My Big Fat Fabulous Life – Season 2 Wrap-up: Reaction from Whitney’s Dietitian

Season 2 of “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” just wrapped up with a special interview with Whitney Thore and TLC execute producer Mike Kane. Did you watch it? If not, check for reruns on TLC. This show is hysterical, and highlights the best parts of this season, including keys to finding health with PCOS and pre-diabetes.

*Spoiler Alert* We know that Whitney was able to decrease her blood sugar, because her A1c (a graduated 3-month average of blood sugar) went from 6.4% to 5.4%. How did Whitney move toward health? She moved away from fear as a motivator, stopped using weight-loss as progress, and looked more into behavior change.

My favorite moment from the show: Whitney said that she moved toward health because she approached change differently. When the show started, she saw herself as a “fat woman with a good weight loss story”. Now she sees there is so much more to life than just losing weight. I’m grabbing tissues just thinking about it!

I reacted to a lot of the conversation between Whitney and Mike. Here are some of my thoughts.

Diabetes is not a death sentence

In my first 6 or 7 years in nutrition, I specialized in diabetes, becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE).  The education and experience showed me diabetes is, indeed, NOT a death sentence. Our society has long held beliefs that a diabetes diagnosis means losing limbs and blindness. Of course, this can and still happens, yet the frequency has decreased significantly. Why? Because diabetes research has helped us understand how to control blood sugar via food, self-care, movement, and medicine. Also, we no longer wait until someone has fasting blood sugars in the 200 and 300s to call it diabetes before we do something about it. Instead, we use a blood test called an A1c, which provides a longer-term picture of blood sugar levels than daily testing.

Fifty percent of women with PCOS develop diabetes or pre-diabetes by the time they reach forty years of age. Don’t let this statistic paralyze you — let it keep you informed. Before Whitney met with me during season 2, she was frightened by her pre-diabetes diagnosis and ready to cut out just about every food choice. Whitney is not the only one who’s tried to change her eating habits quickly because of health fears. Many move toward fear as a motivator, something that ends up hurting people in the long run. Fear tends to promote impulsive decisions, fad diets, and the seeking of quick results rather than health.

There’s another way fear keeps people from controlling blood sugar. Because of the stigma that comes with living in a larger body, many of my clients with PCOS feel too much shame to get regular medical check ups. I wish more health care providers communicated empathy and health solutions instead of just harping on weight loss. I’m working on that, and so are many others. In the meantime, no matter what your size, get your A1c checked each year, so you’re kept in the loop. Knowledge is power!

Get away from the number on the scale

If you and I had just one conversation about healthy eating and weight, I would want you to know these two secrets: 1) stop pursuing weight loss and 2) instead focus on behaviors that energize your body and you enjoy.

While viewing the MBFFL season wrap up, I had tears in my eyes hearing Mike say words like “get away from the number on the scale” and the number “doesn’t dictate your health”. Let me say ⎯ AMEN!

During our first session together, I told Whitney that “weight loss is not a behavior”; it’s a result of our behaviors. Behaviors are the foods we choose, the way we move our body, and our self-care habits. How our body reacts to behavior changes is dependent on an immeasurable number of variables, which may not show up on a scale as we had hoped.  Even more, if you experience PCOS, multiply these variables by 100. High testosterone and insulin levels, left untreated, can make the scale not move or go up.

There’s more to this than just behavior change. The more we focus on changing the scale, the more long-term health-markers worsen and weight goes up. More on this here.

Make health changes via eating, movement and sleep

When someone tells me that they’re going on a diet, I respond, “Oh, are you trying to gain weight?” I know I’m being a jackass with a comment like that, yet recent research supports the notion that dieting predicts weight gain.

How do we move away from high blood sugar, without focusing on weight loss or dieting?

  • Eating choices: Move toward mindful and attuned eating practices. I have written on these, extensively, in relation to people who have PCOS and those who don’t.
  • Movement: Instead of no pain / no gain, consider how your body enjoys moving. Whitney loves dancing. Do you? Or, do you enjoy walking, swimming, kick boxing, yoga? Or is it a mystery? Here’s more on finding the movement your body enjoys and helps improve health.
  • Sleep: I have two young children, and I’m obsessed with sleep. From what I hear, I’m not the only one who’s sleep-deprived. This sleepiness is hurting our health. If you’re affected by PCOS and sleep deprivation, this may be greatly contributing to blood sugar and insulin abnormalities. Here’s more on this.

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Thank you for welcoming me into your living rooms!

Thinking about all the kind words you’ve emailed, tweeted, or written to me about my time with Whitney on MBFFL fills my heart with gratitude. I’m energized knowing that speaking about weight stigma empowers you to advocate for yourself and reconnect to a healthy relationship with food.

I’m also thankful for the not-so-kind words, letting me know your disagreement with telling Whitney, a large woman, to not diet or cut out food groups. Both groups have motivated me, even more, to spread the message of body positivity and food peace. I hope that you’ll check out my podcast, coming soon. It’s the Love Food Podcast series, and I’ll bring to you these same messages I brought to Whitney. Check it out!

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Take care friends.

Warmly,

Julie