Time to unzip

Whether or not you responded to PSU’s cattle call to participate in our campus version of the voyeuristic Biggest Loser, chances are, you’re watching your weight. Americans have an obsession with fat, as well we should. According to the United States Surgeon General’s website, nearly 66 percent of all Americans are overweight or obese.

Whether or not you responded to PSU’s cattle call to participate in our campus version of the voyeuristic Biggest Loser, chances are, you’re watching your weight. Americans have an obsession with fat, as well we should. According to the United States Surgeon General’s website, nearly 66 percent of all Americans are overweight or obese.

Fat isn’t funny

Watching the morbidly obese is like watching a train wreck: we’re sorry for the passengers, there’s nothing we can do, the wreckage is grotesque and yet we can’t help but look. Celebrity talk show hosts don fake fat suits and masquerade in public to see what it’s like to be fat. They complain of the hours in front of the makeup mirror and how heavy their suit is, glad to unzip once the filming is done.

Fat and frustrated

There are plenty of incentives to lose weight: looking good, feeling good, wearing cute clothes and social acceptance. However, if you’ve been on the treadmill of weight loss and fallen off numerous times, it’s likely you feel jaded. You might start to wonder, does everything make you fat?

If we’ve been paying attention at all, we know there are many health risks associated with being overweight: diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, respiratory problems, reduction of lifespan, as well as the potential for hip and knee joint damage. And if you smoke? Well, nice knowing ya…

Fat Americans live with a lot of guilt. Some believe gluttony is a sin. Then there are the starving children (the origin of the Clean Plate Club). We know we are self-destructing. Then the skinny people, those convinced that the steps are simple, beat us up with words like greedy, lazy, over-indulgent, lacking self-restraint, self-control and willpower and should you really be eating that?

If you’ve ever been fat, you know there’s a lot of help out there. There’s Biggest Loser, Atkins, Jenny Craig, South Beach, Slim Fast, Ultra Metabolism, Eat Yourself Thin, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, L.A. Weight Loss, Weight Watchers and the Good Mood Diet, just off the top of my head. That’s not to mention the near infinite number of online diets.

Not only are there competing views to decipher, we’ve also got to learn the math. How many calories equal a pound? Are you freaking kidding me? I’ve got to burn off how many calories? As if weighing yourself weren’t enough, you’ve got to weigh your food. How much is 4 oz.? Scale or measuring tape? We all know the scale will steer you wrong if you’re gaining muscle or loosing water. Resting metabolic weight? How many steps did you take today? Is your BMI (body mass index) over 25 or under 25? Over 30? Higher? There are as many views on how to lose weight as there are weight loss plans: good fat, bad fat, high carbs, low carbs, snacks are good, snacks are bad, high fat, low fat, no fat, low protein, high protein, no fast food, some fast food, eat breakfast, quit coffee, quit sugar, Food Pyramid, Feng Shui, Secret, pray, meditate, don’t eat three hours before bedtime, and breathe.

Who is right?

Where did all this fat come from?

We know where this is going–straight into your box of Valentine’s Day chocolates (it’s all the same now). We wonder, where did all this fat come from? Some theories include stress, slow metabolism, outer space, television, overeating and under-exercising. Then there are those voices in the wilderness that whisper that we are eating the wrong kind of food.

The grandparent test

We’ve heard from the experts (see above) but what did our grandparents do? Or even better, our great-grandparents? They weren’t fat. Or if they were fat, they weren’t as fat. Ask them. They’ll be the first to tell you that a lot has changed over the years. They’ll tell you that there wasn’t any processed food back in the day. They walked more than they rode (uphill both ways and in the snow). They’ll tell you that the world’s going at a faster pace and that they ate at home, not in fast food joints. Going out to eat was considered an indulgence and was rarely if ever done. Coke was a treat, not a substitute for water. They didn’t have artificial sweeteners or margarine. And a lot of them worked outside on the farm in the woods. They had bacon and eggs for breakfast every day and a lot of them enjoyed the occasional beer. It seems safe to assume that somewhere along the way, we have gone terribly wrong.

According to WHO

Contrary to what many would have you believe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Americans are not the only ones who are gaining weight. There are other fatties in the world. The WHO attributes global weight gain to dietary changes that involve the consumption of energy dense foods, high in fats and sugars and low in vitamins. The WHO also blames lower activity rates and point to worldwide changes such as greater urbanization, the growth of sedentary forms of work and a shift in transportation methods from walking to riding. It may seem counterintuitive but the obese are often undernourished.

The World Health Organization advises that we should limit our fat intake and only consume unsaturated fats. We should eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. We should limit sugars and engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity “on most days.”

What the WHO doesn’t tell you

Some foods cause cravings. Two major offenders are sugar and white flour. Avoid these two, and see those urgent cravings disappear.

Don’t tell me to stop eating when I’m still hungry

That’s skinny person advice if I ever heard it.

Advice we hear every day

See your doctor. Drink plenty of water. Don’t eat three hours before bedtime. Drink a glass of water before eating. Build muscle because muscle burns more calories than fat. Eat breakfast every day. Walk 30 minutes a day. Take multivitamins. Write down everything you eat. Put temptations away–out of sight is out of mind. Clean out the kitchen and eliminate temptation.

Advice we don’t hear every day

Create a positive state of mind. Concentrate on what you’re gaining (health) rather than what you’re losing (Valentine’s Day chocolates). Eat more grapefruit-the scent of the oil is said to reduce appetite. Prepare food in advance so you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat in the heat of the moment. Reduce your choices. Break a sweat with exercise or in the sauna. Eat protein and fiber in the morning. If you’re tired, go to bed.

We have a lot of choices. No one wants to admit that maybe we have too many choices, but maybe we have too many choices. This weight loss thing shouldn’t be so hard. We should be able to live our lives in health. Everything doesn’t make you fat. The trick is determining what does.