Dr. Peter Attia, like many new doctors, thought he had this whole healthy living thing figured out. So much so that when a woman came into his ER one night in 2006 with uncontrolled type II diabetes and needed a foot amputation, he had nothing but “bitter contempt” for her, for allowing herself to get that way. “If she’d just watch what she ate and exercised a little she wouldn’t be in this position,” he remembers thinking as he unceremoniously lopped off her limb.
So far, Attia’s story is like so many countless other doctor interactions with obese patients – sad, too common, and not terribly helpful. But then Attia’s story changes from the common narrative, in three important ways.
1. He recognized the unfairness of his attitude, even as he was thinking it.
2. He got metabolic syndrome – a precursor to type II diabetes – himself, just a few years later despite watching what he ate and “exercising four hours a day.”
3. He questioned the conventional wisdom about obesity, turning the research of it into his life’s work. Which led to a very interesting conclusion.
Eighteen deaths may not sound like a lot, especially in a world where millions of energy drinks are sold and consumed each year, an $8.9 billion-dollar industry. But that’s still 18 people whose lives were possibly cut short thanks to, well, a short cut. And if the death toll isn’t shocking enough, how about this stat: a federal report found over 13,000 emergency room visits linked to energy drinks in 2009.
I have been in the latter group and, depending on who you ask, I was nearly in the former.
I feel sick just remembering it. The funny thing is that I was so sick, I don’t remember much of the experience but the one thing I remember most was how horribly awful I felt. In 2010 I ran a local 10-mile race. No biggie, I’d run more than twice that distance in the past and my friends and I had signed up for it just to have an excuse to put on tutus, run and laugh together. It was supposed to just be a fun run. But because of my super perfectionist drive (and because I’d just had a baby and was trying to prove that I was back in black), I’d gotten it in my mind that I was going to try for a PR (personal record, in running parlance). Never mind that I hadn’t trained for a PR. Never mind that I still wasn’t fully recovered from childbirth. Never mind that I knew, deep down, that even if did run my socks off it still wouldn’t make me enough. Because no matter what I did, I never felt like was enough in those days. I hadn’t learned yet how to separate who I am from what I do.
From now on I’m sticking to sugar as my pre-race pep. Jelly beans are happy pills indeed.
Bad news bodybuilders: dimethylamylamine (DMAA) may be responsible for the deaths of two soldiers, according to the U.S. Army. Eh, just another day and another story about a sports supplement gone wrong? Not for me. This story hit me hard. Probably because I have some DMAA in my cabinet as we speak.
You may not recognize DMAA by acronym alone but it’s also known as Asian geranium extract and it’s found in some of the most popular – and most effective – supplements on the market like J3cked (pronounced “jacked” in case you don’t want to look like an idiot in front of the GNC salesman like I did) and OxyElite Pro. I’ve taken both. While I hate J3cked and steer clear of it – it was part of the cocktail I took that, forgive me – jacked me up, and made me puke my way through a ten-mile race a year and a half ago – OxyElite Pro is a different story.
A waitress friend of mine recently snapped a pic of an overweight patron’s meal. Why? So she could text it to several of her friends. Sure her customer’s meal was appalling – One of every appetizer? Yes, please – but even more so was the realization that now, more than ever, eating is a spectator sport. People feel they not only have a right to see what other people are eating but also to pass judgment on it. Even though we don’t.
I blame the media for this. Or at least for beginning the trend with shows like the Biggest Loser that have cameras recording participants’ every bite and advertising that relies on monitoring a person’s food intake to sell their product a la Jared the Subway Guy. We won’t even talk about the media hoopla surrounding Marie Osmond, Kirstie Alley, and the grand dame of weight loss struggles, Oprah. Jessica Alba can’t take a bite of food without a telephoto lens documenting it.
When super-fit personal trainer Drew Manning decided to “get fat” for six months and then lose the weight, chronicling his journey on his website Fit2Fat2Fit, his story shot into the media limelight faster than a starlet’s nip slip. Everyone, it seems, wants to know why Manning would voluntarily shed his rock-hard body – one he’d used to model in the past – and trade in his thin privilege for something most Americans are doing their darndest to get rid of? He explains,
“My goal is to inspire people to get fit, teach them how to do it and give them hope that it IS possible to get fit and stay fit. I want to share my comprehensive fitness knowledge with my followers so that they can know how to lose weight successfully, even though for many it’s going to be a struggle. People that are overweight have to overcome both physical and emotional barriers when it comes to losing weight. I hope to have a better understanding of this through my experience over the next year. Also, I hope to better gain an understanding of how hard it really is to be overweight. I know it’s only going to be for 6 months, but at least it’ll give me a small window of the physical and emotional issues that come with being overweight.”
On Monday a farmer in Northern Ireland, upon meeting the international pop star Rihanna, did what I imagine very few red-blooded men would: he publicly admitted to not knowing who Rihanna is. Okay, that’s true, but my great uncles would probably all say the same. No, his real shocker was kicking Rihanna out of his grain field where she was filming a music video. Her crime? Looking too sexy. Alderman* Alan Graham explained that when he saw the singer strip down to a red bikini top and jeans he “felt things were getting inappropriate.” He added, “I had my conversation with Rihanna and I hope she understands where I’m coming from. We shook hands.” And the hand shake makes three things most men would never do if they met Rihanna.
Disappointed. That’s the only way to describe how I felt after my first month of volunteering every day at the battered women’s shelter. It started out all fun and spy games, with the coordinator telling me to meet her on the corner of a crowded intersection and to come alone. Once I got to the shelter, I had to be buzzed in through the razor-wire topped fence by a guard on duty 24 hours a day. The rules were: no men (no male children unless they were under 13), no unapproved visitors, no alcohol, no drugs. Everyone had to go to mandatory counseling and parenting classes. Clearly these people were serious.
I was excited because thanks to losing my daughter Faith and only part-time work teaching at the college, I suddenly had a lot of empty time on my hands. I could either sit at home and stare at my empty nursery or I could get out and Help! People! I’m not sure what I was envisioning (comforting a woman sobbing on my shoulder? Holding a young child while her mom defiantly cut all ties with her abusive husband? Having a walk-on role in the Lifetime movie of the week??) but the entire first week all I did was write thank-you cards to the people who’d contributed money to the shelter. The second week they trusted me enough to man the visitor’s sign-in book. By week 3 I’d moved up to being in charge of the vouchers. And that’s when things started to go from Happy Liberal Fantasy to Crazytown.
“The problem is, and dare I say this, it doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice. And then we hear that she’s out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving. I’m trying to say that our first lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue or of a woman Alex Rodriguez might date every six months or what have you.” [Charlotte’s note: All this vitriol because she chose to eat ribs for dinner one night – ribs, incidentally, that were “braised short ribs” reported by the chef at the restaurant as having 600 calories per serving and made from lean local beef served with a side of kale and mushrooms.]
Therefore, in writing this blog, I usually try to stick to topics that I have some experience in. But today I’m going to break with tradition and write about something I know absolutely nothing about. I’m really nervous since this topic is very sensitive and the last thing I want to do is proverbially Heimlich the stroke victim again. I wouldn’t normally touch something so far out of my purview but with an estimated 3-5% of the adult population of the US suffering from this disorder it is simultaneously the most prevalent and yet least talked about of all the eating disorders. And judging from the amount of e-mails and comments I get, it’s an important topic to you guys too. Today we’re talking Binge Eating Disorder.