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weighty issues | Bleeding Espresso Bleeding Espresso

weighty issues

I normally don’t discuss such things here, but I’m truly curious to hear your take on this.

I read an article on Msnbc.com called “With Friends Like These” about a study that found that obesity is contagious and that it spreads through social networks of friends even if those friends live thousands of miles apart.

Seriously.

Let me give you my take:

Until we start accepting responsibility for our actions, owning all of our experiences and choices (good and bad), and really, truly respecting and honoring our bodies through our choices of what we put in them and do to them, the obesity problem will continue–and I’m not just talking about the United States here as it’s becoming a problem in many countries around the world, including Italy.

Let’s leave aside drug and alcohol issues for the moment while we also recognize that there are absolutely similarities in all types of addictions that harm the body.

I share the following as background, so you can understand where I’m coming from on this one:

You can’t tell much from my little head shot up there, but I’m not skinny. I don’t think I ever was (doctors put me on a diet when I was less than a year old–how’s that for setting someone up for life?), and I don’t imagine I ever will be. And that’s fine with me because I feel good and healthy and know that I’m doing my best to be good to my body.

Over the last few years, I’ve been working on developing a better relationship with food, understanding nutrition, listening to what my body tells me it needs, and doing more physical exercise than I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve lost a good bit of weight, but the best thing about all this is that I feel like I’m taking better care of the only thing that’s really mine in the world.

And it feels wonderful.

And no, I’m not perfect–last night for dinner I had a big ole steak and french fries. And it was delicious. I’ll probably have a gelato later. And I’ll probably never lose the last 5-10 pounds I should, according to the Body Mass Index because of it. So be it. A lot of people are at so-called healthy weights but they aren’t healthy in the least (so many skinnies that I know smoke more than the Marlboro Man), so who’s really to say what’s best for me but me?

But enough about me. I’m interested in what you think about the study.

Was it worth studying? Do friends make somebody fat? Family? How much influence do your family and friends have over what you do?

Obviously certain medical disorders cause weight gain, but aside from such causes, what are the real reasons for obesity? Who or what really is to blame? How can we stop this epidemic?

Do you care? Should the government care? If so, how should it go about caring, so to speak?

I’d love to hear some of your experiences and opinions on this issue.

This is a touchy subject, so I do ask that you be as kind as possible if you decide to share your thoughts. I look forward to reading them.

—————

[tags]weight, losing weight, gaining weight[/tags]

65 Beans of Wisdom to “weighty issues”
  1. jessica in rome
    07.26.2007

    I saw this on the news an hour ago. I am kinda split on my opinion with of it. When I was 20 I was hanging out with girls that love to party and drink and then we’d all go to a drive thru at 2am and order half the menu. Needless to say I gained probably 30 pounds and even though I quit doing those things, the weight has kinda been there ever since. I think people around you, especially friends have an influence on you. When your best friend eats chocolate cake and says she doesn’t care, it makes you think you can too. That you can rationalize your behavior. They can also pull you in a good habit as well. I don’t know, I can see it both ways. Is it a personality problem (you are natural follower) or something else?

  2. Ashley
    07.26.2007

    I think one of the reasons for this problem (at least where I live) is that healthy food is so much more expensive than junk food. It is a sad reality but the other day at the grocery store 2 pound bags of frozen french fries were on sale-7 bags for $7. At the same store, I’d be lucky to get 7 peaches for $7!

  3. sognatrice
    07.26.2007

    Jessica, interesting question that you end with–especially if you look at through the eyes of an adolescent girl, when fitting in is so important. As someone who always had rather-thin-but-can-eat-anything girlfriends, that kind of “Oh I don’t care, I’m eating the chocolate cake” out of my friends’ mouths was always so…ugh! They didn’t have to care!

    Losing and maintaining a healthy weight is definitely easier with support and like-minded people around you–absolutely! P is a skinny dude who never eats sweets–that’s *definitely* helped me eat less sugar over the past 2 years, and it was something my body desperately needed.

    Ashley, completely agreed based on what I remember from the States–junk food is almost always cheaper than healthy food. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that lower income people are more likely to be obese…so we have to ask why is that? Why is junk/fast food cheaper? And what can we do about it? Should we do something about it?

    Here in southern Italy at least, the prepackaged stuff is always *more* expensive, so there’s even more motivation to cook and eat fresh fruits and veggies.

  4. Ashley
    07.26.2007

    That is one of the things I am looking forward to about Italy-more produce and cheaper (hopefully).

    I think that fast food/junk food is cheaper because of the quality of the food being used. People go to fast food places and don’t think twice about ordering a hamburger and eating it. I wonder if they would eat it if they saw the quality of the meat before it was cooked? I know that I am much more conscious of the food I am eating when I buy it and cook it myself. I could never buy a really fatty piece of meat, cook it and eat it (fat included). But who knows what you are getting when you eat out! Restaurants always use far more butter and fat in their cooking than a lot of people would dare use at home-all to make it taste better. Not to mention portion size….

    Another thing is that in America we drive everywhere and have so much to cram into a day that it is easier to go through the drive through or call for take out than to go to the store and cook a healthy meal. I enjoy taking the time to cook but lots of people don’t!

  5. Heather
    07.26.2007

    I really don’t think the government ought to be wrapped up in how your social network effects your weight. I mean what? Are they going to start regulating friendships?

    I do think your social circle can make a huge difference. If you’ve already got willpower issues and you go out with friends who encourage you to eat a ton, you will. In the end, though, it all comes down to you and what you are willing to do in order to feel comfortable in your own body.

    How you look, and how you feel about it, is up to you! It’s not an easy thing though. I have struggled with my weight for years and have still not found a happy place for myself…

  6. Kataroma
    07.26.2007

    I’m surprised family didn’t play a bigger part. In my case I’ve always been in the “normal” BMI range pretty effortlessly (although I’ve gained some weight since I moved to Italy!) and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that when i was growing up we just didn’t eat junk food so I never got into the habit. Not because of any health fantacism but rather because my mum is kind of old fashioned in a lot of ways. She didn’t allow me to have a barbie (talk about childhood trauma!) because she thought of them as ugly and newfangled and in the same way it would never have occurred to her to buy a readymeal or go to McDonalds as it wasn’t done when she was a kid. So even though she always worked full time we always ate simple homecooked food (lots of overcooked meat plus 3 veg.)

    Also I’ve never owned a car. My Italian friends think I’m nuts but I take public transport everywhere or walk.

    Unfortunately, the rest of the world is going the same way as the US re obesity – and, in fact, Italian children are the fattest in Europe. I see Italian parents feeding their kids chips, sugary cereals and coke all the time. It’s really a shame.

  7. stefanie
    07.26.2007

    I think family can definitely play a part, as they shape your habits about food and activity early in life, and that foundation can likely stick with you. Obviously it’s not set in stone, however. I know people whose parents eat little more than junk food and yet who grew up to be co-op shopping health nuts (and vice versa).

    I’m skeptical about friends having such a big influence, but Jessica in Rome makes a good point, so I suppose I need to rethink that.

    Really, it all still comes down to personal responsibility, though. No matter what the influences around you or what you see in your friends and family, everyone is still responsible for their own body, lifestyle, et al. To a large degree, I think it’s a cop-out to blame anyone but oneself. (Is that oversimplifying? Perhaps. But I strongly believe the only one who can change you is YOU.)

  8. -R-
    07.26.2007

    I agree with Jessica. I also think you tend to spend time with people who are like you, and maybe that includes weight or food attitudes as well.

  9. Figs Olives Wine
    07.26.2007

    I so respect you on the whole knowing what feels healthy for your own body thing. I was really put through the ringer with dance training and a prof. dance career the 1st 25 years of my life. Now I’m probably 10 lbs over where I “ought to be” and I’m 30 lbs heavier than I was as a dancer, but guess what? I’m almost never sick anymore, and I used to be in my Dr’s office 2 – 3 times a month, literally. My weight doesn’t really fluctuate now except for when I’m in Europe for research and eating a ton, which is when my weight actually drops! Things are just less messed around with over there.

    I think that obsession with weight is unhealthy in either direction, and I think we’ve become a society of extremes. So many eating disorders, so many diets, and so much obesity.
    Extreme behavior is certainly contagious. Mothers can impart a habit of dieting to their children, kids in their teens play around with eating disorders together, and college kids gain that freshman 15 en masse. Humans are natural mimics on a very subconscious and physical level – that’s how we indicate friendliness and that’s how we enter a social body. It’s just how we work. So if our friends are sedentary, we probably will be too, and if our friends are active or health food nuts, we’ll be affected by that too. Even if only slightly.
    So I guess it’s behavior that’s contagious in my book.

  10. nyc/caribbean ragazza
    07.26.2007

    I heard about the study and thought it was interesting. I am an 8 which is below the national avg. but way above the Hollywood size 0 avg. πŸ™‚

    I lost weight in Rome eventhough I was eating pasta everyday (people here are in FEAR of carbs). I noticed I drank no soda (water and wine only), walked everywhere, my portions were smaller and no snacking in between meals.

    Post trips I pay more attention now when I go out to eat with non-foodie friends (which in Los Angeles is most of them. They see food as the enemy or just care that much about it). I refuse to go certain restaurants, life is too short to eat crappy food at some chain type place (i.e. cheesecake factory) where the portions are massive. Eating well should not be seen at an elitist thing. Some of the best meals of my life were simple recipes using the freshest incredients.

    Emotional eating is a problem for me. Like Kataroma, our parents did not bring fast food into the house. Once in a blue moon we could have some Coke with pizza from the an Italian restaurant. Yet now whenever I am stressed or bored (which is a lot lately), I reach for Jelly Bellys, popcorn, Swedish fish, Coke etc.

    It is a shame junk food is cheaper. I don’t think that will change. Big agribusiness has changed farming and how we receive our food in the United States forever.

