I like to think of my dear friend from college, Dr. Varman Samuel, as this thinking girl's Dr. Oz. He studies the icky sticky goo that makes you you, as an endocrinologist and Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Medicine. He has seen my tendencies towards immoderation up close, and yet he lives. He was the first doctor I called when I had post-partum depression, when my raging new mommy 'mones were putting me on the Crazy Train express. And as someone deeply involved with diabetes research, he was the one I got in touch with to respond to my non-diet diet. (If you haven't read my "Getting Rid of the Junk in my Trunk" post, you can find it here.) He also doesn't feel the need to strut around in his scrubs at seemingly inappropriate times (savvy readers will recognize that my snarking at Dr. Oz, "America's Doctor" as deemed by my gurrl Oprah, is just a transparent cover for my runaway crush on the spritely medical phenom).
I tried typing out "Dr. Samuel," but since I've know him since we were, oh, 18?, it's just too bizarre. So I'll call him Dr. Var. His lovely and brilliant wife, Dr. Sarwat Chaudhry (I'll call her Dr. Sarwat), is also an Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Medicine. As a Chicago girl and a doctor, she has a lot of complex assessments of both Oprah and dieting, but I'll confine her analysis here to weight loss.
Dr. Var believes I am healthier, as a thinner person, regardless of how I got there.
He says there are plenty of data that correlate being heavier with bad outcomes, including an increased risk for cancer. He also says there's a growing body of work linking too many extra pounds to inflammation, which may predispose someone to hardening of the arteries.
He adds that in the group that he works with at Yale, they have found that even modest weight loss may lead to dramatic improvements for those suffering from diabetes.
That said, both Dr. Var and Dr. Sarwat said I should be more explicit in how I actually lost the weight: that I cut my calories, no easy task for most, and that I may be more cognizant of calorie counting than most. One of our commenters, DocManhattan, not to mention my good friend Adam Levine, seemed similarly confused, so I'll try to spell it out more clearly here. I would say that during the Chunk Years, I was consuming about 2500-2600 calories a day (that's a wild guess). Now I would say it's 1700, tops: 400-450 for each meal, 300-350 for dessert and dessert can be anything I want. If I snack, it's never more than 100 calories. But I rarely snack, because I'm rarely hungry.
Dr. Var thinks I should acknowledge that eating is an extremely complex social behavior that is tied to family, socializing, stress management, etc. He says it's a Sisyphean task for most people to be able to disrupt those forces.
I will also say that there are a few things I didn't include in my previous post that might make it a bit easier for me to lose weight than others.
*I have one child, and it's not hard for me separate my eating from the two other eaters in the house (as in, I can cook two admittedly half-assed meals pretty easily).
*I'm currently a teetotaler, so no alcohol calories, and no juice etc.
*My drug of choice is caffeine, but please don't tell my exasperated shrink. Caffeine kills my appetite.
*I don't eat out much at all, because I have a toddler, and if it's Olive Garden or nothing, I'm more than happy to stay home.
*I don't work right now, and if I was back in the newsroom under constant deadline stress, not toddler stress, would I be back to pillaging the green room food spread like in the old days? Maybe.
*I'm on anti-depressants. Now, my shrink says if anything I should have gained weight on anti-depressants (he says I'm always trying to denigrate my personal achievements, like losing weight. Dude thinks I'm CRAZY!). But I think it's possible that anti-depressants might help me with impulse control. Dr. Var asked about the anti-depressants, and while I see no timeline to suggest that there's a direct connection, the meds might, just might, help me somewhat in this department.
*Dr. Var thinks that I might be underestimating how active I am, considering that I chase a toddler. I'm not sure he's right about that one. Ask my kid to recite the daily line-up of PBS Kids, and you might figure out how 'active' I really am.
Which brings us, at long last, to the elephant in the room: exercise. He says exercise does not help one lose weight, but there are very good data that show it helps maintain weight loss. He basically says when you lose weight, a host of physiological changes conspire against you, pushing your body to gain it back, and exercise seems to counteract those changes.
As for me, I'm just glad the elephant in the room isn't my ass anymore. Speaking of said ass, time to plant it on down in front of the TV with a whole lot of coffee, and a 3-year-old patting the screen, saying "Hi Oprah! Hi Oprah!"