Sep 04

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.

Jun 07

“Dietland”: Connection to “Health at Every Size”

I want you to consider something, hon. What if it’s not possible for you to ever become thin? What if there is no one day? What if this is your real life right now? What if you’re already living it? From Dietland by Sarai Walker

One of the multiple aspects of AMC’s new show Dietland, based on Sarai Walker‘s 2015 novel Dietland, is that the late-20’s main character “Alicia ‘Plum’ Kettle (Joy Nash) [is] a woman who — at least when we first meet her — defines herself solely through her self-hatred of her body” (Caroline Siede, Consequence of Sound).

Author Walker, a proud “fat activist,” has Plum go through an eventual attitude transformation—one consistent with the ideas of the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement that Walker supports.

The 2010 Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight was written by Linda Bacon, PhD. Below are some pertinent quotes:

The only way to solve the weight problem is to stop making weight a problem—to stop judging ourselves and others by our size. Weight is not an effective measure of attractiveness, moral character, or health. The real enemy is weight stigma, for it is the stigmatization and fear of fat that causes the damage and deflects attention from true threats to our health and well-being.

We live in a world that’s decided to define food as “good” or “bad,” a world that encourages us to ignore our hunger and fullness signals in favor of continually seeking out that Holy Grail of thinness, or to use food to fill needs that have nothing to do with sustenance.

While it is clear that our food choices are a matter of personal responsibility, it is important to recognize that we do not make our choices in a vacuum. We select our foods in an environment toxic with government policies that encourage cheap prices for foods with low nutrient value, and in which billions of dollars have been spent to convince us to distrust ourselves, to overeat, and to eat foods laced with ingredients that raise our setpoints and damage our health.

Instead of putting our energy into thinking about how we can improve the world, we obsess about how we can change our bodies.

You only have one body and despite how well you live your life, it may never change. Can you afford to hate yourself for the rest of your life?

Along with “radical dietician” Lucy Aphramor, Bacon has also written a follow-up, Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight.

Aphramor expresses views on her website that cover the basics of body positivity—and significantly more:

Imagine a world where no-one is starved of food, company or dignity. Where no-one wakes up ashamed of their body, dreading their next binge or being insulted for what they look like. In this imagined world, it is taken-for-granted that everyone should have access to food as a right and the opportunity to exercise safely. At the same time, we are clear that eating and activity are only one part of the picture of health. We work from the assumption that personal and population wellbeing means we need to teach compassion, address climate change and build a fairer world.

Body respect, thus, is viewed as intimately connected to respect for all.