  11. The (Mis)Adventures of a Single City Chick
    07.26.2007

    Ugh, not a topic I enjoy discussing, but an important one all the same. They’ve played that news clip on tv and the radio all last night and this morning. I’ve also struggled with my weight most of my life…definitely my adult years. Stress plays a major role in my eating habits. I can’t stand the people (okay, I’m envious of them!) who get stressed and just can’t eat a thing because of it. Grrrr. When I get stressed, that’s all I want to do is eat. I’m definitely an emotional eater. It’s when I’m absolutely over the moon about something that I lose my appetite. So, being one of the yo-yo dieters, I’m fully aware that we really can’t blame anyone but ourselves. However, the company we keep does make a difference. If I’m with people who are going for the fattier dishes and ordering dessert, I find myself falling into that mind-set, because it’s so much easier than saying no–especially when that’s the yummier food anyway. πŸ˜‰ But, also, when I’m surrounded by women in my department at work who are almost all skinny things, and we go out to lunch, I find myself eating less than I might have otherwise. So, while we can’t blame others for our extra pounds we’re packing around, there definitely is an added influence one way or another, depending on whose company you’re in. That’s why everyone shares the same love/hate relationship with that guy who’s all of our best friend and biggest arch nemesis — “Will Power.” πŸ™‚

    Christina

  12. sognatrice
    07.26.2007

    Ashley, I have to agree about the quality of food used in fast food places–sometimes ignorance truly is bliss. You mentioned other great reasons too, including the more sedentary lifestyle. Someone just sent me some quotes yesterday and one of them was “If you’re dog is fat, you don’t get enough exercise.” So true!

    Heather, oh I wasn’t talking about the government getting involved in personal relationships–my question was more about the obesity problem in general, and what should the government do, if anything. I’m thinking about things like quality/price controls along with a lot of the stuff that has been beefed up (hah!) in recent years regarding what kids get/can get in schools. Plus education on eating habits, higher taxes for fast food chains (akin to higher cigarette taxes)? I don’t know. Just thinking….

    I would hope that someone’s friends aren’t encouraging them to eat a lot when they already know she (likely she) has weight issues, whether they are external, emotional, or both. Those aren’t friends!

    Kataroma, I’m surprised by that family wasn’t a bigger factor too; as Stefanie and NYC says below, that’s where you learn your habits, and a lot of those stick. You can, of course, make your own choices as an adult, but it’s a fine line as a parent I think, in a society where it really does seem like everyone else’s kid gets to have the “good” (meaning bad) stuff. At what point does your kid start to feel “deprived” and majorly rebel when you’re not looking? I’m not a parent yet, but I do think about these things.

    Unlike Kataroma and NYC, I was raised with plenty of junk food–not so much fast food, though, as we always had homecooked meals from either my grandmother or mother. It was the snacking that killed me, and still does to a certain extent, although now I’m better at snacking smarter–having something healthy with just one or two Hershey’s kisses instead of a half of bag of Hershey’s kisses πŸ˜‰

    Stefanie, I tend to agree with you; the bottom line is that you have to take care of yourself, and, dare I say, “Just Say No!” when someone offers that extra piece of cake. Seems like this is all just another form of peer pressure (I love the way Christina describes it!), and Mr. Will Power needs to play nice with Ms. I Want a Healthier Body.

    -R-, I agree with this too. Then we have a which comes first kind of question–are you attracted to people with similar eating habits to begin with or do you form them together? Or, most likely, a little of both…so…can’t you decide to be healthier together?

    That’s not, of course, directed at you, -R-, but only to reinforce the fact that support really does help when one is trying to make lifestyle changes, and let’s be honest, eating healthier and getting more exercise would definitely qualify as a lifestyle change for many.

    Figs, I completely agree about the obsession–if there must be an obsession, I wish it were just on being healthy. Sure weight ranges are helpful, but some of us have more/less muscle, blah blah, so many things that make those guidelines even a bit sketchy.

    For me, listening to my body has been the key. I pretty much know how much milk, coffee, whatever I can drink before I don’t feel well anymore; same with red meat (once a week is plenty, but I probably don’t even eat it that much), even sweets–and I *never* thought my body would reject sweets!

    NYC, you are a very strong woman for so many reasons, but I really admire the fact that you live in LA and eat too. Seriously. And I love your point that eating well shouldn’t be an elitist thing–exactly! Unfortunately, the prices of healthy food mixed with, I don’t know, the connotation with buying them even, just makes it seem like only a certain kind of person would do such a thing…when it really should be everyone who loves him or herself.

    Christina, believe me, I stopped and started this post plenty of times before deciding to post it. I don’t like talking about weight issues AT ALL and I never have. I’ve always quietly struggled–you’d never find me complaining to my friends about my size or how fat I look or whatever.

    But it was always a struggle, and a losing one at that until a few years ago.

    You know what I hate? When you’re out with a group of mostly thin people, all getting that fatty appetizer/dessert/whatever, and you *try* to say no, no, no because you want to be good, because you know it’s not good for you, and then they just push and push telling you that you look fabulous and blah blah blah…it’s like, come on people! I’m *so* close to being good! Can’t you just let me?

    I don’t know if they just don’t understand how hard it is or what, but I always found it pretty annoying to have to justify a healthy choice.

    Ah, and emotional eating (to Christina and NYC)? I’m right there with you. Guess we should figure out how to handle those emotions in a different way, huh?

    Suggestions? Nothing kinky now πŸ˜‰

  13. sognatrice
    07.26.2007

    *Please ignore typos I make in comments; I’m human.*

  14. Ashley
    07.26.2007

    Sognatrice,

    Somewhat related…what is the quality of dog food in Italy. After all the recalls here I put Oliver (my dog) on all natural pet food-he eats more of it, has tons more energy, and has lost weight! Goes to show the importance of the quality of food, not just quantity.

  15. sognatrice
    07.26.2007

    Ashley, you can find pretty much the same stuff here as you can in the States (ranging from crap to good, of course). Brands like Purina, Iams, and Eukanuba as well as all-natural dog foods are easy to find even for me, so you shouldn’t have any trouble.

    Nothing here was recalled, btw, so we dodged that bullet. Phew!

    Oliver’s mug makes me smile every time I visit your blog πŸ™‚

  16. Ashley
    07.26.2007

    Good to know about the food. Thanks for the comment on Ollie! He is so great!

  17. Michellanea
    07.26.2007

    Hmm, I too have pretty strong opinions on this. I grew up with a working single mom and unfortunately fast food and ready-made meals were a part of our lives. Though we didn’t have many snacks (Dorito’s, cookies) or pop/soda in the house so we never got into that stuff. And we both were very active in sports so never got fat. But growing up, fast food was completely “normal” to me and most of my friends’ parents were divorced and I didn’t see too many moms or dads making real home-cooked meals. So that influenced me too. Everyone around me was just like me.

    What shocks me when I go home now is seeing friends with their children who are fantastic involved parents in every way EXCEPT how they feed their children. These are people who’d never ride down the road with their child on a bike and no helmets but they will feed their kids fast food or frozen chicken strips and fries day in and day out. Eating like crap has become the norm in the U.S. It’s almost like we don’t know any better anymore and need to re-learn how to eat and what normal food is and normal portion sizes are.

    Speaking to something Ashley said, it always drives me crazy when I go home and people say “You have to try this place. The portions are huge and it’s really cheap.” OK, well what do they serve there? Is it GOOD? Is it good for me or is it a bunch of frozen fried appetizer-y crap? I think we need to break out of this pattern of thinking food should be a “bargain” or it’s our right pay nothing and eat a lot. Just because 7 bags of fries cost $7, nobody is twisting your arm to buy them (this isn’t directed at Ashley – just saying). Little by little I’m starting to buy more organic things and those things cost. I’ve put the idea of all-you-can-eat salad bar buffet food for rock bottom prices out of my mind. My focus is on eating well not on bang for my buck. In the end you pay for it with your health. Just my two cents – sorry for the extra long comment!

  18. Michellanea
    07.26.2007

    Excuse my typos too and wanted to add that the people I mentioned who feed their kids chicken strips and fries daily are not low-income families. I’m talking about educated people who are devoted parents and typically make a lot of money and live very well. Obviously low-income people buy what they can afford and that’s unfortunate. I do find Italy cheaper for fruit and veggies but then the salaries are very low as well so it kind of evens out.

  19. sognatrice
    07.26.2007

    Ashley, glad to be of service–if you have any other pooch in Italia questions, fire away!

    Michelle, please don’t apologize for the length of your comment! This is a complicated issue, for sure.

    I absolutely agree with you on seeing what really responsible, really good parents feed their children (and no, not necessarily low income either)–like you said, it’s like we’ve forgotten what really is healthy and normal.

    It really is starting to happen even in Italy, though. I don’t know about where you are, but down here, the fish sticks are always the first thing they run out of in the small grocery store, not that I’ve ever had them (didn’t have them growing up and then when I tried them in college found them rather vile). I do think, though, that the packaged food here is *still* better than the stuff in America regarding additives and preservatives. Here a frozen, breaded chicken cutlet actually does taste like chicken (and not those nugget things, whatever they taste like). Yes, I buy them occasionally πŸ˜‰

    So true about the bang for the buck thing too–it’s so drilled into us, as Americans, that you need to get value for the dollar, which is great until it comes to stuffing yourself with food. Pay a little more to eat a little healthier–and you’ll actually be fuller too!

    Of course this assumes people *have* the ability to pay a little more, and unfortunately, that’s where those $7/7 lb. bags of fries come in. Seven dollars just doesn’t go very far in an organic store when you’re trying to feed a family. It’s just a damn shame, and, again, a very complicated issue.

    And I didn’t even notice any typos anyway πŸ˜‰

  20. Michellanea
    07.26.2007

    Obviously if you are a low-income single mom, buying organic is the last thing on your mind. I think some kind of food education needs to come into play because a lot of those kids who grow up on fast food and cheap snack foods are the same ones who become obese and diabetic (and may not have health insurance – it’s kind of all a downward spiral).

    Up here it has become more popular to get takeaway or make those frozen meals but at the same time I still think portion sizes are within the norm. Some of those ethnic takeaway places are not cheap like they are in the U.S. and they don’t load you up with huge portions of things. I also think that people have a sense in all of Italy that feeding your child well is a way of giving love and is part of your responsibility as a parent. Sorry if I’m off on this childrearing thing – must be the pregnancy talking. I don’t know what I will do when I take my kid back to the U.S. for a visit and friends and family suggest going to those chain places all the time. I don’t want my kid to be the “freak” who doesn’t eat chicken strips and fries like the American kids but I’m also pretty adamant about raising him with fresh food cooked with love every day. OK, getting all sappy in my pregnant state…

  21. JennieBoo
    07.26.2007

    I saw this on “The Today SHow” this morning.

