I was on a panel for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. At one point the dietician decided to remind us all that a pound of fat is the same as four sticks of butter and then went on to talk about how losing a half pound is “losing two sticks of butter” (said with disgust and grabbing and shaking her upper arm for emphasis.)
I pointed out that it might not be the wisest thing to suggest that people think of their bodies as sticks of butter to lose (especially not, you know, on an EATING DISORDER AWARENESS panel!). This is one of the side effects of focusing on weight instead of health that I think is both really dangerous and overlooked.
When the focus is on weight, then people are often encouraged to like part of their body and hate part of their body, the idea being that the part of them that is fat is “the enemy” to be fought. The problem with that is that people walk around with their bodies 100% of the time and hating part of themselves is not necessarily the best thing for people’s mental health.
One of the things I like about a Health at Every Size Perspective is that the focus is on habits and choices and nobody is encouraged to hate any part of themselves.
I think that as a society we have a dangerous tendency to completely overlook the mental aspects of health when it comes to people of size, often ignoring the toll it takes on people when they are told that until they get thin their bodies are proof that they are unhealthy, lazy, lacking in willpower, less intelligent, less productive, etc.), or that they should think of their bodies as gross, or thinking that if there is any chance that constant shame, stigma and humiliation will make them thin then it’s worth it and I don’t believe that’s the case at all.
When we take the attention off weight then we get to focus on health with none of the hate, which seems to me like the best of both worlds.
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