Give up the Diets, not your Health

I was talking to a woman the other day who was so frustrated with her body.

“I just can’t lose this weight! I’ve done EVERY diet imaginable, it just won’t move. If anything I keep getting fatter!”, she said.  So I asked her, “Have you considered giving up the diets?” She looked at me with a sad sigh and responded “I’d love to. They don’t work. But what else can I do? My health is too important to me”.

One of the biggest objections to the #bodypositive movement was expressed by this woman. People believe that by giving up dieting and reclaiming their lives that they have to abandon their health.

It’s not true! Let me tell you why.

Body Positivity in the Media

Giving up the food rules is one of the ten principles of Intuitive Eating. Unfortunately, that’s often the only principle that people see on social media or blogs. Body loving coaches come out all ‘rah rah rah – screw the rules, eat the cake!’. And so, it goes.

Now look, the body positive movement is important for many social and political reasons. And I support it fully and completely. It’s what’s bringing attention to the fatphobic world that we live in, how women of size are being portrayed as weak and disgusting, and it’s shining light on the important topic of weight-bias in medicine. It is not a movement about health. It’s a movement about basic human rights. But that doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your health goals to be a part of this historic movement.

What about Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating isn’t just a buzz word. It’s a modeled process with scientific validity. To date there are over 75 studies looking at the merits of Intuitive Eating. Here are the highlighted benefits compared to the diet/restrict models:

  • increased self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • more consistent physical activity
  • decreased binge eating and other disordered eating habits
  • improved blood pressure
  • improved cholesterol levels (LDL, HDL and triglycerides)
  • weight maintenance or weight loss*

*I struggle including weight measures and only included it to calm those who are terrified that giving up dieting means gaining weight

So what can you do to give up dieting without compromising your health?

  1. Start to follow some body positive sites and pages. Read the information about how dieting fails to address the problem and only makes matters worse. By understanding the dangers you will less tempted when you see the ‘before and after’ pictures of the latest greatest program. More of my blogs are available at www.thedietrebellion.com and on Facebook.
  2.  Learn about Intuitive Eating from the ones who created it. www.intuitiveeating.org is a site full of valuable free resources. Buy the book and read through the whole thing.
  3. Find a coach, nutritionist or naturopath who has been trained in Intuitive Eating. Yes, I’m one of them. You can book a Food Sanity Session to find out more.

No matter what, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t ditch the diets without getting fat!

Dr. Kerri Fullerton ND

 2014 May;114(5):734-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.12.024. Epub 2014 Mar 14

Why this doctor won’t recommend weight loss

Gasp! A doctor that doesn’t care about your weight?! Is that even allowed?

I will continue to educate you each month with a new blog that supports this way of thinking. For today I just want to share one frightening statistic and my thoughts about it.

9/10 Women with low body esteem admit to putting their health at risk

(like stopping themselves from eating or NOT SEEING A DOCTOR)

Over my 13 years of practicing naturopathic medicine I have met women who have not seen their doctor in years. No pap, no blood work, nothing. The reason? They don’t want to be told, again, to lose weight.

Shame Does Not Help

I get that their well meaning doctors have their patients best interest at heart (I sincerely hope that is their motivation), and I’d bet that they don’t realize what a simple comment or shake of the head can do to that patient’s already challenged self esteem.

These women are embarrassed about their weight. They feel so ashamed and when they feel like their doctor is only going to add to it, they choose instead forgo medical care when it’s necessary.

Weight Loss isn’t the same as Health

These overweight and obese patients feel that every complaint they have is met with “well, if you lost some weight, then….” and many of their conditions are not being treated properly. Some of them are out right being denied cared by their physicians until they lose weight.

You may hear a voice in your head saying “Well, rightfully so. If they won’t make their health a priority then why should their doctor?”. And here in Ontario, where healthcare is publicly funded, you may find a voice saying “Why should I fund their lack of commitment to their health?”.

It’s not your fault that you’ve become prejudiced against fat. You’ve been conditioned to believe that fat means unhealthy. Sadly, you’ve been duped! The research that shows and supports that weight loss doesn’t lead to better health outcomes is under reported. Under the guise of keeping you healthy, many believe that if they let you know that you don’t have to lose weight that they are simply supporting gluttony and laziness. Because that is what we as a society mean when we say ‘fat’. We’ve attached these moral judgments to obesity that we can’t even see them as separate anymore.

The good news is that I will be reporting this research. Right here. Month after month.

The Absurdity of “The Weight Loss” Prescription

People who carry more fat are not necessarily any less healthy than their thin counterparts. But where the thin counterpart will get treatment, the one with extra weight is first prescribed weight loss.

Here’s the problem with that script – it’s useless. There isn’t ONE known way to lose weight long-term. No pills, no magic diet, nothing. If you’re going to prescribe a remedy, you should first be sure that it’s possible. Otherwise, you might as well tell these women to go touch the surface of the moon and send them on their way.

There Is An Alternative

My solution? Stop weighing them. Change the conversation away from their weight and onto their health. They are not the same thing. As I will continue to support with evidence blog after blog, health can be achieved without weight loss. And since weight loss doesn’t work long-term, and since I want my patients to achieve long-term health, it’s a moot point anyway.

If you have been hiding from doctors due to fear of judgment, please come talk to me. Let’s get your actual health evaluated and create a treatment plan for long-term success.

 

Dr. Kerri Fullerton ND

 

References:

http://ndnr.com/naturopathic-news/bmi-shouldnt-be-used-to-determine-healthiness/

Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, 2016, Dr. Nancy Etcoff & Dr. Susan Paxon