    I agree with you, people should take responibility for their personal choices.

    Granted, some weight gain can be from a various array of health conditions. Rejecting an apple and juice over a jelly-filled doughnut seems to be the culprit more often than not. “Treats” like this should be just that, a “treat”! An occasional treat.

    This “study” just seems to be “passing the buck” on personal responsibility. Sure one could sit on the couch, eat twinkies and only get up to use the bathroom, and their friends could do the same. “If you swim with sharks, you may as well be a shark.”

    Instead of blaming others, I say we all should take responsibility for our own choices. Then, I believe, we would be more healthy AND happy!

    (I’ll get off my soapbox now, sorry! I hope I haven’t offended anyone….. :C)

  22. Ally Bean
    07.26.2007

    I think that friends and family can make you fat only if you let them. Learning to say “no” is the key. Say “no” to too much eating and to not enough moving and you’ll maintain a reasonable weight. Say “yes” to people who force food on you and never want to exercise and you’ll be overweight. Simplistic, but that’s how it’s worked out for me.

  23. Caffienated Cowgirl
    07.26.2007

    Omg…I completely agree with you! This has been a sore spot with me for years. Yes, when are people going to start taking responsibility for their actions? Does the government have to tell us what to eat? And if that’s the case, do they need to tell us when to wipe our noses too?

    I have a lot of overweight friends…and I have never put on weight because of my friendship with them. My weight gains have come from things like pregnancy. Now, I am not a naturally thin person, I do have to watch what I eat and exercise to maintain my current size, but that’s just it…I take responsibility for what I am.

    Do we want to live in a society where we aren’t capable of making our own decisions? Or do we want to accept that sometimes we have to make choices and decisions for ourselves?

  24. Paolo
    07.26.2007

    OK, I guess I’ll weigh in with the guy’s perspective here… I am a bit metro and a lot Italian-American, so I worry about my appearance more than many, I would say.

    I had been fortunate most of my life to have a good metabolism and pretty good eating habits (my passion for fries and beer notwithstanding). When I hit 30 (a milestone rapidly receding in the rear-view), though, things started to change. And on a skinny frame, extra pounds just look silly. I kind of dealt with it in a half-hearted way until I separated from my wife. Then, I suddenly discovered all this motivation to diet and exercise! I dropped thirty pounds in a matter of months, and though I gained about ten to fifteen of them back soon after, stayed at a pretty good level through my single years.

    Then, I fell in love again.

    It took me two years, but I’m back up above my previous high point. I am working a desk job now, I live in a city filled with restaurants (and in a beach community filled with the fattiest kind of fast food within easy access), and my asthma has worsened severely from breathing what we in southern California quaintly call “air.”

    D and I share Italian ancestry and an extremely sensual attitude towards food and drink. So, to that extent, I think our extremely-attenuated “social network” of two has negatively impacted our health. Neither of us is obese, but we are both uncomfortable physically carrying the extra weight, and avoiding mirrors like vampires on a day pass.

    My Italian teachers have all mentioned that they gain weight much more easily here than they do at home, and they are firmly of the opinion that the additives Americans put in food are the culprit. I don’t know what to say about that, other than to note that none of my abruzzese family is notably overweight, despite the hours-long cene and the rich food that is one of the joys of their lives, along with love, a sense of humour and a beautiful place to live.

    I think the linkage between overeating and drug abuse is well worth exploring, especially comparing the Italian style of eating – slowly and languorously like savoring a good glass of wine – with the American mode of taking food like a junkie shoots up: quick and harsh, followed by a collapse.

    M, thanks for sparking discussion in comments. This is a nice way to extend the little “community” you’ve built up around yourself… brava!!

  25. odessa
    07.26.2007

    I personally think that there’s some truth to this study but I also agree with most of you guys that when it all comes down to it, its really all about being responsible for your actions, whether it pertains to health or other things in life.

    I was born and raised in the Philippines and everyone I know is skinny. I think its a combination of genes, lots of walking around, less processed food and societal expectations. You gain 5 or 10 lbs. and people will tell you to your face that “you’re fat.” Seriously.

    I came to the US about 3 years ago and gained about 15 lbs. or so and when I went back home for the first time, guess what my relatives said. I’m small by American standards but it doesn’t matter, when I talk to my mom on the phone now, via long distance, she would always remind me to exercise and eat healthy. My friend from South Korea told me the same thing, that she can never be too skinny in her family. Now I’m not speaking for the rest of the Asian population, but I do know that when I was in grad school in Southern California they did a study about weight gain among international students and a whooping 80-something percent said that they did.

    Of course, as some of you have noted, obesity is not just seen in America but in other countries as well. I read somewhere that the number of obese people in China has doubled in the past 3 years. And even in the Philippines, when I went back to visit my family last summer, I noticed that although majority of the people are still skinny, there are also ones that are overweight – and this is something that I rarely saw before.

  26. A
    07.26.2007

    I think that the publication and press attention on a study like this only serves to futher marginalise people who are obese. I have been ‘plus size’ my whole life and my issues with food are my issues. I eat when I am not hungry, I eat to feel in control, you name it, I have an excuse for it.

    I have large friends and I have skinny friends, but I do not hang out with people who don’t like to eat as I don’t want the boredom of discussing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food all the time.

    These things upset me, as I believe that it shouldn’t matter, issues with weight should be the concern of the individual, not society.

  27. Pola
    07.26.2007

    I think that the article has its point. it’s true: when people around you don’t care about their weight & appearence you might not feel the need to, either. I think it depends on: your own body, the education you was given regarding food/appearence/health, where you live. That said, it’s true that unhealthy food is cheaper than healthy one. If you just think about fruit, a lot of vitamins get lost when you freeze/cook the food, and preservatives ruins most of the healthy food. Another thing is how your family took the food issue. I have seen mammas filling their children mouth with parmigiana at 4 PM at the beach. This is wrong, and parents are the first responsible for their children health. Another thing, when I have to look for clothes in Italy i feel like a giant whale and this puts me either in stress and on a diet. If i can find clothes in size 20, then I am not worried about gaining weight. If people around me are overweight or even obese, then I don’t feel like a fat ugly girl and I sense I will be able to be liked my some men anyway. Beside, living in Italy all focues on the appearence is somewhat a second job. Looking for nice clothes, that fit you best, always counting calories and feeling guilty because you ate too much last week.

  28. Italiana Americana
    07.26.2007

    I don’t know,I think it has alot to do with the enviornment americans live in that makes them gain weight. Unless you live in a city you probably don’t walk too much since everything is so far away! secondly they process a lot of american food and use preservatives. In italy everything is fresh! Not genetically engineered. I’m not sure but I’d like to look at the cancer statistics in italy vs america. I bet less people have cancer in italy not because its a smaller country but the food is purer. πŸ™‚

  29. Sparky Duck
    07.27.2007

    Its more the way foods are made, the portions that are served and our own laziness as opposed to what jimmy and suzy are doing next door.

  30. Tina
    07.27.2007

    I think that obesity is a symptom of not taking care of oneself, which can be from anything – depression, childhood conditioning, anything.
    The bottom line however is that none of these are EXCUSES. WE are the only people responsible for our bodies.

    In my own experience, 5 years ago I spent the better part of a year in Switzerland. I came back really skinny. I did not try to lose weight, it just happened. That’s it. But my best friend, who had gained weight, was very angry at me for this and said very hurtful things to me (“you’re anorexic”, “you’re an ugly stack of bones” stuff like that). Her words and actions towards me were so negative that I would overeat in front of her just to prove that I wasn’t starving myself. I ended up feeling that THAT was an eating disorder, and I ended up gaining 10 pounds. I looked great with the 10 pounds and really didn’t mind, but it was a real emotional rollercoaster. I now look back and wish I’d treated my body better instead of listening to her. (The friend has since changed and grown a lot, and really is a wonderful, amazing woman and friend today)

    Regardless of what my friends do, regardless of the media, regardless of my Tuscan family feeding me until I can no longer take it, I am the boss of my body.
    I think that truly loving and accepting your body means eating nutritious food, exercising, savoring the little things in life, not beating yourself up over a steak, ignoring the media, and not doing things to mutilate yourself.

    Since moving back to the States I am totally shocked by the amount of obesity here, and how readily accepted it is. On the flipside, you should see the anorexia epidemic in Argentina.
    We are all responsible for loving our bodies.

    My very slim Tango teacher, upon seeing me fret over eating some papas fritas a few years ago, said words I’ll never forget: “Tina, I think you should relax and enjoy the life.” (yes, she said the. English is not her first language).

    Oh, another thing (can you tell I love this subject?):
    A lot of people use the excuse that healthy food is more expensive than junk food, but guess what folks – cheap is expensive in the long run. And it’s a myth that healthy food is expensive. How much does an onion cost? A can of tomatos? Some dry pasta? Not much at all. We CAN eat healthy but we have to stop making excuses.

  31. Tina
    07.27.2007

    I should add that when I say “cheap is expensive in the long run”, I mean that when we think we’re saving money by eating junk, we’re really just setting ourselves up for expensive hospital bills in the future when we have diabetes and heart disease.

    The French (the slim ones at least), I’ve heard, spend a much larger portion of their income on food than Americans do.

    It’s a question of priority.

    Ok I’m done. great topic!!!

  32. KC
    07.27.2007

    I think that the idea that people who spend a considerable amount of time together will have similar lifestyles is fairly logical, so I’m not really surprised by some of the points the study makes.

    I’ve been thinking about weight a lot because of the situation I’m in, i.e. pregnant in Italy. But even before that I’d been thinking often about things like body image and shape because of the difficulty I have finding suitable clothing here as a medium-sized American woman.

    I was very thin as a child and adolescent despite the horrendous diet we had. My father was a single dad and doing his best- much like michellenea’s mom, I think.

