Skinny Doesn’t Equal Healthy. And Unhealthy Doesn’t Equal Ugly.

I often hear people get antsy when larger people start loving their bodies. “But aren’t we glorifying obesity? Aren’t we encouraging people to be unhealthy?” But here are some of the problems with this mentality:

geri-halliwell-musician-quote-some-people-are-naturally-thin-and-some1.Skinny doesn’t mean healthy. Some thin people just have a fast metabolism, but they don’t work out and eat only junk food. I’ve seen some very thin people who are much less healthy than some larger people I know. Plus, anorexia and other eating disorders are major problems that cause people to be thin. Stress can also cause people to drop a lot of weight, but in a very unhealthy way. My point: You can’t really tell how healthy someone is just based on their size. Extreme obesity is a tougher area, since being so large that they cannot move obviously prevents them from being able to exercise, but even then we’re really in no place to judge.

“Active obese individuals actually have lower morbidity and mortality than normal weight individuals who are sedentary … the health risks of obesity are largely controlled if a person is physically active and physically fit.”
-The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 2000 

http://www.obesitymyths.com/myth4.1.htm

At a size 14-16 I am considered a bit overweight, but I can also bike 10 miles in a day. I’m sore as hell and exhausted afterwards because there’s lots of hills on the route I take and I don’t do it often enough, but I can do it. How many people do you know that can (or are willing to) bike 10 miles? I may not be a fitness enthusiast, and yes I could stand to be active more often, but I’m certainly not a couch potato either.

2. Who defines healthy? It’s such a vague category. What if you have a severe medical condition but you eat veggies and exercise, are you still healthy despite your condition? And what if you have no medical conditions, your body works just fine and you are active, but you eat mostly junk food? What defines a healthy individual, what makes one person healthy and the other person unhealthy? It’s based on the individual. What’s healthy for one person may not be healthy for another.

a7bf19cc-9da6-4f3b-bb8b-db1d4b5967d83. Even unhealthy people need to love their bodies. If you’re unhealthy- so what? It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to love your body as it is! People smoke and drink too much or they use unhealthy crash diets to lose weight, and we don’t shame them like we do larger people. People who exercise or do sports so much that they regularly injure themselves are not really taking care of their bodies either, but we don’t see athletes and fitness enthusiasts being shamed for overdoing it all the time. Also, what about people with medical conditions or disabilities? They may not be very healthy, but they can’t really help it. Are they ugly, should we police their bodies and tell them they can’t love themselves too?

Bottom line: Unless it’s an extreme situation, it’s none of our business if someone is “healthy” or not. And we certainly have no right to tell them that they cannot love their bodies. 

If you’re very concerned about your family member or close friend, make sure you address it in a respectful manner, and only if you’re concerned that they are going to cause themselves significant harm. Otherwise, why intrude on their personal lifestyle choices? We all do some unhealthy things; it doesn’t mean it’s ok for other people to judge us for them. There’s a fine line between looking out for the well-being of your loved ones and making unnecessary judgments on their personal choices. You may think soda is liquid poison, but that doesn’t mean you should rail on your friend who loves her Pepsi. And we all know “that person” that gives you a withering look anytime they see you eating processed sugars or carbs. (Really?) However, if your loved one is a raging alcoholic and they’re destroying their life because of it, then that would be an extreme situation and you should probably say something and offer to help. If your loved one has an eating disorder, obviously that’s also an extreme situation that needs immediate attention. But see the difference? Life threatening and severe health risk behavior vs. “I don’t think you should be eating that doughnut because it’ll make you fat!” 

4. Eating junk food doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy. “She eats chocolate and drinks soda, she must be sooo unhealthy!” Sure, if you come to my house at certain times of the week, you’d think I binge on junk food all the time- because sometimes I certainly do! Especially during Netflix marathons. 😉 But what you don’t see are the super healthy fruit and kale and protein powder smoothies I try to have every morning, which are packed with nutrients and protein. You don’t see me adding extra veggies and fresh meat to boxed meals when I’m in too much of a hurry to make homemade, or the countless homemade healthy meals I prepare in my slow cooker. You don’t see my entire eating routine, so it’s easy to judge me based on the few things you do see. Bottom line: Don’t assume someone doesn’t eat healthy just because you see them eating a burger or some junk food. It’s the whole picture of their diet that’s important. (And it’s not your place to judge anyways!)

