Weight, Weight-loss, and Health At Every Size

I got into the Fat Acceptance movement awhile back, and as many people know, I was really into it. I was excited about it, and was happy to find people who had the same disgust at societal body norms as I did. Anger at the diet industry, being a BMI and not a patient, and a lot of past stuff really came out for me. Yeah, and I did my fair share of “Real Woman Have Curves” bullshit, too.

At one point, someone rightly pointed out something that I bitch about quite a bit myself: hating at the skinny girls does just as much harm to them as what was being said about me. What makes me better than them, and what makes me think that they don’t get the same crap I do?

It was an eye opener, and it really made me think about what actually made me mad about the way we think of weight in this country. A little while later, I was having dinner with my cousin, who got the super skinny genes in the family. We realized that we get the same body crap from either end of the spectrum. We get similar issues with healthcare, bullying, and people nosing in on our business. It wasn’t really about how much we ate, or what calories either of us counted:

It was the societally recognized default that weight (whether low or high) is an indicator and predictor of health.

It makes us afraid of our bodies: too big or too small and you’re screwed. People tell us what food is good and bad and how much we should eat. We get advertising about diets that are supposed to be the next wonder diet. We believe that science backs this all up. The diet industry plays on our collective fears of not being “just right” and promotes methods that, scientifically, just don’t work.

What gets me, though, is that when I bring up this idea that maybe, just maybe, weight-centered health care is a bad thing, people look at me like I have two heads. Or that I somehow think that weight loss is the worst thing you can do.

No, actually, what I object to are doctors taking one look at a person and making health decisions based on body size. Or, using weight-loss as the immediate prescription for any health issue.

I object to the diet industry and their people trying to sell us diets that are based on playing to people’s fears and not unbiased scientific evidence. Or drugs and surgeries, that, without care and thought, could lead to worse health than before those things were used.

I object to seeing kids being so afraid of being fat that they are using these diets at very young ages.

I object to friends and family being so obsessed about weight-loss that they literally go crazy.

I object to advertising that perpetuates these obsessions.

I do think that the paradigm should change. That’s why I talk about Health At Every Size. I’ve looked and, when I see these products, procedures, and plans, I think: Where’s your unbiased scientific evidence that this even works? What clinical studies prove that something is actually bad? Who funded the research? How was it reported? Where is the evidence that fat is a cause, not a correlation? Being a former biochemist, I can tell you that a lot of what is paraded as “fact” or “healthy” is neither.

What about supporting others who are focusing on weight-loss? Well, here’s the kicker. I talk about HAES because it seems saner to me. I’ve seen way too many of my friends and family counting points, shifting little cards from one envelope from another, telling themselves how bad they are for eating a chocolate, substituting diet drinks for real meals, and many other things in the name of health that, in the end, drove them nuts. (And in some cases, into eating disorders, depression, etc.) If I talk about it, then people have information that there’s other options. I try, most of the time, to present it as alternative information. I don’t always succeed, but I try and remind myself that in the end, it’s their decision. What’s difficult is that when I present this information, the societal default kicks in and the talk turns to how much weight people have lost recently, or how many pounds before they fit into a piece of clothing. Sometimes I just give up.

Am I right in my way of thinking? Depends on who you talk to. My current doctor seemed to be really excited about it when I brought her the information about HAES. Is it right for everyone? I don’t know, but I think HAES makes much more sense than what’s advertised by the diet industry.

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