    I started gaining weight as an adult, when I went to college and began to eat more healthy foods. I’ve never been overweight, but for the last year (since I’ve moved to Italy, I’ve been at the upper limit of the (U.S.) recommended weight for my height. So I’m not thin. Before I became pregnant I didn’t think about my weight, and I ate whatever I wanted, though I avoided fast food, junk food, and processed foods, because I think they are unhealthy. At my pre-pregnancy weight, I felt better and healthier than ever before. The bloodwork and tests I had before conceiving confirm that I am very healthy.

    So I go for a visit to my obgyn who tells me I can’t gain very much weight because I am fat. Not overweight, not slightly overweight, not at the upper limit of what’s acceptable, but FAT. (I’m 5ft 7in, 1,70m and I wore a size 8 before getting pregnant.) I didn’t weigh myself before getting pregnant, so I’m not sure but the most I’ve gained in 17 weeks is 3.5 lbs. There are American doctors who’d be worried about that. For my doctor it means I need to reduce the amount I’m eating. This doctor’s attitude towards weight is not unusual here. We bought a scale here that computes BMI. The manual lists 14 as an excellent BMI for women of my age range (18-39.) That’s actually anorexic. WTF? Is this any healthier than American habits and attitudes? Personally, I think it’s worse.

    I think that true obesity is caused by various complex factors, but I think that poor diet and personal responsibility play important roles. As a newly fat person (having done nothing to earn that descriptor, except having moved several thousand km east of where I used to live,) I think that the focus should really be on health and not on size, which I feel figures too much in most discussions about weight (and is too miseleading!)

    And I know that the U.S. is easy target for criticism, and rightly so, but people should remember what one of the alternatives could be (one that has even been held up as a shining example): a country where a pregnant woman of healthy size who has made healthy food choices all along is made to feel guilty for eating. Is that what we want?

    Sorry this is sooooo long. It’s the middle of the night and I’m suffering from pregnancy insomnia!

  33. Aimee
    07.27.2007

    that sounds silly if you ask me. people you live with can certainly affect your eating habits for good or bad, but it’s still your hand that puts the food into your mouth.

    i’m with you, people need to take it on themselves to make positive changes (or not), but to know that it truly is up to them if they want to be healthy.

  34. Cordia Amant
    07.27.2007

    I completely agree with you. People need to take responsibility for themselves and stop blaming other people. You have a very healthy attitute about food, which is something I’m trying to adopt in my life. I want to feel healthy, not just be skinny. And only by changing my habits can I accomplish that. Great post.

  35. Kathy
    07.27.2007

    Interesting topic!

    I definitely believe that friends/family can influence our eating habits, but ultimately it’s an individual choice.

    I was always very thin until my father died, and now I’m trying to lose those remaining 30 pounds (I gained somewhere between 50-60 pounds!). Slowly but surely, I’m getting there!

    One thing I have noticed is that when somebody offers me something unhealthy and I say no, they will often push me to take it, and then make comments or give me strange looks about not taking it. But it’s up to me to take care of my own body!

    Also, my husband will eat horribly if left on his own. Even his trainer commented that as long as I’m preparing the food, he eats healthy. So I suppose I have some influence over him, at least in a good way!

  36. Terra
    07.27.2007

    I am in complete agreement with you, I have fat, chunky, average, and thin friends. While I do understand the want to eat chocolate cake if your bf is, I don’t think that causes it.

    The difference seems to be that the less active the person is the bigger they are. (There is one friend that is the exception to this, and she just has a larger build. However, I don’t see her as fat. She is a little bigger than average, but she looks good and healthy that way!)

  37. BillyWarhol
    07.27.2007

    i think i need a Drink!!

    ;))

  38. Kataroma
    07.27.2007

    kc- what you say about your Italian doctor saying you are “fat” and putting you on a diet while pregnant is extremely f—ed up IMO.

    To me there is nothing sadder than not being able to take pleasure in food because you are forever counting calories and feeling guilty. I wonder if a lot of Italians do this? I know at my former office (almost all women) 3 of the Italian women I worked with were constantly on diets and always observing what others ate (they were forever eating just salad for lunch and followed things like the south beach diet). But I figure there are people like this everywhere.

    I think removing both guilt and it’s opposite – emotional/comfort eating -are the secret to a) being sane about food and b) staying at a healthy (for you) weight. I remember as a teenager I used to feel guilty about eating “bad” food – once I stopped feeling guilty I automatically became healthier. Now I eat as much as I want whenever I’m hungry and I’m much happier. πŸ™‚

  39. Enza
    07.27.2007

    I haven’t been around in a while but i hope i can still give my two cents. I also get tired of people not accepting the resposibility for their own bad habits and the consequences that occur as a result.

    I have been overweight since i can remember. I am Italian and food was a way of life but in the end especially now as an adult I could have changed the way i eat and exercise and look at food.

    I do however have to say that even at about 30 pounds overweight, i am mostly satisified with myself and am actually much healthier than most of my 40 something year old friends. I don’t have high cholesteral or high blood pressure, I don’t get winded going up and down stairs and i don’t need to nap for a few hours in the afternoon or struggle to wake up at noon because I am way too tired to function.

    I also have to say I can’t stand women who are obsessive over their weight and that it takes over their every fiber. All they ever talk about is how fat they are or what they can eat today or what the scale reads….UGH!!! there is more to life than size 6 jeans! i avoid those women because it’s those influences i don’t need in my life.

    Thanks Sognatrice for this thought provoking entry in your blog. Most days I just walk around with “mommy mush brain” and enjoy reading adult comments and trying to come up with something adult in ressponse πŸ™‚

  40. J.Doe
    07.27.2007

    I agree with the study that if the people you hang out with are fat then you will more likely be too.
    I don’t think it’s the government’s responsibility to put a stop to it. after all, skinny people enjoy donuts and fast food too so taxing those foods is not the answer.
    There needs to be more personal concern about obesity and less acceptance or trying to accomodate obese people. It really affects people negatively healthwise. I work at a doctors office where the doctor won’t even tell 300 pound young women with health problems that they are fat and need to shed pounds. that annoys me. Doctors should really tell people they are fat, and not be so concerned about their feelings. They tell smokers with lung cancer to stop smoking, so why not tell obese people they are fat?

  41. Christine
    07.27.2007

    I’m not really going to answer the question, because that involves too much thinking and I am fried.

    I am also a “bigger girl” and can tell you that I weighed more in high school because I ate more then. Sure going out to eat all the time with friends didn’t help. But I also wasn’t drinking or doing drugs that a lot of other high school students were doing. Also it has always been a point of pride to eat until about ready to explode on holidays…but I weigh more partially because I’ll never be a twig because my body doesn’t work that way, partially because I don’t exercise as much as I could or perhaps should, and because I like to eat. You have to be responsible for yourself. Now that the bar is over, the boyfriend and I have decided that it is time to get back on our healthy kick. A month and a half of baked mac & cheese, while delicious, does not do a body good.

    Oh and my doctor wanted to put me on a diet at about 6 months old and my mom refused. I was breastfed. And that was that.

  42. sognatrice
    07.27.2007

    Michelle, I definitely agree on portion sizes being a big difference–I’m sure many Americans come to Europe and think they’re getting completely ripped off on meals! And yes, in Italy, food is love, and I think that’s a big part of why so many kids get the crap that Kataroma talked about–those are the “in” foods, and to show your kids you love them, you have to give them those freaking Kinder snacks. Blech. The occasional chicken strip and fries for my kid wouldn’t be a problem for me personally, but it’s that day-in-day-out routine that you talked about that I could never buy into. Oh, and, btw, I love your sappy pregnant state πŸ™‚

    Jennie, no need to worry about offending I don’t think–you make great points. I had no idea that this study was on the Today Show; I was so timely and I had no idea! Anyway, as you probably guessed, I tend to agree on the personal responsibility thing.

    Ally, excellent take and advice on the subject. It really does just come down to saying no, doesn’t it?

    Cowgirl, I hear you. Peer pressure is a nasty thing but at some point I think we just need to take control of ourselves and are issues (and we all have them) and do what’s best for us.

    Paolo, yes, a male opinion! Thanks for sharing your experience and letting us chicks know that it’s not just our problem. I think your mate can *definitely* affect how you eat, for better or worse, so it’s great to work together on something like this. As for the drug abuse connection, you make an excellent point–and I can’t help but think about the broader desire for instant gratification that Italians, in particular, don’t seem to have. I mean, how can they while living in the most inefficient country in the world? You’d think they’d all have high blood pressure and stress out the wazoo, and yet…nope…just wine and naps. Obviously that’s an exaggeration, but I hope you see a kernel of what I’m trying to say.

    Odessa, I think Pola touches on this a little bit in her comment about Italian society–here, too, people aren’t shy about saying you’ve gained/lost weight, and then telling you if you look good/bad because of it. This kind of peer pressure to be thin is yet another bad aspect of focusing on weight–it truly goes both ways.

    Does anyone know or can find stats on eating disorders in different countries? It’d be interesting to see a comparison.

    A, thanks so much for your comment. I definitely agree that someone’s weight/health is his/her own business; that said, I think it’s useful to discuss the causes of societal problems from an objective standpoint as well. Sure, everyone has different issues for why they are over/underweight, but they are often quite similar, and I think if just a few people can look at someone else and say “Hey, I hear you!” that maybe that will help.

    Being obese is dangerous, especially when obese parents are teaching their children the same eating habits and/or passing along the same emotional problems–I *do* think this is a question for society as any issue concerning the welfare of children is.

    Moreover, as Michelle pointed out above, some obese people/children don’t have health insurance, and then it most certainly becomes a societal issue as society ends up paying, literally, for medical care.

    Pola, I’m so glad you commented with an Italian perspective–there are just as many issues here, but it seems that being obese is *so* unaccepted. Like you said, where it feels normal, you’re more likely to feel normal–human nature. Too much of either extreme isn’t good, so how can we find a balance where young people aren’t either starving themselves or eating too much unhealthy food and creating health problems for themselves? Boh.

    Italiana, I’d like to see some cancer stats too–including those on skin cancer now that it’s beach season πŸ˜‰

    Sparky, I tend to agree. We do gravitate toward people who are similar, sure, but we eat a lot more meals on our own (and with a mate or roomate), I would think, than with a group of friends–and did you notice that neighbors in particular didn’t make any difference in what we eat? I found that funny since my neighbors give me so darn much food (of course they’re mostly slim anyway)!

    Tina, ah, I’ve had a similar experience, although I won’t give any more identifying details; I wasn’t even down to a normal weight at the time–still overweight by all indications–and I still got hated on, if you will. Hello? Just because I’m making better choices for me doesn’t mean you have to dog me about it or even do it yourself; I’m very careful not to tell anyone what they should and shouldn’t be eating b/c it’s annoying–I wouldn’t want anyone doing it to me πŸ™‚

    And you’re right about health care as well; sometimes we need to look at the bigger picture not only healthwise, but also financially.

    PRIORITY is a great word. And why don’t we all make ourselves/our health our first priority? I don’t know. It’s an ongoing struggle for me as well. *sigh*

    KC, OK, let’s just say this–Italian doctors are crazy when it comes to regulating pregnant women’s weight. Yes I’m making a huge generalization, but everything I’ve read from expats in Italy just show how differently they think (about more than just weight gain!). To tell a pregnant woman she should be on a diet is just insane. Mah. I definitely *don’t* look forward to that part of being pregnant here, if I’m so lucky, as I’m sure to be considered “piena.”

    I can’t believe that about the BMI scale! They are excessive here–I just had a mini-shopping trip today to confirm it. When I’m looking at an XL-XXL and it looks like I’d fit in my right arm, well….

    Anyway, I do hope you’re sleeping better (or that you’ll come back and comment some more if you can’t sleep again)!

    Aimee, thanks for your input. I thought the most amazing part was that the study showed that it didn’t matter if the friends physically saw each other–I mean, I get that you’d go out to the same places, eat the same kinds of food, etc., but when you’re not even on the same coast? That surprised me.

    Cordia, believe me, my attitude wasn’t always so healthy, and it still isn’t perfect. If I could more easily access fast food, I’m damn sure I’d be eating it more often–this is why I think there’s something fundamentally wrong in America where eating poorly is just too easy…and cheap!

    McDonald’s is relatively close enough that I could go more often, but in 4 years, I’ve gone three times. I just got out of that mindset after a while; I don’t really know how to explain it.

    Kathy, hah! I’m with you on this one–try turning down something in Italy. People think you’re crazy! Of course they are stick figures and can apparently eat whatever they want–do they not understand that I have to work at it? Sheesh! Glad you keep your husband on the wagon, so to speak πŸ˜‰

    Terra, there’s definitely something to the level of activity–absolutely. I’ve noticed that whenever I’ve increased physical activity, even without changing what I’m eating, I’ve lost weight…it’s just to get motivated to get up and go! Thank goodness I have Luna πŸ™‚

    Billywarhol, so, are you think margarita? Cherrye at My Bella Vita makes a mean one (she tells me) πŸ˜‰

    Kataroma, agreed. There shouldn’t be guilt involved in eating ever (Tina touched on this as well). I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s ridiculous–especially for a pregnant woman. Crazy!

    Enza, brava! I love everything about this comment. One can actually be “overweight” and healthier than thin people–I know a few women who are now having trouble with bone density…why? Because they were borderline anorexic for most of their lives but not enough so that you’d think they were sick. Clever, but now they’re suffering. It’s important to feel good about yourself and be healthy, and if those two things come at the same time, I’d say you’re doing pretty good πŸ™‚

    JDoe, hmm, I don’t know if making life less accommodating for overweight people will really help (Has banning smoking in public places stopped people from smoking? Anyone have stats on this?), but I do agree that it’s a shame that doctors aren’t straight with their patients about the health risks of being overweight. Yeah, nobody wants to hear it, but it does need to be clear. About taxes, I wouldn’t be interested in taxing consumers so much as the people that make the crap–make it harder for them to poison America, kind of like what’s gone on with tobacco companies. A lot of people thought that lawsuit against McD’s a few years ago (a child suing them b/c he’s obese) was a joke, but when you see that people have won against tobacco cos, I’m not sure that it’s so far-fetched. Not saying I’d encourage it, but it is an interesting comparison.

    Christine, first, congrats on finishing Hell, er, the bar exam! You’ve basically described why I’ve never been thin either–a combination of things, some in my control, some not (my bone structure is just not going to permit a size 0 even if I am only 5’2″). Anyway, glad to hear you’ll be doing more than mac and cheese, as tasty as that is πŸ™‚

    My mom couldn’t breastfeed, I don’t think, so they put me on juices instead of formula. Rotted my teeth from all the sugar and I still have weak teeth today. And weight issues. Thanks docs!

    Now, if anyone cares about my thoughts on losing weight and generally being healthier, here they are:

    It’s easier than you think. Your body really will stop craving the crap if you stop eating it. I know, I know–I never believed that either. It’s not something that’s a one day, one week, even one month process…but you will find that after a few months of eating healthier (and I’m NOT talking about dieting, which I am vehemently against) that one or two of the things you formerly loved will be enough.

    I say I’m against dieting and I mean it. If you want to start eating healthier, do it as a lifestyle change. No, the weight won’t fly off, but it’ll stay off and you won’t feel deprived along the way. Everyone already eats some good stuff, right? Eat more of that and less of the crap–and move more. And if you crack? So what! Tomorrow’s another day. As the Italians say, piano piano. Slowly, slowly. It’s the best way to go about losing weight and generally being healthier, IMHO.

    You can do it, and you’re worth it.

  43. A
    07.27.2007

    You are incredibly dedicated! All those replies!

    I just wanted to add that pressure on the medical resources of a country cannot be used as an excuse to judge the people who are obese…otherwise we would have to condemn and judge smokers, people who use sunbeds and are more likely to contract cancer, parents who do not spend time reading with their kids who then need extra help at school…either we are free to choose our own paths or we are not…

    I think that your debate has shown all sides and it has been very interesting. In the end studies like these only serve to tell me that I am selfish for overeating and weak for not being able to control it. My issues are much more complex than that.

    Thank you so much for putting this on your blog…I am done ranting now I promise!!:))

  44. SabineM
    07.27.2007

    I would like to start this comment with this: I LIVE IN CALIFORNIA AND I LOVE FOOD!!! And I also love good wine! πŸ˜‰
    This has been a great topic and I loved reading everyone’s comments. There is an obsession with food here and at times I don’t even know what to eat anymore. But I agree with nyc/caribbean ragazza, I don’t waste time on places with quantity being the main attraction. I also eat a balanced meal, no sodas, no fast food (I didn’t grow up on it, so I don’t miss it). The problem with the USA, is PORTIONS, people choose to eat out instead of cook at home (and that means more salt, more ft, bigger portions)etc. We also have HUGE PLATES, so now I eat on my dessert plate (which is more European size).
    As for friends being an influence. Yes I think so. But both good and bad influences. And we can’t blame our friends for what we are unhappy for–I agree with Jessica in Rome, is it more about being a natural follower or something else?
    My problem is I love Cheese. I am Swiss (living in Southern California) and like a Vampire needs blood to survive, I NEED CHEESE! That is MY JUNK!
    I want to end this comment with this; PORTION CONTROL and TAKING TIME TO EAT (we don’t take time to enjoy our food here in the US)
    Thanks Sognatrice for this great topic!

  45. sognatrice
    07.27.2007

    A, I don’t consider that ranting at all–thanks for coming back πŸ™‚

    Actually I don’t think talking about the roots of obesity (or depression, cancer, etc.) is judging people, but I can imagine how some could take it that way because there are certainly implicit judgments in some of our assessments. I think education about all of the issues you mentioned is the most important thing–and that’s where I would hope the government would spend money.

    As JDoe said, a doctor needs to be honest with his/her patient about health risks, but at the same time, for the most part overweight people know they’re overweight; I’d be more concerned with a doctor not making clear just how risky it is to carry extra pounds, especially around the middle as that’s been linked to heart disease. I actually think a holistic approach to obesity would be best, addressing all factors that go into it–on an individual basis is best but where one individual doesn’t feel comfortable talking/dealing with his/her issues, I think a public discourse can be helpful.

    I actually agree with you on the value of the study (I think it was a huge waste of money) although I didn’t get that it means that I’m selfish or weak for overeating (which, incidentally, I still do on occasion). From a negative perspective, I can see it as telling me I’m fat because my friends make me that way, but the positive thing I think we can get from it is that if I want to be healthier, I need to stop hanging around bad influences–kind of like how smokers being around smokers isn’t going to help them quit–or at the very least feel confident enough to make my own choices for my own body not based on what others think is right (for better or worse!).

    Everyone’s issues go deeper than peer pressure–but I hope that this article, post, etc., got people thinking more about *those* issues, because to me, those are what’s really important and not if your friends are fat.

    And I sincerely hope that anyone who is unhappy with the current state of his/her health takes steps to improve it πŸ™‚

    SabineM, thanks for commenting! I think you offer great advice–and you’re so right about the plate size! I’m just thinking back to some of the restaurant plates I’ve eaten from in America, and they would be serving platters here.

    Oh, and I’m a cheese freak too; could never give it up no matter how fattening it is. Luckily I just don’t think about it anymore and simply enjoy it (there’s that lack of guilt thing again) πŸ™‚

  46. qualcosa di bello
    07.28.2007

    bravo for your comment regarding the acceptance of responsibility for our own bodies & our own actions!

    25 pounds ago I was on my way to some big health issues. that may not seem like a lot of weight, but for a shorty like me it was not so good both in terms of how it looked and how it was taxing my health.

    it had to go, but i will say that the reactions of some folks around me was unsettling to say the least. ironincally, i thought my willpower would be the biggest hurdle to overcome. turns out it was the rash of sabotage that made the weight loss hard. i had to continuously remind myself that the lessening of my bad symptoms was much more important than making those who were overweight comfortable by my continued excess poundage.

    after awhile and with my body giving me lots of happy feedback about my better choices, i just stopped paying attention to the snide remarks.

    i will admit that i have occasionally resorted to some snide retaliation…something along the lines of “i won’t intimidate you into eating some of my 9 grain bread if you could drop the guilt trip about my turning down an Oreo.”