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We all deserve to love our bodies.

Thin people are allowed to love their bodies whether they are healthy or not. Their bodies are praised as beautiful on glossy magazine covers even if the model has an eating disorder or starves herself to fit into her clothes. Health is obviously not a concern in many cases where skinny bodies are glorified. So why can’t larger people love themselves as they are too? The double standard is frustrating and unfair. We have to stop making it our business to judge other people’s bodies, and stop making them feel like they can’t love themselves just as they are. We don’t live in their bodies; they do. And you don’t live in my body. I cherish my body; I take good care of it, even if I don’t fit your narrow idea of what my “healthy body” should look like on the outside.

If your friend or loved one wants to get more active or change their eating habits, then by all means be there for them and support them. I’m not saying that we should not work out or improve our eating habits; improving our health is a wonderful goal that I personally ascribe to. I’m just saying that we need to stop assuming that skinny means healthy, fat means unhealthy, and that unhealthy means we’re not allowed to love ourselves.

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Aspartame: Is it really that bad for you? I used to think so. Here are the facts.

side-effects-of-aspartame1I see memes like this one about aspartame all the time. But are they accurate? I also see memes that claim Vitamin C supplements can cure cancer, vaccines cause autism, and so many other claims that have no scientific basis. So what about aspartame? Are these claims true, or are they just more paranoia and pseudoscience?

I’ve been doing a lot of research on this issue lately. I grew up hearing that aspartame was very bad for you, so I have avoided it myself for many years. But the more I look into it, the more the evidence points to it being just fine to consume. Study after study after study has shown it to be safe. In moderation, as with every other thing we eat, aspartame appears to be perfectly safe for people to consume in their regular diet.

https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/pepsi-removing-aspartame/

http://www.realclearscience.com/journal_club/2015/05/08/aspartame_sensitivity_doesnt_exist_109214.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17828671&ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

Now I am not arguing that corporations are all good corporate citizens or wouldn’t dream of sweeping some inconvenient evidence under the carpet. But I am saying that a decades long conspiracy among industry, federal regulatory agencies, the medical community, and multiple research institutions and individual researchers – all under the nose of the press and lawyers looking for big class-action suits – is implausible in the extreme. I am also arguing that we should fairly assess all the evidence, not just cherry pick the evidence we like and dismiss the rest out of hand. https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/aspartame-truth-vs-fiction/

You’ll notice something about the links I’ve posted- they all cite scientific studies and/or quotes from verifiable sources, I believe all of them link to these studies or tell you the names so you can verify it for yourself. One of these links is from the US National Library of Medicine. THIS is the kind of research I try to do. I want to know what the actual science says. And contrary to many pseudoscience adherents and conspiracy theorists, I generally trust the consensus of the scientific community.

“But what if they’re wrong or lying? What about this doctor or that person who disagrees?” Then prove it! Get other scientists who have the required education and experience to perform their own studies and concretely prove that aspartame is unsafe! But you don’t have to do that unless you really want to, because they’ve already been doing this exact thing for 30 years, and it’s STILL considered safe for consumption. Shouldn’t this tell us something? Instead of assuming that there must be a decades-long conspiracy by all these countless independent researchers to hide the “truth”, doesn’t it make more sense to assume that maybe people’s fears about aspartame are unfounded?

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I want my views to be based on facts. If something is truly bad for me, I’ll avoid it and I’ll encourage others to do the same. But if it’s not, I don’t see why I shouldn’t use it or why we should be stoking fear and paranoia about the food we consume. If there are other scientifically sound studies that show significant possibility of harm from using aspartame and these studies are backed by scientists experienced in this specific field, I’d certainly take that into account. But aspartame is one of the most highly studied food additives of all time, and 30 years of intense research has not proven that its unsafe or harmful.

Is there a downside to aspartame? Surely there must be one. And there is- but it’s not just aspartame.
The only downside I’ve seen of aspartame is also true of any other calorie-free sweetener: If you’re trying to retrain your taste buds to not crave sweet things anymore, then consuming artificial sweeteners will do the same thing to your brain as eating regular sugar. When we eat sweets, we then crave more sweets, even if there’s no calories. We crave the taste psychologically. So if you’re trying to retrain your brain to not crave sweets, then aspartame and all other calorie free sweeteners are going to hurt your progress.

