Sunday, April 11, 2010

Is weight loss the same if you purposely gained?

Through iChange, I came across this story about Juliet Kaska, a personal trainer who purposely put on 30 pounds for a "Human Diet Experience" where she will try 10 different diets for 2 weeks each and report back her results. Most of the forum posts about it on iChange expressed the same feeling I had -- that someone putting on weight purposely and then taking it off is not likely to face the same struggles and self-esteem issues that get in the way for a lot of us who have this problem "for real." Some posters even expressed anger that someone would think they could understand what it's like to be overweight and dieting by doing a stunt like this. In the back of my mind, however, I wondered if it would be as easy for Juliet as she thought it would be. She said, "I know that the body itself is easy to shape, and that it’s the human part of us—what’s inside—that often constitutes our limits." I think that's a major part of the equation too, and it may be more formidable a challenge than she thinks.

The blog isn't great, it's obviously written on a Blackberry, so posts are short and lacking in detail. Some interesting things emerge, though. Partway through her experiment to gain the weight, Juliet "freaked out" and started dieting again, and had to regain 9 extra pounds. I was thinking that if she added the weight purposely, it might not feel "real" to her, but if it's causing anxiety, that is pretty real. A list of side effects she posted on gaining the weight (and a second one posted later) includes not only physical effects, but psychological ones as well.

When she actually gets to the diet part, she also posts about experiencing some of the same challenges that a lot of other dieters have experienced:

Why couldn't I be happy this week? I thought about this many times, and saw no clear answer until just now, as happiness struck me like cupids arrow. I do not want to be told what to do. As I stomp my feet and cross my arms as my inner 5 year old. Week 1- I committed to following the diet sample menu to a T and this felt like someone telling me what to do. "How dare they", again says the 5yr old. So this leaves me, us with the question: Is it our inner child who needs to be on a diet or is it us. Is the failure of "diet" a failure of our own personal self- our psychology- our psychosis?
She also wrote in other posts that her friends thought she wasn't fun when she was dieting, and that she found herself avoiding social situations where she couldn't feel in control. I think that we can accept that Juliet, without meaning to, got herself deeper into the psyche of a dieter than she thought she would.

I'm experiencing a lot of that myself. Since signing up for iChange, I am feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. I quickly realized that the "30-day Challenge Diet" was too restrictive for me, so I just committed to sticking to my calorie allowance. I did so well during the week and was down 1.6 pounds in just a few days. I did feel self-conscious though -- a lot of the other people in the "I Dream of Skinny" group were actually staying within the 1200 calories of the challenge diet. One person even posted something like, "Calories for today were terrible: 1700 calories -- eek!" My calorie counts were coming in closer to 1800-2000 on "good" days. I also felt resistant to the feedback that the nutritionist was handing out. I had a meal that was mostly vegetables and lean protein, but had two small redskin potatoes with a tablespoon of sour cream and some chopped green onions. I don't buy sour cream often, but I happened to have some and it sounded good. "Have you tried nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream? Tastes the same and it's healthier," said the nutritionist. This is what nutritionists do, right, give feedback and suggestions on swaps. But inside, I reacted as if I had been slapped. I wonder what is wrong with me to react so badly to what was very simple feedback.

Then the weekend rolled around and my food got worse: Beer and chicken fingers at a ballgame. A glass of wine and some cheese and crackers while watching Anthony Bourdain tour Paris. Popcorn at the movies. Lots of calories. I knew that I should be restricting calories more but I also wanted to have a "normal life." I could imagine the reaction of others on the iChange group who saw what I was eating and I felt humiliated and also a little rebellious.

I am wondering if it might be better for me to stop tracking on iChange and go back to tracking privately. I am really hating that iChange doesn't have a mobile app -- it is really hard to enter anything using my iPhone with its tiny screen. So either I have to scroll all around to enter food or I have to save everything up and enter it at once on a real computer.

I don't know what to do. I was making some good progress, but then that "human element" got in the way. Dieting sucks.


  1. Re: "I wonder what is wrong with me to react so badly to what was very simple feedback."

    I don't think there's anything wrong with you. The so-called simple feedback was a lie: sour cream and non-fat yogurt do not taste the same. If she had said "have you tried non-fat yogurt - it's x fewer calories and y fewer grams of fat", fine, but the feedback asked you to deny reality, and I think you reacted quite logically.

  2. Interesting about that personal trainer who is intentionally gaining weight.

    I'm in the camp that says there's no way she will really understand what it's like to have a weight problem. Those of us who have been fat since childhood (or for many years) have internalised that self-image, even though we may no longer be fat. Her self-image will always be that of a slim, very fit person who intentionally gained weight - which is not the same thing.

    I can understand the anger.

  3. Just because you had been making good progress doesn't mean that continuing with iChange is the right thing to continue. Sounds as though the other folks are not mentally where you are, and it's painful and virtual flagellation to persist just because you started.

    Dieting definitely sucks. So don't make it harder on yourself than you need to. Now that you have your new bike, no telling what you can accomplish.

  4. I don't think it's the other people, I think it's me. I hope I didn't give the wrong impression. No one has said anything that wasn't encouraging. I just feel self-conscious because my calorie counts are higher than theirs.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07