by Deb Lemire, President of ASDAH
Ahhh….flashbacks to Susan Powter’s infomercials. Little did she know that her brow beating, “knock the ice cream cone out of the fat kid’s hand” approach back then would be the norm now. She was a woman before her time. Of course we all know that the insanity is not that people come in larger sizes as Powter and her reality TV progeny (The Swan, The Biggest Loser) would have us believe; the insanity is that we as a culture have bought into hating people for their health’s sake and for their own good! That is insane!
At a funeral I recently attended my friend was quoted saying “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” I have been thinking a lot about that and how we in the Health At Every SizeSM camp react to the ‘war on obesity’ and the frustrating lack of attention paid to a HAESSM approach to health.
We, in the HAESSM movement, know that dieting, surgery, weight loss center approaches have no data to support their claims of success and ultimately do harm; harm not just to the larger people they are targeting but to “average” and smaller people who live in fear of becoming the other. We know that learning to eat well so we feel good, being physically active in a way we enjoy and makes us strong, honoring and loving our bodies, taking care of our whole selves, physically, mentally, spiritually is the best way to health and wholeness. In fact we don’t just know all that in our heads, we understand it in the deepest depths of our being.
When we read about another conference with the goal of ‘ending obesity’ or read crazy, horrible stories that surface on HAESSM friendly listserves and blogs; stories of weight loss surgeries ending in early death, children being stigmatized because of their bodies, children taking their lives because of bullying about their size, eating disorder behaviors rising; alongside stories that go on and on about how “fat is killing us” and we have to “save the children”, we react defensively, and understandably so. In fact there is often a warning that accompanies the post: ”warning uses up lots of sanity points!”
We look forward to the conferences and workshops so few and far between that help us restore our sanity and connect with others working with the Health At Every SizeSM paradigm. These conferences help us recharge so we can face the daily often well intentioned yet destructive onslaught from the media, from our doctors, from our family and friends.
When I think about it, I wonder if we are giving more than 10% of the power to “what happens to us” and holding onto less than the 90% we control.
Now I know folks are just going about their daily lives, minding their own business when WHAM!! You are attacked by some billboard or TV commercial or family member or clothing store person or random catcall: ’you’re too fat’ ‘you’re gonna die’ ‘you are not worthy.’ So it is no wonder we react defensively.
But once you start to practice the Health At Every SizeSM Approach, you quickly learn that none of that is true. (Well except for the dying part, we can’t avoid that no matter what our body size). Once we have that truth in our hands–the truth that health is more than just a number on the scale, that people of every size and shape, ability and chronic condition can participate in healthy behaviors that result in positive outcomes, we can take back our power.
I know it is not that simple, particularly if you are new to the HAESSM process or have powerful negative obstacles to overcome. Not everyone can walk into a ‘Conference to End Obesity’ without hyperventilating. But there are enough of us who have been doing this long enough that we owe it to ourselves and those that follow the opportunity to turn this around. We need to start walking into those conferences, with our HAESSM arsenal. We need to speak up when someone is spouting negative, false rhetoric about how weight and health conflate. We need to take that 90% of ‘how we react to it’ and make that reaction one that creates change.
So when an article quotes experts saying (actual quotes from the last couple of weeks) disease is “almost entirely directly related to obesity” (I am sure that is very scientific) or “we have known that starvation is a good cure for diabetes” ( yes you read it right, starvation) or “parents and child care providers can do small kids a favor by not letting them get too big” (because we have total control over that don’t you know) we have a choice in how we react to this. We can allow it to suck up our sanity points or we can call them out on their absurd, harmful rhetoric and then move on and spend our energy building a truly health centered paradigm that all people can benefit from. Health At Every SizeSM, where No BODY is Left Behind!