Story of Fatness (Veganism is not a Diet)
You`re just meting her for the first time but chances are you’re already making assumptions about how much she eats and how little she exercises because she`s obese. But ia am about to show you that there`s much more than meets the eyes when it comes to obesity. There are lot of Sara`s out there and they need treatment . maybe you`re one of them or maybe you know and Sara. Its time to act on obesity. but in order to do so effectively, we need to understand obesity. Its generally accepted that body weight is determined by a pretty simple formula. We call it the energy balance equation and it works like this . if the number of calories that you consume equals the number of calories that you burn, your weight remains the same. If you consume more that you burn, you gain weight. And if you born more than you consume, you lose weight. Most people think that those of us who properly manage our energy balance remain lean. Where as those of us like Sara. Who eat too much and exercise too little become obese. We view obesity as a lifestyle choice and the cure for it is simple, eat less and exercise more. This may sound logical but it`s wrong. let me explain. First , let`s talk about set point. No, I am not talking about the point in a tennis match when one player is about to beat the other. I am talking about a theory that says that no matter what you consciously want your weight to be , your brain has its own sense of how much body fat it should have on board and it has a complex system in place that very precisely regulates your energy intake and expenditure to keep you within a so-called set point range for body fat. So that whole energy balance equation, its not something that you control voluntarily. Your brain regulates your calories in to your calories out for you. For your brain to do this it needs to know how much energy you have on board at all times. And it knows this by listing to hormones like leptin, which is made in your body fat. You can think of it like a car. Leptin is the gas gauge that tells your brain how much gas is in your tank. Bet leptin is just one piece of the puzzle. You have got a whole bunch of other hormonal signals and sense that are involved too. Your bones, muscles, pancreas, liver, Gl tract and sensory organs, they all play a role. Communicating with your brain to give it the information it needs to do its job. But that is more detailed than we need for this conversion. The point is that you have a complex system in place that regulates you to within a set point range for body fat. so what happens if Sara decides to lose weight by going on a diet. After all , people with obesity should eat less , right? Here is what happens,. She loses weight but her hormone levels change . her brain hears this, and it starts acting to restore whatever body fat she lost. She feels hungrier, and although she dosent know it, she is also burning fewer calories than before. You see set point is usually a one way street. Once its is been elevated the brain works to defend it, just as vigorously as it would a low set point. Sara brain dose not know that she need to lose weight. It only know to defend her current set point. Back to our car analogy. Sara cannot help but look for a gas station to refuel . when she sees that her gas gauge is low. At the same time she become more fuel efficient burning less energy that before. This might explain why treating obesity with diet and exercise. So often fails to produce the desired results. Its sort of like telling Sara that she needs to be a more careful driver when the real problem is that she needs a mechanic to fix her car.
Fat shaming image by unsplash.com/@rawpixel
So if we’ve all got this complicated system in place that prevents us from losing weight, why doesn’t it also protect us from gaining weight and developing obesity in the first place? How can we explain the obesity epidemic? Getting back to Sara, why did she develop obesity? The answer is that it takes a perfect storm to cause an obesity epidemic like the one we’re seeing now, and it’s our modern environment that places us and Sara directly in the path of that storm. Well, there’s no single cause for the rising rate of obesity. Changes to the chemical and nutrient content of our food, the so-called western diet, a decrease in physical activity, increased levels of stress, inadequate and disrupted sleep, and more widespread use of medications that promote weight gain, all play a role. Our unique genetics and developmental histories cause each of us to respond differently to these elements of the modern environment, and some of us, like Sara, respond by sending hormonal signals that elevate our set point for body fat. It’s not that Sara’s system has stopped working. It’s just that it’s working to regulate her to a set point that’s too high. So you can think of obesity
as a biological response to the modern environment, a disease where the body dis-regulates to a body fat set point that is too high. Back to our car analogy. The size of Sara’s gas tank has expanded so she carries around too much fuel. It’s time to stop blaming Sara for her obesity. It’s time to recognize that obesity is a disease, not a lifestyle choice, and those who suffer from it deserve treatment, not snap judgment.
It’s time to act on obesity and now that you’ve been educated
here’s a simple way for you to act.
Veganism is not a diet.
Again, food is a large part of this culture and yes, weight loss might be a result of it, but veganism is not just eliminating animal products from your meals to lose weight. Veganism involves a deeper understanding of the consequences of not doing so. Animal liberation, anti-speciesism, and food justice are just some of the many elements that can make up veganism.
Veganism image by Miika LaaksonenMiika Laaksonen
When people choose to associate veganism with weight loss, it is supporting the perception that vegans are in it to lose weight or that it will be a result of it.
To take up a plant-based diet would be the right way to describe those who choose to take up “veganism” for weight loss because it specifically acknowledges the diet. However, plant-based dieting will always be associated with veganism, creating a difficulty in effectively creating a body positive space within the culture.
There’s even more difficulty involved when popular vegan figures mostly represent one kind of body type, and it’s rarely ever a fat one.
Let’s not ignore the struggle of transitioning to veganism.
From changing everyday meals to temptations to supplements, there is a lot of emotional, financial, and physical strain when transitioning to veganism.
Without access to the right knowledge and guidance, there could be serious consequences as a result of making this switch. In my own experience, I regret not slowly transitioning into veganism with a mentor to help me. I felt hungry and weak before I understood that I needed to supplement the vitamins I was no longer eating through non-vegan foods. Taking up veganism is a privilege in so many ways.
Diet culture is toxic.
We see that in the way diet supplements, gym memberships, and other weight-oriented products and services are packaged and sold to us. The final result for all of these are bodies that just aren’t fat. I don’t need to explain the perception of being fat and why nobody wants to be that, but the conversation that needs to take place is why body positivity is anti-diet culture and why that’s okay.
Let’s just get this out the way: fat is not always the cause of illness. There are horror stories of fat people getting misdiagnosed by their doctors because even medical professionals seem to think this way. This is not to say that fat people cannot be sick, but there is no logic in designating every fat person as ill. That tends to be the major argument when people are attacked for their fatness. So when diets are pushed on fat people as the cure to all of their issues, this creates yet another problem: eating disorders. In fact, weight loss dieting is the number one cause of eating disorders. It’s an unhealthy cycle of misinformation that is harmful and potentially lethal.