Jess Weiner is getting a lot of publicity for the Glamour Magazine article Jess Weiner’s Weight Struggle: “Loving My Body Almost Killed Me” (Thanks to reader Kim for pointing it out to me)
In the article she tells her personal story which would be fine, except, as with the NPR article that we spoke about a few days ago, there is no balance to the story. I’ll attempt to provide my own balance here, because loving my body saved my life and I didn’t lose any weight at all.
Jess and I have similarities in our backgrounds: We recovered from under eating disorders in our teens and ended up as obese adults. We write and speak about self-esteem and body image.
But our stories diverge. Jess was challenged by someone at a talk about her health. She got tested and her metabolic health indicators (blood pressure, triglycerides, blood glucose etc.) were on the high side of normal. I don’t claim to know all about her habits, but it from the article it sounds like she was not making healthy habits a priority at that time.
Jess seems to have confused loving her body with making healthy choices. This makes me think that she might have been practicing Fat Acceptance but not Health at Every Size, which is a completely valid choice. But just in case this article mislead some people, I want to be clear that I don’t know anyone in the Fat Acceptance movement, let alone someone who considers herself a leader, who is saying that loving your body without practicing healthy behaviors is your best chance for health.
I don’t believe that health is a moral, social, or personal obligation (you can choose to prioritize things other than your health just like professional bull riders, X Games participants, stressed-out sleepless executives, those who have elective plastic surgery, sky divers, and people who don’t look both ways before they cross the street). Also, our health isn’t completely within our control. Health is multi-dimensional and includes genetics, access, stress, environment, and behaviors.
So Health at Every Size says that, although health is never guaranteed, if you want health then your best chance is to focus on healthy behaviors. And to me Ms. Weiner is a shining example of that working. When she started practicing healthy behaviors, her numbers moved into even farther into the normal range. She also happened to experience weight loss. I would note that they never mention the possibility that the improved numbers and the weight loss were both side effects of the behaviors -which is to say that it wasn’t the weight loss that made her healthier, it was the becoming active and/or making better food choices. Statistically she has a 95% chance of gaining the weight back but that doesn’t mean that she can’t continue the healthy behaviors regardless.
Here’s that balance that I promised. I was caught in a vicious cycle of thinking that I couldn’t be healthy until I was thin, and having trouble achieving either. When healthy behaviors failed to make me thin I moved on to unhealthy behaviors (extreme food restriction, compulsive exercise etc.) I had bought into the diet industry’s marketing that doing unhealthy things to get thin would lead to a body that was healthy, and that I couldn’t be healthy until I was thin. Looking back is doesn’t make any sense to me but at the time somehow it did. Eventually I did my research and chose Health at Every Size. My story is that I practice healthy behaviors and my number are all in the healthy range (“healthier” than Ms. Weiners post weight loss numbers), but my body weight stays consistent at 284. I love my body, I have great health, and I am obese. I’ve maintained this health and weight for years and I know lots of healthy fat people who are older than I, so I do not buy the vague future health threat – VFHT.
Loving your body and choosing healthy behaviors are two separate things. You don’t have to choose to make health a priority but if you do, (and even if you want to change the size and shape of your body) I think it’s easier to make choices that nurture your body if you start by loving and appreciating the body you have now. It’s pretty difficult to hate yourself healthy. I believe that those healthy habits are the best chance for health, whether or not they lead to long-term weight loss. If health isn’t a priority for you, there’s no reason that you can’t appreciate and love the body that you have and all the things that it does. In fact, I can’t think of a single circumstance in which hating my body would improve my situation.
So the moral of my story is that while a great many things may kill me, loving my body never will.