I managed to lose 1.25 inches on my waist this week. This represents an enormous victory in combating entropy and it was expensive in terms of energy and action foregone. I know, from 23&me that my father’s family has genetically elevated blood lipids. From observation, I note that to a man or woman, they die of a stroke at the age of 84. I am confident that my 7 longevity genes from the bog-dwelling Celtic wise women, those two hundred generations of bitter survival and occasional magic, will trump my more civilized genetics. Those genes are gnarly and stubborn and frankly refuse to die.
But what if I live to 100 and start stroking out at 80? That is more than possible because no matter what, cancer, heart disease, depression, we live into our upper 90s at the youngest. So possibly I can start stroking out in my early 80s and live for 20 more years a burden to the universe and anyone who loves me. That’s a big hell no.
What that means is no submental fat. No fat layered around your liver and heart and stomach and pancreas. And of course, where does fat layer itself on my body? Right where it is most dangerous, right where it sits, cozy and happy till one day it rises and turns me into a vegetable.
Last week New York Magazine published an excerpt from a memoir called This is Big: How the Founder of Weight Watchers Changed the World and Me, by Marisa Meltzer, who interviews thin celebrities for a living while being fifty pounds overweight and is miserable because of it.
“I am nearly constantly aware of the feeling of my stomach hanging down toward my pelvis, of my thighs rubbing together, of the fat under my chin touching my neck when I look down. And I have tried my best to change my body — dieting, working out, spas, personal trainers, radical body acceptance, Botox, fillers, fat-melting shots of Kybella in an attempt to get rid of a double chin. I’d even gone under general anesthesia for liposuction.
And that list is not complete.”
I just want to hug her. To me, Meltzer is a beauty, zaftig, with luxurious rolls of fat, a gorgeous pink cake of a woman who must stand in a room and watch everyone yearn towards her and not believe them. She reads miserable in her skin, agonized, obsessed, and self-hating as if she has internalized the perspective of the vilest, transactional male from high school. This may not be true, but if it is, it sucks. I hope her book’s journey finds her fighting her way past that internal censor. It may be that her genetic programming does not require that she be 50 pounds lighter and she can stay her gorgeous zaftig self. Body positivity, baby girl.
Mine, however, does require that I be thin. When I was 17, I got so sick of my mother’s obsessing over her weight, I just cut down on eating, I got used to being hungry and ate only when I absolutely had to. Later, I had two friends in London who were consort/wives/baby mothers of famous pop stars and they too starved themselves regularly – they had to in order to maintain their considerable beauty. I followed along in their footsteps for a while, did lose some weight, learned how, again, in adulthood to do it. Then thought, ‘Fuck it, food is so delicious and I want to learn how to cook and well”. I did and in the process put on 20 pounds.
20 death-dealing pounds. In my case, maybe not yours, but on average being overweight, obese, shaves 9 years off your life. Nine. NINE. Smoking only takes 7 years.
So here is what I have learned from the beauties in my life, among which I include my beautiful, brilliant, tortured mother. Humans’ natural state for millennia was hunger. Just an edge to keep you sharp, just enough to say, I’m hungry but not faint. Biohacking freaks say that fasting releases ketones, which they claim are the fourth major nutrient, the nutrient that makes your brain sharp, your body responsive. Fasting is so good and useful that your physiology begins to repair itself. Not only eliminating heart disease but Alzheimer’s can be prevented – yes, prevented by fasting.
The following is from “The Effects of Caloric Restriction and Its Mimetics in Alzheimer’s Disease Through Autophagy Pathways”
“The aberrant accumulation of these misfolded and aggregated proteins results in neurotoxicity, and AD is therefore recognized as a proteinopathy,” the paper states. Other pathological events frequently seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients include:
- Synaptic deficits and axonal degeneration
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Abnormal metal homeostasis
- Oxidative stress
- Many of these occur as a result of “insufficient elimination of neurotoxic proteins or damaged intracellular organelles,” the paper notes. In other words, they occur when there’s insufficient autophagy occurring in your body.
Autophagy happens when you fast. Or diet.
So to Meltzer and all the other gorgeous over-weight women out there, this is the easy, or rather, simple part of it. Start small, fast until you can eat a cow, then eat. Eat whatever you want. Then start the fast again. Repeat until it’s too painful. Notice the pain. Value the pain. Recognize the pain as telling you something valuable. Find out what it is. Deal with it. Eat. Repeat. Again. And again. Eventually, and I promise you this, something will click, and you will start to feel good. At that point, the unneeded weight will start to drop off. A whole lot of unnecessary buried emotional crap that has been holding you down, will have resolved itself. And you will have saved your life. Because that is how important fasting (or dieting) is.
I spent last year in bed, with a relapse of chronic fatigue, from which I had believed I had completely recovered. If you ever get a chance to do that – and you probably will if you live long enough – rejoice, there is much pleasure to be found in extended rest. As well as anxiety, some terror, and bad FOMO. But since you (I) can get bored with misery, behind that was great politics, acres of books to read, films to watch, forums to observe, and thinking to do. Being ill, I thought principally about my illness, which I have packed around with myself for 30 years or so through New York, London, Bermuda and coastal British Columbia, where I found, finally, my health. I blame my mother. My matrilineal gifts are many, including among them long life, my mother and her aunt died at 96, their mother at 97, and a great aunt at 107. But illness or some kind of setting-aside-from-life was part of their lives too. They were Irish in origin, northern Irish, and a house still stands where 12 generations of them have lived and some still live. Somehow they hung on to home, no matter what.
I know the history of many lines in my family going back to 920 AD. But I wondered about those women in Ireland from the 1st to 10th century. Lots of long damp winters, where you stayed in by the fire and dozed all day, eating beans and, if you were lucky, bunnies. Probably not feeling completely well for months at a time. But through those long rests in a stone house in a cold country where freezing rain is the dominant weather feature, was born over 80 or 90 generations the longevity gene which I now carry.
We are or were all preoccupied with our health. When my grandmother went into the hospital at 97 for the last time, a small suitcase tipped and two dozen bottles of nutritional supplements rolled across the floor. “Was she always ill?” asked the nurse. My mother nodded. “Those old ladies go on forever,” she quipped to my mother, who too, carried suitcases of supplements when she traveled. As do I. I want to live to 105, reading and writing and shopping online to the very last day.
There is a genetic component to Chronic Fatigue/ME. No one really knows how it factors in, but it is mitochondrial, or female-based. Jennifer Brea, a sufferer like me, made a multi-award-winning film last year, called Unrest. It asks many questions, the answers to which may lead to a radical upswing in length of life.
I’ll be waiting. Possibly ill, but fully alive.