A Different Way to Weigh

Okay, here goes.  A disjointed (ooh, good ‘j’ word–I’ve been playing Words with Friends lately,) unprofessional review of a very interesting book.

Health at Every Size was written by Linda Bacon, who started out with a masters degree in psychotherapy, and then went back to school to get her doctorate in physiology with a focus on nutrition and weight regulation.  She struggled for years with her own weight.  “Bacon’s pain and obsession about her weight fueled her determination to understand everything about weight regulation.”

The main point she tries to make in this book is that most people are not going to lose weight.  Period.  And if they do lose weight, in all probability they will regain that weight.  She spends a lot of time going over extensive research that shows this is true. (that’s the part I skimmed.)  And she points to many studies that show that being overweight is not necessarily detrimental to your health. (also skimmed.) I think she’s trying to say that if you accept your weight and stop judging yourself for it, it is easier to move forward and make changes that are truly healthy IN SPITE OF your weight.

“Self-love may be the most revolutionary act you can engage in.  A person who is content in his or her body–fat or thin–disempowers the industries that prey on us and helps rewrite cultural mores.”

She doesn’t promote “Health at Any and All Food.”  That’s kind of what I thought the “Health at Every Size” movement was about.  Not at all.  She actually promotes eating very healthy whole foods.  And makes a statement that sounds vaguely familiar.  “Enjoy a variety of real food, primarily plants.” Similar to Michael Pollan’s famous saying, “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  Who came first?

This was probably the most outstanding and interesting passage in the book:

Then recognize that you have a choice.  You can choose your own standard of beauty, one that is realistic and respectful, or you can choose society’s hurtful standards.  Just remember:  You only have one body and despite how well you live your life, it may never change.  Can you afford to hate yourself for the rest of your life?


Bring this new thinking to how you view your body.  Experts call this vision kinesthesia, which simply means how you sense and feel about your body.  Kinesthesia is a product of your imagination, much more influenced by your self-esteem than by others’ perception of you.  Only you have the power to alter it.

This might be what happened to me when I made that New Year’s Day list:

Most of all I want to live a balanced  healthful life.  WITHOUT ANGST.

I want to be

  • Active.
  • Creative.
  • Spiritual.
  • Generous.
  • Joyful.

I want to be all of these things.  I want them to be balanced in my life.  I even wrote “If being a little heavier is part of this, so be it.”

Something changed that day.  Well, lets be real.  This whole thing has been a process.  A LONG DRAWN-OUT PROCESS.  I started changing the way I think and the way I viewed myself.  I would no longer be embarrassed that I was ‘too fat’ to go to the gym, and put it off for a week or two until I ‘got the pounds off.’  I went to the gym as a proud overweight woman who wanted to continue to grow stronger.  I looked at myself in the mirror and liked what I saw.  Not compared to anyone else, either fatter or thinner.  I just was pleased with me.  Now don’t get me wrong.  That is in no way a 24 hour a day feeling.  In fact, last night I had to ask myself, so why DO you continue to weigh yourself?  Well the truth is, many times, mostly in the evening when I am sitting, I ‘feel’ very fat.  So I weigh myself to reassure myself that nothing has really changed.

And it has not.  I weigh almost exactly the same every time I get on the scale.  For the last few weeks I’ve taken a break from writing down everything I eat, and have not counted the calories either.  This does not mean that I have thrown out everything I have learned along the way.  Far from it.  Even my most recent foray into eating more protein has come into play.  I still am choosing good foods, balanced meals, basically no processed foods (except the most excellent cake at the missions weekend banquet :)) )  I am not engaging in angst over meals out, or wanting a treat now and again.  I am, however, still battling that feeling of ‘being bad’  even when I have only THOUGHT about eating something too rich.  So I’m a work in progress.  Still.  sigh.

Towards the end of the book she makes this statement:

“Failed attempts at losing weight make people feel like failures, and even those who succeed feel a never-ending pressure to retain that success that will always limit their ability to feel comfortable around food and in their bodies.”

This is what I was feeling a wee bit.  Like a ‘successful maintainer’ who was actually always failing.  I am thinking of changing the byline of my blog to something like ‘thoughts on a whole and healthy life.’  That would be more in line with what I write about anyway.  Since I really have nothing left to say about weight LOSS.

One more thought.  For some of us, who are attempting to maintain a weight lower that what our body wants, or perhaps we have mucked with our internal body mechanism by gaining and maintaining extreme amounts of weight, I do believe that if we don’t continue to ‘try’ to lose weight, or at least remain ‘vigilant’ in maintaining our weight, there is the distinct probability that we will regain weight.

This book was quite scientific, especially the first half, where she uses EXTENSIVE research to try to prove her point (that you can be overweight and healthy.)  But it was much more balanced in its approach to life and food and exercise than I expected.  I have written before that I am scared by some of the HAES advocates.  They seem so angry.  I think my life experience is much much different than many persons.  I was ‘morbidly obese’ for many years, but for the most part I was loved, and treated with respect, and had a very full and fulfilling life.  For some people that is not their experience, and thus, their anger and frustration.  Overall, this book had a lot to offer. (plus it was very cheap to download on my kindle.)  I wish so much that people would learn to be content with their bodies and just eat healthy foods and move around a bit.


16 thoughts on “A Different Way to Weigh

  1. ” I do believe that if we don’t continue to ‘try’ to lose weight, or at least remain ‘vigilant’ in maintaining our weight, there is the distinct probability that we will regain weight.”

    Totally in agreement with this one. I feel like I am in ‘losing mode’ just to maintain, which is irksome, but better than gaining.

