I’ve been an advocate for the Health At Every Size® approach for some time now. I know the research that very clearly proves that people in larger bodies can be just as healthy as anyone in a smaller body.
The more recent research on weight stigma also makes so much sense. There’s no proof that being “obese” or “overweight” causes diseases like heart disease or diabetes. But people in larger bodies have been made to feel like second-class citizens because they are a “burden on society,” they supposedly aren’t taking care of themselves, and the list of unsubstantiated claims and downright cruel insults go on and on.
It turns out that this stigma, which can come from doctors, other medical professionals, insurance companies, airlines, family members, employers and the average bigot on the street, may be the cause of these diseases – not the size of the person. This stigma has a physical effect on the body, not to mention one’s stress level. It can drive unhealthy behaviors, such as overeating to soothe negative emotions.
Someone engaging in these behaviors may have never had any issues with food or overeating until the stigma began and continued. Yet it’s commonly assumed that people in larger bodies are simply lazy, gluttonous and don’t care about their health.
And these assumptions are making people sick, who never were before – regardless of their size or weight.
I came across an excellent video that explains why the current bias against those in larger bodies, and the assumption that they are unhealthy simply due to their size, is ridiculous. I had heard about this video, called “Poodle Science,”before. But this is the first time I’ve watched it. It does a great job of explaining why trying to force all people to be thin doesn’t work, and it does so with humor, which hopefully holds even a skeptic’s attention for the almost 3 minutes it runs.
Whether you know about or believe in Health at Every Size®, check it out. It’s well worth 3 minutes of your time!
The truth about weight loss has finally been exposed. Sadly, the news isn’t what most want to hear. It’s certainly frustrating for me, but the longer I’ve worked with clients on making peace with food, the more obvious the real problem: We are not able to choose our weight, let alone try to control it.
The way I explain this fact is there are two parts of every person: there’s the conscious mind that makes decisions, learns, thinks, attempts to solve problems, etc. (I refer to this as “me” or “you”), and there’s the body, which controls everything else (AKA, “your body”).*
The bottom line: weight loss is your body’s job. Your body controls your weight and it will do everything in its power to keep you at your genetic setpoint. If you continue to yo-yo diet, that setpoint may even rise and your body will fight to keep you there. What do you (we) have control over? Reconnecting to your body and learning how to hear its signals again – we were all born this way. When you take care of your body based on its requests, you’ll never need to attempt to take control over your weight again.**
The amazing women from Be Nourished have written a post all about why NOT focusing on weight loss is a much better approach. It’s a must-read prior to the New Year!
Hilary and Dana’s post, “10 Reasons Not to Focus on Weight in the New Year,” is excellent and I encourage you to read it. I’ll share just a few key points. First, how many times have you tried to lose weight and beat your body into submission? Their very first point, while sad, really says it all:
It likely won’t be different this time, and this is not your fault… Participating in dieting culture supports the illusion that weight loss leads to happiness and health. Honestly, for most people, weight loss just tends to lead to more worry about weight re-gain.
Under this same point, they quote Anne Lamott, talking about her experience with dieting and weight:
…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?”
In another point, they remind us when a diet fails, the disappointment leads to a typical cycle of “…self-blame, comparison and disconnection from yourself.” They suggest:
The dieting mind causes stress, cruel inner dialogue, and pain. Let’s vow to blame the diets this time, yes?
I love everything they have to say and I agree with it 100 percent. But I have two favorite lines I’d like to shout from the mountain tops so everyone can hear it and even better, take it in and understand these truths:
Your body is not a problem to be solved.
This is my other favorite line from the post:
Hating on our bodies and only conditionally loving ourselves inadvertently supports a limited set of acceptable ideals that have been established by industries that want to sell you stuff.
This is something I’ve recognized for a long time and it makes me so angry every time I see a commercial for a diet, weight loss, fitness or beauty product. Listen carefully to those messages, you’ll hear the underlying message that you’re simply not good enough without our product. Sure, it’s marketing. But it’s disgusting, too.
Now that’s something to get mad at the next time you’re beating yourself up or wishing you were more (thin, tall, attractive, smart, social, etc.). Anger can be a catalyst for change. Feeling desperate to lose weight or despondent because you can’t, keeps you stuck in this very low energy.
