Occasionally, when it comes up in conversation, I’ve heard some dietitian colleagues agree that a non-diet or intuitive eating approach is the best way to help clients achieve better eating habits…unless they’re really “obese.” Then they should probably lose weight “for their health.” These dietitians are not yet wholly committed to HAES®.
So I want to be very clear: I do support rejecting a weight loss mentality for all people…even if they’re fat.
(Note: I’m going to use “fat” rather than “obese” or “overweight” because it is the word preferred by the size acceptance movement.)
I’ll say it over and over – the evidence on weight loss is pretty conclusive: while most people can lose weight in the short term, almost everyone (between 90-95%) gains the weight back and often even more somewhere within 3 to 5 years (and definitely by 10 years) after the initial loss. No one is sure of the exact figure of diet failure because most weight loss studies do not study participants longer than two years. Even Weight Watchers, who could easily have access to all their clients’ data and could track weight loss and gains for many years (I was a member for 16 years, and I know I’m not the only one), has not studied people beyond two years (after which participants lost an average of 5 pounds).
The other thing we know is that health isn’t dependent on body weight. We know now (and have actually known it for years) that fitness and other healthy behaviors contribute more toward health than body weight. Sadly, most studies that examine body weight don’t account for eating habits, fitness, and social stigma when they claim that fat is bad for you. So there are lots of confounding factors that could be contributing to poor health in fat people – but instead of looking at those more closely…nah, we’ll just blame the weight.
Telling a fat person to go on a diet is most likely to have one outcome in the long term: more weight gain. And I’m guessing that is the exact opposite of what anyone on any diet hopes for.
Therefore, I don’t advocate one set of rules (intuitive eating, not dieting) for thin or normal weight people and another (weight loss diets, dietary restriction, extreme, unpleasant exercise) for fat people. That’s called a double standard and it’s bullshit and it doesn’t even work.
I support an intuitive eating approach for all people…even if they’re fat.
I support eating salads sometimes and pizza other times for whoever wants to…even if they’re fat.
I support eating dessert for anyone who chooses to…even if they’re fat.
I support any kind of pleasurable movement for people even if it doesn’t make them break a sweat…even if they’re fat.
I support people doing nothing at all for health, because health is no one’s obligation, if that’s what they want…even if they’re fat.
And I support respecting your body and treating it the best you can…even if you’re fat.
Health at Every Size® is not trying to say that every person is healthy at every size. It does mean that whatever size you’re at right now, you can begin your journey to health using a weight neutral approach. If one set of behaviors are healthy for one set of people, why wouldn’t they be healthy for all people?
Check out this excellent video by ASDAH that perfectly explains the madness around the weight loss paradigm – using poodles!