Health at Every Size: Intuitive Eating Vs. Dieting

Linda Bacon‘s book Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight (2010) presents solid clinical expertise regarding intuitive eating versus dieting. The New York Times states that Bacon’s approach is about:

….listening to hunger signals, eating when you’re hungry, choosing nutritious food over junk. It encourages exercise, but for its emotional and physical benefits, not as a way to lose weight. It advocates tossing out the bathroom scale and loving your body no matter what it weighs.

Bacon, along with dietitian and researcher Lucy Aphramor, analyzed almost 200 studies about weight loss. As reported in a New York Times blog, The 6th Floor, they found supportive results:

…(W)hile dieting can result in short-term weight loss, the majority of overweight people are unable to maintain that loss for very long…(W)eight-focused dieters do not achieve many of the supposed benefits of weight loss. The data present no compelling evidence to support the generally accepted notion that a weight-loss approach will prolong life. Nor does it support the common belief that anyone can lose weight and keep it off through diet, exercise and willpower. Or that weight loss is the only way overweight and obese people can improve their health…(A)djusting your lifestyle habits with an eye toward improving markers of well-being like reduced blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, reduced stress, increased energy and improved self-esteem — independent of any weight loss at all — is a far more desirable goal for people of all sizes to pursue…

Incidentally, Bacon and Aphramor are the co-authors of the 2014 Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight.

Many in the lucrative diet and exercise industries, of course, will still maintain that everyone above a certain normative weight could certainly stand to shed those “ugly” pounds. However, as pointed out in another New York Times article:

What remains undisputed is that no clinical trial has found a diet that keeps weight off long-term for a majority. ‘If they really worked, we’d be running out of dieters,’ said Glenn Gaesser, professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State University and author of ‘Big Fat Lies: The Truth About Your Weight and Your Health.’

Glenn Gaesser is a big proponent of fitness as a better key to health and believes that exercise often doesn’t even help people lose weight—it’s actually better at helping people maintain weight loss.

The philosophy of the Health at Every Size (HAES) community can help you more than a diet can, at least in the long term. How? As holistic health counselor Golda Poretsky writes at Body Love Wellness:

…(S)tart anywhere. Start with anything that seems fun and/or even a little easy. For example, if you already have an idea of how you can exercise in a way that makes you feel vital, go for it. If you feel like you’re already starting to see the beauty in a diversity of bodies, focus your efforts on that. If you’re intrigued by the idea of really paying attention to your hunger and fullness and eating with that awareness, try that. Don’t start with the thing that seems really hard or incomprehensible.

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