Friday, August 28, 2009

It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times...

People will sometimes ask me if I think things are getting better or worse when it comes to pressures to be thin and attitudes toward dieting. I always hesitate a moment before answering because the truth of the matter is: both! My emotional state during the day can easily switch from exasperation and rage at news stories or policies related to the "war on obesity," to hope and inspiration when I see the latest article or action by those committed to creating a world where people can take pleasure in their bodies and honor their hunger.

The worst of the worst occurred over the summer when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released their Lean Works web site, which included a cost-calculator so that employers can figure out how much their fat employees cost them each year. Talk about institutionalizing size discrimination. Then there was the debate over Dr. Regina Benjamin, President Obama's pick to be the Surgeon General. No one questioned her brilliance, compassion and capabilities...but sadly, many did question whether she's just too fat for the job.

Story after story reports how being "overweight" is the equivalent of a death sentence - even when there is mounting research that says the opposite. Over this past summer, two long-term studies - one from Canada and one from Japan - were released that found people in the "overweight" category of BMI actually live longer than those in the "normal" range. I heard a doctor on CNN discussing these findings who said something along the lines of "Yes, that's what they found, but you should still lose weight." I wish I could say I was shocked, but that's the mindset of most people....including health professionals.

Despite the increased attempts at the "war on obesity" I remain encouraged and inspired by what Dr. Linda Bacon refers to as the "new peace movement." The framework of Health At Every Size, which focuses on wellness rather than weight, is getting more and more attention in mainstream news sources such as The Washington Post and The New York Times. There was a fabulous article published by Newsweek online yesterday entitled, Who says americans are too fat? Overselling the obesity epidemic isn't getting us anywhere. You can be big and healthy at the same time. You can read it at file: Fat and Healthy: Why It's Possible | Newsweek Health |

The Health At Every Size movement is organized and strong! During the recent Association for Size Diversity and Health conference in Washington, D.C., participants received training in how to meet with their legislators, and then went to Capitol Hill to speak directly with their representatives. Although I was sorry not to be able to attend these visits, I understand that people were well-received and able to give factual information on the relationship between weight and health that will hopefully have a positive effect on future health policies.

I am thrilled that there are more and more resources that promote body acceptance, and that they are making their way into the culture, giving people a positive framework to think about how to best care for themselves. During my group this week, I showed a wonderful DVD called Finding Your Healthy Weight, created by The Body Positive. Medical experts and researchers offer compelling information to validate Health At Every Size as the best alternative to dieting, and real women who have struggled with eating and body hatred tell their stories of learning to eat from hunger, move their bodies in way that feel great, and discover self-love.

Perhaps that's where my greatest hope lies. People who practice Health At Every Size are in more and more places: teaching college courses, offering community programs, working in government positions and providing services to people who are ready to quit dieting and live more fully in the world. As we get our message out there, we are slowly but surely changing the world.

In fact, there's a revolution going on, and each of us has a part to play. Whether we write a letter, refuse to go on a diet, tell someone else about Health At Every Size or choose to feel more comfortable in our own bodies, each and every action will reverberate in our communities.

In keeping with my Tale of Two Cities theme (part of the fun of writing a blog!), I would have to conclude that "Off with their heads" is on the way out. Pictures of headless fat people in news stories - as if they are merely objects - are being replaced by large people out in the world and enjoying life. And of course, what could be more apropos to support the movement toward attuned/intuitive eating than the famous line, "Let them eat cake!" I would like to modify that to say, "Let us all eat cake - when that is what we are hungry for." And let us also eat anything else we darn well please!

Eat well! Live well! Be well!

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