    I think too many people use the HAES to just eat whatever and don’t understand the basic concept that HAES is not about the *food*, but about how we *feel* about ourselves. The food follows that a lot of times.

    Great review Debby!

  2. Love this review and it seems you’ve learned a lot from reading the book. I do hope you can get to the point where you don’t feel ‘bad’ because you’ve partaken of a treat. I think all of us chronic dieters know what a portion of food should be whether it be a chicken breast or a piece of cake. I know when I am preparing my food for the day to bring to work, I can look at a chicken breast I’m slicing up for salad and immediately know whether I should take half or whole. What happens after that completely has to do with my will.

    As you know not comparing is something I am working on and mostly winning at. At the age of 52 I don’t want to feel inadequate and tired all the time because I never match up so I totally get wanting to be judgement free.

    Interesting to me that you would use the scale to negate your fat feelings…. what if the scale was up? As you well know the scale NEVER tells the whole story, not ever.

    How about making that byline “Thoughts on maintaining a whole and healthy life?” Because it really is what you’re doing!

    • Ooh, that’s much better than what I wrote (the byline.) Thanks!

      Yes, the feeling bad is kind of weird. And new, or newly identified. I mean feeling bad because I THOUGHT about something?

      Well, you’re right. If the scale is up, then sometimes I do feel bad. But I guess I want to know if its REALLY up, so I should maybe try do make better choices?

  3. Hmmm…I’m not sure how I feel about it. I wish I could look in the mirror and be content with my weight, but I can’t because I feel like what is on the outside does not match up to the inside. In my head I’m a lean mean running machine – on the outside, I look like a frump who only runs when there’s a sale on Ben & Jerry’s. I have a feeling this is something I’m always going to be fighting.

    • Well, the thing is, you think you look like a ‘frump’ because that is something that society has defined for us, at this particular time in our world. But of course, that definition is DEEPLY deeply ingrained in our inner self (there must be a better way to put that.) So I get what you are saying. Its so deeply ingrained, and of course it is reinforced on a daily basis. So essentially I am saying I agree with you, we might have to fight the feeling for the rest of our lives.

  4. Wonderful review, Debby–you made some very good points! I do think we can be healthy at a weight greater than what the BMI says, but so many years of focusing on food has made me doubt myself at every bite. I’m working on that, along with some needed weight loss. I want to get to a point where my knees don’t hurt and where I can walk a good distance without pain and fatigue. I’m not there yet, but when I do get there, it may not be in my healthy bmi range, and I’m OK with that.

  5. Great review, Debby.

    I’m a strong advocate of the concept of health at any size, but I’m still learning to embrace the ‘beauty at any size’ movement. It’s not easy overcoming years of media brainwashing, but I’m actively working on it! One thing’s for certain, I don’t hate myself or my body–even the squish belly! 🙂

  6. This is why I love reading your blog! Because you are a person of many turns–spirituality, creativity, joy–you are thankful for good health and do your part to maintain that by eating mindfully and getting healthful exercise. And you’re kind to yourself. So many in the blogosphere are “stuck” living one-dimensional lives that revolve around endless calorie-counting or point-counting, extreme exercise, and being mean to themselves. Life is so much more than how fat or thin you look. I hope they read this. Well done!

  7. Great review. I agree that there is something to the tone of trying to maintain a weight lower than our body wants…for those of us who were really overweight for a lot of years, it’s just different. And while I’m not at a “healthy” weight according to medical standards, I’m a heck of a lot better than where I was…and I’m choosing to be satisfied with that rather than continually beat myself up because I am not Biggest Loser skinny.

  8. Great confirmation from the HAES book that Skinny clearly does NOT equal health & that shame-based approaches do not bring about positive, sustainable change. We need to trust our body’s wisdom to tell us when we are hungry & satisfied.

  9. Thanks for this review of one of my favorite books on nutrition. After I met Linda (she was my Intro to Nutrition instructor) I decided to give up dieting after struggling constantly to maintain my lower weight for many years (and for three years practically starving myself to be skinny). I didn’t know about the books on intuitive eating but I eventually found my way around to it, and I did gain about 15 pounds. I do wonder if part of that was due to my many years of extreme dieting, or if this is just what my body has always wanted to weigh. What is wonderful now is that my weight has finally stabilized, I can eat what I really want (I love veggies, but I like cookies on occasion too) without panicking about every meal. The difficult part was accepting my new bigger body. This is been the much harder struggle! I find looking at fat fashion blogs combats the lack of bodies like mine in the media, the constant deluge of thin-is-beautiful bodies. Even when I was thin, I looked in the mirror and was never happy with my body. I’m closer to liking what I see on a regular basis now, and I’m 15-20 lb heavier. Loving oneself is definitely a process, but I find that it is so much more a worthy pursuit than counting calories, being hungry and always feeling bad about myself.

  10. “Failed attempts at losing weight make people feel like failures, and even those who succeed feel a never-ending pressure to retain that success that will always limit their ability to feel comfortable around food and in their bodies.”

    I get this and it is right for me and yet I still have to think about it….but……BUT, I have to strive for being as healthy as I can be..right now I gained some of the weight back from last year and my knees and feet and joints feel that. So I have to push forward and perhaps reset my set point weight just so I can feel better and feel healthy. I just know I don’t have to rush it which I did last year. I wrote a post about sort of where I am . I thank you for this review.
    .just ordered for my kindle..ridiculously cheap.

    • I sure do get what you are saying, esp. about the joints hurting. My hope is that as I make peace with food, and live in that ‘middle place’ that you talked about in your blog, that enough weight will eventually come off to keep my joints reasonably happy. Because the angst and worry and ‘feeling bad’ wasn’t taking the weight off anyway.

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