aHeading into the holiday season, we’re starting to think about the new year, and the resolutions that come with it. One thing that tends to be synonymous with resolutions – weight loss. Living a healthy lifestyle is important, but we now know that the number on the scale doesn’t dictate that you should be “healthy.” Historically, society has not embraced the mentality that health comes in all sizes. We’ve been led to believe that losing weight means good health, when in fact it can be very unhealthy or healthy at any size, shape, and weight.
Author Lindo Bacon founded Health at Every Size (HAES), a social justice movement that deemphasizes weight loss as a health goal and shifts the stigma around body size. The eating disorders team at the Lindner Center of HOPE have internally accredited HAES and support the movement in the local community. says Elizabeth Mariotto, MD, a psychologist and clinical director of eating disorder services at the Lindner Hope Center. “The movement is really working to help people realize the impact of stigma on patients and help them see that they don’t have to lose weight to get to a healthier place.”
Reframing goals for overall health with less focus on what the scale says is the ultimate solution. Dieting and striving to lose weight increase an individual’s risk of developing an eating disorder. It’s more common than you think. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, nine percent of Americans have eating disorders, which is roughly 29 million people, and Anna Ward, a psychiatric nurse at the Lindner Center in Hope, says those estimates are an underestimate. “A lot of people fly under the radar, and are lauded for their eating disorders, because of society’s unfounded belief that smaller body sizes are proportional to health,” she says. Setting health goals can be a positive life change. Here are some considerations to help guide your health goals and things to keep in mind when interacting with friends, family, and co-workers.
Avoid commenting on the appearance of others
Looks great It can be enough fuel for someone to develop an eating disorder. Although it sounds positive, it associates self-worth with body weight and appearance. “It’s better to comment on personality, rather than appearance,” says Chelsea Zulia, an eating disorder counselor at the Lindner Hope Center. “It’s better to say, ‘It’s so good to see you’ or ‘I missed your laughter.'”
Negative body image issues start early
Children under the age of 3 develop problems with negative body image. Coaches who associate weight with athletic performance, health educators who share tips on how to track calories, and parents who put their children on a diet because they are concerned about their weight can all contribute to children’s negative perception of their weight and body. “Something as benign as labeling some foods as healthy and others as unhealthy, while people may have good intentions, can cause problems,” says Lindsey Flannery, MD, a dietitian at the Lindner Hope Center. “saying , We only have whole grains in this house or We don’t make sugar—These kinds of things are messages so ingrained in kids so early on that they omit intuitive eating at a really early age. “
Weight can be a misleading reference point
Doctors sometimes struggle with the big picture of health and, as a result, harm their patients. Doctors often use the body mass index (BMI) scale as an indicator of a healthy weight. However, research shows that people of all sizes can be healthy no matter what their weight. Eating and exercise habits are not always thoroughly scrutinized, and telling someone to diet is not only unhelpful, it is harmful.
Focus on how you feel, not clothing sizes
Blood work, vitals, psychological well-being, eating and exercise habits in general can be better health indicators than what is on the scale. “As much as we can get away from numbers on a scale and even clothing sizes and focus more on how we feel, this is a good first step,” Ward says. “It should really be about what your body needs and how it responds to movement and nutrition.”
Do you or someone in your family have an eating disorder?
Contact the eating disorders team at the Lindner Center of HOPE or visit the Lindner Center of HOPE website to learn more about treatment options.