Tag Archives: weight loss

[Never Say Diet] Do Women Need (To Be) Fat?

Why Women Need Fat Gaulin Lassek

The main thesis behind Why Women Need Fat (out this month from William Lassek, MD and Steven Gaulin, PhD of the University of Pittsburgh) is super fascinating and builds nicely on the Fat Trap business we were talking about yesterday: Your body fights weight loss tooth and nail because evolution has found fat to be quite handy in a survival of the species sort of way. So I went ahead and blogged about all of that on Never Say Diet.

But, full disclosure: I haven’t read the book yet. I’m still waiting to get a copy into my hot little hands, so I had to restrict my analysis to the unfortunate, red flag-waving subtitle (How “Healthy” Food Makes Us Gain Weight and the Surprising Solution to Losing It Forever — oh boy!) and, more encouragingly, the way Dr. Gaulin describes their research in this Salon.com interview.

So I’ll be back with a more in-depth post about the book itself once I, you know, read it. Ahem. Yes, tireless and thorough reporting is what you can expect around here.

In the meantime, let me clarify that I’m not blaming Gaulin or Lassek for the subtitle. My guess is that was the publisher’s doing, as part of their “now this is how you sell a book about evolutionary biology!” strategy. They’re probably not altogether wrong either. But it does put the researchers between a bit of a rock and a hard place because they are simultaneously trying to explain why we’re probably all supposed to be a bit fatter than the Beauty Trap (and the diet industry) allows — and yet also, that we’d all weigh less than we currently do if our diet wasn’t so heavy in highly processed omega-6 fatty acids or “bad fats.” (There’s another red flag.)

Depressingly, I guess that sounds about right: Continue reading


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[Never Say Diet] Thoughts on the Fat Trap

Human Trap by Memkaos

Apologies to the friends who were sharing the New York Times around my breakfast table over the weekend and thus, have already heard all of my rantings on the subject of Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times Magazine cover story, “The Fat Trap.

But for those of you who missed that diatribe — or perhaps, just want to digest the more articulate I’ve-had-my-coffee-now version — here’s my Never Say Diet take on the weird left turn she makes in that piece. Which is mostly, so excellent. I just read her “Behind The Cover Story” Q&A with the Times6th Floor Blog and it makes me like the first three-quarters of the article all the more. It’s the first time I can recall a major media outlet taking on a story like this. And we really do need to be talking about all of the research that shows, over and over, why permanent weight loss is such a moving target for most people: Because “a number of biological factors that have nothing to do with character or willpower can make it extraordinarily difficult,” as Parker-Pope explains.

Where Parker-Pope and I part ways is in what we want to do with this information. She views obesity “as a medical condition” and thinks the kind of all-consuming, food gram-counting measures adopted by the people she profiles are inspiring, if exhausting, preventive health strategies. So she wants to use this new scientific understanding of why weight loss attempts almost always fail… to keep on trying to lose weight. Even though it will be really difficult and ineffective for the majority of people.

In contrast, I think* the jury is still out on whether obesity itself is a medical issue (at least 20 percent of obese people have no health issues at all, and there are studies show that overweight women actually live longer than normal or underweight women) or whether it tends simply to correlate with lifestyle habits that are bad for our health in other ways. And since we don’t know for sure, but we do know for sure that diets don’t work and the war on obesity has mostly just led to a war on obese people, why don’t we stop chasing the weight loss dragon once and for all, and instead focus on the specific lifestyle habits that definitely do impact our health’s bottom line? Continue reading


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[Never Say Diet] The Freshman Fifteen and Other Lies Fed to Our Generation

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Freshman FifteenToday on Never Say Diet, I’m talking about a new study which explodes the myth of the Freshman Fifteen by figuring out that college freshman… don’t really gain fifteen pounds.

I know. Your mind is blown.

We’ve created a lot of hype and expectation around the idea that leaving home equals piling on pounds — just like we assume everyone gets fat over the holidays or right after they get married or when they have a baby. Which is not to say people don’t gain a little weight during these times. As it happens, I gained the Freshman Twenty (ohhh triple-decker PB&J every day in NYU’s Hayden Dining Hall, you were delicious…), so I know what of I speak.

But why do we demonize these expected weight gains as epic failures of willpower that need to be held at bay at any cost?  Perhaps there are just stages in your life when weight creeps up a bit — and that’s not necessarily a sign of anything more apocalyptic or sinful than a newfound preference for triple-decker PB&J, or a busy work schedule, or whatever.

Because — not to get all conspiracy theorist on you — who really benefits from Freshman Fifteen Phobia, whether it results in an actual weight gain or unnecessarily restrictive behavior to stave it off? Our good friends in the $60 billion diet industry, of course.

Read more over on Never Say Diet. 



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[Never Say Diet] Why I’m Still Really Proud About Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Jennifer Hudson

Too bad she doesn’t seem to feel the same way.

Unrelated: Lovelies, per my plan to take it easy this summer (which sort of worked out! Until it got totally consumed by work… whoops) I’m taking a little hiatus so I can go drag the most out of the end of my favorite season.

So you’ll have a substitute in the Never Say Diet driver’s seat and a wee bit o’ radio silence here in Beauty Schooled land for the next two weeks. If you miss me I suggest you watch this excellent Clueless wardrobe montage. Not because I look anything like Alicia Silverstone. But we do have nearly the same amount of shoes.

I’ll see you back here September 12! xo

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[Never Say Diet] Yes, You Can Be Fat and Healthy

Today’s Never Say Diet post is about a really exciting new study which finds that about 20 percent of obese people are perfectly healthy — as in, no clogged arteries, no OMIGODDeathFat (as Ragen likes to call it). Which is a big enough percentage in my book to end the debate and officially say no, you cannot diagnose someone’s health based on their size, Body Mass Index, or number on a scale.

