HAES

Holiday Chatter

‘Tis the season of gathering around the table.

Maybe it’s the table in your own home, your parents, your in-laws, your friends, a company holiday party, or even at a restaurant... Maybe holidays suck and you choose to celebrate alone at your coffee table. And that’s okay too. No matter where the table, it’s more likely than not that you will be around it for celebration sometime soon. And for many of us, there is going to be some stress that comes with that.

Stress and baggage has a tendency to travel with the holiday season. First and foremost, make sure you are practicing your best self care (more on that coming soon). Then take it one day at a time.

Here are some things to consider and maybe share with those you are spending time with this holiday season and feel could benefit from knowing:

Mind your own plate (And ask that others do as well)

Your plate is your business… and it’s acceptable to ask everyone around you to mind their own plate too. This is easily reversed-don’t compare your plate to that of anyone around you. Your plate is specifically crafted for you. Your wants, your taste, your needs. The what and why and how much is on a plate is the plate owners business alone.

Also, avoid being the food police and don’t accept others policing your food. It’s okay if someone doesn’t want to eat a salad… or dessert… or grandma’s famous yams. It’s also okay if you go back for seconds of absolutely anything and/or everything if that is what they want.

What someone decides to eat and drink any day of the year should should not be up for public debate (if at all)… let’s try to put an emphasis on that during the holiday season.

Things not to talk about around the table (or ever)

  1. Diets and Restriction: Whether you’re following the newest fad, were put on it by a medical provider, or just shooting for a “lifestyle change” don’t talk about your diet, food rules, or any restrictions that you may be implementing, considering or practicing in the future. With 1 in 4 dieters going on to develop an eating disorder the risk of harm is too high to ignore.

    What to talk about instead?: What tv, movies or music you’ve been into lately

  2. Weight and Body Talk: Even when said as a ‘compliment’, talking about others (or your own) weight and body changes or shape can be incredibly damaging. It reinforces that there are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ bodies… and that is not true. Bodies are meant to be diverse and that is ok. Body image is hard enough in our society without the comments, even well intentioned, from family and friends.

    What to say instead?: “Hello! How have you been? It is so great to see you!”

  3. Post Meal Shaming: Guilt and shame are common following a meal. It’s not wrong to feel that way-but that probably means you personally need to do work with your relationship with body and food and that’s okay! Just choose to not talk about any poor feelings following a meal or shame anyone else for what/how much/when they choose to eat.

    What to say instead: ‘That meal was absolutely delicious. It was so great to share with you all.”

  4. Exercise Routines: No one needs to earn, burn, ‘prepare for’, or ‘work off’ any food, let alone a holiday dinner. Everyone needs to eat, multiple times a day, every day a year, regardless of movement. Period. If you moved today in a way that felt great to you, CONGRATULATIONS! I’m so happy you’ve found movement that works for you. If you moved today and your motivation was elsewhere, that’s okay too! Either way others don’t need to hear about or feel guilt or shame related to your exercise routine.

    What to talk about instead?: Your favorite thing to do during the holidays.

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Preparing yourself for the holiday celebration

Plan for as much as you can. Think through your holiday plans. Run through uncomfortable scenarios. Know your boundaries and your limits. Stick to them. It’s okay to say no to events you rather not go to that will only leave you feeling drained. Share any boundaries you need to with family and friends to help have the best time possible.

Do not skip breakfast or any meals or normal snacks before the event.

The day before and after make sure you have time set aside for self care (the day of too if you can manage!). If you know these events are hard for you, make sure that you are taking time for yourself. Maybe you plan for a nap between events, ten minutes of meditation, a walk by yourself after dinner, an hour in the middle of the day to just read… whatever you know works for you, if possible to incorporate it, do so!

Pack snacks if you think you may need them. If you are unsure that any food will be there for you to enjoy (whether it’s because of personal preference, allergy, or another medical necessity) it’s okay to pack your own food.

If you want to enjoy something or a family member is insisting on you trying it and you just can’t eat it in the moment, ask for some to go.

Not sure how things are going to go? Do what is best for you, have an escape plan, and if you need to leave early, then leave early. There is nothing wrong with that.

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As much as possible, enjoy the food. Embrace the company. Focus on the experience.

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Weight Bias and Stigma

This post was supposed to go out last Thursday, but Wednesday I got the call that I was getting a niece a bit early (her due date was today) SO all other things went on the back burner including proofreading, editing and sharing this post. She's adorable and happy and big sister likes her most of the time and I'm glad I dedicated my time to being there for my sister... But now I must get back to the last piece of my HAES series (just kidding, I will forever and always post about HAES but this is the last one I intentionally have planned in the foreseeable future).

So to embark on our HAES journey we have to acknowledge that those who are living in a larger body live with a stigma due weight bias. To fully understand, let's define these terms:

Weight Bias: Like any other bias is a judgement particularly made due to their size. This can be an assumption about their lifestyle and habits, their current health, their knowledge or education level, their relationship status, their happiness, their satisfaction with their life or body... This bias can and has infiltrated every inch of our society from our health care, to our schools, to our families, to our own minds. 

Weight Stigma: The result of weight bias leads to unfair treatment, inadequate care, discrimination, and harassment that one might face due to being in a larger body. The bias that results in this stigma can be both external and internal. 

The effects of bias and stigma in multiple subgroups has been linked to poor health outcomes (POC, LGBTQ, Low SES, Mental Illness, etc). Sometimes it can be an internalization of this stigma that prevents someone to get treatment to begin with, however, we must ask what is happening to make them not want to seek proper care? 

Of course, there are some individuals who literally live in a space without access to adequate care or do not have the means to see a health care provider. And that's a problem I hope is fixed in my lifetime (sooner would be great). 

