Fitness vs Fatness

Shifting the Focus From Fatness to Fitness

I was at a wedding where they had a belly dancer perform for us. She was not a small woman – definitely carried more around the middle than most women consider desirable. She danced for at least a half hour with no breaks, and it was incredible to watch what she could do with her abs!

As we were watching this woman, another health professional said to me, “I would have expected her to have a six-pack.” I looked at her with my head cocked, in the “I don’t understand” position. She proceeded with her explanation, “She looks so strong is all.” I said “She is. That’s incredible”.

depositphotos_56600861_original

This showed me how deeply engrained are the social stigmas we have about people who carry extra weight, even amongst those who theoretically should know better. It is a myth that one cannot be fat AND fit. This belly dancer had more core strength and stamina than any of us! And she performed her routine with grace and softness.

Dove’s research revealed that 80% of women and girls had cancelled important life events (like birthday parties, trying out for a team, family dinners, holidays) due to low body esteem.

We need to create an environment where children and teenagers are not afraid of being teased. Because it’s stopping them from participating in the very activities that lead to health.

If our young people focus on their size instead of their health, they may get discouraged when their body doesn’t change the way they had hoped or intended, and they may stop being active because “it’s not working.”

That sense of shame and failure may have them retreating for comfort through food, or retreating to the isolation of their homes or online activities. Then the all-or-nothing dieting cycle begins, and a lifetime of dieting, shaming, and failure is not healthy.

The diet and fitness industry (and, sadly, the health care system as well) has been telling parents that we’re in a war against obesity (which, by the way, isn’t working).

My mission, and why I started The Diet Rebellion, is to help parents understand that the casualty of this war is their children’s mental health.

We are at a very important fork in the road. Let’s lead parents down the less-traveled path. This new path teaches us that:

  • Parents who discuss healthy eating with their kids without the conversation being about weight, raise teenagers who are less likely to develop eating disorders or obesity.[i]
  • Parents who don’t restrict foods raise teenagers who are less likely to develop discorded eating.[ii]
  • Parents who role model healthy eating behaviours and lifestyle choices themselves, for the sake of health and not weight loss, raise kids who are more likely to have a healthy lifestyle.[iii]

untitled

This new path allows our children to achieve health at any size. It allows us to teach our kids that if they want to prevent diabetes, they don’t have to lose weight; they can do that by achieving better fitness and by participating in fitness because their bodies are amazing. Just like the belly dancer, they can be incredibly fit in a large body.

When we make food and fitness fun and enjoyable, we encourage lifelong participation. It creates healthy lifestyle strategies and connects children more with how their bodies feel and less about how their bodies look.

Until next time,

Dr. Kerri

 

[i] JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Aug 1;167(8):746-53. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.78.

[ii] Int J Eat Disord. 2014 Apr;47(3):310-4. doi: 10.1002/eat.22189. Epub 2013 Sep 18.

[iii] Br J Nutr. 2008 Feb;99 Suppl 1:S22-5. doi: 10.1017/S0007114508892471.