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Focus on Weight vs. Focus on Health?

I posted some of this in the tattoo weight loss thread but it got me to thinking...

Why is it that so often the focus is on losing weight and not gaining health? Why do we equate thinness with health when it hasn't been scientifically proven at all? I've recently read a lot about this because I was a yo-yo dieter my whole life, losing and gaining the same 50 pounds over and over again. I picked up this book, "Rethinking Thin" by NY Times Science writer, Gina Kolata (rhymes with Pina Colada, how awesome is that!?) and it basically taught me that every person has a "setpoint" weight that our bodies really want us to weigh and it's next to impossible to stray from that weight by more than 10-20 pounds in either direction. Some people are naturally skinny and some people are naturally heavier. The focus should be on health, not weight. If you're fat and work out and eat well and you're still fat, guess what? Maybe your body just wants to be fat. I just feel like these campaigns against obesity are ridiculous...why not wage a war for HEALTH? For ALL PEOPLE? I know skinny people who are about to keel over, their bodies just metabolize calories more efficiently than mine does but if you compare our cardiovascular health and our blood work, I'm far more healthy.

I am now reading the best book called "Health at Every Size" by Linda Bacon, PHD (hehe on last name) which is basically about the same thing. Everyone who has been on a diet knows how freaking hard it is to keep the weight off.  It's just something I totally relate to...I always felt like a failure for not being able to keep the weight off but really, I'm battling my genes. I can't win unless I dedicate my life to it, using up all my brainpower to eat less and stay skinny. It's too much. Also, the book talks about how there is no such thing as an ideal weight and about how the BMI is a totally ridiculous gauge of health. Also, people who yo-yo diet are actually a lot less healthy than people who are chubby. I don't know, there is tons of really good, well researched information in both books, I highly recommend them.

Rethinking Thin: http://www.amazon.com/Rethinking-Thin-Science-Loss-Realities/dp/0374103984
Health at Every Size: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1933771585?ie=UTF8&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&qid=1268969153&sr=1-1

Maybe this should be filed under rants but I had to get it off my chest tonight!

A side note: I love VegWeb for being such a great spot for delicious vegan recipes, all of them cholesterol free and a great many of them very good for you! Go VegWeb!

ugh WML so true... i agree that we are just stuck a certain size unless we want to obsess about what we eat and how much we exercise... why can't we just be happy with being healthy? wouldn't that be the greatest (especially for us girls)... maybe if we weren't bombarded with so many images telling us how we are "supposed to look" things might easier... but you speak the truth seriously

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Totally, Amy. I look at all these beautiful, smart, compassionate women that I know with eating disorders and just think, "Ugh, you're the the most awesome! I wish you could see what everyone else sees"

I try to think like...I don't ever want to say something to myself that I wouldn't say to a friend. Like, I would never call a friend fat and ugly and so I'm not doing that to myself, either.

I know a lot of it is about having something to control but forget it, letting go feels so freaking good. Trusting your bodies natural signals of hunger and satiety and moving your body in a pleasurable way every day. That's what it's all about. Oh and awesome friends and good beer :). And some chocolate too!

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I try to think like...I don't ever want to say something to myself that I wouldn't say to a friend. Like, I would never call a friend fat and ugly and so I'm not doing that to myself, either.

I especially like this.  We treat ourselves in ways that most of us would never treat another person, whether they're a friend or not.

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I posted some of this in the tattoo weight loss thread but it got me to thinking...

Why is it that so often the focus is on losing weight and not gaining health?

It's funny - that's the exact (well, almost) tagline for my next book ("The Delicious Way to Lose Weight and Gain Health For Life")...

But aside from that, I totally feel ya sister!! I've lost and gained weight since childhood...and spent most of my 20s as an obese vegan. I too look at my beautiful women friends and just wish they too could see how beautiful they are JUST AS THEY ARE! But they are always fixated on those last few pounds. I wonder if men have this problem!

Anyway, just wanted to say, love your thoughts and this was actually really great for me to hear today. As I'm writing a weight loss book, I keep wondering "Am I thin enough? Will people look at me and think 'She needs to lose 4 pounds?" It's silly I know. But we've been force-fed these crazy, unhealthy images all our lives - they're pretty hard to shake! It's interesting, too - I have a friend who used to be a supermodel and she is just so beautiful. But she too sees herself as "big" (even though she looks great and not at all overweight) It must be from all the years of being told she had to be stick thin!
:-*

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quintess - I can't wait to read your book, it sounds wonderful! I'm going to order several copies!!

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Again you speak the truth... I would never be so harsh on anyone as i am on myself... I know how those nasty words sting and eat away at you... I aspire to be a healthy and happy vegan like u one day... hopefully that day will come soon

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Thanks, Laura!! I'm pretty excited about it - I had a big testing group & everyone lost a lot of weight and got so much healthier!! It also made so many people become vegan, which thrills me to no end!! Now I just have to finish the da*n thing :) ...but it should be out by May or so, I'm almost done!

p.s. Amy, you rock!!

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i agree. i actually often go off on people that obsess about their weight in relation to diet and exercise. i tell them to stop thinking about their wieght and worry about health, weight will do it's thing.

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Could we give away Quintess's book for the weekly drawing???? (Quintess is NOT allowed to enter!  ;))

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I think it's funny that the discussion went so fast to a weight-loss book.  It indicates that no matter how much we want to see things in terms of health, we really interpret them through the lens of weight.

