Worth Your Weight

February 23, 2009

Fill ‘er up

Filed under: fat acceptance — worthyourweight @ 8:23 pm

If you’ve spent any time at all in a dieting environment — professional or amateur — you’ve definitely heard that “food is fuel.” It is not entertainment, damn it! This strikes me as just as dreary as the idea that sex is solely for procreation. Heck, even the Catholic Church allows another reason for sex: to strengthen the bond between wife and husband.

So I’d been advised in my former dieting days to view food for my body like gas for a car. Er, okay. I accepted this blindly as “great advice!” (Except I enjoy mouth-feels of food almost as much as tastes, sometimes more.) It sounded like a useful thing to keep in mind. But like so much diet advice clunking around in my head — like “eat and exercise like a thin person” — it just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. (Like, uh, there are many thin people who overeat and are sedentary.)

I began to ruminate on the food/body-gas/car analogy. Fuel, huh? Well, the dieting maestros swear that losing weight’s all about burning more calories than you take in.

Well, what happens if a car uses more gas than it’s been filled with? If your car runs out of gas, it breaks down, and you’re going nowhere. Supposedly even letting the gas tank get below 1/4 full is bad for the car.

I don’t think the human body is designed to ever burn more calories than it took in. That makes no sense. It’ll either use what it has or save any extra energy for later use/emergencies.

I’d rather have a car with just enough gas in the tank to get me to my destination. Actually, having extra fuel in reserve sounds like an even better plan. Running on empty doesn’t interest me at all and actually sounds quite dangerous.

[My blogging here has been — well, sporadic doesn’t begin to cover it. A real-life project has eaten up most of the time I used to spend blogging, and this will continue the rest of this year and possibly several more. So this could be my last post. I’d love to be able to come back. I’m just not sure when. But I thank you from my cockles for reading/commenting. You make the Fatosphere a hell of a community, and I’m grateful for your contributions and how you’ve informed my belief in fat acceptance.]


  1. Well, what happens if a car uses more gas than it’s been filled with? If your car runs out of gas, it breaks down, and you’re going nowhere. Supposedly even letting the gas tank get below 1/4 full is bad for the car.

    Absolutely brilliant.

    Some might try to say that “oh, well, people aren’t cars.” And they’re right: people are much more complicated. Which means that “too much fuel” for one person may be just right for another, or nowhere near enough for someone else.

    Comment by Lindsay C. — February 23, 2009 @ 8:49 pm

  2. Well, dammer. You’ll be missed if you quit blogging, but I can understand not having the time or energy when you have projects to be done. And do come back whenever you’re able, I’ve enjoyed reading your posts, even if I don’t always comment.

    Comment by vesta44 — February 23, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

  3. Frrrickin’ A, Girl!!

    As much as I calorie count/burn that DOES make a heck load of sense and I got a 4 year old with a condition and a hyperactive 2 year old to look after..

    Lord KNOWS I need all the extra fuel I put in!!

    Comment by Mizery — February 23, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

  4. Lindsay C.,

    As usual, *excellent* points! It really is so important to realize that one size does not fit all, in so many ways.


    You have always made me feel so welcome in the ‘Sphere. Thank you! I never realized until I tried it how much effort goes into a blog. Even a simple post takes some time to construct. I have the utmost respect for bloggers, especially frequent updaters who keep at it for a long time. I continue to love your blog. Keep up the great work!


    You definitely need the energy! LOL :)

    Comment by worthyourweight — February 23, 2009 @ 11:33 pm

  5. Maybe it’s that my diet monster used value judgments about food, but I’ve always liked the “food is fuel” thing. To me it says that no food is better than any other food, just that some food lets you run longer than others. For example: if I go mountain climbing and bring fudge with me to eat at the top, then I will feel more energetic once I reach the bottom, especially if I take trail mix instead. Fudge is “bad” and yet all the fat, sugar, and protein will help me more than any number of nuts.

    For me this removes values from my meals.

    Comment by Sara A — February 23, 2009 @ 11:38 pm

  6. I have a little poll going on my blog about this very subject: http://fatosphere.blogspot.com/2009/02/joy-of-eating.html

    So far the commenters agree that the ‘food is fuel’ analogy sucks. Then again, I’m not sure I have a very well controlled sample! ;)

    Comment by mary — February 24, 2009 @ 12:58 am

  7. Food is fuel — DON’T DRIVE ON FUMES!

    Love it.

    Comment by meowser — February 24, 2009 @ 3:56 am

  8. This is great and so true. If we’re supposed to act like bodies are bunsen burners set to accept fuel like cars and burn only what they need…the analogy just breaks down so quickly. If I put too much gas into my car’s individual tank, it overfills. It won’t ALLOW more to go in. Just like you can’t make a person gain permanently above their set range of weight, you can’t FORCE a car to hold more fuel than it is set to contain.

    Good luck with your projects!

    Comment by April D — February 24, 2009 @ 8:28 am

  9. Sara A,

    That’s a new take (for me) on the “food=fuel.” I’m glad you mentioned it. “Food is fuel” has always been used on me to actually put value judgments on food; so it’s good to learn a new perspective. I read a great post once in a Fatosphere blog about how kids did better on scholastic tests after eating junk food! Surprising.


    Great post and comments at your blog! It’s interesting you imagine “food is fuel ONLY” as a common view among bodybuilders. That is, in fact, who first introduced me to the concept.

    I also find the studies fascinating that say we get more/better/more efficient nutrition when we eat foods we enjoy.


    “Food is fuel — DON’T DRIVE ON FUMES!”

    LOL, that is great! I need a bumper sticker.

    April D,

    Your comment made me remember the theory that some people have “spender” genes, meaning they burn more calories without any effort, and other people have “saver” genes, meaning they store calories despite how much they may limit their food intake. Maybe like a car that gets better mileage?

    Thank you for the good wishes :)

    Comment by worthyourweight — February 24, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

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