Many body positivity, Health At Every Size, intuitive eating and mindful eating professionals arrive at this work through their own struggles with their relationship with food and/or their body. I got here through a path that involved weight loss surgery patients, podcasts, and social media.
There have definitely been a lot of “aha” moments along the way, and I wanted to share some of those with you, in case they might move you forward on your own body positive/HAES journey in the way that it did mine.
5 Quotes that Changed My Nutrition Practice Forever
“We can’t choose some arbitrary number on the scale, and then turn our lives upside down to achieve it. This is what we call an eating disorder in a thin or average-weight person. We can’t then turn around and prescribe it to a fat person.”Deb Burgard, BodyPositive.com
This was one of the quotes that I found when I first started exploring the concept of body positivity. At the time, while I already did not set “goal weights” with clients, this quote really brought to light that some of the behaviours that I was recommending could be considered disordered eating.
Some may argue that since “obesity is a disease” (which is a whole other blog post for another time), people need to change their eating habits in order to “treat” it. While I totally agree that there are many medical conditions that can benefit from dietary and lifestyle changes, we need to consider the evidence in regards to whether these changes are actually health-promoting, and whether they have the potential to cause harm. It’s frightening that there are research articles that suggest looking at anorexia—a mental health condition—for clues to promote weight loss.
“Health is not an obligation.”Ragen Chastain, Dances with Fat
The link above takes you to the post where Ragen actually writes that quote, but she fleshes out the idea in this post. Most healthcare, fitness and wellness professionals enter their fields because they already value health, fitness and wellness. If not, you are indoctrinated through school and work. After being in my healthcare bubble for so long, to be told that it’s ok to not have to care about health was completely mind-blowing. It taught me that HAES is not the end all, be all, but really just an offshoot of the larger body positivity and fat acceptance movements.
“The way that we are taught to think about fatness is that fat is not a permanent state. You’re just a thin person who’s failing consistently for your whole life.—Lindy West, This American Life (ep. 589)
This episode of This American Life is so good. (But also potentially so triggering.) I think this quote really captures the essence of weight stigma in a way that really hit home for me. At the bariatric clinic, most people would still be categorized as “obese” after the surgery, and I had a few patients who had doctors tell them that they still needed to “lose more weight” because of this.
The reality is, weight loss is statistically improbable. There is no 100% effective, reliable and safe way to lose weight and keep it off. Yet because we live in a society that is so invested in the idea that weight is malleable if you just try hard enough, weight stigma and its collateral damage continue.
“If diet culture didn’t exist, if food was a real, free, liberating thing and it just didn’t really matter what you ate, and no one was judging you or shaming you around what you were eating, or your body size, no one would give a crap about emotional eating, quite frankly.”—Isabel Foxen Duke, Food Psych (ep. 118)
I remember listening to this Food Psych episode just after I had recorded an interview on emotional eating, and I thought, “Shit! This changes everything.”
“Honour your feelings without using food” is one of the intuitive eating principles, and it’s easy to interpret that as, “stop emotional eating”. Now my stance is that emotional eating is completely normal and healthy, but it can become problematic if it is your only coping mechanism, and/or it is keeping you from feeling your feelings or addressing the real issues at hand.
Recovery from Binge Eating Disorder is NOT (just) about not bingeing. It’s so much more, including addressing restriction and moving towards a flexible, stable, reliable, confident relationship with food. It’s also about letting go of attachments to changing the body and weight loss. Whilst we completely understand these desires (when you’ve grown up in this culture, no freakin’ wonder!!), easing back on “body fixing” & instead becoming more familiar and up close with our bodies, just as they are. I will YELL this one…..weight change is NOT a measure of BED recovery, & the sooner we (providers) let this one go, the better so we can actually support ALL folx in ALL bodies live a peaceful life ???? thankyou wise and wonderful colleague Grace Wong for yet another #truthbomb
“There is a prevalent misunderstanding that the desired outcomes of BED treatment is “not bingeing” but restrictive eating is ok. NOPE. Recovery from BED is NOT ending binges. It’s a flexible relationship with food that encompasses physical and emotional health. Restrictive eating is NOT progress, regardless of weight or weight changes.”—Grace Wong, RD
Just like “stop emotional eating”, it’s a common belief that the goal of eating disorder treatment is to stop the problematic behaviours and/or return to a “normal” weight. Sadly, many eating disorder centres stop providing support when people reach these goals. Eating disorders are not about the food, weight, or even the behaviours. They’re really a manifestation of a person’s relationship with food, themselves, and others, and full recovery requires healing those relationships.