In the news: Redefining health

A study by Flegal et al., (2013) recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association has challenged the commonly thought notion that being classified as overweight or obese is associated with higher mortality. This article has sparked a debate on whether or not America’s war on obesity is just. This controversy isn’t new and many scientific studies have been conducted that support both sides. While I think conducting research on the topic of weight and health is extremely important, I can’t help but take a step back and reflect on our nation’s tendency to narrowly define health by weight.

In honor of moving away from this narrow definition of health, this week, January 20-26, is the Healthy Weight Network's 20th annual “Healthy Weight Week.” This week celebrates healthy, diet-free lifestyle habits and promotes acceptance of health at a natural weight. This, along with the “Health at Every Size℠” (HAES) movement, acknowledges that well-being and healthy habits are more important than any number on the scale. It promotes active living, eating well without dieting, and a nurturing environment that includes respect and acceptance for people of all sizes.

How can you participate in the HAES movement? Linda Bacon, author of “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” provides these tips:

1. Accept your size. Love and appreciate the body you have. Self-acceptance empowers you to move on and make positive changes.

2. Trust yourself. We all have internal systems designed to keep us healthy — and at a healthy weight. Support your body in naturally finding its appropriate weight by honoring its signals of hunger, fullness, and appetite.

3. Adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Develop and nurture connections with others and look for purpose and meaning in your life. Fulfilling your social, emotional, and spiritual needs restores food to its rightful place as a source of nourishment and pleasure.

  • Find the joy in moving your body and becoming more physically vital in your everyday life.
  • Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and seek out pleasur­able and satisfying foods.
  • Tailor your tastes so that you enjoy more nutritious foods, staying mindful that there is plenty of room for less nutritious choices in the context of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.

5. Embrace size diversity. Humans come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Open to the beauty found across the spectrum and support others in recognizing their unique attractiveness.

Click here for more information on size diversity.

And if you didn't get a chance, read last week's blog "Check the facts: Diets don't work," it adds to this conversation.

Until next time!