In a culture that is positively obsessed with thinness, and terrified of the so-called “obesity epidemic” it’s no wonder that so many people develop “an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat” or a “self evaluation which is unduly influenced by body shape and weight” which are each a symptom of anorexia and bulimia. You can’t watch televsion, read a magazine, or get together with friends, without hearing something about dieting and weight loss. This pressure to conform to the thin ideal has created a whole generation of chronic dieters who think very little about their true health and instead worry, worry, worry about their weight and shape.
It’s a myth that only thin people are healthy. Health and happiness actually come in every size!
Add to this the many confusing messages about what to eat and what not to eat, and it’s no surprise that many people give up even trying to eat nutritiously, and instead, make their food choices almost solely based on whether they think they’ll gain or lose weight from eating it. When someone falls short of the ideal, which most inevitably will (because let’s face it, we’re not all meant to be thin, just like we’re not all meant to have blue eyes or be tall!) instead of accepting their natural size, more than three quarters of the population will turn to diets, supplements, cleanses, or pills even though NONE of them will keep off any substantial weight for more than a few weeks or months! Low carb, low fat, hydroxy whatever…. five years later, 95% of those who try these methods will weigh MORE than they did before they began the diet!
This is partly because many people have bought into the MISTAKEN BELIEF that being fat is inherently unhealthy, and that everyone CAN and SHOULD be thin! In fact, there is mounting evidence to suggest that a person who enjoys a varied, nutritious meal plan, along with moderate, regular activity and healthy ways of coping with stress, can be healthy whatever they weigh. Similarly, people who don’t get adequate nutrition, activity or stress relief, can be truly unhealthy, even if they are thin!
We also mistakenly believe that people who aren’t thin are somehow less loveable, successful, and happy than skinny people. Again this MISTAKEN BELIEF ignores the fact that the happiest people are those with good self-esteem, good friends and family relationships, and who are accepting of themselves inside and out, regardless of their weight.
A movement is under way, called Health At Every Size, which aims to:
1) provide accurate information about health and weight;
2) put an end of sizism, which is when people get judged by the size of their skin (much the way racists judge people by the color their skin!);
3) educate the public about how profits are made by companies peddling “fear of fat”;
4)Advocate self acceptance based on more than just size and appearance.
I strongly support this approach, and as such, encourage clients to focus on health and happiness instead of weight. This means that no matter what you’re current weight, I do not advocate dieting or focusing on weight loss. Instead, we work together to resist the pressure to be thin, and focus instead on true self-acceptace at any size and shape.
Here are a few facts at a glance, and suggestions to promote acceptance at every size!
- Thin can’t make you happy, successful, or loveable if you aren’t already!
- Thin is not necessarily healthier than fat.
- A thin build is NOT superior to medium or big builds!
Fat’s bad for your health, right??
- Actually, overweight and obesity aren’t really the health epidemic we’ve been told they are! Being inactive seems to be unhealthy, as is a diet lacking in nutrition, but that’s true no matter what your size or weight!
- In fact, some studies have shown that poverty, poor social networks and inactivity are far worse for your health than overweight. (Read the books Health at Every Size, Big Fat Lies, or The Obesity Myth to see the research for yourself!)
Why do some people get so obsessed with weight?
- We’re valuing appearance more than character, personality, talents and interpersonal skills.
- Media support companies who buy their ad space, so we get the message again and again and again that we MUST be thin! These companies profit when we try to keep changing something that won’t stay changed. Just like hair color: you have to keep buying every month if you want to look blonde, when you’re really a brunette. Similarly, you’ll have to keep buying fad diet products if you want to be thin when you’re naturally not.
Sizism is a kind of prejudism!
- If you don’t judge people by the color of their skin, don’t judge them by the size of their skin!
- Believing someone is “superior” because of the way they look is prejudiced! Judge people individually, once you’ve gotten to know them, and not as part of whatever group they belong to (thin people, fat people, race, religiion, etc.).
- Accept that we are NOT all meant to look the same – not all meant to be brunette, tall, blued-eyed…. or THIN!
Don’t be a Sizist!
- Don’t believe everyone could be thin if they just tried. Only 10% of the female, North American population is under 5′ or over 5’10” – the other 90% is somewhere in the middle. Probably true for weight too, that 90% of us will be in the middle, and not skinny no matter what we do!
- Don’t make assumptions about someone’s health just by looking at them.
- Don’t make assumptions about their character just by looking at them.
- Don’t assume someone is unhappy, abused, or “troubled” just because of his/her size.
Diet’s Don’t Work and Can Actually Hurt You!
- Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people.
- Many people gain weight as a result of dieting and the up and down is very hard on the body. A cardiologist at the University of Calgary is quoted as saying “It would be better for most people to not diet at all, even if they are “overweight.”
- Dieting is believed to be risk factor for developing an ED. Don’t chance it!
Eating Disorder Quick Facts
- Anorexia (and extreme low weight) is the LEAST COMMON eating disorder and compulsive overeating/binge eating is the MOST COMMON.
- Eating disorders, include binge eating, affect males and females, of all ages, races and sexual orientations.
- You can’t tell by looking if someone has an ED or not.
- People with eating disorders are terrified someone will say “you don’t look like you have an eating disorder ” meaning they look “too big.”
- “Bigger” people with ED’s often feel undeserving of treatment, even though they may struggle with the same underlying issues as a person with anorexia.
- People w/ED often feel stigma and fear judgement of others.