  47. Frances
    07.28.2007

    I am a card carrying BBW. Everyone in the household I grew up was significantly overweight. When I was about 17 I lost a good deal of weight, and kept if off for a few years.
    I can’t say I was significantly happier thinner; certain things in life are a whole easier – like shopping.
    One thing I had to be careful of at the time was eating out with friends. Some of my friends could eat endlessly and gain nothing, and they like their friends to eat along with them. And forget about the friends who liked to go out for drinks – I had to stick Diet Coke or else.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Frances

  48. Sally
    07.28.2007

    Hello Sognatrice,

    When I first read this article, I really didn’t agree with the “study”. Where would this lead people? Should overweight people be shunned because the very act of being in their presence alone could make one fat?

    While overweight, I am not morbidly obese. I have more thin friends and have had morbidly obese friends. You bring what you are to friendship, similar interests maybe at first, but friendships that last bring something more. A kindred spirit, certainly a similar outlook on life and most importantly, acceptance of each other.

    I wouldn’t want to discount someone because they are overweight because it might be catching. How cruel to add onto the burdens of someone already fighting enough demons.

    As far as being overweight being a person’s own fault, of course, we must take responsibility for ourselves. But, what about the stuff we don’t know about? The stuff like hormornes that they feed to cows and beef and chickens to make them gain weight faster? That is not under our control or even our knowledge. Or the lies put on the ingredient list? (Like no trans fats! Just something worse that hasn’t been banned yet.) Should the government be responsible for stopping this? Is this the reason that so many foreign students gain weight when they come to the US?

    And lastly, I am reading an interesting book called Shrink Yourself by Roger Gould who is a freaking observation genius, in my opinion. The book deals with the many emotional reasons that people are overweight. I saw myself several times in the stories he related. So while, many may look down upon those who cannot control their weight or what they eat, those people are in need of counseling not rejection based on false science or observation.

    And it is not all about willpower or dieting but about how food makes us feel and how we see ourselves and our struggle with our emotions.

    Well, that’s my 2 cents worth.
    (And, I really enjoy reading your blog.)

  49. sognatrice
    07.28.2007

    Qualcosa, I hate to say it, but it did seem to me that some of my overweight acquaintances (in American *and* Italy) really didn’t want me to lose weight either–as if by my eating healthier and moving more, I’m suggesting something about them. I really am a big believer in to each her own, and I can’t imagine sabotaging someone’s effort to be healthier. Some even treated me like I had an eating disorder (yes, how *could* you refuse an Oreo?), when really I’m eating normal portion sizes and trying to stay away from sweets because I know they’re my weakness.

    Anyway, you said this perfectly as reflection of my experience:

    i had to continuously remind myself that the lessening of my bad symptoms was much more important than making those who were overweight comfortable by my continued excess poundage.

    And 25 pounds does seem like a lot to me, too–both to be carrying and to lose. I’m short, so I know what a difference even 10 pounds makes.

    Also, I still could stand to lose another 10-15 pounds, but some people try to make me feel like I’m developing an eating disorder–it’s laughable to me since I’m still “overweight” based on the BMI even if I’m a heck of a lot healthier than I was a few years ago. So now my weight has now become a taboo in a different way. Mah. You can’t please everyone, eh, so you just gotta please yourself?

    Frances, as I think I’ve said somewhere in here, most of my friends were the type that could eat what they wanted and not gain weight–at least during our teens and twenties. My mom told me that she was like that too until her 40s. For me, it’s never been like that, and maybe that’s a good thing in the long run because it makes me that much more conscious of what I’m putting in my body.

    Thanks for sharing your experience; most members of my family on both sides are overweight/obese as well (one has had gastric bypass surgery), but I’m not sure whether it’s genes, lifestyle, or a nasty combo of the two (I’m guessing it’s the last one though).

    Sally, thanks so much for commenting! You’re so right–I would hope that something like this wouldn’t make people decide not to associate with overweight/obese people as they’d be missing out on a lot of wonderful opportunities.

    You’re also right to point out the stuff that’s in food that they don’t tell us about–but one could counter that if you’re buying fresh, organic products, these things are less likely to happen. And then we’re back to cost and that whole argument; funny how all this stuff is so interconnected.

    This is also another area where I think the govt could be involved–stricter controls on what is even allowed in food for human consumption.

    I’d love to read that book! Sounds fabulous, and yes, I agree that we really need to look at our relationships with food and with ourselves in order to figure out how to be healthier in that regard. I’m speaking as someone who comes from a background where food was/is love and have transplanted myself into a culture in which it is even more so. Indeed, we say things here are made with “amore” so you know there are some issues all tied up there.

    My sincerest thanks to everyone who has commented–feel free to keep it going! I’ll keep responding!

  50. american girl in italy
    07.28.2007

    I definitely think your friends and family can influence your choices, whether intentional or not. I think for so many people, weight is such an emotional, difficult issue, and if you have a heavy friend always chowing down, and encouraging you to share in the food fest, for many, the choice is hard. And I also agree that many can feel threatened if their *chow down buddy* starts to get in shape and lose weight.

    I also think that if your buddies start getting in shape and losing weight, you can either decide to join them, or you might find that you slowly change friends.

    Obviously what you put in your mouth is your choice, and how much exercise you get is your decision, but friends and family do have a huge influence, subconscience or not.

    I think people can be threatened when their buddy gains or loses. And someone struggling with emotional food issues can definitely be influenced.

    Obviously weight issues are a huge problem, look at all the overweight people. The answer sounds so simple, but yet people are still overweight.

    Your body burns fuel, we feed our bodies fuel. If we burn more then we eat, we lose weight. If we constantly eat what we burn, we maintain our weight. If we eat more then we burn, we gain weight.

    Sounds simple, right?

    So, why do we fail?
    Lack of exercise – sedentary lifestyles (as I sit here on my computer).

    Portion control – we have no idea in US what real portions are!

    Food choices – junk, crap, high in fat foods.
    And then throw in, for some people, a lifetime of food issues. A mother who thinks you are too thin, or too fat, insecurites, whatever.

    I grew up thin. I was very thin until college, and then slowly over the years, have gained weight, lost then gained. Never a ton of weight, but I have fluctuated between a 1 in high school, to a 12. My problem?

    College – partying, eating late at night, drinking. The usual.
    Working – sitting on my butt al day at a desk, dinners and lunches out in restaurants, happy hours, bagels at work, Starbucks runs. The usual.
    Now – a husband who is diabetic (type 1) who HAS to eat constantly, and eats a lot, and is THIN. So, of course, my mind thinks I can eat similar to him, and be thin. Uh..nope.

    I must say, I eat WAY healthier in Italy then I EVER did in Seattle. My problem, and yes, this is MY number one problem – lack of exercise. I KNOW that if I got off my computer more, and rode my bike, did my elliptical trainer, practiced my yoga, I could have a great body. The desire is there. The lack of effort is also there.

    So, that is my problem. I eat more then I burn. Simple, no?

    I am so greatful I was born thin, because look at how difficult it can be, when you start out thin. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for heavy children. It really is sad, it is a lifetime of problems (physically and mentally).

    When I visited SD last year, we went to Cheesecake Factory. We sat outside on the deck, it was sunny, the wind was blowing, and we were having a great time. Until I looked around and EVERY SINGLE table was full of fat people. (And I don’t say this to be mean!!) But it was SAD. Everyone, seriously, was fat. The kids, the moms, dads, everyone. One fat, fat kid was practically forcefeeding his little brother cheesecake. The smaller kid was like, NO, no!!

    I am one who believes (and maybe I sound like conspiracy theorist) but I truly believe that junk food contains addicting additives. I read an article in Marie Clair a couple years ago about an American and French woman who switched diets for two weeks. It was an enlighening article.

    And I do know that some people have weight issues that go beyond eating and exercise, I am talking about the average, overweight person who overeats.

    OH, one more thing. They always say when you go to a grocery store only hit the outer three walls. The veggies/fruit, meat and dairy are all on the outside. The inner aisles are full of the crap – cookies, prepared meals, high sugar cereals, ice cream, etc. And I agree that fast food seems cheaper, but in reality, if is the convenience, more then the price. Veggies and fruit are cheap! And you can make SO much with them. I have learned to love veggies in italy. I eat SOOOO many more then I did in Seattle.

    Now I just need to get off my butt and exercise (but it is So hot out right now…ahaha) and I try to remember, “nothing tastes as good as thin does!”

    Sorry this is super long. Perhaps I was procrastinating… ;O)

  51. Judith up the road a piece
    07.29.2007

    As an ex-anorexic I would like this whole subject to be removed from food and to activity. In olden times people ate heavier, fattier foods and much more of it but they used their bodies more.

    Food is good. You must eat. Eat well and spend more on food than you do on fads and cars and gas. Then move your body!

    I am not thin either, mostly because my face goes to hell if I diet nowadays. But I think I can be if I climb the mountain across the street everyday. Why do I have 1001 excuses not to? Mental illness, probably.

  52. sognatrice
    07.29.2007

    Sara, thanks for your thoughtful comment–again, no need to apologize for length. This issue is far from easy and, unfortunately, most of us have intimate experiences with it. I’m the “victim” of a naturally skinny OH too, although thank goodness he doesn’t have health problems with it. We do eat the same things–he just eats way more of it than I can. I certainly hope any future kids get *his* metabolism!

    You’re right, though–it does seem so simple, and yet it’s *so* not.

    Judith, I agree that the sedentary lifestyle is a huge part of the problem, but when we’re talking about fats and whatnot, we’re also talking about cholesterol, so what we eat still makes a difference. Like you said, though, we need calories to function; in many ways, I probably eat more food by volume than I used to, but it’s just in a different proportion regarding healthy and junk.

    I’m the same with exercise though. I know that I could be at my target weight in probably a month or two if I would just get off my bum and do more. And yes, I think then we’re back to the emotional/psychological issues. Mah.

    For anyone who’s still following along, I just saw another article on msnbc.com called Tip of the Week: You Are Where You Eat, which discusses the seven worst ways to eat, e.g., standing up over the sink, at work, etc.

