I used to believe that being a healthy weight was THE most important thing you could do for your long-term health. Something everyone should strive for. No excuses.
When the body positivity movement – with it’s acceptance of all bodies, no matter the form, size or appearance – peaked last year, it made me nervous. I had concerns that it went as far as promoting obesity as something desirable. Surely people knew the increased risk of certain diseases with being overweight! As well as the everyday inconvenience extra weight brings, including reduced energy levels.
However a couple of months ago I was introduced to the concept ‘Health At Every Size’ (HAES). This weight neutral approach to health suggests that we accept the diversity of body shapes and sizes and that wellness can be attained no matter our size; holistic wellness that is, incorporating not just the physical but the social, spiritual, vocational, emotional and intellectual parts of our lives.
Many people see weight loss as the ultimate goal – getting to that size 10 body, fitting those skinny jeans, looking fabulous in a bikini for a tropical getaway. However when weight release via restrictive eating is the sole focus, yo-yo dieting and chronic dieting is often the result; people lose weight but then put it right back on. It’s just too hard to maintain in the long term.
Emotional health too can be affected in a negative way with such an emphasis on weight. Frustration arises – and even depression – from the constant comparison to others’ body shapes or to seeing no reduction on the scales.
Instead, when you shift the focus to health, weight will take care of itself.
Learning to eat intuitively (one of the cornerstones of HAES) is much more effective at long-term health. This involves listening to your body cues that signal hunger and satiety and making better food choices – not imposing dietary restrictions such as Weight Watchers “points” or calorie counting, which are often difficult to keep up.
And as far as the “obesity promotion” I was concerned about – research has disproven that encouraging body acceptance leads individuals to eat without thought of dietary considerations, resulting in weight gain.
In fact, what I find particularly interesting is the link between self-acceptance (at any size) and self-care; those with good self-esteem are more likely to adopt positive health behaviours. They are WORTH taking care of!! I’ve seen this when I stop to consider the different levels of self-confidence and investment in health of people I know and gosh it has been an eye opener!
Self acceptance is a great place to start on the path to health. Love yourself.
I now absolutely see the benefits of body acceptance, intuitive eating and finding ways to enjoy being active on a daily basis. I’d love to hear your thoughts.