Tag Archives: disordered eating

What Happens When We “Let Ourselves Go”…

TheFatChick

After I tell people that I support Health At Every Size (R) and after I explain what Health At Every Size is, people often share with me their fear that if they ever stopped strictly policing their body size, their food intake and their calories burned, they will grow “big as a house” and they will “never stop eating”.  Now this fear is natural.  We’ve been conditioned to believe that we are just one chocolate chip cookie away from total body apocalypse and that only constant, fierce and consistent vigilance will keep us from serious medical harm.  There’s a $60 billion dollar diet industry as well as an unbelievably huge system of bariatric surgery and drugs and research grants and public health initiatives to support the notion that if we take our eyes off the thin body prize for even a moment, all hell will break loose.

Except, in my experience, it kind of doesn’t.

Some recent research coming out of Australia, seems to support the notion that Health At Every Size and Size Acceptance does NOT generally lead to giving up on health altogether.  “The Role of the Fatosphere in Fat Adults’ Responses to Obesity Stigma: A Model of Empowerment Without a Focus on Weight Loss” details interviews with 44 bloggers in the “Fatosphere”.  The subjects of these interviews often talked about moving from a reactive response to stigma (attempting weight loss to conform to societal norms) towards a proactive approach to stigma (recognizing stigma, reframing fat, and focus on self-acceptance).  These bloggers described significant improvements in well being as a result of being associated with the size acceptance community and taking a direct approach to dealing with shame and stigma.

Granted, we’re only talking about 44 bloggers here.  This is hardly a representative sample of fat people all over the world. But it does seem to map to my experience.  For a short time after I declared all foods legal and nothing off limits I ate a LOT of cookies and chips and pizza.  But after not very long, the bloom was off the rose.  I found I really didn’t want another candy bar.  I wanted broccoli.  I wanted chicken.  I wanted whole wheat bread and peanut butter.  I wanted real food.  Once the “forbidden” label was removed from foods, I found I could often take them or leave them.  I could eat one cookie.  I could eat 3 potato chips.  Because you know what?  I knew I could have them again whenever I wanted them.

Once I removed the notion of punishment from my physical activities and started focusing on finding exercise that was fun, I started enjoying my workouts a whole lot more.  Rather than dragging myself up onto the treadmill and burning an arbitrary number of calories, I called the dog and we went outside for walkies.  I got my heart pumping.  I bumped up my Vitamin D levels.  And I HAD FUN.  When I accepted that I no longer had to do exercise that I hated, I found myself free to focus on fitness that I loved.  I learned to look forward to workouts again.

Clearly I’m citing anecdotal evidence here.  But there is plenty of other research by amazing people like Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor that explains what happens when people lose their obsession with weight loss and start focusing on the Health At Every Size approach to wellness.  What happens is that folks get happier and generally healthier all without the nasty side effects of disordered eating, weight cycling and depression so common to the traditional diet-based approach.

So after I tell people about Health At Every Size and after people tell me that they can’t support HAES because they would lose all control and would wind up desperately unhappy and unhealthy, I still have an ace up my sleeve.

I share the overwhelming evidence that the HAES (R) approach typically leaves people at a weight that is natural for them with a body that is healthier and with a mind that is happier than ever before.

Seems like a safe bet to me.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

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Body Intelligence or Body War?

golda_biggest_loser

This week, I’ve come across two very different approaches to young bodies in the media.  One is the announcement (and subsequent activism response by the amazing Golda Poretsky) that the television show “The Biggest Loser” will now include teenagers and the other is a new study about the effectiveness of “intuitive eating” among young adults.

It’s hard to imagine a stronger dichotomy than these two approaches.  On the one hand, we have “The Biggest Loser” which teaches us that our body is the enemy.  No punishment is too harsh.  No humiliation is too great.  We must deprive ourselves of delicious foods.  We must exercise until we vomit or pass out.  We must make our bodies thin at all costs.

The study outlines a different approach (at least to eating) by documenting the outcomes of young adults who practice intuitive eating.  The study defines intuitive eating by the young people “trusting their bodies to tell them what to eat” and “stopping eating once they felt full”.  Based on the Biggest Loser story, one would imagine that those who trust their bodies and allow hunger to guide their eating would be larger than those who focus on controlling body weight.  However, the study seems to indicate the opposite.  Those who trusted their bodies not only had fewer signs of disordered eating, but also had a lower average BMI.

Now, it’s important to remember that this is only one study.  But we’ve yet to unearth a single study that indicates that deprivation and self hatred is an effective way to maintain a lower body weight or BMI over the long term (more than 5 years).  So what should we be teaching our kids, to love their bodies or make war on them?

While it seems obvious to me that teaching kids to trust the innate intelligence of their bodies is the better choice, I think it’s important to recognize this is not the easier choice.  I think peer pressure plays an enormous role both for children and their parents.  I think many of us have faced discrimination and outright cruelty from others because of the size of our bodies.  We don’t wish that pain on our worst enemies.  So it’s not surprising that we don’t want it for our children.  And the prevailing wisdom of the women at the beauty shop, Aunt Thelma and even our pediatricians often involves hushed side conversations about what the parent is going to “do” about a child’s weight.  It seems clear to me that peer pressure bends us towards putting our kids on diets, obsessing over their BMIs, forcing them to exercise, sending them to fat camps and yes, even allowing them to be on “The Biggest Loser”, even though there is so, SO much evidence out there showing that this approach doesn’t work.  But at some point, we have to ask ourselves, “Is peer pressure a smart way to decide what’s best for kids?  Is bowing to peer pressure in this case going to make our kids happier or healthier in the long run?”  I think we need to ask the proverbial question, “If our friends tell us to run off a cliff, will we do it?”  Or will we put peer pressure aside, assure the ladies at the beauty shop and Aunt Thelma and even our pediatrician that we are doing what science indicates is best for our kids, and teach them that their bodies are wondrous and intelligent and trustworthy?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Love,

The Fat Chick