Op-ed piece from The Pioneer, 28 July 1995

Joel speaks out for those who can’t
Joel Edelman

In a recent edition of The Pioneer, there was an article written by Kelly Lake titled “Consumer help for all.”

In Lake’s article there are three items of Òconsumer help.” The first and third are very informative. However the second “helpful hint” is perhaps more damaging than it is helpful.

The second “helpful hint,” titled “Attention Dieters,” is a piece lamenting the problems of calories and sugar, and how fat-free products are useless in the pursuit of losing weight. In the immortal words of Al Bundy: It isn’t the dress that makes you fat, it is the fat that makes you fat. The only infomercial that has ever made scientific sense to me was Susan Powter’s Stop the Insanity series. One of her other key phrases Ñ high volume, low fat Ñ should be the key to any dieter’s success.

There are two keys to losing weight if you are obese: increasing your personal daily activity and consuming less fat than you burn. Have you ever seen an overweight vegetarian? No. This is because most people receive their fat from meats, and vegetables are fat-free.

Some people try starvation diets. As Powter has proclaimed, this is like running a car without gas. Where can you drive without gas? Nowhere. Would you like 137 baked potatoes or a Twinkie? The reasons for starvation diets not working are twofold. First off, people cheat. And when they do cheat, it is with something “dense,” a fat bomb of some sort. Do you see a person defeat their diet-causing hunger with a rice cake or a brownie? Case dismissed. Secondly, when bodies don’t have energy (calories are energy, fat is, well, fat) they go after the muscle tissue to subsist first. Fat insulates better, and our bodies have evolved to survive during the cold Ice Ages of times past. After all, tone muscle is denser than body fat, and therefore weighs more, so how important is weight anyway? Starvation diets show small, immediate results, and this is what makes them seem so great on the outside. But it could quickly add up to several different eating disorders.

This summer, when Olympic Trials are held, look at the female gymnasts. On a windy day they would be knocked over. These “pixies,” as they are often referred to, are rarely over five feet tall, and never even close to 100 pounds. They are starved, sometimes by their families and trainers, other times by themselves, especially after being told that they could squeeze an extra turn in their jumps if they only “dropped five more pounds.”

Five pounds to me is nothing (I weigh 190). But if you only weigh 75 pounds, those five pounds are much more important. In the past year a former gymnast died in her 20s, and it was related to anorexia nervosa, a severe eating disorder where people are convinced that they are “too fat,” and literally starve themselves into non-existence. When she was competing she was a “healthy” 85-90 pounds, but at her death she was down to 60. When a female gymnast’s career ends (usually in their early 20s), the thoughts in their heads remain. With as many as 15 years of training behind them, they are used to not eating for days at a time.

I have pen pals around the world. One who lives in Nebraska stopped writing for almost six months, then responded to a letter I sent. Her parents had divorced, and for attention, she constantly starved herself (this brings new meaning to the phrase starved for attention). She had dropped to only 85 pounds from 120. I convinced her to see a doctor, and he diagnosed her with anorexia. She is on the road to recovery now, and while it will be some time before she rejoins her high school soccer team, she is already feeling a thousand times better.

Another pen pal of mine lives in Iowa. Recently she has been depressed, because “boys don’t like her.” I have noticed that she comments more and more on how she is “losing weight,” and that she fits into a size five now. And in every letter she mentions that she “looks better in a swimsuit now than before.” I am worried that she could be entering the pathway of an eating disorder. I hope that I can somehow steer her away from this hellacious problem.

I guess the moral of all this is that for others to be happy with you, you must be happy with yourself first. Why would you want people to like you anyway, if they only hung around you for your appearance? And to Kelly Lake, no hard feelings, I wouldn’t want to stop you from writing for this fine publication, but I felt I had to speak out on this one.

Questions, comments or suggestions can be directed to jughead@inferno.com, or you can leave a note with The Pioneer. You can listen to me on KSUH every Thursday from 10 a.m. until noon, and on Fridays from noon until 2 p.m.

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