In the case of weight and diet articles, they feed the focus we have as a society on these issues. And the focus we all have on these issues is markedly unhealthy, for people of every weight.
Why? Partly because if we prioritise our weight then we can be susceptible to compromising our health (for example, by crash dieting), and partly because if we make weight our primary value then it becomes easy to devalue those who dont conform to those ideals. Weight stigma and "fat-phobia" are rampant, not only within our community, but within the medical profession and the effect is devastating; driving further weight-gain, self-hatred and mental ill-health, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders and exercise avoidance.
Through our unhealthy focus and through our communal judgment, we are helping no one and exacerbating an escalating public health epidemic.
And that is before we even consider the impact of those in the food industry knowingly selling us processed foods that make us sick or those profiting off peddling diets that dont work to the vulnerable.
While many diets can accurately claim to work at least initially, because if we restrict calories we will lose weight they hook us into a cycle because firstly they are unsustainable and secondly we are hard-wired to put on more weight when they inevitably come to an end.
When we diet, we lose both fat and muscle. But when we stop the diet, we typically just gain back the fat, unless we are exercising particularly intensely to preserve muscle.
With each of those cycles you shift your body composition more and more towards a higher fat percentage, which is a less metabolically efficient machine, Mark Bittman and Dr David Katz explain in their new book, How to Eat. Fat requires fewer calories to maintain its size than muscle does. So essentially, you create a pathway by which you need fewer calories each time to maintain fat and require even more severe calorie restriction to lose it.
Blaming individuals for finding themselves stuck in this spiral is as futile as it is short-sighted.
The choices any one of us make are always subordinate to the choices all of us have, Bittman and Katz argue. We live in a food supply willfully designed by experts to maximise eating for the sake of corporate profits... blaming overweight people and those with diabetes is all wrong. Bathroom scales and glucometers do not measure character or worth, and we have to unbundle disease and personal responsibility... to confront the health threat of obesity without blaming the victims of the condition for it.
So how do we do this?
We have to recognise our collective role in contributing to the problem we all face, our subconscious or conscious weight biases. We have to reject the weight stigma that diet culture relies on and redirect our frustration at a food system that willfully promotes foods that make us ill.
One thing we can all do is shift the conversation from weight to health, and we all deserve both health and to be cared for in our bodies.
I think everybody should think about What is health for? What is weight control for? Dr David Katz suggested when we chatted earlier in the week. I think if they pushed on that, they would realise, well the answer is to have the best possible life and it really doesnt help you have the best possible life if youre fixated on your weight or a number on the scale.
Focus on what youre trying to gain vitality, energy, the ability to do the things youd like to do with gusto and it turns out if you get that formula right your weight will sort itself out too.
In their report, the World Obesity Federation said that the cycle of shame and blame needs to be broken: [We need] to re-evaluate our approach for addressing this complex, chronic disease that affects over 650 million adults and more than 125 million children worldwide.
I couldnt agree more and that change starts with the attitudes of us all and where we direct our attention.
Body Language is our wellbeing column, examining trending issues in diet, health and fitness.
Sarah Berry is a lifestyle and health writer at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
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