When I wanted to accept my body the way it was so I could finally make peace with it, nothing happened as long as I was sad and depressed about it. When I realized that I had been taught to hate my body, I got angry at the people, the culture and the industries that perpetuated these beliefs, usually for their own benefit. This anger helped me decide that I was in charge of how I felt about my body and with time, I was able to change it for the better and reject these outside influences.
Remember, we weren’t born hating our bodies. In fact, babies are fascinated with their bodies! And, as Dana and Hilary point out in their post:
[Your body] is your home and regarding it as separate, problematic or disgusting can result in a type of detachment that interferes with your ability to hear its valuable messages to you… You inhabit it for this lifetime, and we believe body trust is your birthright.
Be sure to check out the entire post. If you’ve been entertaining the idea of setting a weight loss resolution in 2019, I hope this will change your mind. It’s not worth doing more damage to your body and how you feel about yourself.
How about resolving to find out how to be happier? Or to help other people? Or to find some way to make a difference in the world? Any of these will have a more positive effect on your health and how you feel about yourself than attempting to lose weight, I promise this is true!
* This is a very simplistic explanation and I realize there’s much more to it. When I refer to the body and its job, I’m aware that much of it is being controlled by lower parts of the brain. When I refer to the mind in this context, I am mainly referring to the prefrontal cortex, where consciousness lives.
** I am not against weight loss. I just know we aren’t in control of it, our body is, and when we interfere the outcome is almost always gaining even more weight.
In this fairly new era of body positivity, there are exciting changes taking place. More women, many in larger bodies, are declaring their freedom from the cultural standard of thin-at-all-costs. They’re embracing their curves. Real food is being eaten in public, in full view of other people. The big secret is out – there is nothing wrong with your body, regardless of size. I’ve been saying you can be healthy and fit in a larger body, so I’m thrilled!
Do you still hate your body? Or have you been able to make some peace with it or even better – accept it no matter what?
Despite this positive trend of embracing bodies of all shapes and sizes, I encounter many women every day who absolutely hate their bodies. (More recently, men are finding themselves stuck in this same body hatred.) They tell me they won’t stop hating them until they lose weight.
What’s sad is most of them know – from their own experience – that losing weight won’t make them happy or make you like your body. Most have lost weight only to discover that life isn’t any better. And worse, they now have to eat even less and exercise more to possibly maintain the loss! (But as contestants on The Biggest Loser have proved, it’s nearly impossible to keep off weight lost by dieting. It’s simply too hard on the body.)
Anyone on the diet roller coaster even a short time has discovered so-called “ideal weight” is simply not sustainable.
This leaves two options:
1) Remain stuck in the diet-binge cycle, dieting and depriving your body. Wait for the backlash when you start overeating and/or binging. This always leads to guilt and shame, and to the next diet, hoping that “this is the one.”Spoiler alert: It’s not. This leaves you with the other option…
2)Accept your body right now. This is not giving up. This is accepting your body regardless of its size.
I can hear your objections, having had the same thoughts and felt the same way several years ago. My biggest objection was: “I’m a personal trainer, I have to look perfect and be a role model!”
Not only was I wrong, this thinking didn’t stop the dieting or binging (which began at 8 years old). Plus, I could no longer stick with a diet any longer than a couple of weeks. They would end in binges that might go on for days. So much for being a role model!
Body acceptance has been a common and challenging concept for many clients I’ve coached on making peace with food and body. It’s a process and there are several paths to get there. But it is a very personal path that is as individual as the people working towards acceptance.
Recently I came across a TED Talk given by Taryn Blumfitt. You may be familiar with Taryn. She made headlines when she shared before and after photos that look like she got the order of the pictures reversed. Since then, Taryn has become an outspoken and influential member of the body positivity movement. Her documentary, Embrace, was released last year and she has a book of the same title.
I’m a fan of Taryn’s, I love bold women who take a stand for what’s right, especially when fighting against the status quo and damaging cultural beliefs. Taryn begins her TED Talk by throwing insults at people in the audience. She uses words like ugly, wrinkled, and more, and then points out that we talk to ourselves this way all the time.
She shares a story of hating her body so much that she went to a plastic surgeon. This doctor encouraged her hatred, while he pointed out the various body parts he could “fix.”
Halfway through the video, she talks about how we often consider having a less-than-perfect body as a “tragedy.” We believe, “if I can’t have my perfect body then I’ll never have the life I want.” That was a very regular thought of mine. It’s exhausting just thinking about it!
