Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Fat Woman is bullied

Fat Woman had never let Personal Trainer into her nutrition. This was because Fat Woman had been burned too many times by people she had trusted as health professionals (and personal trainers) who had tried to put Fat Woman on a starvation diet. Fat Woman has control of her weight loss (70lb so far) by counting calories and following a balanced, low GI diet with a healthy amount of protein and fat. Fat Woman believes that calorie consumption vs burn is the key to weight loss, once your hormones are in balance. Fat Woman also knows that most people over estimate the amount of calories they burn and under estimate the number of calories they have consumed. Fat Woman is very careful not to do that, and weighs and measures her food, reads labels and makes sure she eats mostly whole food, and works to a calorie allowance that would give her 1lb loss each week if she were sedentary. Fat Woman thought Personal Trainer had accepted that Fat Woman was knowledgeable and in control of her diet.

Fat Woman and Personal Trainer were training when the subject of green tea as a weight loss tool came up. Fat Woman actually brought it up, and kicked herself for ten straight minutes afterwards.  Fat Woman told Personal Trainer that after he mentioned it she had looked into the subject of green tea and had not found any study proving that either the tea or green tea extract helped weight loss. Fat Woman had in fact found several studies proving that green tea wasn't any good for weight loss. Personal Trainer wasn't keen on believing this and cited that all the body builders he knew or read about used green tea. Fat Woman pointed out this was like saying that all fat ladies eat ice-cream, therefore ice-cream is responsible for making ladies fat. Correlation is not the same as causation. Personal Trainer seemed to understand Fat Woman's point. Personal Trainer came up with several other reasons why green tea was good. Fat Woman has noticed that Personal Trainer does this regarding food. Personal Trainer said soya lecithin was a fat burner but after Fat Woman pointed out it wasn't, it was just an emulsifier, he claimed he never said that.

The talk moved on to nutrition, starting with how Buddy thought that the beans on toast Fat Woman ordered the previous day had too many carbs. Personal Trainer was supportive of beans on toast. Then somehow the talk moved on via other trainers noticing how much progress Fat Woman has been making to how Fat Woman doesn't let Personal Trainer in to her nutrition.  Personal Trainer talked about how it was great Fat Woman had dropped all these jeans sizes but he wanted to get "the weight off as well". Fat Woman was a little caught on the hop as she had been showing a consistent fall in weight over the months. Admittedly she hadn't lost much this month but she hadn't followed her eating plan for two of those weeks. Fat Woman had already confessed this.

When Personal Trainer he thought Fat Woman didn't trust him on the subject of nutrition Fat Woman turned to look him in the eye and said she didn't trust him. Personal Trainer doesn't subscribe to the "calories are the baseline" view that Fat Woman does, and he does believe in other things such as low carbing. Fat Woman was kind enough to add that it was about her not a reflection on Personal Trainer himself. This seemed to fire up Personal Trainer, who may well have taken Fat Woman's refusal personally despite all that was said. Fat Woman isn't exactly sure how it happened but she ended up feeling quite beaten down, and was resting her head against the wall in a "please, no more" pose. Given that Personal Trainer is usually very good at body language Fat Woman thinks he was not concentrating on her at this poin t. For the first time ever with Personal Trainer Fat Woman felt bullied. It was as though Personal Trainer had something to prove. The irony was that not an hour earlier Personal Trainer had been telling how good at manipulating women he was. Fat Woman feels that Personal Trainer saying "I care about you" was particularly manipulative, especially as later on that day he refused to tell her that she looked nice when everyone else did, so he obviously didn't care that much about her feelings. For the record, the difference in Fat Woman's appearance was momentous. Fat Woman never usually straightens her hair or wears make up around the gym.

Fat Woman ended up agreeing  to produce a food diary of the next three days for Personal Trainer. Fat Woman went out to lunch with Tiny Friend and because she was worried about what Personal Trainer would think chose such a small meal that she was hungry afterwards. Fat Woman felt unable to eat what she needed to. Fat Woman then felt angry with both herself for giving in and Personal Trainer for pushing at her boundaries.

Fat Woman sat down and wrote to Personal Trainer. Fat Woman cried a bit when writing it but mostly accessed her inner core of steel.

I know it’s hard for you to read long emails, but you’re going to have to work with me on this. I do everything you ask me to, and if you care as much as you say you do then I really need you to understand that this is not about you, as a person or a PT. It’s about me. My life, my health, my boundaries. 

