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.

Jan 06

Non-Dieting Advice From Anne Lamott

Because it wasn’t good for me, over 30 years ago I stopped dieting. Eventually I learned how to focus on my own decision-making regarding healthy eating and exercise versus following somebody else’s plan devised to produce somebody else’s weight loss. In other words, the idea of non-dieting was born.

Periodically, though, when my pants get too tight at the waistline, my mind automatically revisits the dieting notion. Like a recovering alcoholic who sometimes wonders if he or she can ever drink again, or like Oprah, I sometimes wonder what’s really so bad about following something like Weight Watchers, at least to get a good kick start.

But that would be wrong. For me. What I really need is support, from myself and from others who get it, to persevere with the non-dieting approach that’s been so much healthier for me.

And without even looking, just at the right moment I found it, my first fix, a viral post written by Anne Lamott that supports the non-dieting philosophy.

It turns out Lamott, one of my favorite authors, has been reissuing the same year-end Anti-Diet on Facebook at least a few years running. Addressing would-be January 1st dieters, Lamott says, “I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, ‘Oh, that’s great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?'”

Because, of course, that’s what happens to most successful dieters. Years ago it happened to me repeatedly, in fact. Noted nutrition counselor and advocate of “intuitive eating” Evelyn Tribole agrees: “Dieting increases your risk of gaining MORE weight.”

As Lamott reports, “Now when I decide to go on a diet, I say it to myself: ‘Great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?’ Here is what’s true: diets make you fat. 95% of the time, we gain it back, plus 5 lbs.”

Below, more selected quotes from Lamott pertinent to non-dieting:

…Can you put away your tight pants? Wear forgiving pants. The world is too hard as it is, without letting your pants have an opinion on how you are doing. I struggle with enough esteem issues without letting my jeans get in on the act, with random thoughts about my butt.

By the same token, it feels great to be healthy. Some of you need to be under a doctor’s care. None of you need to join Jenny Craig. It won’t work. You will lose tons of weight quickly, and gain it all back, plus five…

It’s really okay, though, to have (or pray for) an awakening around your body. It’s okay to stop hitting the snooze button, and to pay attention to what makes you feel great about yourself, one meal at a time. Unfortunately, it’s yet another inside job. If you are not okay with yourself at 185, you will not be okay at 150, or even 135. The self-respect and peace of mind you long for is not out there. It’s within. I hate that. I resent that more than I can say. But it’s true.

…(Y)ou crave what you eat, so if I go for 3 or 4 days with no sugar, the craving is gone.

Maybe some of us can try to eat a bit less, and walk a bit more, and make sure to wear pants that do not hurt our thighs or our feelings. Drinking more water is the solution to all problems. Doing a three minute meditation every day will change your life. And naps are nice…

In summary and in addition, improve your relationships with food and your body your way. And when you decide to move your body, do something you enjoy, something you’ll keep doing because you want to.