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Body Acceptance

In her new book, Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, Gina Kolata puts forth a version of set point theory, maintaining that for mostly biological reasons, the body has a natural weight that it will return to again and again. She presents case studies and scientific evidence based on research that the body “fails” at dieting because it simply cannot drop below a minimum weight. If she is right, how can you learn to accept your so-called set point—when you’re eating both “normally” and nutritiously—even if you wish it were lower?

The fact is, even if you can’t change your body, you can always change your mind. Many heavy people get on with life and don’t become obsessed with losing weight or being fat. They know they’re large, might or might not aim for fitness, and weight is not the focal point of their lives. They’re too busy engaged in meaningful work and in enjoying relationships, using their time on earth to live up to their potential, being creative, making the world a better place. The notion of feeling badly about being oversized or allowing it to stop them from doing what they want is as alien to them as a space ship. In fact, some are amazed that other large people actually let their size get in the way of their dreams.

Now, I’m not saying that we don’t live in a fat-phobic, thin-obsessed culture. Sadly, we do. I am saying that there are heavy people who refuse to buy into self-hatred and who do not have low self-esteem. They know they look different, are stereotyped, and that people may disparage their excess pounds. Sometimes they come up against weight prejudice and are aware that folks may make fun of them. However, they do not internalize this cultural value, and so it fails to affect them negatively. Slights and slurs roll off them, they focus on the positive in themselves, not the negative, they confront biased comments and move on, or laugh off attempts by the ignorant to put them down.

Overfocusing on weight only distracts you from the task at hand—changing your eating. When most overeaters eat more “normally,” in fact, they do lose weight. But weight loss cannot be the goal. What if you could learn to eat “normally” and still didn’t lose an ounce? Would you accept half a loaf rather than none? Would you be thrilled that you no longer suffer from eating problems or would you miss out on the joy and focus only on the fact that you’re not at the weight you wish to be? Perhaps becoming a “normal,” healthy eater and being as fit as you can be at your current weight is the best you’ll ever do. If so, enjoy your achievements and practice acceptance of whatever size you are.