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Health at Every Size—The Surprising Truth about Your Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD was a groundbreaking book based on the concept that a high weight doesn’t necessarily lead to illness and early death, as we’ve been repeatedly told. Now, Bacon has co-written another cutting edge book with Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD: Body Respect—What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight. If you want factual data on the relationship between weight and health, you’ll find it here, along with information on diets and “normal” eating.
I’ve been in this field for more than 30 years and I learned a lot from Body Respect. For instance, I no longer use the term “overweight.” As the authors point out, the term is meaningless. Over what weight? Better to say high weight or fat. But, no, you might insist, the word means above what a healthy poundage or BMI is. You might say this if you didn’t read what the authors conclude about how weight ranges and BMI categories were arbitrarily determined and who funded their research. Could it be Big Pharma?
If you want to understand how a focus on weight rather than health is hurting you and stopping you from reaching your health goals, Body Respect lays it all out for you. Sometimes the only way to stop hating your body is to stop buying into the myths that have generated fat phobia. This doesn’t mean giving up on your desire for a healthy, attractive body, but it does mean that a weight obsession will likely drive you farther away from reaching your goals. The authors discuss set point and how stress and other environmental factors affect your weight on a physical level. They explain what years and decades of dieting have done to make it harder for you now to metabolize food the way you would like to. Best, they describe how returning to “normal” eating—eating according to appetite—will start to reverse the damage that diets have done.
Here are some of my favorite factoids from the book:
“Dieting triggers a reduction in leptin, which both increases appetite and decreases
metabolism. And chronic dieting results in chronically less leptin release, which could easily explain why the majority of people with a history of dieting actually gain weight over time.” (p. 20)
“…your taste buds, and many other sensory cells, constantly regenerate. If you don’t
use all your sugar receptors for a few weeks, they don’t regenerate in the same quantity. In other words, if you reduce your sugar habit for a bit, you may find it becomes a natural choice in the long run and that high quantities of overly sweet stuff no longer have the same appeal—you don’t have to fight the urge to reach for them, because there isn’t one!” p. 131)
“The lower your self-esteem, the more you measure yourself against an outside
standard—a standard you can never meet—with painful ramifications.” (p. 136)
“Genetics, personality, previous metabolic strain, and early developmental events all
interact to influence physiological and psychological resilience. For example, people who have experienced abuse, neglect, or other forms of early adversity have weakened immunity and are predisposed for heightened physiological reactions to stressful events. There’s a lot of room for change, though, as we can ‘rewire’ our neural pathways to a great extent with the right support.” (p. 103)
Other topics the authors cover include emotional empowerment and weight-loss realities. Additionally, there are enlightening discussions about valuing diversity and how we can all play a part in creating a culture that doesn’t devalue people because of their size—or any other trait. If you are serious about understanding your eating, weight, and health concerns, including your current or past weight struggles, and are ready to face reality, you will want to read this book to finally get the facts right.
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