This week's mini-reviews: Secrets of the Eating Lab by Traci Mann.
Spoiler: do not read this book if you are hoping to lose a great deal of weight without surgery. Dr Mann does not believe it can be done and you may just disappear in a poof of unbelief.
I did like this book. It's funny and readable in pointing out some inconvenient but important research. We all have a bias of some sort or another, and Dr Mann's bias is that losing significant weight is very, very difficult, and she certainly has the studies to back it up. Our current system is very invested in the idea that obesity can be fixed if we just do good things, but the data on dieting is not really very supportive of this received wisdom. Her review of the evidence suggests that weight is something like 70% hereditable, just under height which is 80% hereditable. It would certainly be a game-changer if we decided as a culture that there's not much you can do about being overfat (although, perhaps, not changing the game in the direction we want.)
Dr Mann isn't totally hopeless. She believes you can use strategies (she proposes several from her University of Minnesota lab) to move towards the bottom of your "natural" weight range-- for an average tubby person, maybe fifteen pounds down. She doesn't think weight cycling is healthy (stating that 87% of studies show negative effects of weight cycling) and suggests that maintaining a stable level of obesity with otherwise healthy habits may be healthier than losing weight you can't keep off. She is way pro on exercise but not as a means to weight loss.
I liked the book. I don't think it quite accounts for the dramatic population-level changes in BMI that we've been seeing. I am pretty convinced that irregular mealtimes, 24-7 availability of hyperpalatable, high-calorie food that requires no work to prepare or eat, sweet drinks every day (regular or diet), and, ironically, too little value placed on the rituals of eating nice food, have all been very hard on American waistlines. I think that culture might have more influence on body weight that she seems to acknowledge, although she does uncover support for the "hang out with healthy eaters" theory of weight control. So what's my take home from the book?
- Try not to be miserable about your weight. Really.
- Cover up food you don't want to eat. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Hang out with healthy eaters.
- Exercise. It's good for you.
- Think of the food you're trying to avoid as something nonfood-- the marshmallow as a fluffy cloud (would that work? Hmm.)
I've covered the can-it-be-fixed aspect of overweight on this blog before. Reading the research is fascinating, but it kind of leaves us close to where we started:
Obvious it can be fixed: http://www.dianecarbonell.com/
Obviously it is very difficult (80% of the other weight-loss blogs on the internet, including mine).
For myself, I'm still very happy with my program, even though I've only lost about four pounds since I started at the end of last month. Adherence has been imperfect, but it has been (a) freeing and (b) great for improving the quality of my diet and also (c) my digestion. Even if I don't lose any more weight, I hope to eat more or less like this from here on out.
My other mini-review:
Gwynnie Bee, the clothing rental service. Basically, yay Gwynnie Bee, if you are able to justify to yourself roughly $100 a month for the pleasure of borrowing clothes from a vast rotating closet. I am treating myself to a few months' worth-- half the pleasure is seeing what's new and fine-tuning my requests to those I think will be most fabulous. I get the service at $89 a month, with the first month free. The clothes come in size 10 and up. The website is constantly updated and easy to use. There are plenty of pictures and user reviews. The clothes are shown on size-10-and-up women, so you get a reasonable idea of what they will look like on you. You don't have total control of what you get, but you can add any number of things to your closet (the virtual space where you list your favorites) and you can mark certain things as priority. So far I've found they do a decent job of sending my priorities first. You don't have to clean anything unless you want to, you can keep each item as long as you want, and send it back free in the provided blue bag. If you really like something, you can click "buy" and not send it back. Some prices are good, some high. It's a fun way to take some risks with clothes, and if you are currently transitioning sizes, it's great.
I have to do a better review of Dr Nwe's program and how I'm doing with it. Next up:)