Q&A Time

I got a series of questions from reader Shayna, who’s writing a research report on obesity for a class she’s taking. I thought maybe some of you might be interested, so I’m posting her questions and my answers (with her permission) here. I told her I’d be keeping my answers brief, as I could write a novel on each of these topics, but these answers summarize the gist of my feelings on the topics.

1. Did you have any health problems caused by obesity? What were they?

Not particularly, however I did have achy joints (particularly my knees and hips) from carrying so much weight.

2. Did being obese affect how people treated you? Any examples?

Absolutely. Well…I perceived that I was treated poorly because of my size, I thought that people treated me as if I was less intelligent, and I DEFINITELY was treated poorly by men and males due to not living up to the “feminine ideal” of beauty. Of course, all of that is filtered through my own perception, as I perceived everything through an assumption that nobody liked me and everybody hated me or judged me because I was fat. So some of that may have been my own bias…

3. How did you become obese? Was it through the way you ate, the foods you ate, your lifestyle, etc.? All of the above? 

There was never a time in my life when I wasn’t overweight – I was born “chubby” at almost 10 pounds and was always teased about my size. It was because of the foods I ate – I ate to soothe myself, I ate because it was one of the very few pleasures I had available to me (I had a rough childhood), and I ate very badly because nobody taught me about nutrition.

4. Was there anything you wanted to do when you were obese, but couldn’t because of your size?

Yes. Ride on an airplane without embarrassment and discomfort. Fit in a movie theater seat. Shop at a regular clothing store. Date normal men, not losers who dated me because they couldn’t do any better. Walk down the street without drawing mockery and derision.

5. How did you lose the weight? What changes did you make?

Diet and exercise. I had to completely change my life, my relationship to food, and start making exercise a regular part of my routine. If you looked at my life before I changed it and after, you would find a completely different set of habits, built around knowing what I am eating and making time for exercise.

6. Why do you believe so many people are obese now?

Lack of education in nutrition, extremely toxic food environment (food industry pushes and pushes – food is ubiquitous, you can’t go anywhere without junk food being shoved in your face for purchase or free – everything is cheap and high in corn syrup but no nutritional value).

7. In your opinion, how can America cure, or at least slow, the obesity epidemic?

If I were in charge… I wouldn’t be in charge for long! Fast food should be outlawed. Convenience foods are killing this country. People need to go back to making their own food, from real ingredients, not a box. The food industry needs to be barred from advertising AT ALL (not just to children – to anyone!). We need to have a massive re-alignment of our relationship to food in this country. People need to understand that they’re NOT too busy to make food at home, and if it’s important to them (as the things you put in your body should be!) then they can make time. All of this needs to come with a lot of education on a large scale, to teach people how to put together healthy meals quickly and cheaply, but it can be done. Our ancestors, our grandparents – they all knew how to do this but we’ve all forgotten. We need to relearn.


13 Responses to “Q&A Time”

  1. Yoko Olsgaard Says:

    Oh Laina, you are so right on the money here. Your very last question/answer really hit my button. So, I’m going to get on my soapbox and chime in. The food and pharmaceutical industry does not want us to be healthy and eat the way we should because they would lose money. The fact is that I make all my own food and do not eat any processed food. I don’t most eat junk foods, and if I do, I have to make it myself. I should confess however to a passion for Haagen Daz Five ice cream which only has 5 ingredients and nothing artificial. Other than that, I make desserts. The weight has fallen off of me without much in the way of exercise other than a walk 3-4 times a week. So for my body, it was what I was eating that was the problem. I guess my metabolism is a lot more forgiving than most people’s. If I eat sugar and other simple carbs, I gain. If I don’t, I lose. It’s that simple for me. So I started thinking about who stands to lose if we all start eating the way I do and add what exercise is appropriate.

    Let’s see – the health care industry wins and loses
    Overall health care costs would go down
    Profits to drug companies would drop because fewer of us would need blood pressure meds, heart disease drugs, etc. So, folks with stock in those companies or funds that use them would see a drop.
    Hospitals would lose money because fewer beds would be full. Have you noticed the sheer number of new Kaiser buildings going up? They are getting ready for the baby boomers to need hospital beds.
    All the diet industries would suffer – fewer diet soda and diet food consumers

    At lunch today, my friend and I were giggling at the thought of going to the Pentagon and introducing a new method of vanquishing our “enemies”. Feed them free fast food, junk food, and sodas. It would take a little longer, but everyone would be too sick to fight with guns. Gleefully, my friend giggled that the drug companies would be right there with “discounted” drugs!