Well you can. But you have a 1 in 5 chance of being wrong.

Which means we need to continue the discussion that we have on here all the time about how we can separate weight from our understanding of health so that when we talk about wanting to be healthy, we mean sustaining healthy lifestyle habits (eating well, exercising more, getting enough sleep, managing stress). And when we talk about wanting to lose weight, we’re talking about aesthetics and changing our bodies to meet a beauty standard.

And yes, there is overlap — a healthy lifestyle might result in weight loss or weight stabilization, and if you go about losing weight in a way that doesn’t wreak havoc on your health (and I hope you would — because harming your health to meet a beauty standard is a dicey business!), you’ll probably adopt some healthier lifestyle habits at the same time.

Another similarity between pursuing health and pursuing weight loss is that they can both be wicked hard to sustain day to day if you only have vague future goals (like “I don’t want to get cancer” or “I must be thin for my vacation six months from now”) as motivation. Neither addresses your need for a cookie in the here and now, which means we end up feeling like failures when we eat the cookie instead of sticking to whichever vague, not entirely realistic or helpful goal we’ve decided to pin all of our self-worth on achieving.

But really, health and size aesthetics are two different, complex, multifaceted issues with a few points of intersection.

Not synonymous.

Not simplistic.

For more on the science behind this, check out Never Say Diet. (Oh but first! Apologies in advance — I did not choose the photo and I think y’all will understand why I didn’t repost it here the way I usually do.)

And I also want to hear what you think: How do you define health for yourself? Is weight (or size or appearance) a part of that definition or are you working on separating that out into its own little box? Which, even having read the research, is easier said than done, I know… those darn cultural messages go deep.


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[Never Say Diet] Why Loving Your Body Won’t Kill You

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Loving Your Body Won't Kill You

No matter what Glamour magazine tells you.

And full disclosure: I heart Glamour (and ladymags in general) and I write for them, so this isn’t an “ohh those damn women’s magazines…” kind of rant.

But I think Jess Weiner took a swing and a miss in “Loving My Body Almost Killed Me,” which everyone is talking about, including the Today Show. Check it out, then read my take over on Never Say Diet, and let’s chat about it. Because it kind of brings us back to that question Lauren asked a few weeks ago:

Can you really love your body if you also want to change it?

And it also kind of brings on a whole new set of questions…like, what if you have to change your body for your health? And then what if you’re pretty healthy, but you think you could be even healthier if you just change it a little more? Where do we draw that line between health and all the other reasons we want to lose weight?

So we’ll make that whole thing this week’s Check Your Pretty Price question.  Read more over here.

UPDATE: I’m even more squeamish about Jess Weiner’s “losing weight because I love myself” theory now that I’ve read Ragen’s new post over on Dances With Fat and know that she’s also trying to peddle a weight loss program. Oy.


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[Never Say Diet] Love Your Body, It’s Perfect — Now Change!

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Love Your Body Now Change!Over on Never Say Diet, today’s post was ostensibly inspired by this new study about how loving your body will help you lose weight. Gah. So problematic. I know.

In fact, that post was also inspired by an email that I received over the weekend from reader Lauren.

Now let’s be crystal clear: I’m posting Lauren’s email here because I think she speaks some truth and lots of us can relate, and I thought the wonderful community that is Beauty Schooled might have some words of wisdom to share. You guys are crazy smart and have so many wise words. I am also pretty smart and have a few words (ahem, 1400 or so).

But! I say to any interweb lurkers out there — you’ve been warned. I’m going to be moderating comments super carefully on this post, because I do not want this to turn into a negative, unhelpful conversation that leads, as Lauren says “to tears and yucky feelings.” For her or anyone else.

And please, please everyone be aware that even with my scrutiny, there may be aspects of this post (my comments, other reader comments) that could be triggering. Use your judgment. Come back tomorrow, when I’ll be railing about sitcom marriage stereotypes (honest, I will!) with mirth and hilarity, if that sounds more like your cup of tea.

Otherwise, keep reading. Because here is Lauren: Continue reading


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Check Your Own Pretty Price. (Here is the Fun New Thing!)

So as you know by now, I was so into the awesome sharing that went on when we talked about our weight the other week. And thus, I’ve been brainstorming ways we can have more great conversations like that here on the blog. Because I really like talking to you. You’re so interesting and smart and pretty!

Shameless flattery accomplished, here is the plan: Every week (or thereabouts/when I can be asked), I’m going to pose a Check Your Own Pretty Price Question, hopefully inspired by some newsy price check bizness or maybe just my own internal musings. And you are going to answer and we are going to discuss!

So here we go: Continue reading


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[Never Say Diet] Why “Keep it Off Forever” is an Unhelpful Diet Promise

iVillage Never Say Diet yo-yo dieting Virginia Sole-Smith

Oh sigh. How often have you sat, head in hands, waiting for Apple and Chocolate Cake to fight each other…to the death?

In other news, today’s Never Say Diet post is about why I hate the term “yo-yo diet” and its pretty awesome. So you can go read it now.

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[Never Say Diet] Body Image Issues: Strong Enough For a Man

Body Image Issues: Strong Enough for a Man Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith

“I’m like, it’s not rainbows and lollipops,” says the man’s man in a new Weight Watchers ad campaign that debuted Sunday. “This is a plan for MEN.”

Are you clear on the distinction? Men like beer. (So Weight Watchers has created a Beer Cheat Sheet for them.) Women like… rainbows and lollipops. (Also ponies. And dotting the letter “i” with a heart. Because we’re all six.)

Here’s why the diet industry’s decision to target male consumers is bad news for everyone.

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