Anna Marie is here for her final blog of her dietetic internship!!! Big shout out to all the effort she has put into this rotation and good luck on your upcoming exam!!
Anna Marie Oglesbee
Coordinated Program in Dietetics
The University of Texas at Austin
Body Respect Review: A book that everyone should read
Thin = healthy is a commonly believed “fact” in our current culture. Body Respect is a book that challenges this belief. Body size does not define health. Someone in a larger body can be healthy, just as someone in a smaller body can be unhealthy.
This book is eye opening and enlightening for anyone recovering from an eating disorder or a history of disordered eating. It’s also informative for any and all healthcare professionals, students, or the public in general. It goes into the problems we’ve created as a society by buying into the myth that the only good body is a thin or small body.
The book is divided into 4 sections: deconstructing weight, reconstructing respect, self-care, and cultivating body respect.
In my opinion, this section is the most important. It goes into detail about the common beliefs that “thin people [are] attractive, desirable, and healthy”, and “weight is controllable by diet and exercise and fat causes people to get sick and die early” (Bacon, 2014). Then, it shows why these assumptions are completely false.
It goes on to debunk several health myths. My favorite myth it debunks is that we have evidence that weight loss improves health. Lots of research studies have been completed that show improvements in health outcomes (i.e. improved diabetes management, lowered blood pressure, etc.) as a result of weight loss. However, “in all of these studies, the participants are doing something to achieve the weight loss, usually changing their diet or exercise habits. Both of these have been shown to improve health independent of weight loss” (Bacon, 2014). Creating healthful habits, independent of weight loss, can improve health incomes. As a society, we neglect this because we only see someone as successful at managing their health if they lose weight and maintain weight loss.
The key message here is not that every person in a larger body is healthy, but that they can be. We should not assume that just because someone is larger they are not healthy. Every body should be treated with respect and be supported in engaging in healthy behaviors, even if weight loss does not result.
In Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size (HAES) research, two groups of “obese” women were compared. One group was on a typical diet/weight loss program and the other group was on a HAES program that promoted body acceptance and listening to internal hunger/fullness cues. By the end of the two-year program, almost half of the diet group dropped out, which is typical of most weight loss research studies. The HAES group showed “improvements in blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL, and depression” (Bacon, 2014). What’s even more astounding is that 92% of the HAES group participants stuck with the program until the end. Most diet/weight loss studies have a high dropout rate, but participants who were educated on HAES principles and implemented them into their lives not only stuck with the program but also showed health improvements, independent of weight loss.
After establishing the research, the book goes into practical ways to apply HAES principles into your life, such as accept your body, eat to appetite, engage in joyful movement, use nutrition information as a tool, and rest often.
Intuitive eating concepts are explained concisely, highlighting that listening to your body is key. Eating what the body wants in the amounts that the body is asking for is encouraged. The macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) and their essential functions are described in greater detail.
Being active and engaging in joyful movement are crucial components of HAES. Instead of only engaging in militant exercise, this approach adopts movement that is fun and enjoyable. Movement is a normal part of healthy living, regardless of the minutes worked or calories burned. The focus should be on enjoyment, not body change. This is not to say you should not exercise. Exercise in ways that are enjoyable. If you enjoy running, go for a run. If you enjoy yoga, take a yoga class. Exercise should be pleasurable, not punishment.
Cultivating Body Respect
Body respect is all about loving the body you’re in right now. Regardless of whether a “well-intentioned” friend, family member, or medical professional tells you to change your weight, you should love and respect your body. Making peace and respecting the body you’re in, rather than making “lifestyle changes” in the pursuit of changing your appearance, is the path to true health.
Bacon, L., & Aphramor, L. (2014). Body respect: What conventional health books get wrong, leave out, and just plain fail to understand about weight. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.
Bacon, L. (2010). Health at every size the surprising truth about your weight. Dallas: Benbella Books.