Humans need food to live. Food is a human right. I was denied enough food because people were either ignorant or prejudiced about how much food I realistically needed. In their eyes I was less than human. I learned that the only person who was going to fight for my human rights was me. I will not be ashamed of needing to eat. I will not be ashamed that I need to eat differently from other people, and I will not hand over control of what I eat. I don’t want this to be a power struggle between us, because the power stays with me. It’s what being empowered means.

I said I don’t trust you on this subject, and that is true. I don’t trust that you aren’t going to make the same mistakes or exercise the same prejudices that other people have. I don’t trust that you have the knowledge to produce a diet plan suitable for someone living with Hashimoto’s syndrome (thyroid auto immune disorder) and the complications it brings. I don’t trust that you accept things that are the bedrock of nutritional science. I’d like to be able to trust you, but that won’t happen if you have an agenda and it certainly won’t happen if you aren’t secure in working with someone who has spent a long time learning about her own health.

The biggest mistake that people have made is assigning a daily calorie value that is way too low. Already you’ve started saying: “That sounds like a lot of calories”. It might well sound like a lot of calories to you, but I am the weight I am. It takes me more energy (calories) just to exist. When you dismiss calories it takes away my justification for my right to eat. The methods for calculating how many calories a person needs i.e. their basal metabolic rate are accepted and proven. One pound of fat is 3500 calories. If you don’t accept this and the science behind them then we return to you assigning me an arbitrary value based on your prejudices. 

Say you’ve got this far and you are willing to go with this idea. You can use the calculator at to find how much energy it takes someone to maintain their weight. At my current age and weight I need 2118 calories just to exist. To be out of bed and walking around I need 2542 calories. Doing the 8+ hours of exercise I currently do I’d need 3654 calories to maintain my weight. To lose a pound of weight a week I need a calorie deficit of 500 calories each day. If I was completely sedentary that would be 2042 calories a day. I currently eat 1800 calories – half of what I could eat on my exercise plan and maintain my weight. That’s the rough equivalent of you on less than a thousand calories. There’s not a lot of room left so forgive me if I get a little defensive of my right not to starve. 
The calorie amount I get is recalculated every week when I weigh in. The recommended guidelines are below; sometimes there might be more protein and less fat, depending on what I choose to cook.
Calories 1800
Protein 60g
Carbs 265g
Fat 60g

I feel that I took two weeks off my diet plan (when I didn’t gain, just didn’t lose) and you’re jumping on this as a chance to press your advantage. Of the 20 weeks we’ve been working together I’ve lost 30lb, and three of those weeks I wasn’t dieting. If I didn’t lose for two weeks it’s most likely because I wasn’t controlling my food intake closely enough. If I do a perfect week and still don’t lose weight then it’s probably a hormone issue, not necessarily thyroid. Two perfect weeks and no loss and I’m back to the doctor.

Fat Woman then added the following two paragraphs to move the situation on towards a win-win resolution.

I would welcome your help with making my diet become more supportive of the amount of exercise I am doing. I really need you to accept that I need to eat more calories than you might initially think, and that I need a diet that is high in fibre. I eat low GI carbohydrates because I stay fuller for longer, plus they are high in fibre which also helps will satiety. 

I don’t want this to become a huge sticking point between us. If you can tell me what you want me to do and why I’ll certainly do you the courtesy of listening. I’m open to the idea that you have knowledge that would benefit me. I need you to understand me, and I need you not to see this as a challenge.

Fat Woman read the email back and decided it was too personal, too emotional to send. Instead she sent the following message:

Dear Personal Trainer,

Would you like to (1) agree that the basal metabolic rate calculator ( and the accompanying Harris-Benedict equation is accurate and applicable and that we will work with it? Or would you rather (2) read my long but persuasive email with explanations, reasoned arguments and feelings? It's 850 words, but after writing it I realise that I just want item 1. Give me item 1 and I will feel safe. If you want to discuss it some more, you can have the email.

Fat Woman hasn't yet heard back from Personal Trainer. Fat Woman has descended into an icy cool where she has all the arguments and rejoinders she needs. Fat Woman hates fights, but will fight when she feels trapped. Fat Woman feels righteously angry, and that is when she is most powerful. Fat Woman is trying to bear in mind that Personal Trainer is only young, and that she needs to avoid doing anything to make him lose face amongst his colleagues. Fat Woman is wondering if that is what this is about. Fat Woman did say that "Personal Trainer and I don't talk about nutrition" and this may well have got back to Personal Trainer. Fat Woman doesn't think it is solely about what is best for Fat Woman.

Fat Woman feels a little sad that Personal Trainer is not acting totally in a client-centred way. Fat Woman has made a mental note to introduce Personal Trainer to the concept of being "client centred".

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