What I learned from reading Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon PhD.
If you have read my blog or follow my Instagram, you are probably aware that I am pretty transparent about my personal struggles with body image as well as my relationship with food. I have been on a dedicated journey the past few years to work on self-acceptance and body-acceptance. It has been a rocky journey (to say the least) but my eagerness to grow and learn has made a world of difference. I want to learn to love the world as best as I can, and I know that that all starts with me. I want to be able to love my body in a more genuine way and appreciate all that it does for me.
This year has been challenging in many different ways when it relates to these issues. During the initital time in quarantine, I turned back to binge eating and overeating. I was using food to cope with the fear I was feeling about the pandemic and the shakiness that I was experiencing in my personal life. Around the time of International No Diet Day, I started participating in more events through the UK based Anti-Diet Riot Club (click here to check them out). I’ve followed them on Instagram for a while and when I saw their Zoom events pop up during quarantine, I knew it was a great way to get back on the road to recovery. During their International No Diet Day presentation, they shared numerous Anti-Diet rescources, one of them being Linda Bacon’s book Health at Every Size. I ordered it right away and started reading. Throughout this post, I am going to discuss some of my favorite points that author Linda Bacon makes and add in some of my thoughts 🙂 Thank you for reading!
1. Food Politics
I wanted to highlight this section first because of it’s importance. Throughout my personal research, it has been fascinating to look deeper into not only the diet industry but the governments hand in our entire food system. After being diagnosed with Celiac, I was able to look into the nutritional side of things but this book helped me to see behind the standard of beauty and why the powers that be push these unrealistic standards on us. Sadly, but not suprisingly, it all comes down to money and control. It is not by chance that the major U.S. food companies are among the largest advertisers in the world. They push cheap, unhealthy food filled with dangerous chemicals that disrupt the natural systems in your body… and then they drive down the deep-set fear of gaining weight after they have hooked you on their products from a very young age. Money, money, money…
“Body-conscious Americans spent over $58 billion last year to lose weight”Health at Every Size
Look at the media: magazines, social media, TVs, movies, etc. Look at celebrities. The ideal body type at the center of American media is still extremely thin and not representative of the average person. As I was drafting this post, I was looking for this post’s cover photo and I will not even tell you how long it took me to find a picture of woman doing yoga that was not a white woman that wears a size zero. It further accentuates the many problems that exist in our society. What we are fed in the media is not reality and it takes work to shift your awareness.
On top of everything going on in the world, many companies are using this time to pray on people’s vulnerabilities. I don’t know if you have noticed this, but since the pandemic started, I have been seeing an increased number in diet ads. I was just scrolling through Snapchat as I saw an add for a waist-trimmer that will “create that perfect hourglass figure”. The ads are endless and I won’t lie – some still trigger me. They take me back to a place of feeling not-enough, feeling like I need to purchase something or become something else in order to be accepted – & that is exaclty where this multi-billion dollar industry wants us to be. It is in our hands to change the narrative, to stand up against the current culture, to change our story – it all starts from within.
2. Fear of Fat
I can’t even COUNT the times I have said the following sentence, “I feel fat”. Some days I have “felt” so fat that I stayed home instead of going out with friends or stayed in a t-shirt on the beach instead of swimming like I wanted to. FAT is not an emotion. The real emotions that most likely exist underneath are fear, shame, guilt, etc. We are fearful of not being seen as beautiful. We feel shame for not living up to the standards set in popular magazines. We feel guilty for enjoying food or indulging in what society has labeled as “bad” food.
There is so much behind our “fear of fat” and it is so deeply rooted in years of programming. The truth is that even when you start to recover from this fear and heal your body – you will still be surrounded by the media as well as people who constant talk about dieting (whether it be friends, coworkers, family, etc.) Like the quote below states, body image issues are so prevalent in our culture that living in self-love & rejecting diet culture is far from the norm. It truly is a vicious cycle that is not easily broken and honestly, I don’t believe it is something you can fully seperate from but healing is possible. It just takes a lot of patience, trust, learning, inner healing and hard work.
“Our culture accepts dieting and body hatred as normal. We unconsciously absorb these disturbed messages. So instead of uncovering and confronting our disturbed attitudes about our bodies and food, we focus on trying to change our weight. Our unsuccessful efforts at losing weight or maintaining weight loser just reinforce our feelings of personal failure and disgust”Health at Every Size
3. The Science Behind Size
I am not a science-based person (by any means) but the in-depth research and resources shared by Linda Bacon were incredibly interesting. It allowed me to view these issues in a different light – especially after reading about food politics. Science and politics are more closely tied than the majority of people realize. Money talks. Linda Bacon makes it a point to state that it is extremely important to look at the companies or people behind the funding of major scientific studies when it comes to weight and size. Simply stated, the research she shared in this book does not mirror the science I grew up learning about at health class in grade school.
