These past two days I had the absolute privilege to take part in a two-day workshop on The Non-Diet Approach to Health. As you would know, if you follow my page regularly, focusing on health not weight is something that I am extremely passionate about, and so to take this to the next step was an amazing opportunity.
This workshop covered so many important points and so in order to unpack and digest these concepts myself, I wanted to share with you some of the key takeaways.
The oh so passionate advocates and facilitators Fiona Miller and Fiona Sutherland flew all the way from Australia to teach us so many gems. They introduced the workshop with a reminder that your body size does not equate your health status. There are plenty of skinny bodies that are unhealthy and larger bodies that are not healthy. Research tells us this time and time again that size does not equate a shortened lifespan or ill health in general, it’s the lack of healthy habits that is the issue.
In one study they looked at different sized bodies and how many healthy habits they included in their lives. These habits included:
5+ fruit and/or veggies a day
12 exercise instances per month
Only 1-2 alcoholic drinks a day.
Only when there were zero healthy habits did the risk of death increase in heavier bodies and amazingly, when only 1 of those healthy habits was introduced, the risk of death for all body sizes was virtually the same.
Just because someone is larger doesn’t mean they are closer to their deathbed, especially if they are engaging in healthy habits such as the above and putting them on a diet is not only unsuccessful in almost all instances but has been shown to be the real issue when it comes to ill health (and permanent weight loss for that matter).
We then learned more about the concept of Health at Every Size or HAES™. This movement understands that all bodies can be healthy and that your size does not indicate your health status. Health at every size encourages:
Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honours internal cues of hunger, satiety and appetite and
Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital. (read more at www.sizediversityandhealth.org)
In a nutshell, the message is that “Every person has the right to body respect, regardless of their body’s shape size, colour, age, ability or health status.
What this equates to for those working in the health industry is asking:
“What care would I provide if this person had a BMI of 22”?
Too many people are not receiving the care they need because of their size. They are being turned down from necessary medical treatments and surgeries because they are ‘too fat’. They even need to lose weight to get bariatric surgery!! Does anyone else see this as ridiculous?
I see this all the time in my practice; the woman who has so much stress because she needs to lose weight to get fertility treatment, the women who cries all day long because she can’t get knee surgery, the young man who can’t get stomach surgery because of his size. We don’t need thinner people – we need better surgeons!
These are basic human rights that are being neglected because of weight bias and weight stigma and it’s just not ok.
So, if not weight loss and diets then what??
The Non-diet approach to health is centred around self-compassion, mindfulness, connectedness and kindness.
From there we can look at non-diet nutrition for health, learning to listen to our body’s natural food and hunger cues and do curious experimentation, we can accept and embrace that all foods fit and that all bodies deserve love and respect and find movement that is enjoyable and sustainable.
These are practices and philosophies that are highlighted in my book The Empowered Eating Handbook and the protocol that I use in my private practice already but it was great to get some more direction and understanding around the concepts and some tips for putting it into practice further.
Nutrition should always be about adding in rather than restrict and experimentation and curiosity rather than rules and guilt.
As I’ve said, I want you to be your own guru by listening to you and giving you the strategies to be able to listen to your unique body and give it what it needs.
It’s an uphill battle with big corporations, establishments and governments as well as societal pressures but beneath all that, are real humans. Mothers, fathers, brothers, friends, aunties – who deserve our love, care and respect no matter what size their body is.
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