We have waged war on our bodies and its imbalances for too long. I just discussed how the first big battle on cancer has been disappointing. Even with some minimal progress, the financial, emotional, and physical costs are considerable.
You can listen to both of these posts in full below (12 minutes)
Since the declaration of the war on cancer, another battle has emerged. This time it is not on our bodies’ imbalances, but on the body itself. This “epidemic of obesity” has also had pathetic and damaging results for the participants. In spite of this fact, a multi-million-dollar profit industry in the “fitness and wellness” sector has emerged.
Our stigmatization and shaming of body shapes starts early with negative health associations. Our medical and dietary “remedies” for weight loss as a solution are biased, restrictive, and based on ineffective science which leaves the participants worse off than when they started.
We live in a world where fat is an “f-word” and must be fought. The result is a fatphobic society obsessed with weight, food, and “health” living in a “diet-culture” driven by fear over choosing the next food which will either kill or cure you.
Sadly, our obsession with overcoming obesity and achieving “perfect health” is diverting our lofty pursuits and true passions. Health was supposed to be a means to these, not the end point. Our disordered and distorted views on health morality is also contributing to feelings of inadequacy, decreased autonomy, and the unethical promotion of health practices.
Here’s some excerpts from journals (bold emphasis mine) that details three main concerns with this focus:
1. Ethical Aspects
The extent to which the public health ‘war on obesity’ reflects the ethical values and principles of critical health promotion: a multimedia critical discourse analysis.
ISSUE ADDRESSED: The discipline of health promotion is responsible for implementing strategies within weight-related public health initiatives (WR-PHI). It is imperative that such initiatives be subjected to critical analysis through a health promotion ethics lens to help ensure ethical health promotion practice.
CONCLUSION: The WR-PHI were not reflective of the ethical values and principles of critical health promotion. So what? Health promotion researchers and practitioners engaged in WR-PHI should critically reflect on the extent to which they are consistent with the ethical aspects of critical health promotion practice.
Source: Health Promot J Austr. 2015 Dec;26(3):246-54.
2. The Harms Associated with this Weight-Centered Health Paradigm
The war on obesity: a social determinant of health.
…Recent critiques of ‘obesity prevention’ programs have highlighted the importance of focusing on environmental changes rather than individuals due in part to the risk of harmful consequences associated with individualistic, victim-blaming approaches. Beyond this, there are suggestions that framing body weight as the source of health problems – known as the weight-centred health paradigm – is in itself a harmful approach. The range of harms includes body dissatisfaction, dieting, disordered eating, discrimination and death. Health promotion policies and programs that operate within the weight-centred paradigm have the potential to have a negative impact on the health and well-being of individuals and communities.
Source: Health Promot J Austr. 2006 Dec;17(3):260-3.
3. The Ineffectiveness of “Fighting Fat”
The ineffectiveness and unintended consequences of the public health war on obesity.
The public health war on obesity has had little impact on obesity prevalence and has resulted in unintended consequences. Its ineffectiveness has been attributed to: 1) heavy focus on individual-based approaches and lack of scaled-up socio-environmental policies and programs, 2) modest effects of interventions in reducing and preventing obesity at the population level, and 3) inappropriate focus on weight rather than health…
An unintended consequence of these policies and programs is excessive weight preoccupation among the population, which can lead to stigma, body dissatisfaction, dieting, disordered eating, and even death from effects of extreme dieting, anorexia, and obesity surgery complications, or from suicide that results from weight-based bullying. Future public health approaches should: a) avoid simplistic obesity messages that focus solely on individuals’ responsibility for weight and health, b) focus on health outcomes rather than weight control, and c) address the complexity of obesity and target both individual-level and system-level determinants of health.
Source: Can J Public Health. 2015 Feb 3;106(2):e79-81. doi: 10.17269/cjph.106.4757.
The 2005 article, “The epidemiology of overweight and obesity: public health crisis or moral panic?” published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, states:
In any case the real question is whether these developments represent some sort of genuine health crisis. This is true only if crossing the threshold of BMI 25 or 30 is analogous to contracting a life-threatening disease. But this analogy holds only to the extent that overweight and obesity actually cause increased mortality.
This is a problem, because this study, “Is BMI a valid measure of obesity in postmenopausal women?,” just inferred the very measurement we are using as an association may not be accurate.
Therefore, not only are the associations weak, the very measurement is questionable in validity!
Three Viewpoints on Health for Health Sake
In a Medscape General Medicine article, End the War on Obesity: Make Peace With Your Patients, the author lists three main take-home points that may be a better solution to the supposed problem:
- Weight has been greatly exaggerated as a health risk.
- Sustained weight loss is not a practical goal, nor is it well established to improve health.
- Health improvements can result from improved health behaviors, regardless of whether weight is lost.
Last week, I wrote the following in my blog that is worth highlighting here and reiteration:
In fact, obsessing over “negative” numbers could potentially be damaging one’s well-being!
This is probably one of the best articles that summarizes the concepts and controversy related to Health at Every Size. It also highlights the research showing why weight isn’t the health foe many think it is.
Not everyone can be a size 0-2, like some authorities would like you to believe. However, everyone has the right to be healthy and take care of themselves with compassion and self-respect.
Next week, I’m going to discuss:
- how we are promoting disordered eating patterns and resultant health harms by obsession with weight loss
- the famous “starvation experiment” that led to food preoccupation and a culture much like ours today
- the new release by the American Pediatrics Association on the Stigma Experienced by Children and Adolescents With Obesity. (Pediatrics. November 2017).
A Healthy, All-Inclusive Obsession
I have become even more focused on essential oils because they promote health and wellness of the body, mind, and spirit, in an inclusive, unbiased way. Not only can they balance emotional health (from the trauma of body image shaming), they can also support the change of behaviors for more nurturing choices, for our well-being.
I urge you to read more of my articles on healthism here. They explain the background on this concept and the factors that we can focus on for our wellness, without being obsessed with body size.
Bottom line: Yes, food can be medicine, and treating your body with respect for regaining your optimal body shape and set-point is important, but obsession on dieting for weight loss can be detrimental and not the correct goal!
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
Thanks for the images Pixabay!