Have you ever felt this way? Do you still?
You may experience a huge reality check when you check out Taryn’s talk. It might be enough to push you closer to acceptance. I wish I had heard something like this when I was working on accepting my body, it may have helped me get there faster. Regardless, I do know it will stir up some new thoughts, and that’s often how big changes begin – thinking about a challenge in a different way.
I would love to know what you think – agree or disagree! Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it!
“A waist is a terrible thing to mind.” Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, authors of “Intuitive Eating”
Quick — When you see yourself in a mirror, what’s the first word that pops into your head? Do you think, “Wow! Girl, you’ve got it going ON!” Or, do you think, “Momma’s got too much back!” If it is the latter, you most likely have poor body-esteem, or a “bad body image.”
Body esteem is similar to self-esteem. It describes the way you feel about your body and the effect that it has on your overall well-being. If it is poor, you may live your life always trying to beat your body into submission through exercise, diets, constant criticism, and waiting until you lose weight to start living your life fully.
Here’s a secret you probably don’t know. Acceptance comes before any significant change. Ask any psychologist or therapist and they’ll back up this statement.
You’re probably asking, “How can I accept myself when I am not happy with my body?” This is a common question. But consider this, “How has feeling this way and continuing this war with your body worked so far?” I would guess you would answer, “Not very well.” So why not try something new?
Psychologist Judith Rodin, in her book Body Traps, said, “You don’t need to lose weight first in order to take care of yourself. In fact, the process actually happens quite in the reverse!” This is a fact the diet industry has been keeping from you for a long time!
Here are a few tips I share with my clients that can help you improve your body esteem:
Become an intuitive eater. Stop dieting! Research has shown that only 5 percent of those who diet have any success. This means 95 percent of diets fail, and too often, dieters gain even more weight! When you stop dieting, eat when you are physically hungry and stop when you are full, you release yourself from all the stress, guilt, shame, and restriction that accompany dieting.
When you learn to listen to your body’s signals about being hungry and being full, your body will eventually return to its natural weight– and stay there (note I didn’t say your “ideal weight.” Your body is in charge of your weight and it will settle into whatever your genetics determine your natural weight to be). A recent Ohio State University study found women who appreciated their bodies ate intuitively and actually had a lower body mass index than those who were dissatisfied with their bodies and kept dieting.
Surround yourself with people who appreciate you for who you are and who accept themselves, too! Stop talking about your weight, your diet plan, and what you are eating.
Wear clothes you love and that fit you right now. There are stores that cater to people of your size, shape, and fashion. If you need to, hire an image consultant to help find clothes that work for you. Get rid of anything in your closet that doesn’t fit comfortably. Feeling miserable leads to thoughts of food and shame, which lead to the refrigerator! You know that your clothes size differs depending on the maker. Don’t let a number tell you how to feel about yourself!
Stop comparing yourself to others. Do you find yourself checking your body as you walk by mirrors or store windows? Checking your appearance can prevent self-acceptance by making you overly critical. Don’t look at those magazines on the check-out stands either! Comparing your body to others usually results in more self-criticism and body hatred.
While you are throwing away old habits, get rid of the bathroom scale as well! If the doctor wants to weigh you, ask that they don’t tell you the number. If you’re addicted to the scale, scale back (couldn’t resist the pun!) Cut back to once a week, or even better, once a month. Remember, the scale does not tell the whole story. Your weight can fluctuate up to seven pounds during any given time during the month.
You know this one — Exercise. Exercise is important for your overall health, for relieving stress and lessening depression. Many forms of exercise can have an effect on the way we feel about our bodies and ourselves. To heighten your body awareness, practice walking meditation, t’ai chi, yoga, or movement therapy.
Don’t link exercise with weight loss. Do it to boost your body esteem. Start exercising now. Studies show that women in larger bodies gain self-pride and a better mental outlook through movement. Walking or biking are both great for an instantaneous change in the way you feel about yourself.
What are you waiting for? Start viewing yourself as a wonderfully made woman. You are uniquely made. Your body knows what its needs are. Listen to what’s inside and the outside will be transformed!
Want to learn more? Check out HealthierOutcomes.com, and sign up for my free newsletter. I look forward to hearing about your success!
