walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Teenage Waistland_, by Abby Ellin

Subtitled: A Former Fat Kid Weighs In on Living Large, Losing Weight, and How Parents Can (and Can't) Help

Here are a few statistics from Ms. Ellin's childhood. During her brief flirtation with starvation as an 11-12 year old at 4'11", she got down to 83 pounds (BMI = 16.8). Her slightly less crazy grandmother outed the insanity in her family, and while that was enough to keep this Ellin from anorexia, her older sister was not quite so fortunate.

As near as I can tell from the text, she maxed out at 5'2" 3/4s (let's just round up, shall we?) and 147 pounds. BMI sez: 26, which is slightly overweight by current guidelines, but would previously (up through the mid 90s, when she was that weight) have been considered normal weight (despite her obsession with the idea she should weigh 110, which is a BMI of 19.5). For what it's worth, the vast majority of the large studies of mortality and morbidity associated with weight show a U shaped curve, where 19 and below is about like 30 and above, and where the low point on the curve is 26-28 (some variability by gender, study, age, etc.).

While Ms. Ellin has read a lot of books on the subject and talked to a lot of people (and go her, she actually talked to white people, Jewish and otherwise, Hispanics, Blacks, and she traveled around the country as well), and is a (reasonably) effective advocate for children who are being treated badly (sometimes clearly being emotionally or otherwise abused) by their parents, she is still basically batshit crazy when it comes to food. She's gotten over her "food" vs. "non-food" days problem (that was new one for me, but in retrospect, I'm pretty sure I've met people like this), but retains an unbelievable obsession with processed/fast/junk-food and an abysmal lack of awareness of what healthy food is and what it is like to live in a healthy food environment. For whatever reasons, all of her suggestions revolve around what adults and children can and can't do as individuals within the family to deal with food and health. There are NO larger policy suggestions (altho some complaints about how hard it is to find reasonable selections in hospital vending machines).

She also is quite selective about her exercise/fat-but-healthy studies and never once mentions the results from the NWCR. It _is_ possible for more people than are usually accounted for to lose large amounts of weight and keep it off. It _is_ possible for people to live a happy and rewarding life while being overweight, including higher categories such as obesity and even "morbid" obesity. She dismissed these two possibilities as "impossible" and so do most of the people she talks to, _even tho she has quotes from others to the contrary_. The big missing piece of her understanding is also the source of her craziness: the importance of spending time with people who are _not_ batshit crazy about food, and having _something_, _anything_ else as the prime focus of your life that _is not food_.

Fortunately, she's got the sense not to eat around her family. I would argue it would be in her best interests to have _nothing_ whatsoever to do with her family for a minimum period of 2 years while she gets her head squared away. Her description of watching her grandmother (the psycho crazy one obsessed with weight) die really resonated with a review I mentioned in an earlier post of a woman who became closer to her father as he died of Alzheimer's. Here's a suggestion for anyone out there who has a close relative who abused the shit out of you as an impressionable young person. Avoid them until they're dying of something really nasty (Alzheimer's, brain tumor, whatever), and then go nurse them in their dying days. It seems to make at least some of the younger generation feel better. I don't want to think too hard about why, other than to note that maybe elder abuse isn't such a bad thing at all. Turn about fair play, what goes around, payback's a bitch, etc. (Not that I think the author engaged in elder abuse. Quite the contrary.)

ETA: Another TitleTrader acquisition. I can only imagine how steamed I'd be if I'd forked out hardcover prices for this.

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