Why I don’t focus on weight: Celebrating #AHHW

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#AHHW or Australia’s Healthy Weight Week 

-February 15 to 21st February, 2016-

Happy Healthy Weight Week Australia! I love the focus of the Dietitians Association of Australia’s Australia’s Healthy Weight Week campaign this year – Home cooking. If you want some inspiration in the kitchen, download their free cookbook.

So let’s talk about the ‘elephant’ in the room – ‘weight’. I’m not a dietitian (on or off duty) that likes to talk about weight. The reason  is, if haven’t been hiding under a rock during the last decade, you’d understand that fixating on weight, body shape and size does not help anyone. Focusing on weight can lead to all sorts of issues, including but not limited to, chronic dieting, weight fluctuations, preoccupation with food and body, low self-esteem, body image issues, disordered eating and eating disorders, poor health outcomes, weight stigmatization and discrimination.1

Research shows that weight alone does not cause poor health, and in particular, a ‘healthy weight’ (whatever that is….keep reading to see my thoughts) does not equate to health. ‘Fat’ people can be healthy. ‘Fat’ people can also be unhealthy. The same goes with ‘thin/skinny’ people. I know this is hard to ‘digest’, but this is what the science is showing these days.1

On a person level, I never felt comfortable with being the weight centred dietitian that I was taught at university. In practise, I was there every step of the way with my clients seeing how the typical approach affected their well being, particularly mental health. It was most notable the fixation and inability to control the numbers on the scales. Also, there was the celebrations, disappointment and the drastic motivation changes in response to the number on the scales, the food and body judgement and self-inflicted rules. At this stage in my career, I was questioning whether dietetics was something I could do for the long term.

I’ve always been the type of dietitian who provided a positive everything in moderation approach, although it wasn’t until 2010 when I attend a brilliant workshop run by Dr Rick Kausman (Author of If Not Dieting, Then What?), that my dietetic practise dramatically changed and became health focused. Another massive practise shift occurred during my time off on maternity leave, where I had the opportunity to take a step back, do some major refection, and cement this non-dieting approach 100%.

Prior to being a dietitian, I was actively involved in dance where my body was under the spotlight. I understood many of the insecurities my dancing friends had and how potentially damaging this focus could have been under the wrong supervision. Thankfully, I had the best dance teacher who really accommodated everybody and made us feel special and unique. It really did make all the difference!! And of course you can’t forget my upbringing. I grew up in a supportive body positive environment, where body issues were not an issue or got unnecessary airtime. Because of my past, I have been lucky not to have dieted, but I do feel I have lived it, through the close contact I’ve had with clients, friends and other family members who have. I believe these experiences have shaped the dietitian and person I am today.

I’m talking about weight today because most of you are too, and as a dietitian, I feel it is my duty of care to join the conversation, and help people shift their focus away from weight and concentrate on health. I know most of you are not ready to hear/read this, however, I’m putting this out there to challenge your thinking and to get you to think about the alternative to your truth.

So what about health? Focusing on positive eating and lifestyle behaviours, is what matters for health.

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My client’s often hear me say that it’s the mindset around weight that needs to change, not manipulating food or physical activity to ‘control’ the weight and even change body shape or size. There’s no one weight you should be at all your life. Think about it, you were probably born around the 3.5kg mark and looked like a baby. Ever since that time, you have grown and changed, as has the environment you’ve lived in. You are likely unrecognisable to your baby photos. Our weight or beauty (let’s throw that in too) is not fixed. We are constantly changing, so why try and hold onto something that does not stay the same. I challenge you to look at beauty and the things that make people beautiful as the personality traits, interests, skills, knowledge and behaviours you possess that makes you who you are, not what everyone else is doing or looks like. What a boring superficial conversation you’d have if you just focused on people’s sizes. You can’t read a book by it’s cover, why try doing that with people? Wouldn’t you like to really connect with people on a deeper level? If you asked questions and took an interest, you’d probably find out someone has healthy behaviours going on behind the scenes…..But, is it really any of your business anyway?

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It’s definitely a challenging road for many to change this mindset, as today’s society does not support us in this thinking, rather it plays on our insecurities. We are geared to believe we are not enough, not good enough in the body we are in. Why wait for society to change? You are a member of society and you need to change, so society changes. Look at all the dieting and food companies trying to capitalise or take advantage of this way of life. Their businesses are thriving! If we don’t change, they’re definitely not going to change either. They don’t really care about you, it’s the money they care about.

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I see a ‘healthy weight’ as the body weight that we naturally gravitate towards and maintain, whilst eating intuitively and moving our body in ways we enjoy.

I’ve connected with people who are so over the traditional weight centered approach to health. They say this non-dieting, Health At Every Size®approach to health is a breath of fresh air.

Thanks to The Dietitian’s Association of Australia for having the conversation this week, about weight and what is a healthy weight. Now, lets bring the focus back of all the positive eating and lifestyle behaviours that add to health……like cooking at home 😉 And if you need professional assistance please #seeanapd.

References

[1] Bacon, L. & Aphramor, L. (2011). Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutrition Journal, 10:9

[2] Health At Every Size and HAES are registered trademarks of the Association for Size Diversity and Health and used with permission.

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How will you be celebrating #AHWW?

How do you feel about where the non-dieting approach and the direction society is heading?

If you enjoyed this post, please share with your friends and family.

If you want to learn more about how to reconnect with your appetite, grab your copy of The Essential Guide to Never Dieting Again here.

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12 thoughts on “Why I don’t focus on weight: Celebrating #AHHW

  1. Great post, I agree we live in a fat phobic society were even level of intelligence is judged based on body weight. This has to change in order for everyone to improve their health. Health isn’t just about weight, its way more than that.

    Keep up the good work and happy #AHWW 🙂

    Like

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