I came across this very interesting infographic while on the internet a while ago. It’s from the excellent Green Mountain at Fox Run health & wellness retreat center. They use a non-diet approach to making peace with food and body and in addition to their great work, they put out really good information online about the non-diet approach, self-acceptance, and other related topics.
I loved this infographic about how the scale really does more harm than good, and I for one can relate! I used to weigh myself once a week, which was better than some people I’ve worked with that were on the scale daily or multiple times a day. But even once a week was a complete nightmare for me. If the number wasn’t what I wanted, I would move the scale around the room, hoping for a better reading on another section of the floor. Then I would compare stepping up with my left foot first to stepping up with my right foot first. I tried the scale on the carpet versus on the wood floor. I’m sure you get the picture, can you relate to this?
Here’s the craziest part of my former Saturday morning date with the scale. No matter what the result, it ended up making me feel worse then before I stepped on it. I’m talking about any result.
If the number went up: The rest of the day was bad, I would beat myself up, contemplate an even stricter diet, plan more exercise, “feel fat” all day, think everyone is looking at me and judging me, obsess, and of course, consider binging all day (and usually would after eating nothing but rice cakes and carrots all day).
If the number stayed the same: There would be a brief moment of relief that it didn’t go up, then I would beat myself up for not working hard enough, contemplate an even stricter diet, plan even more exercise, hate what I’m wearing because I won’t buy clothes until I lose weight, and of course, consider binging all day (and may start binging earlier than if I had gained weight).
If the number went down: I would allow myself just a brief moment of excitement – and then the anxiety would hit me, followed by obsessive thoughts like, “what if it’s just water weight and it comes back on really fast?” Another typical pattern would be to tell myself that it’s not really much of a loss, just one pound. This led to the inevitable beating myself up, contemplating a stricter diet, or vowing to get in more exercise. Then I would get stressed about the future – “I hope I can keep losing weight”, “That’s one pound, but there’s so many more to go”, “How hard am I going to have to work to keep it off? Can I do that for the rest of my life?” The end result, was – you guessed it – consider binging all day (I figured I lost a pound, so if I gain weight from binging I will most likely just end up where I was last week) and once the binge began, that was it for the rest of the day, if it didn’t continue on through the weekend.
How ironic is it that the binges, while they could happen any day, were most likely to happen on days where I showed a loss on the scale? While I believe getting rid of the scale is an individual choice, I eventually decided I could not have one in my house.
Long after becoming an intuitive eater, a scale somehow found it’s way into my home so I decided that I could ignore it, no problem. Just one week of seeing it was enough to trigger me. I found myself using it here and there, which led to weighing myself every other day, and it wasn’t much longer until all the old craziness of obsessing over my weight (which I thought I was done with) came back. The scale was removed and I have not owned one since.
I tell my clients that they have to make their own decision about having a scale. But if they want to continue using it, I suggest before stepping on that they consider what they are going to use the number for, and how will they feel once getting the number. I also ask them to consider all possible outcomes and how they will feel with each one: gained weight, lost weight, or maintained weight.
How do you feel when you use the scale? Is it just “data” that you use as nonjudgmental information? Maybe you can keep it. However, if the number on the scale tells you how to feel about yourself all day, it may be better to put it away or get rid of it.
Just remember to keep things in perspective. The scale is an inanimate piece of metal that dispenses data. Also, that data it gives you is flawed. It doesn’t give you the full story about your body and what is going on. At any given time in one month, your weight can fluctuate within a few pounds. So even if you are up, it doesn’t mean you’ve gained body fat. If you lose, it also doesn’t mean it was body fat that was lost.
One final thing about the scale. Many people tell me they use the scale so they can monitor their progress and keep things “under control.” There are people who can take a look at that number on the scale and be rational about it and use it to eat a little less or exercise a little more, but they don’t take it any further than that. This is not the way most people react to the scale. If the scale tells you how to feel about yourself or whether you were good or bad this week, you aren’t keeping anything under control – it is controlling you. It has the power to tell you what kind of person you are on a daily basis.
The good news is that you actually get to decide if you want to continue to let it have power over you. You have choices and that includes the choice of who or what is going to judge you. You don’t have a lot of control over what the scale says, but you certainly have control over whether you allow it to say anything in the first place. Whatever you decide, I know you can make the choice that is right for you!
Be sure to check out the infographic from Green Mountain at Fox Run for more paths you could find yourself taking by stepping on the scale.