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Please read through the information in the links I shared here before making comments about me not knowing what I’m talking about. Yes, I am just a blogger with an opinion, but this isn’t really about my opinions. This is about sharing the already confirmed consensus of the scientific and medical community. I may not be a scientist or a doctor, but the people who did these studies and verified its safety are. Don’t take my word for it- go research it yourself!

Please keep in mind that if you comment that aspartame is bad for me, I will be asking you for sources. I’ll certainly consider what you have to say, but you’re not going to change my mind with just your opinions or by citing sources that are not verifiable or reliable. I require proof- and so should you.

The Food Babe: Expert or Fraud?

foodbabe1I’ve heard a lot of people praise the Food Babe, but I’d never researched her much until recently. Apparently she is NOT a reliable source of health information and advice (neither is Doctor Oz, he’s gotten in serious trouble for promoting weight loss scams). And it’s not just one source that decries the Food Babe as unreliable, I looked her up. The people calling her out actually have extensive medical and scientific training in these fields, unlike the Food babe, who was a computer engineer and banker before starting her food blog.

Pseudoscience sells and spreads like a virus. We need to make sure that we’re taking advice from people who actually know what they’re talking about; confidence and popularity do not equal reliability. Just because someone has a huge following and claims to be a health expert does NOT make it true. Just because someone got better doesn’t mean it was their diet change or homeopathic treatment that cured them, even if they truly believe it was the cause. We have to go by facts- not opinions, theories, causality assumptions, or wishful thinking.

Just to clarify, I’m not at all opposed to healthy living, it’s important and there is a lot of crap out there that we eat and probably shouldn’t. I try to eat healthy and there are many things in my diet that I try to avoid. However, I AM opposed to misinformation and unhealthy methods being promoted as thought they’re safe and factually sound. If someone can prove their statements factually and show that they are a reliable source of information in that field, I’ll seriously consider what they have to say. A certified nutritionist or medical professional with confirmed facts backing their advice? Certainly! Random blogger with no relevant training or degree that’s been decried by professionals, or a professional that touts unfounded products or ideas and gets in trouble for it? No thank you! (*cough* Food Babe and Dr. Oz!)

Don’t believe somebody just because they make something sound good or because they’ve scared you with their media hype. Look them up, see what other professionals in that field have to say about their claims. Question everything, compare sources, look at their credentials… never assume. Can a non-credentialed person ever come up with something that professionals in that field have missed? Sure. But it’s not common in medical and science fields, and when they do they have to prove it just like the professionals do.

“I also think it’s important, as a non-scientist who also writes on scientific issues, to point out that The Science Babe isn’t suggesting Hari can’t talk about these issues because she doesn’t have a degree in science. Rather, The Science Babe is attacking Hari’s shocking hubris on these topics. Hari presents herself as an expert, a scientist, a toxicologist, someone who is qualified to talk about these complex issues. She uses a mix of junk science and personal anecdotes to create her own theories on incredibly complex health and nutrition issues.” – See more at: http://www.iwf.org/blog/2796768/The-Food-Babe-vs-The-Science-Babe#sthash.MlBmrx4Y.dpuf

Here are a few of the many sources decrying the Food Babe. Notice that they are educated people in these fields, not random bloggers stating their opinions. To me that carries far more weight than anything the Food Babe says…

http://www.scibabe.com/foodbabeway/ (I HIGHLY recommend this entire blog, not just this post! She’s sassy and knows her stuff: “Yvette holds a B.A. in theatre, a B.S. in chemistry, and an MSc in forensic science with a concentration in biological criminalistics.)
http://www.sequenceinc.com/fraudfiles/2014/09/is-food-babe-a-fraud/

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/06/23/the-food-babe-is-to-food-as-jenny-mccarthy-is-to-vaccines/

http://www.elle.com/culture/a27692/food-babe-problem/

Why causality and causation are not the same:

http://www.scibabe.com/i-just-know-why-correlation-isnt-causation/