“Researchers concluded that 70% of weight variation can be accounted for by genetics-making the heritability of obesity greater than that of almost any other condition”Health at Every Size
Growing up, I learned how to diet at a fairly young age. I learned how to control what I was eating and how to restrict myself. When I got older, I learned that if those things don’t work, there is always money to be saved up to spend on plastic surgery, weight loss pills, “easy” fixes. I never learned how unhealthy dieting is and how much repeated dieting can destroy your body. I also never knew about weight set point or the fact that weight largely depends on genetics. I highly recommend reading about the many scientific studies that Bacon shares in this book, I learned a lot about how my body works on a scientific level – as well as how to best take care of it.
4. Skinny DOES NOT Equal Healthy
I talked about this extensively in some of my older posts so I won’t go on too long but this is a truth many of us have to take the time to learn. I always strived to lose weight because “healthy” people were small, skinny, thin, etc. I saw the post below on social media about a year ago and it has really stuck with me. I even remember seeing how weight loss was a symptom of Celiac and being excited that maybe this disease would help me become smaller (which was not the case for me anyway). Most of us read that sentence and see how messed up it is but we fail to see those comments or thoughts that we make to ourselves.
The reality is that health comes in all shapes and sizes. There is no “one size fits all” model when it comes to the perfect human. For example, I am much healthier at 190 pounds than I was when I was first diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at 140. My last blood panel came back looking great, I make sure to get movement in every day and I take great care of my emotional health… but most people wouldn’t think that by looking at me. I challenge you to challenge your own beliefs about size, your own “fear” of fat, your own belief systems. Do they mirror what is said in the media? What is your reaction when you see someone who is overweight? Do you feel shame, guilt, fear? Look within. Practice awareness. Highlight the areas of your life where you need to put in more work. What do you need to learn? What do you need to unlearn.
5. Learning to Trust Yourself
One place to start is learning how to trust: yourself & your body. We have all we need to live a healthy life within us, but we are out of touch. From a young age, we are taught to look at our bodies as something we need to keep under control – something we need to look at with distrust. That is far from natural. We are born with the natural ability to not only maintain a healthy weight but we are born with hunger / fullness signals that are constantly speaking to us. Our society, our cultures, our households, teach us how to tune out those signals. Think about how babies eat. When they are hungry, they cry for food. When they are full, they push the plate away, telling their caregivers “no more”. We are born with that amazing ability. To know what our bodies need. That ability is quickly clouded and studying Intuitive Eating is a great way to reconnect with that ability.
Intuitive Eating has changed my life in many ways. I first started practicing intuitive eating and it is crazy to think of it as revolutionary, because it is innately natural, but it feels revolutionary compared to the way I was raised to interact with food. My relationship with food is very much in the early stages of healing but I am starting to hear my hunger / fullness signals again and it is wonderful. It is scary to let go of that sense of control when it comes to eating but after a while, you start to connect with food in a more naturally way and that is beautiful. It changes things. I am now building up trust with my body again. I am turning toward food as nourishment rather as a band-aid for my emotional needs. I often find myself turning toward fruit instead of chips just because it makes me feel better. Healing is possible, please remember that. It just takes time.
When it comes to body image, my healing path has not been linear in any way. Some days I look in the mirror and feel good but other days, not so much. Even though, it has been a rollercoaster, I see progress in many different ways, especially in my awareness. I realize that my body is the way it is simply because it is. Instead of trying to figure out how to change, I have had to work on figuring out how to love myself the way I am. I was always searching for ways to “fix” myself until coming to the realization that I was never broken. Now, I don’t wholeheartedly believe that every day, but I am working on it.
When it comes to the global view on food, dieting, size and health, what people often forget is that WE hold the power. It is a conscious choice to choose either self-love or choose to compare yourself to the unrealistic standards of society. Now, I did not say it was easy to choose self-love because, well, it isn’t. Years of programming + the constant messages of being not enough are DEEPLY INGRAINED. It takes time. It takes recovery, It takes PATIENCE: grace, forgiveness, love. Think about how many years of your life you have been fed negative body standards. That doesn’t go away in a day. It starts with awareness and knowledge.
They say “knowledge is power” and that definitely rings true here. Educating myself on food politics, size, weight, etc. has allowed me to become more aware of the motivation or ‘brainwashing’ behind my actions and my negative thought patterns. If I see a weight loss ad now, I am able to see things more clearly. I am able to break it down in my mind… the economic motivations behind the post. I have the knowledge to back up my journey to self-love. There is always more to learn. This fight is never over but we must stand up for ourselves, our loved ones, & our communities. Love yourself + help others to find ways to love themselves – change always starts from within. Take the first step.
xoxo – kendall
Resources + Additional Info:
Health at Every Size Community: https://haescommunity.com
Anti-diet Riot Club: http://antidietriotclub.co.uk
Here is Linda Bacon’s list of how to heal your relationship with food:
- Get connected to the source of your food.
- Learn to enjoy cooking.
- Go for variety.
- Enjoy food in a peaceful, loving environment.
- Slow down.
- Pay attention to presentation.