Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Studies have shown that 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their weight and 42% are actively trying to lose weight by dieting and/or exercising.¹'³ These strategies rarely produce lasting weight loss. In fact, the vast majority of people who lose weight by dieting will regain it - often plus some. This type of yo-yo dieting can be harmful to one’s health.⁴
So why do Americans keep putting themselves through the deprivation associated with dieting if it doesn’t work and is potentially harmful? Perhaps a shift in mindset could break this cycle of “insanity.”
The Health At Every Size (HAES) approach argues that health is related to a person’s behaviors, not their weight.¹'² For example, a person can be “normal” weight and have high blood pressure, and a person can be “over” weight and have normal blood pressure. Interestingly, individuals classified as “overweight” based on their BMI live the longest, while those who are classified as “obese” have the same lifespan as “normal” weight individuals. Dieting has been associated with worsened physical and psychological outcomes, while HAES has been shown to improve them.
- Increased appetite
- Frequent obsessive thoughts about food
- Increased risk of depression
- Emotional overeating
- Weight loss followed by weight regain
- Reduced self-esteem
- Intuitive eating
- Improved psychological functioning
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Reduced overeating
- Maintenance of set-point weight
- Body acceptance and improved self-esteem
By focusing on health rather than weight, a person is able to break out of the cycle of dieting and care for their body in a loving and compassionate way. Dieting and trying to force the body to lose weight or look a certain way is the opposite of this. It is a way of fighting against the body. When a person cares for their body they treat it with kindness and respect — THIS is what HAES is all about.
It’s ok if you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around this. After all, it goes against everything our society teaches us. It may even go against what your doctor tells you. The truth is, you CAN be healthy without focusing on your weight. When you are taking care of your body and engaging in healthful behaviors, your weight will land where it is genetically meant to, without you needing to control it. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and this genetic diversity in humans is not only biologically advantageous, but it is beautiful. It makes each of us unique in our own skin.
Are you ready to end the war against your body? Are you ready for a mindset shift? If so, learn more about the HAES approach by visiting Linda Bacon's website and check out her resources.
1. Provencher et al. Health-At-Every-Size and Eating Behaviors: 1-Year Follow-Up of a Size Acceptance Intervention. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009;109:1854-61.
2. Bacon L, Aphramor L. Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10:9.
3. NEDA Information and Referral Helpline. Statistics: Eating Disorders and their Precursors. www.NationalEatingDisorders.org. Accessed May 10, 2012.
4. Montani J-P, et al. Weight cycling during growth and beyond as a risk factor for later cardiovascular diseases: the ‘repeated overshoot’ theory. International Journal of Obesity. 2006;30:S58-S66.
Katy Harvey, RD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) from Kansas City. She has an outpatient private practice where she helps individuals heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. She also blogs at Katy’s Blog.