  53. american girl in italy
    07.29.2007

    I read that article too. haha

    I thought I would let you know that today I went for a 22k bike ride. Woooo

    You know, I was never one who enjoyed exercise (heck I can’t even spell it half the time) but I might have finally found something I really enjoy doing! Biking (I have a city bike, with 21 gears) and we go on the new, wonderful bicycle path they built along the river here. You get the wind in your hair, there is always a breeze, you go fast, and you get out and see new things. I even have a basket and a bell. And we usually stop for gelato. (ok, whatever, I worked to get that gelato! haha)

    So, if you haven’t been on a bike in years (like me), I recommend giving it a try. You feel like a kid again! (I recommend buying those padded shorts though, or you will remember that you are not a kid anymore… hahaa)

    But, I got out and moved! And had fun!

  54. MB
    07.30.2007

    An interesting topic – sorry I missed the major part of it. I’ve struggled with my weight since puberty. I was skinny as a child and once puberty hit I ballooned up in a matter of weeks and have had trouble ever since. Yes, it’s frustrating for those of us who have to watch everything we put in our mouths when we go out with friends who can eat anything. I think there is much to be said for body type, but personal choice is definitely a factor.

    The number of obese children is disheartening. O and I went to the US at Christmas and he was amazed at how many obese children there were and further amazed at the amount of crappy food in the supermarket. From his few trips through, he has a terrible impression of American cuisine, basically considering it all pre-packaged junk food or “schifezze”, as he likes to call it. Healthy food, fresh vegetables, etc. is definitely easier to come by here, but I also think it has to do with the market responding to the demands of the people. In the States, everything is rush, rush, and people don’t seem to want to take the extra five minutes to chop fresh vegetables when they can open a bag full of preservatives and dump it in some hot water, or worse, drive through the drive-through for a burger and fries.

  55. Jen
    07.30.2007

    I’m not sure they needed a study on it – look at locations. When I was growing up in NYC everyone was skinny, or trying to be. I moved out to the Midwest, and things were very, very different.

    With globalization, obesity is spreading.

    But I like your attitude about learning about your body and choices and trying to be healthy.

    I’ve been heavy on and off my whole life. On, the last 15 years or so. And it’s been a struggle.

    FWIW, I think our processed foods, especially corn syrup, have something to do with all this, too.

  56. SabineM
    07.30.2007

    YES CORN SYRUP! I agree with JEN! A MAJOR problem here in the US. Isn’t it still subsidized by the government!
    I talked about this topic with my husband over a SUPER NICE Meal at a restaurant called CRAFT, in LA. hmmmm
    They even had superb cheese!

  57. Mae
    07.30.2007

    I find the idea that someone studied friends to see if they were all fat somewhat repulsive. My friends were always thinner than I was, and often thought they were fat when they weren’t. Try being a 300 pound teenager, listening to your two 140 pound best friends complain about how fat they are. That was fun.

    Everyone in my family struggles with their weight. We know there’s a genetic component, so even if we don’t live in the same house, does it matter much? Also, the bizarre relationships with food are established at such a young age… and my family has major food issues (nothing makes my grandmother happier than if someone goes on vacation and brings her back menus. Seriously.).

    Is obesity an issue? Yes. Is it as big as issue as the media wants us to believe? No way. Penn & Teller have this show on Showtime called Bullsh!t. They did an episode on this, which is probably on You Tube, and it was awesome.

    I am not saying being as fat as I am is good… obviously, it’s not. But I will argue that there isn’t nearly the problem they want us to believe, and that they don’t take into consideration things like how much a 200 pound woman might work out, vs. how much a 120 pound woman might. You can be overweight and be healthier than skinny people, just as you said in your post.

    One thing I love about living in Colorado (one of the “thinnest” states in the US, btw) is that doctors here don’t act like I’m a heart attack waiting to happen. I am treated based on my symptoms and based on what is wrong with me, rather than being judged by the number on the scale. That doesn’t mean my doctor doesn’t encourage me to lose weight… but it does mean she doesn’t try to push weight loss surgery down my throat, either. Doctors in NYC were always doing that.

    People here generally don’t make me feel like a freak… whereas back east, everyone looks at me like I’m some sort of monster, or, well… like it might just be contagious, and they’d better stay away, just in case my fat cells are looking to jump ship.

  58. born in carbondale
    07.30.2007

    Taking about possible ways in which we are all connected and how the ideas we share, or the zeitgeist we generate, might affect us individuallly and collectively does not equate to shirking personal responsibility. The “should you/could you blame your friends?” question just reflects the spin–which I might, were I a more cranky person, refer to as the crappy dumbing down–of the press coverage. The whole question of how we are each a part of a whole in ways that we perhaps haven’t yet imagined is fascinating.

    The original study report is available in the New England Journal of Medicine, here: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/357/4/370. Its conclusions aren’t novel ideas; they’ve just not previously been applied to medicine and health. If you read it, don’t neglect to read the commentary; it’s good.

    Sognitrice, the researchers did attempt to control for your chicken or egg question.

    As to the issue of weight…we’re stupid about it. (I guess I AM cranky!) We don’t allow for reasonable variance. The influence of genetic factors gets ignored (notice I didn’t say the ABSOLUTE PREDICTABLE RESULTS of genetic factors, but rather the influence).
    Obesity is one thing, but the social pressure, particularly for women, to be whatever it is that we consider ideal is another and has little or nothing to do with health. That’s part of what gets us all twisted up when we try to talk about weight. So is the fact that when we’re talking about weight we’re talking about food, with all its connotations and pleasures and necessities and guilt. And because women so often serve as our cultural artifacts, women also bear the brunt of our notions about the body and our complexes about food. Within that context, it’s difficult to discern what’s reasonable and what’s not. If it were simply a question of health, most of us wouldn’t be as interested as we are. And this story wouldn’t have gotten the play it did.

    All that being said…what IS going on in America?!? It’s clear obesity (not just a little more weight than one might want, but morbid obesity) is on the rise: http://www.cortland.edu/esss/biomechanics/review%20of%20exercise-4.ppt#289,2,Slide 2. Like most of you suggested, there’s no one single cause. We eat too much of the wrong things. We don’t move enough. We have an unhealthy relationship with the pleasures of eating–we don’t, as someone said earlier, seem to be able to relax and ‘enjoy the life’ (consistent overeating usually doesn’t coexist with a relaxed frame of mind). And it may be true that government policies share part of the blame–ever compared what we offer in our school lunches versus what is offered in, say, France? Did you notice where the subsidies in the recently passed farm bill are going and what type of agribusiness that helps support and how that in turn might translate to how we eat? Have you read about the correlation between the use of high fructose corn syrup and the obesity epidemic in Pollen’s book or, for example, in this interview of a specialist in pediatric endocrinology? http://www.abc.net.au/rn/healthreport/stories/2007/1969924.htm.

    Whoops. Too much chat, not enough work. I’ll have to leave this for now.

  59. sognatrice
    07.31.2007

    Sara, good for you! For me, at least, it’s important that I keep trying different ways of “moving” because I get bored easily–the only one that’s stuck has been yoga, and I just love it, but I know many people don’t/can’t do it. The trick is to find something you actually enjoy and look forward to doing, I suppose, although I can’t imagine ever really *wanting* to exercise every day. Just not me unfortunately.

    MB, I completely agree about the problem of obesity in children–to me that’s the real issue. Adults can make their own decisions based on knowledge and information but children really don’t have that same opportunity. Health risks are great and are the most important problem that can arise, but so is teasing from other kids–that’s certainly not a fun road to go down (as many of the parents obese children well know).

    Jen, Sabine, I haven’t read too much on corn syrup, but you do have me curious. Sounds like just as likely a culprit to me as any, though, from the little I do know. So much blame, there’s plenty to go around πŸ™

    Mae, I’m so happy that you’ve been able to find a place and a doctor that doesn’t make you feel like a freak, as you say–that is certainly not the way to get people to change their eating/exercising habits. I just talked with a friend about how many dentists are fond of scare tactics and condescending remarks that don’t make going to the dentist any easier–same with doctors, it seems, from what you say.

    Anyway, I agree that the focus of this entire discussion needs to be on being healthy, which leads us to Born in Carbondale….

    BIC, I have to disagree with the idea that this study couldn’t be used by some as yet another excuse to remain obese–or, on the flip side, to drop their obese friends because they’re making them fat (allegedly).

    For example, a lot of people *do* have genetic dispositions for being overweight, but I think there are also a good-sized group of people who use that as an excuse as well–myself included until a few years ago. Since most of my family is overweight, I would tell myself that I just wasn’t meant to be thin, and to a certain extent that’s true as I can see my bones aren’t slight and they need some meat to keep them up.

    But cheesesteaks, pizza, fatty salad dressings, and spinach and artichoke dip really weren’t helping either.

    So in that sense, I think that publicizing a study like this really does more harm than good–it tells us something we already know as you said (it’s common sense that we hang out with people like us), but is presented in such a way so as to put up one more reason why people are obese.

    I think if taken, as you suggest, as an exploration of our relationships, it’s a valid social experiment–otherwise it’s irresponsible, and, I agree, a crappy dumbing down of the study, but you know what? It’s what we have and it’s sparked discussion, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    On the other hand, perhaps the idea that national media should just stay out of science journals is the moral of this story.

  60. Sara
    07.31.2007

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to get to this. I have, as you know, been occupied with silliness elsewhere.

    I think calling obesity “contagious” is sensationalistic and gratuitously inflammatory, and I am not at all surprised that MSNBC would resort to that type of rhetoric. The thing is, however, we do mimic each other’s behavior. As others here have mentioned, we mimic each other’s good behavior as well as each other’s bad behavior. It’s just part of being human.

    You are right. We must accept responsibility for our own behavior. As a result, I do not accept total responsibility, for example, for other people bingeing on any cookie or cake or pie recipe I post on my blog. However, I do accept responsibility for the fact that how I interact with other people has some effect on them. I understand that what I say and do, what I so much as suggest, can both positively and negatively impact others, even if I’m not holding a gun to anybody’s head saying, “Eat, dammit!” or, worse, “Don’t you like what I made for you? I slaved for hours over a hot stove, only because I wanted to please you,” or, worst of all, “Oh, GOD this is good. Too bad you can’t have any.”

