A few months ago, I wrote some about my thoughts on the Health at Every Size movement. Basically, the Health at Every Size Movement advocates for more awareness of the large amount of empirical, scientific evidence demonstrating that healthy behaviors such as exercise, sleep and nutrition influence health far more than BMI does.
Is it too obvious from the above sentence that I teach college writing?
When I talk about why I support Health at Every Size, many people think I’m simply arguing that there shouldn’t be a stigma attached to being overweight or obese.
I think accepting larger people is really important. But there’s more to it than that. A few of my favorite authors and experts on this subject, like Paul Campos and Linda Bacon, write about how people of all shapes and sizes can benefit from a Health at Every Size approach.
Let’s take an example of a behavior that might or might not be healthy, like exercise. Each of us has to choose how much and what kind of exercise we want to do.
I feel best if I walk, ride my bike, and do a little heavy lifting. On the other hand, when my Dad was recovering from a broken hip and shoulder, being mostly sedentary was the healthiest choice for him. Each of us had to make our own choice based on our knowledge or our own bodies.
The problem is that we sometimes stop listening to what our bodies need and want because, in our culture, we too often to see exercise primarily as a means of burning calories and losing or maintaining weight.
For much of the time that I had disordered eating, I thought of exercise this way. This caused me to exercise far more than I needed to because I falsely believed that I needed to exercise a lot to maintain my “normal” BMI. But in fact, I now realize that it’s not only healthier for me personally to get a more moderate amount of exercise, but I maintain the same weight even though I exercise much less now.
Or the opposite might happen: let’s say you’re also someone who easily maintains a so-called “normal” BMI. If you see exercise only through a weight loss lens, you might neglect the joy of getting out and moving your body because you think you don’t “need” it–and your health care provider might not notice or be concerned that you live in the basement in front of your computer screen.
Likewise, I’ve read and personally been told a number of stories from folks on the higher end of the weight spectrum who tried exercise first as part of a weight-loss attempt. When they didn’t lose weight and keep it off long-term, they gave up on finding a kind of regular movement that they enjoyed and that made them feel good because they had negative associations with exercise of all kinds.
I hope it’s clear from each of these examples that people of all shapes and sizes can have a healthier relationship with exercise if they divorce their ideas about exercise from…well…shape and size. We can’t be in tune with what our bodies need if we see the sole purpose of exercise as achieving a certain arbitrarily determined weight. And the same is true of having a healthy relationship with food, rest, etc.
On a final note, I also think that the Health at Every Size movement can make us all more compassionate people. Assuming that anyone who’s larger clearly makes unhealthy choices and that anyone who’s thin makes healthy choices is narrow-minded and judgemental thinking, just as assuming you can guess someone’s intelligence based on their gender. It’s wrong in the sense of inaccurate, and it’s wrong in the sense of cruel. Size is a kind of human diversity, and we need to be okay with that diversity, for our own sakes as much as for others’.
No specific questions today–just interested to hear your thoughts. 🙂