Coming Clean: My Biases and What They Mean for You

I’m no different than the rest of you. I too, have my biases—my prejudices, my leanings, my preconceived ideas about what makes sense. They influence my actions, my reading of scientific studies, and they impact my professional recommendations.

I make no apologies; my biases effect what I tell you as patients and as blog readers. Like conference speakers obliged to disclose who profits from their research or their words, I’m giving my full disclosure. Here are some insights about why I lean as I do:

1) I’m biased against the weight loss literature's conclusions. In spite of the dismal research that only a small percentage of overweight dieters maintain their weight loss, I’m biased against these results. Weight loss, and maintenance is notan unreasonable goal—for somepeople, that is. Yes, I realize that the weight suppression data may suggest otherwise, as mentioned in my previous post.

Yet I’m skeptical about how study participants lost the reported weight and that impact on weight regain. And I’m cautious about who should have been losing in the first place. If someone had been binge eating and normalized their eating, why wouldn’t they lose weight and keep it off—as long as they remained free of binge eating? If you were disconnected from your physical cues, from your hunger and your fullness, but then turned that around, why couldn’t you maintain the lost weight? That is, if your higher weight was not your healthy normal that you had always been. Which gets me to the next point.

Many patients have appropriately lost and maintained significant weight loss. They were not on diet plans—not calorie counting, no categorical exclusions such as “no white flour” or “no carbs”. Rather, they have slowly modified their actions, and their thoughts. And ultimately, their weight adjusted. Read about my patients such as Erin and Maggie.

I fit into the category above. I have lost about 35 pounds since graduating from college—35 pounds that were not a part of my usual size. My weight had always been in the normal range—I had never experienced weight issues until college, when my yo-yoing began. Dieting, binging, denial of my needs failed to bring my weight back to normal. But changing all that did. I do not work to maintain my weight at this point, but I continually embrace honoring what I feel like eating, and responding to when I need to eat.

2) I believe that you know best about yourself—until your disordered thoughts, your restrictive rules, your lack of trust in yourself take over. Yet I believe that deep down you really know just how much you need to eat—just like when you were a young child before all this craziness began. It’s just so damn scary!

3) I’m biased against light products and diet packaged meals. No, they are not simply better than not eating (shout out to Thursday's patient—thanks for inspiring this!) Why? Because they mislead you! Tricky Weight Watcher’s meals and Lean Cuisines? Sneaky Arnold rounds? Indeed. 

First, they may look like they’re supposed to be enough. The light bread (that has half the calories than the regular bread) looks like a full sandwich. But then when you’re hungry from eating what amounts to only half a sandwich, whom do you blame? You only fault yourself, believing that it should’ve been enough, that you’re the one with the problem. Not so, my friends!

As for the frozen meals, I must say that in all my (50) years I’ve never eaten a diet frozen dinner, so my bias does not come from my experience having them. They just look like not enough to me—or for anyone. Admittedly, you can add a glass of milk, and a fruit or a dessert and it may be just fine. But somehow I don’t suspect that’s what you intend to do.

4) I’m biased against omitting what we enjoy eating. I believe that sweets and all things that taste good have a place in our diet. Maybe it’s because I personally eat things I like, including baked goods and good chocolate quite frequently. Excessively? Mindlessly? Not usually. Not when I’m driving or watching TV. Ok, sometimes the popcorn comes down to the family room (notice how passive that statement was?) while I’m watching TV—there, I’ve said it. Maybe it’s because I see the consequence of banning them, of making them forbidden, that I fight for making them available.

5) Yes, I’m biased against eating disorders.  Eating disorders lie. Which is not to say you are a liar. Have you lost me yet? They distort what you perceive you’ve eaten—yes, you overestimate your calories if you are under eating, and you may minimize or exaggerate them if you overate—it can go either way. 

Eating disorders mislead you into thinking that a yogurt is a meal, or that a black coffee, or even a latte is an appropriate means to respond to your hunger. They don’t volunteer information—I have to ask, and beg and probe to get a full and honest response.

6) It’s not your fault—again, that’s my bias. I don’t believe you want to be struggling with binge eating, or purging, compulsive exercise or laxative abuse or restrictive eating. And I’m convinced that I, that we can’t simply wait around until you’re simply ready.

7) I’m suspect when I only hear that everything is always great. And I’m cynical when I hear that everything is always terrible. Your bias, I suspect, is a lack of honesty with yourself.

8) I’m partial to the value of the relationship. I’ve not reviewed the literature on this, but my bias is that you’re more likely to work to change—at least initially—for your soon-to-be-born child or for your young children. And if you’re fortunate enough to have a positive relationship with a healthcare provider, you’ll work for them too.

9) Oh, and regardless of what they tell you, I believe it’s never too late to change. And this bias is based on the many clients I’ve seen, at all ages, at all stages of their disordered relationship with food. Yes, you too can recover from an eating disorder. And you can change your relationship with food. Even now.

So call me biased.

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