food that will reduce hunger and promote weight loss without calorie restriction.
When I decided to attack my eating habits, I first weaned myself off junk and processed foods. Whenever I was hungry (or not hungry) I ate fruits, vegetables, whole grains. Even though I wasn't depriving myself, I lost weight, because a calorie is not a calorie.