Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dear X

Dear X,

I just came across your blog and to be frank, I'm concerned about you.

I read that you were flirting with a weight that really scared you and that you have decided to lose a ton of weight and get healthy and beautiful. If that's what you want, all power to you.

But sweetheart, starvation (850 calories/day) is not the key to unlocking the thin girl in you. Before you know it, you'll be back up far above the weight that scares you so much today. Think twice about the road you're taking.

Best regards,


I'd like to write her that. I'd like her to stop and look at how she's not only starving calorie-wise but nutrient-wise too. I'd like to tell her that if she really wants to cut her calories down that far, she'd better be seriously well-versed in nutrition because otherwise there will be some pretty nasty side-effects to her Biafra-style diet.

I'd like to tell her that a lot of the weight she's losing is in the form of muscle and not fat and that the minute she increases her calorie intake--even up to a meagre 1200 calories--her muscle will breath a sigh of relief and start rebuilding, causing her to regain weight. In the meantime, the fat will have just been biding its time, sticking around and hanging off her muscle-wasted frame.

I'd like to just sit down and talk to her, woman to woman, about why people overeat, about self-hate and the fears that affect women so much more than men. I'd like to tell her that not all of us are made to have a BMI of 18. I'd like to tell her about Meagan McGrath and how pictures can be deceiving.

There's so much I'd love to talk to her about.

But I know it would be just as effective as speaking to her in Swahili.


  1. I've tried to talk to people taking such drastic measures before, and it's an exercise in futility. They're caught in the cycle and aren't ready to spin their way out.

    It doesn't stop us from wanting to try, though, right?

  2. I know what you mean. sigh.... see it all the time.

  3. The post you removed was still in the RSS feed. I can understand why you removed it (and think it was for the best that you did). It was, however, a lovely example of how distorted people's thinking can be if they believe you can acquire "health" through extreme changes in behavior. In fact, extremes are what get people less healthy, especially big changes all at once.

    The situation you mention here with someone eating super low calories is a good example of that. Replacing one dysfunctional and unhealthy set of habits with another extreme one in the opposite direction is not the road to health. It's the road to messing up your body and possibly death.

    The pure panic associated with weight and health is a big part of why people continue to have more issues with food and weight. It's the extremes that keep us in trouble. It's all about that snowball of change and slowly rolling it in the right direction, but that's not enough for people who are full of fear and self-loathing. Carry on, folks. Carry on in the manner that tamps down your cognitive dissonance and damages your body. It's your body, and your psyche, but just don't spread your hate to other people who choose a different path. Their lot is none of your business.

  4. This is a very good post. When I see this kind of knee jerk reaction to weight loss I get very concerned.. but not overly.
    You know why?
    It won't last long. We live in a society that is saturated with food messages. You don't have to starve here. Adn starving is what that is.
    She will make it three or four days...two weeks if she has extraordinary willpower..then she will break like the hoover dam with a fatal flaw.
    Go back in three or four days. You'll see.
    To lose weight in the long term it has to be sane, sustainable and healthy.

  5. Thanks for the comments. SFG: I think I did the right thing by taking down the post in question, though it makes you wonder about the power of bullies like our "friend".

    Chris: I agree that our friend X won't last long, however I worry in a general way about the long-term health of people like her--and there are so many of them!

    In addition, I am perhaps even more disturbed by the "extreme weight-loss as fast as you can" bloggers who egg them on.

  6. I know someone in my family that is doing something like this. They're eating nothing but meat cheese and eggs, like the Atkins Induction Plan. The thing is, they only eat a few ounces of
    meat, a small piece of cheese and one egg, three times a day. I've tried talking to them but they won't listen.

  7. It's funny you should bring this up. I've been following a blogger who, for almost 2 years, has been eating about 700 to 750 calories a day. She has lost 100 lbs. It seems shocking, and it's difficult to understand how people can have bodies that function very differently from our own. She claims she was not able to lose weight on 1200 calories, and in fact gained when eating 1400.

    She is able, consistantly, to eat such a small amount without feeling starved because she has a lap band that her doctor fills for her to keep her feeling satisfied. Because of her weight loss, it appears her career options have blossomed.

    I understand her former feelings of desperation; she tried so hard to lose weight without success before resorting to the lap band. I cannot judge her choices. I'm grateful I do not have to take such an extreme route to lose.


  8. Rebecca,

    People who have a lapband are severely physically restricted in how much they can eat. Ms. X is simply starving herself. Different situation.

    BTW, I think we all feel for your friend. Her situation sounds pretty desperate.

  9. Its tough when you want to so badly to help someone but you know its pointless. The best I can say is kudos to you for the realizing the futility of bothering to convince her to do something different.

  10. Damn, I honestly thought I had commented on this... (the memory's the first thing to go, I guess)
    Tangentially related: my dad related the story I hadn't heard concerning my cousin's death (36 yrs ago from complications following old-school intestinal bypass surgery)... He said my aunt had installed a ramp so she wouldn't have to climb the front steps, but she fell & that's what caused her dehiscence & avalanche of disaster leading to septicemia & death.