    I’m sure this posting will raise a few hackles, but it’s just my very humble opinion and observation. This is how I see the world. It would be interesting to see a few more opinions.

    Laina, you are so awesome in dealing with your own relationship to food so well. I’m working on that myself to ask myself why I sabotage myself. The other night I ate STALE granola. I missed simple carbs that much! My current battle is to eat right as often as I can. I have 20 more pounds and I’m done, so I’m hoping I can let go of ridiculous food cravings and get to my goal. Wish me luck!

  2. Amy Says:

    I would totally vote for you to be a dictator! Pretty much nailed it.
    Also our urban environments and transport systems should be redesigned to maximize walking everywhere, like European cities.

    • Laina Says:

      Yes. !t’s kind of unfortunate that the US grew up in the age of automobiles because most of our cities are too spread-out to support walking anywhere! Whereas in Europe, as you know, the cities grew up before cars so everything had to be walking distance apart. Driving around the endless suburbs of the US is depressing to a walker like me because I think “Wow, without cars none of this is possible, I can’t even walk to the store from here!” I wonder if it’s too late for the US. I mean, it’s not like people in those giant suburbs are going to allow buildings, shops, offices, etc, to fill in their precious enormous lawns…

      • Jen Says:

        I think being bombed to the ground 70 years ago helped Europe in this area. It let them start fresh with things like subways, rail, and other transit systems which make life without cars much simpler there.

      • Donna Says:

        One of the many reasons I absolutely hate suburbia. Whenever I walk or drive around in the suburbs the inherent waste in that sort of living arrangement sets me on edge. “Do or Do Not, there is no Try” for me is “Urban or Rural, there is not suburban” 🙂

      • SnapshotStacy Says:

        I _LOVE_ where my house is located. I’m less than a mile from where I work & just a skootch over a mile from the grocery store. Only 3 miles (totally walking/cycling distance if not buying lots of stuff) from Target, Best Buy, Lowe’s.

      • SnapshotStacy Says:

        I _LOVE_ where my house is located. I’m less than a mile from where I work & just a skootch over a mile from the grocery store. Only 3 miles (totally walking/cycling distance if not buying lots of stuff) from Target, Best Buy, Lowe’s.

  3. Jen Says:

    For prevention:
    – keep recess a part of elementary schooling (shoot, make it longer!)
    – require PE for kids of all ages and increase the number of sports to try so that most everyone can find a way to move that’s fun and comfortable.
    – move away from a ‘”seated all day” model of education and work.
    – build more pedestrian friendly cities (smaller shops nearer to people’s homes)

    I think we need to introduce diversity all the way up the food chain. If our meat is all grain fed from the same limited grains that the rest of our diet is formed from, then we aren’t getting a good nutritional value in all of our food. E.g., A person whose meal is corn-fed beef burger with fries cooked in corn oil and a HFCS drink is is not getting the same nutritional load that someone who has a grass-fed beef burger, fries done in canola oil, and a sugar-sweetened soda. (Still not the ideal meal we’re shooting for, of course, but even small steps help.)

    Things that may be harder when you’re fat:
    – Fitting in booths at restaurants.
    – Sitting in arm chairs at tables (doubly hard for obese men who want to sit with their legs spread to let their man bits be comfortable)
    – fitting in standard sized desks in classrooms
    – trying to close the stall door in public restrooms
    – bathtubs don’t always fit
    – harder to shave legs, cut toenails

  4. Jen Says:

    I’m coming back through to say that I remember that you were on a medication a year or two back that had a side effect of weight gain. I remember how frustrated you were at the time that with all your weight loss knowledge you were just barely able to maintain where you were at that time.

    I know that there is a stigma of laziness around fat people, but I wonder how many people are struggling against medication which is making them fatter. I know that my cousin has to choose between not being able to breathe and medication that makes her gain weight.

    • Donna Says:

      The Health section in the SF Comical dealt with that very issue (medication’s part in obesity) in depth the other day.

  5. John Says:

    the other thing that needs to be said is that the cost of non processed food needs to come down. With it being cheaper to eat bad food no wonder there are so many fat people.

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