    As a not skinny person who has never fit medical standards even when I was low-level fashion modeling as a teenager, and as a cancer patient who’s statistically not supposed to be alive as of, oh, 20+ years ago, I tend to look askance at numbers like the BMI. Not entirely, just a little. Fitness isn’t about fitting an iconic image or a specific number; it’s about being able to live the life you want to live with the real body you have. Plump is not obese. Visible ribs are not necessarily a sign of health, though they are not necessarily a sign of ill health, either. Can you go up a flight of stairs without keeling over? Do you have the strength to lift something heavier than your cellphone? Do you get sick a lot? Do you have the strength to fight illness when you do get sick? Will you be alive for your daughter’s wedding and not dead of a heart attack or stroke caused by bad nutrition and not enough exercise (not the only ways to get these things)? Will you be able to carry your dog to the vet if s/he gets hurt? These are things that matter, not whether you fit a particular size jeans or look good in a photograph.

    However, though I am not above telling people if I think they are going the way of the crackpot, I respect other people’s goals for their own lives. I share nutritional information which I have obtained from credible sources. I warn people when I post an unhealthful recipe, try to tell them ways to make it less unhealthful, and advise practices that prevent bingeing, like sharing, like not making more than you can safely enjoy and, when you have no way of cutting a recipe, distributing what you make that’s fun but naughty outward so everyone can have a little but nobody has the opportunity to gorge. I make jokes about my true love “making” me do this, and some of this has been his idea, but really, it’s better.

    If I have a friend who’s trying to change her eating habits, I will not meet her around food. We will go for a walk or to a museum, or some other not-food-centered event. If food comes up, like if we get healthily hungry not just mouth-bored or idea-of-hunger-piqued by the presence of a cooking smell or an obvious fast food joint, I will encourage and support her or him in making healthy choices. Without making a big deal about it, I’ll watch my own choices in his or her presence. I won’t order cake if s/he’s just been diagnosed a diabetic, for example. I will have lots of opportunities to eat cake with other people, and there will be events we both attend that will have cake where his or her willpower will have been built and informed by prior experience. I can be part of this person’s record of strength, or I can undermine it. I know and accept this. I strongly feel that this is part of what it is to really love someone, and also part of what it is to be an adult.

    You didn’t want to hear about other drugs, but I just have to tell this one story. My uncle never quit smoking even after my aunt lost a lung to smoking-related cancer. He was too selfish. I smoked for 22 years, and I know how hard it is to quit, but it boils down to motivation. Can you be bigger than your impulses? Can you make other people more important than your own immediate gratification? Is it not possible that in doing this you yourself might also benefit and become more healthy? (Obviously — at least, I hope it’s obvious — I mean the editorial “you,” not you specifically, Sognatrice.)

    Are you really interested in being someone’s friend, or are you only interested in enabling and being enabled, in not being made to feel bad about yourself, and therefore getting permission to be chronically bad to yourself, and others? This is what it boils down to. It doesn’t boil down to avoiding fat people to get thin. It boils down to what it means to really care about the people you are with — and being able to tell whether they really care about you.

    I think thinking about this is more important than blaming or numbering. It’s taken me my whole life to get to precisely this place, but there you have it.

    ***

    By the way, and just because there has been so much talk here about processed food (and this is so ironic since I recently used that food meme to talk about all-natural/organic convenience foods), my sister came to visit for the first time in five years this weekend. In her mid-50s, she has battled weight gain her entire middle age, and only recently wrestled it to the ground. How did she do it? She knocked all prepared foods out of her diet. All of them. If she or someone else doesn’t make it from scratch right now, it doesn’t go in her mouth.

    She’s lost 30 lbs. and kept it off. She was already exercising and eating numerically healthy, if you know what I mean; none of it made a difference until she took this one, last little step. Then, BAM! It just melted off. Or so she says.

    So, yes, yay fresh foods. Always the best choice, always.

    And for the person who was comparing the price of frozen french fries to raw peaches, I would suggest that you go look at the prices of raw potatoes and frozen peaches, by weight. It could be most instructive. Thinking we have to eat either raw peaches or frozen french fries when more than just those two choices are available is also part of the problem. Teaching each other to see more is part of the solution.

  61. sognatrice
    07.31.2007

    Sara, there’s no way I can add anything useful to what you’ve just written so I won’t even try. You’ve put it perfectly, my friend, and may we all teach each other as you suggest.

    Just came across another pertinent article–this one by Star Jones Reynolds who writes of her gastric bypass surgery. I’m not a huge Star Jones Reynolds fan, but this piece is really wonderful from the perspective of someone who’s been there; although I’ve never been obese, but almost always overweight, I can identify with a lot of what she’s saying:

    I’m Ready to Open Up by Star Jones Reynolds on Glamour.com.

  62. born in carbondale
    07.31.2007

    Sognatrice, I don’t think we’re disagreeing; it’s just a matter of emphasis. I didn’t mean to say that the study couldn’t be used in the way you described; that’s exactly how most of the media coverage framed it. The coverage was, as Sara aptly characterized it, “sensationalistic and gratuitously inflammatory.” Or as I called it, using my special and highly esoteric genetics research nomenclature, “crappy.” I was trying to point to the notion that the focus of the study was not obesity per se, but network science and its possible application to issues of public health. The structure of social networks and their role in our lives is more complicated than the “is your best friend making you fat?” spin. I was put off by the spin, not, as I hope you realized, by you using the article as a takeoff point to discuss personal responsibility. BTW, the comment in the NEJM is by Barabasi, a physicist whose particular interest is network science. His book “Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else” is getting a lot of coverage.

  63. sognatrice
    07.31.2007

    BIC, yes, re-reading I saw that perhaps I wasn’t so much disagreeing at all; I do agree that network science is fascinating. I was just talking to my mom on the phone about all this, and I began to get really fired up again about how this article was presented–not, as you said, the info inside it. I suppose I, too, was sucked in by the “crap” (I like your word too!), and resent it, and that’s why I even posted this in the first place.

    And I’m so glad I did; thanks for checking back here and commenting again. I can’t express how excited I am to see how people have followed along with this discussion.

    Thanks to everyone πŸ™‚

  64. Taffiny
    08.04.2007

    I understand an effect with people you hang out with, but I don’t think I buy it, when you live far apart, certainly not more than a 5 pound influence anyway. I don’t understand how a long distance friend becoming obese could make me more prone to doing so, or visa versa.

    Like Christina, I have been influenced when out, by those I have been out with. If everyone gets dessert, everyone gets dessert (me too). And I had a very skinny best friend in college (she weighed around 100 pounds) and I went to an all you can eat buffet with her once, she ate almost nothing, so I only felt comfortable eating almost nothing as well.

    I think women do influence each other a bit, those that hang out together, either to be a bit skinnier or a bit heavier (but I mean a bit, 5 pounds tops) because you influence each others behavior. Either setting up a standard of super fit workout girl to be compared to wherever you go, or hey we are mothers now, lets relax about our weight, to be compared to.

    In the extremes mentioned in the study, I just have trouble believing it.

    I’m in the states, and I so wish fruit and veg were cheaper. I love white flesh nectarines, and watermelon, and avocados, et cetera, and it is all so expensive. And if you get a bad one (I have had plenty of bad avocados lately) well then you are just out of the money. Hot dogs and twinkies are much cheaper. I don’t know why fruit and veg are not subsidized. If the government and health care industry really believe eating more of them would stem off millions of people getting sick and needing more health care later, you would think they would do it.

    I am often surprised at what the schools consider to be healty meals. I have such a hard time getting my son to eat any fruit and veg at all. Should I force him? I did once and he threw it up, right onto his plate.

    Personally I do struggle with weight. I know how to be in good shape, eat a set amount and work out- but then that becomes my whole life, all my energy is focused on that (counting calores, countng miles on a treadmill, numbers on a scale). I want to be more relaxed and balanced. So I work out off and on, try to do more real walking, and yard work, and…since my trouble is I don’t often feel full after a normal amount of food, I have developed the bad habit, of eating fruit for breakfast (I feel the same as I would if I ate cereal, or pancakes, eggs and bacon. I wouldn’t feel fuller at that time or less hungry for the day if I ate more) and then eating a late lunch/early supper ( one meal but has the calories of two, so I feel full) then I top it off with a dessert of sorts (sometimes healthy sometimes not) then I am done for the day. It could be 5pm at this point, or it could even be 1:30 pm. Whenever I try to break the meals into two, I over-eat. And if I eat more than fruit for breakfast, then I just can’t seem to stop eating. Sometimes I think this style works well for me, and sometimes I feel so stuffed and sick afterward I think I really need to find a better way of eating. (I know 6 mini-meals are often recommended, no one recommends eating one great big meal. But seriously I don’t know how people manage this)

    kc,
    yes, 14 BMI isn’t healthy, yikes!

    I have weight issues, I have them when I am over-weight, I have them when I am becoming under-weight, I have them when I am at an “ideal” weight.
    More than anything else, it is the weight/food issues themselves I would like to lose. And just eat real food.

    I’m currently reading Real Food, by Nina Planck. I don’t know if I agree with it or not, as I am only on page 50. But I find it interesting. I do think there is something to eating mostly real food, instead of pre-packaged stuff. And I know that milk from grass fed cows does taste better (from personal experience) than those fed grains. But I am afraid of raw milk so I doubt I will be special ordering any of that. Hopefully I will get some ideas and insights that will help me in forming my own ideas about healthy eating for my family.

  65. sognatrice
    08.04.2007

    Taffiny, thanks so much for weighing in (hah!); I think the most important thing any of us can do is to make eating healthier and moving more just a natural part of the day–forget counting calories (whether you’re eating them or burning them) and just do what you just know is the better choice. Things like you mentioned–walking more and eating “real food” (book sounds great!). Every little bit of effort helps πŸ™‚

    I’d also like to point out here that I just came across two posts on this on another site called Lively Women by Kristen King, showing that I wasn’t the only one who found this study’s findings a bit questionable:

    More Obesity News: Obesity Spreads Through Social Networks and
    Study Calling Obesity ‘Socially Contagious’ Criticized.

    And the debate continues….

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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Recipes

 

Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake