I (most certainly and emphatically) did not say that. I have been misquoted and my words twisted in ways that defy all intelligence into ideas that I never expressed.
In my last post, I seem to have both provoked this reaction and felt it myself.
I won't go into the provocation side of the equation. To do so would mean picking apart the post that led me to riff on a concept near and dear to my heart, Health at Every Size. And that would no doubt lead to more recriminations, followed by more righteous indignation over my seemingly intentional misinterpretation of someone's thoughtfully expressed words. I don't want to go there.
Sadly, in great part due to the way discussion is obliged to take place on the Internet, honest disagreement is easily viewed as trashing, insulting, or ugly "dissing" behaviour. Most of the time, I therefore find myself refraining from responding to posts I disagree with. An exchange of ideas can quickly turn into, or be perceived to be, an attack, even if that was the farthest thing from the writer's mind when expressing the initial disagreement.
There seems to be little room for disagreement and the comments section of most blogs looks either like a mutual admiration society or degenerates into mud-slinging, hurt feelings or any number of ugly reactions.
Now, on to my potentially feeling the sting of being misinterpreted myself.
I have written a number of posts on Health at Every Size. I insist on spelling out expression rather than using the acronym, HAES, because it seems that whatever I say, somehow the word "health" disappears and I am left with questions like this one, asked by reader Norma in response to my most recent post on HAES:
I am asking this question out of honest curiosity about the HAES belief system and not with snark or sarcasm, so I would appreciate an honest and polite answer. Does the concept of "health at any size" apply to ANY size or only oversized? i.e., do its followers feel that, for example, an 85 lb. anorexic adult woman can be healthy? Again, I am asking this question sincerely only because the only take on the subject of HAES is without except about and by larger people. Thank you.I didn't have the opportunity to answer the question yesterday for a variety of reasons, so I'll try to respond now, despite the fact that an anonymous reader has already stepped into the fray and given an excellent response too.
First, thank you Norma for framing your question as one not posed out of snark or sarcasm, but rather because you'd really appreciate an honest answer.
Here's my response:
How could I consider an 85-pound anorexic healthy? She is doing everything in her power to kill herself. Anorexia is a lethal disease, and a quick acting one at that. Why, please, please tell me, would I ever consider anorexic behaviour to be healthy? I just don't get it. It's called intentional starvation. Last time I looked, starvation was not considered a healthy way of living.
By the same token, just because I have observed that dieting is often a collection of disordered behaviours (and interestingly enough, the kind of behaviour that gets an anorexic put in hospital is often praised and encouraged by health care professionals when it's an overweight person acting in a similar way); that dieting often leads to further weight gain; and that the diet culture negates the fact that nature is full of size diversity...
[BIG, BIG note to readers: I DID NOT JUST SAY that ALL dieters engage in dangerous, disordered eating behaviours NOR DID I SAY that ALL dieters will eventually eat their way up the scale. I simply said that these phenomena have been observed and I will add that they're not at all that uncommon, in my opinion.]...OK, let's take a deep breath and I'll finish this long sentence...
Despite [the long introduction that you've just read], I have never, ever said that eating yourself silly is any healthier than being an anorexic. Neither the 85-pound anorexic who is starving herself of both vital nutrients and vital calories nor the whatever hundred pound person eating compulsively and constantly are healthy and they are definitely not engaging in healthy behaviours.
The reason I support "health at every size" is because there is a growing body of evidence which shows that simplistically equating body size with good or bad health is downright wrong. People can have health problems when they are slim, medium sized and large. People can also be healthy at a variety of sizes. Yes, certain health problems are correlated with being overweight (and indeed some with being underweight), but that does not mean that the number on the scale can be used as a kind of shorthand to express one's health status.
The work of Dr. Steven Blair (and others) has demonstrated very convincingly that moderate, daily exercise is a much better indicator of health than is one's weight. However, as long as one stays firmly with the weight loss = good health paradigm, and since it is so exquisitely difficult to maintain a significantly weight reduced body, many people have a tendency to give up and not only eat themselves back up the scale, but give up on doable things to help improve their health like moderate, daily exercise, good nutrition and improving one's mental health.
As I've said time and time again, exercise and good nutrition are key. Going from a totally sedentary life to walking 30 minutes a day and making sensible changes to the food one eats (I personally am not in favour of a diet based on junk food, no matter how tightly calorie-controlled it is--but that's just my opinion) can lead to weight loss. But maybe not. Such changes will definitely improve one's health, though.
I know, but what about the knees, the blood sugar, the blood pressure? First, there's correlation vs. causation. If being overweight directly caused these health problems, then they would only be seen amongst the overweight and never amongst the "normal" weight. This, of course, is not the case. One of Dr. Blair's findings shows that overweight people who engage in regular physical activity are not statistically sicker than normal weight people and certainly healthier than people of high, normal or low weight who do not participate in any physical activity.
But you've got a right to ask again "what about the knees, the blood sugar, the blood pressure?" If your weight loss has improved these markers and you can maintain this loss despite the fact that it will become increasingly difficult as you age, "kola kavod" (more power to you, in Hebrew). However, your road to better health (and I mean better health, not simply a lower number on the scale) just does not work in a reliable, sustainable manner for the vast majority of people.
But even more importantly, weight loss is not the only road to health. It's simply the only acceptable road to so-called health that exists in this society, at this time in history.