I’m working on developing a language around my work. I listen to my peers and mentors speak so eloquently and fluently about the work that is our passion—helping people break free of the dieting cycle and instead living an authentic, fulfilled life. We’re helping people to identify and paint their own picture of what health looks like; instead of subscribing to highly publicized, politicized and incentivized messaging. I don’t yet have the language, or maybe it’s the confidence, but I’m working on it. I practice every terrifying chance I get (next one, January 31st at East Bend Public Library—please come!).
While I work on how to say it, I will say what I know. I know it intuitively, I know it morally, and I know it from experience both personally and professionally. Here are some of the Cliff’s notes:
- We are taught from a very early age that there’s something wrong with our bodies (we aren’t born thinking that—insert picture of naked toddler running amok and LOVING IT!)
- We are watching our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and TV idols diet so we learn that’s what we should do in order to be attractive, lovable, worthy, participatory, insert adjective here. (especially as women, but it is bridging gender gaps of late)
- Many people start dieting as young as 10 years old. I’m no exception--I used to carry my mother’s calorie count book in my school backpack to the 6th grade. I didn’t even know what a freaking calorie was, but I knew that’s what grownups did and I wanted so desperately to grow up.
- The primary result of dieting is weight gain. Our bodies are designed to maintain. Which is pretty awesome---you are designed to survive. Your cells can’t imagine that you’d ever intentionally restrict so that you could look good in a dress for the high school reunion, or a 2 piece bathing suit for the tropical vacation; it sees restriction as starvation and does everything it can to maintain and keep you…..well—alive!
- Trying to change our weights is stressful. I’ve watched countless numbers of patients and clients try again, and again, and again to change their weight without “success” and instead gain a heavy dose of shame and self loathing (We’ll talk more about this in person).
- Being at a higher weight is stressful. Whether trying to change it or not, being heavy is stressful. Everyone wants to tell you about it: your friends, the random person in the grocery store, your physician, dietitian (not me, I swear!), your boyfriend’s grandma Jeanie, Oprah, and your physical therapist all have observations and “shoulds” waiting for you. Many people who live in larger bodies get sicker by virtue of this stress, and often by virtue of delaying going to the doctor for many ailments because of fear that their cough will somehow turn into a lecture about their weight.
- Waiting to change our weight gets in the way of life. I’ll go on that dream vacation when…I’ll start dating again when…I’ll buy clothes that I truly like when…I’ll have more sex when…I’ll make new, more supportive friends when…I’ll finally—well, you get it. What if we never lose the weight? Just, what if? I’d hate for you, me, or anyone to miss out on all that living while we wait to find out.
- Our preoccupation with weight is getting in the way of focusing on our ACTUAL HEALTH. I see and hear this a lot. One that will always be with me is the participant in my health improvement group who dropped out halfway through, stating, “It’s not working.” I discussed this with her because, through nutrition and activity changes, we’d dropped her average blood sugars into the normal range, decreased her total cholesterol by over 50 points, and decreased her LDL significantly as well. All of this in only 7 weeks so, what does “working” look like? “Well,” she said, “I’m not losing enough weight.” *I’ve also worked with more than one employee participating in company wellness programs who continue to smoke because “If I quit I gain weight, and I won’t get my incentive money if I gain weight.” Seriously. I can’t make this stuff up.
- Our preoccupation with weight gets in the way of really seeing each other. I’ve heard many recounts of this, but one that really sticks with me is the client who struggled with a serious gut condition that took over 1 year to diagnose and in the meantime she was sick and miserable. She describes dark circles around her eyes, nearly debilitating fatigue, constant diarrhea, cramping, and nausea. During that year, while the pounds melted away because of her sickness, co-workers who SAW HER EVERY DAY told her how great she looked, “Wow! Have you lost weight!? You look fantastic! Congratulations! What’s your secret?” While she wanted to say, “seriously!? It’s freaking Crohn’s, that’s my secret,” she instead smiled and nodded and didn’t say a word. I’ve heard similar stories with cancer and eating disorders.
- What we’re doing, isn’t working. Let’s pretend for a second (or less) that weight is really a problem rather than a hyped up symptom of our media, the financially motivated pharmaceutical system, and cultural “norms” brainwashed into us since the womb. Pretend that ideal body weight recommendations accounted for measures such as bone density, muscle mass, and age. Pretend that BMI standards (don’t get me started!) were ever for a second based on science that was meant to gauge the health of an individual, or that it acknowledges structural differences between the bodies of male and female gendered bodies. Okay—are you there with me? Pretending? Okay, then weight is a problem. So, we have a billion dollar weight loss industry, unlimited numbers of diet plans, and healthcare providers prescribing surgeries, drugs and restrictive diets. Then, why, is the “obesity problem” continuing to increase according to the media? Shouldn’t our “problem” be resolving? What we’re doing isn’t working. So, instead of trying harder, and trying over (and over and over) again, let’s try something different. Ask yourself, what if we stepped away from the diet cycle? Who would go broke? What would our lives look like? What will it take?
Let’s talk. Please join the conversation.
Contact me directly (and respectfully, please) or come to the talk on Jan 31st.
More info on that talk here: