Today, people say they diet because of their health. Many people are convinced that they are on the verge of dropping dead because they have a BMI of 30. Many people will ignore anything good about their health--perfect blood pressure, glucose levels, etc.--if their BMI is over 25. This is the only number that counts for them and they will not consider themselves healthy unless this BMI number is reached, or ideally, until it drops below 25.
For the vast majority of people, slimness (or its proxy, the BMI) and health are synonymous.
Losing your hair due to food restriction and the resulting poor nutrition? That's OK, you're losing weight. Developing osteopenia or worse yet, osteoporosis? That's OK, you're "healthy" because your weight is down. Carrying around fat while losing muscle? That's OK, as long as the scale (which doesn't distinguish between fat and muscle) says you've lost some poundage.
On the other hand, have you become depressed because despite exercising regularly and reasonably, and eating like a healthy human being (in other words, without bingeing or scrupulously restricting calories or the types of food you "allow" yourself) you have lost no weight or just a few measly pounds? Do improved numbers (for instance, blood pressure), more energy, better sleep patterns etc. seem a poor substitute for a size 6? Have you decided to give up these healthy habits because they're not really healthy habits, since you haven't lost weight?
If you are depressed and desperately want to lose weight; if you feel that you are intrinsically unhealthy because you don't wear a size 6, then please stop reading this blog.
I've been blogging for almost two years now and I have slowly come to the realization that my weight and my health are not siamese twins. I now realize that what I do to improve or maintain my health may or may not have an effect on my weight.
My goal is to be as healthy as I can. For me, this means many things:
- making peace with food; realizing that I do not have to eat a piece of chocolate cake because I know that I won't have the opportunity to eat any for weeks, months or years to come because I will be on a diet; realizing that healthy eating includes a wide variety of foods, and that neither restriction nor gorging lead anywhere good;
- exercising to the best of my abilities and taking steps to help my body return to better orthopedic health;
- in other words, practising what Dr. Linda Bacon terms Health at Every Size.
I am convinced that if we lived in a world where we lost the emphasis on weight loss and put the emphasis on health gain through normal eating and regular, reasonable exercise, we would still see a variety of body types. There would still be thinner than average people, lots of "average weight" people and heavy people. However, there would be far fewer Victoria Beckhams--in other words, people who starve themselves for "beauty"--or headless fatties, many of whom have dieted themselves up the scale.
Don't get me wrong: there will always be people who eat a lot, sit on their duffs all day and stay slim, just as there are people who eat reasonably and exercise faithfully and still carry a great deal of weight on their bodies (and are stamped with the scarlet "O" for [morbidly] obese). It's due to the amazing beauty of human diversity. Furthermore, there will always be a certain percentage of the population whose heights fall either significantly below or significantly above what is found in the general population. What's worse, there will always be red-heads, and even people with two different eye colours! The horror!
Let it go, people. It's called diversity.
And please put me down as a proponent of Health at Every Size. And that means every size.