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I think it's naive to think that weight is not an indicator of health in many cases (BUT NOT ALL). I've never seen a 500 pound person at a marathon.

I have, however, seen many skinny people who are not in good health.

It is not a direct correlation 100% of the time, but I don't think it's a variable that can be ignored.

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I think it's funny that the discussion went so fast to a weight-loss book.  It indicates that no matter how much we want to see things in terms of health, we really interpret them through the lens of weight.

It's a part of how North American society is structured... (capitalist, consumerist culture that only considers a certain population as legitimate/valuable citizens). This focus on losing weight is, for the most part, about ze monies. The diet industry is just that - an industry - built around selling things. Diets don't work for a reason - that way we keep buying diet products - fitness videos, meal replacement shakes, low fat/calorie diet foods, weight loss books (no offense). This stuff sells.

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The book probably isn't about be healthy at 500 pounds.  I'd guess it's more like being healthy, if you're 5'5", at 150 pounds.

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I think it's naive to think that weight is not an indicator of health in many cases (BUT NOT ALL). I've never seen a 500 pound person at a marathon.

I have, however, seen many skinny people who are not in good health.

It is not a direct correlation 100% of the time, but I don't think it's a variable that can be ignored.

You are right. Skinny does not equal fit. Yet overweight is the first indicator of not being fit. Sorry to sound sexist here but. . .

Many women spend so much time, effort and money on makeup, hairstyles, purfume, clothing etc., while totally neglecting their shape and fitness.

I find fit, not skinny, women attractive. Seriously, no need for all that other stuff if you just get fit. I don't mean to say that men do not appreciate women who look and smell like a woman, it's just that fit is really the most important thing by far. Ladies, the first thing a guy checks out as "fitness indicator" is. . . your butt.

Here is an odd observation. While I like women of all shapes and sizes . . as I have lost weight and gotten more fit myself, I have found that I am MORE attracted to fit women.

Sorry if my frankness has offended anyone.

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The book probably isn't about be healthy at 500 pounds.  I'd guess it's more like being healthy, if you're 5'5", at 150 pounds.

Then I guess it would boil down to what one considers "overweight" or "fat", because I don't think that statistic is approaching either one of those. I should check to see how that would register on the BMI scale, because that sounds pretty normal to me.

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I think it's naive to think that weight is not an indicator of health in many cases (BUT NOT ALL). I've never seen a 500 pound person at a marathon.

I have, however, seen many skinny people who are not in good health.

It is not a direct correlation 100% of the time, but I don't think it's a variable that can be ignored.

You are right. Skinny does equal fit. Yet overweight is the first indicator of not being fit. Sorry to sound sexist here but. . .

Many women spend so much time, effort and money on makeup, hairstyles, purfume, clothing etc., while totally neglecting their shape and fitness.

I find fit, not skinny, women attractive. Seriously, no need for all that other stuff if you just get fit. I don't mean to say that men do not appreciate women who look and smell like a woman, it's just that fit is really the most important thing by far. Ladies, the first thing a guy checks out as "fitness indicator" is. . . your butt.

Here is an odd observation. While I like women of all shapes and sizes . . as I have lost weight and gotten more fit myself, I have found that I am MORE attracted to fit women.

Sorry if my frankness has offended anyone.

I am not offended, and I kind of see where you're going. I see fit men as more attractive, and it's probably because I could more likely picture the two of us rock climbing, hiking, running, etc. together (not that I"m looking for a partner, I'm just saying).

And I don't have time for make-up, hair, lotions/potions and otherwise, because I"m running all the time--glad to know someone appreciates it. WINK  ;)!

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I'd love to use Quintess' new book as a giveaway! Quintess- as soon as you're ready, let me know and I'll make it happen!!

HH - absolutely! And it's all about how we've been duped into thinking that skinny = healthy to ramp up the sales of all things diet related. It's a fascinating read.

rswhitaker and VeganRun - thanks for your honesty and povs! you should both read the books I mentioned above, they are fascinating examinations about how skinny (or even "fit" looking... which is often a euphemism for thin) doesn't equal healthy. There are plenty of fat people who are super fit. Weight is nothing but a number. The only time people start to suffer from their weight is when they're at extremes at either end. Plus, there are lots of studies that suggest that people with some extra padding are actually healthier than their thin counterparts!

Also, my body isn't for any man or woman to judge, it's my body. As long as I'm happy with it, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I really feel that's the attitude you need if you're gonna survive in a society that constantly judges your body as a sign of your worth as a human.

I'm happy to see that there are so many people on VegWeb with healthy body love and I hope that percentage continues to grow!!

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laurabs - yes! that is exactly what "health at every size" is about. she says in the very beginning, this book won't make you skinny, this isn't a diet. if you came here to find out how to lose weight, this isn't for you. if you want to find out how to be healthy, to enjoy food, to enjoy movement, then stick around. she says there is a good chance you won't get skinny (or skinnier) but your self esteem will improve and feeling good about your body can have the same effect as losing 20 pounds...it's just so important to like youself. i don't know, i sound so cheesy and self helpy but this book is soooo great!!

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For the record I just spotted an error in my previous post which sends the opposite meaning of what I intended.

>You are right. Skinny does equal fit.

What I meant to say was. . .

'You are right. Skinny does NOT equal fit.'

:)

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This thread went from being empowering to making me sad.

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