At the mention of body acceptance (which I am convinced is the only way to change a diet-binge-cyclers relationship with food permanently),
I’m invariably asked about the “health” issue.
“How could I love this body that is clearly too fat to be healthy?”
OR, more aggressively,
“How can you promote body acceptance to people who are unhealthfully fat?”
Well, I have a laundry list of responses to this question,
including but not limited to:
Hate and self-judgement do not usually make people thinner in the long-run; in fact, more often than not, they contribute to weight gain.
or, another common response I give —
on what planet is ‘poor health’ a legitimate rationalization for the kind of hatred, judgement and bigotry our culture espouses towards fat people on a regular basis? On what planet is “poor health” a logical rationalization for the intense feelings of weight-related shame, self-hatred and self-doubt experienced by an actual majority of women in this country? (and increasingly men as well?)
Let’s cut the crap. In a country where research suggests that 54 percent of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat, body hate is not usually about health, but more often, about prejudice. More on that here…
That being said,
I feel compelled to share a scientific perspective on the “health” conversation that may help put this body-shaming rationalization to rest…
Contrary to popular understanding, we have little evidence to suggest that fat cells on the body are the exclusive or direct cause of conditions like diabetes, or heart disease. On the contrary, fat is demonized for “health reasons” because of its correlation with such conditions — which is quite a different story…
The difference between correlation and causat
Scientists, nutritionists, doctors, etc. generally understand that body fat, in and of itself, is probably not the primary cause of diabetes — but is correlated with diabetes — by virtue of the fact that poor blood sugar regulation, may cause both.
In other words,
“people who have diabetes often have more fat on their bodies,”
just like, “people who have lung cancer often have more yellow teeth.”
Yellow teeth do not cause lung cancer. But smoking may increase your risk of both.
Fat on the body does not cause diabetes. But poor blood sugar regulation may increase your risk of both.
Health researcher, Linda Bacon, says famously in her most recent book, Body Respect,
that telling someone to lose weight to manage their diabetes is a lot like telling someone to whiten their teeth to manage their emphysema — it misses the point, and might not even help if the actual root cause of such illness is not addressed.
(which is why liposuction probably won’t cure your diabetes — it doesn’t address the actual cause of diabetes, which is not necessarily body fat, but rather, poor blood sugar regulation).
Considering the ridiculously low success rates of diets (and high chances of binge-eating and long-term weight gain) you’ll have a lot better luck managing someone’s health if you leave the weight (or yellow teeth) out of it, and start focusing on actual health-producing behaviors, like managing your sugar intake (or quitting the cigs).
Enough with the rationalizations for body shame. On multiple fronts, they are not helping you improve your health.
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