Be Healthy No Matter Your Size

Are you sicking of weight loss slogans and miracle diets and are convinced that living a healthy life means more than a number on the scale? Well, Dr. Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, agrees. Here, Dr. Bacon explains why we should shift the emphasis from a preoccupation with weight to adopting healthier habits – no matter your size.

Q: What is the purpose of the Health at Every Size movement?

A: In general, we’re finding that people are preoccupied with food and weight, and there’s a lot of fat bashing going on. People seem to harbour this idea that there’s something wrong with being heavier and, if they’re not there already, they’re really scared of being there. It’s not helpful in getting people to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviours. We’re trying to get people to transform the paradigm and we want to encourage everyone to start from a place of appreciating their body, which will allow them to take better care of their body by making good health choices.

Q: Do you believe that you can be both healthy and overweight?

A: Clearly. The research definitely supports that – which is surprising. Overweight people tend to live longer – or at least as long – as people who are in the normal weight category. Here is a quote from my book, Health at Every Size: “No obesity myth is more potent than the one that says obesity kills. It gives us permission to call our fear of fat a health concern, rather than naming it as the cultural oppression it is.That ‘obesity kills’ has been the backbone of the [U.S] federal public health campaign. Yet that is not supported by evidence examined by federal employees. Their research found that ‘even severe obesity failed to show up as a statistically significant mortality risk’ and suggested that overweight may actually be protective…The most comprehensive review, for instance, pooled data from 26 studies and concluded that overweight individuals were living slightly longer than those of normal weight.

We also talk a lot about diseases that are associated with being fat. There’s always this temptation to blame it on the weight. But even in those diseases that are much more common among heavier people, we always see that there’s something else that’s going on. In Type 2 diabetes, for example, it’s the disease process that actually causes people to gain weight. When people have insulin resistance, it causes their body to store excess body fat; weight gain can be an early symptom of Type 2 diabetes. It can be so easy for us to get into denial; we just want to blame it on the weight. We have all of these myths about weight and health that aren’t based on scientific evidence.

Q: But weight must become more of an issue when we’re talking about the extremes, whether it’s too thin or too fat?

A: Sure. I’m not making the claim that weight plays no role in health. What I am saying is this: first, that its role in health is very much exaggerated; and second, that even when it does play a role in health we don’t have a clue how to help people lose weight. There are all of these ideas that if you just cut your calories or exercise or eat certain foods you’re supposed to lose weight, but the evidence is pretty clear that nothing is actually proven to have long-term success for anyone except a small minority of people. There are better ways to address the health issues involved. For example, with most diseases, we know that increased activity and improved dietary habits are helpful; we should support people in making those kinds of choices. Maybe they’ll lose weight as a side effect but you don’t know. We do know that people are more successful when they shoot for lifestyle changes and let weight fall where it may.

Q: Why do you think we place so much emphasis on weight loss?

A: It’s a cultural meme that’s been repeated so many times that, at this point, it’s become a basic assumption of our belief system. Once the assumptions are in place, you see everything through that lens. We’ve lost our open mindedness because we believe so strongly that fat is killing us. And it is true that poor choices might cause weight gain in people who are genetically predisposed. There are plenty of thin people, however, that are making poor choices but their bodies are set up in a different way. Instead of storing excess fat, they might get cardiovascular disease. We have this assumption that everyone who’s fat has poor lifestyle habits – and it’s not true.

Q: So is your health advice similar for women of all sizes?

A: It’s identical. For everybody, it’s important to put the value on good health behaviours and be more open minded to what happens. Weight loss has never been proved to be more successful among heavier people than among thinner people, so giving them that advice isn’t going to be helpful.

Q: What is your top health advice for women?

A: At the risk of sounding a little corny, I think it comes down to self-love. This is who we are and the body we’re in right now. Everything about us is integral and we need to honour that. And when we like ourselves, we make better choices. That’s what’s going to motivate you to move your body. If you see exercise as a way of punishing you because you weigh too much, you’re not going to keep up your exercise habits. But if you see exercise as a joyful participation in this amazing body you’ve got, it’s fun and it’s something you look forward to and it’s your reward.

Editor’s Review:

I think it’s about time we see these FACTS from this article. When healthy weight is being judged, it’s often based off the BMI charts. However, those charts don’t consider bone density, small boned or large boned people, nor do they consider muscle mass {bulk} or water which also weighs more than fat. Fat has air pockets and water fills that space and muscle weighs more than fat and bulks at different sizes. Also, it doesn’t consider effects in women by child birth- shifting of hips or ribs and slacker tummy. None of these actually determine one is “unhealthy”. To me in judging what is PERFECT in people, you must judge their overall health. Afterall, we should strive to be healthy. Also, what does one do to become slim? They starve, vomit, use both illegal or pharmaceutical drugs. Not exactly healthy as it destroys the liver! Key thing is proper vitamin intake. Also, I see many of those considered to be healthy by body size people barely lift a finger or walk 20 ft each day. You can’t tell me they’re doing the best for their heart and arteries. Plus when you consider the other “unhealthy measures” of cosmetic surgery they are having performed to create a ‘perfect body image’. Is it really best to perform unnecessary invasion with foreign objects? Actually cutting into the muscles and skin may have later risks. There are less invasive procedures if need be for one’s psychological or emotional well being. Which relates to another issue of “healthy people”.

STRESS.. Often times that slight weight is related to stressors in ones life. Are we doing all of the things to help us avoid stress or are we constantly exposing ourselves or just creating more stress for others? I wouldn’t say those slim perfect body type people who love creating stress for others are healthy people are they? The mindset is another overlooked issue in consideration. What is the frame of mind in these people who are constantly dicing up their body. Although they may appear healthy, could there be some serious psychological issues going on in which they can’t even accept human nature as it should be? Lets face it, fat people CAN RUN while a slim person may give up by the first km. Fat people can ride bikes, swim.. Not all large sized people are lazy or inactive. People have this idealism that fat is just as it is stereo-typed. Just as they may think the same of skinny people. I have seen skinny people eat like pigs. That certainly doesn’t mean they are all starving. The measure of health is what we do with ourselves for prevention and to be pro-active. Healthy approach in life and risk precautions. Which leads me to another “health visual”..

Human sexuality- People think SEXY is a body type and they often think sexy is healthy. Being sexually promiscuous no matter the vision of SEX APPEAL is actually “healthy”. Diseases remain hidden. Often people think they can tell if a person has AIDs just by a sickly appearance. The healthiest looking people out there can actually be carrying a lethal condition though. In fact, a recent study of HIV informs of the virus laying dormant for 15 years in the bones. So although these people were found to have a negative test result it was active inside their bones. So really you never know. Pamela Anderson is a good example to consider as she did come out to inform everyone that she was found to have HEP. Your perfect vision of an ideal body in women. That beautiful bombshell that men desire and consider healthy. We only know this by getting regular checkups by our doctor. Being tested with accuracy after each sexual partner before going to another is a great health policy to help filter out all of the risks. I mean accuracy by waiting out the “window periods”. SEX APPEAL doesn’t seem to allow that “wait”. Wouldn’t that seem “frigid”? What is our “healthy thought process” in that aspect?