In this instance though, I'm talking about people who choose not to go to the doctors (or perhaps elsewhere) because fear of biased care and treatment based on their or others experienced stigma. 

Then there are the ones who do but their problems are ignored because of this bias:

We're talking about the patient who went in for an earache to be told that they needed to diet.

The prospective gym goer who was immediately told prior to any assessment that they could help them lose the fat.

The new mom who was approached during a target trip to receive unsolicited weight loss advice. (Pro-tip: Stranger or not, just don't give weight loss advice. Weight loss attempts fail 95% of the time, so just don't.)

The one who's experienced some variation of all of the above and just doesn't leave the house anymore.

You may think that these scenarios aren't real. Or that they rarely happen. But they do happen and in my opinion that is enough to want to make a change. 

The fact that these people are human beings,  and in my opinion every human being deserves care, respect, and to be able to live day to day without being ridiculed for something they have no control over, and this should be enough but it isn't and there is even more at stake.

When weight bias infiltrates our healthcare system we misdiagnose. With weight bias we don't see the whole person. We don't listen. We miss important symptoms that in any other individual would be cause for concern.

With this comes high demands and impossible standards. We withhold treatment until weight loss is made or we suggest risky treatment that results are questionable.

We won't do a knee surgery that could improve one's quality of life but we would not hesitate to amputate healthy organs that will certainly have terrifying side effects, including the risk of death.

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All of this for the sake of a number that means next to nothing. All of this in hopes of achieving the (is it so glorious?) thin ideal. All of this because our society has a problem, a dangerous fatphobia. 

So how can you challenge weight (and other) bias?

Weight bias is not going to go away over night. It will likely be around for a very long time. It's ingrained in us and our society, but we can take steps to challenge it and make efforts to contribute to a shift.

  • Start with your own bias
    • Notice when initial thoughts about someone pops up and question where they come from. If it's an assumption-it was probably learned.
    • We may never be able to completely irradicate these thoughts but we can acknowledge that they are untrue, that they don't match our values, and move forward with compassion for everyone.
    • Start shifting your language. Being fat, POC, disabled, LGBTQ or any other group is not a bad thing. Because it is how someone identifies it's important not use any of these labels as a put down or used negatively in any way. Apply this to chat with others and our own self talk.
    • Vary what you see. If you use social media make sure who and what you're following provides a diverse representation. Our world is not one size, color, or gender. Our feeds should better represent that.
    • If you have children do your best to show them role models and heroes come varied too.
  • Take note if places you go are accessible to all bodies (why stop at larger bodies?)
    • Do they offer seating without arm rests that would be comfortable and supportive for all bodies
    • Is it handicapped accessible
    • Is it inviting to all persons
    • Do they use appropriate languages
  • Shop at places that offer a variety of sizes 
    • If you have a favorite shop that doesn't you can always try to reach out and see if they'll offer a variety of sizes
    • In Southern Indiana I love Skirt and Satchel and The Lemon Seed Boutique - the first offers all of their clothes in XS to 3X and the latter has a Plus Size Section
  • Use language that is preferred by the person
    • Some people may enjoy people first language (Person with X)
    • Others may find that their size, disability, or race is a core part of their identity. Let them define it for you. 
    • If you say something wrong, apologize and use it as a learning moment.
  • If you have the energy and passion, share your experiences and what you learn with others. Call people in. Stand up for others who you feel are being treated unfairly.

If you want to practice Health at Every Size definitely look up Linda Bacon and her work, as well as the Association for Size Diversity and Health. If you have any questions or want to discuss this more please feel free to reach out!

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Set Point Theory

I've been a bit incommunicado for the last couple of weeks as we were traveling Germany and Austria... and then I underwent a major trip hangover-which literally all I wanted to do was plan future adventures-no worries we have a small weekend getaway to Louisiana planned for September, so I'm starting to recover. In all honesty, I had meant to prepare a few posts for when we got back and while I did most of the research I ran out of time to put it into coherent sentences.

My self care is and always will be a priority and while I would love to be the type who can whip out a post on the daily, I don't think I ever will be. And that's a-okay with me. I do hope to mostly post 2-3 times a week with occasional breaks here and there. It's likely to ebb and flow given what's going on in life. I hope you stay with me for the ride!

So we've addressed what HAES is and is not-now let's dive into some of the science. Excuse me while I nerd out a little bit.

At the core of Health at Every Size is set point theory. Set point theory suggests that all of our bodies have an individualized weight range that our bodies trend towards. Even though it is called a theory-science suggests that when we don't actively try to control our weight it tends to stabilize reinforcing this idea. Our set point is not likely to be an exact number so fluctuation in your weight it is completely normal- the range can vary +/- up to 10 pounds give or take-varying person to person.

Your weight may be more similar to body temperature or our pH balance than we are led to believe. For those who haven't done a lot of reading or research on the human body and anatomy, our bodies can only sustain life if our pH and temperature are kept within a very fine range-anytime we even begin to stray away our body has measures and mechanisms that kick in to get it back to a normal range to keep us safe and alive. In this case, we can try to change our weight, but our body will keep fighting us to get back to equilibrium (our set point range).

Catch 22: Your body wants to maintain the status quo and is stubbornly resistant to change. When you lose body fat, the very loss of fat triggers processes to reclaim it. So losing weight in and of itself is counterproductive to maintaining weight loss.”
— Linda Bacon, PhD, Author of Health at Every Size

This can go very far in explaining why diets and sustained weight loss are so damn hard. It’s possible that those who sustain the weight loss (generally around 5% of the population-that's right diets have a 95% failure rate) were above their set point prior to the weight loss. Or maybe they are currently below their set point because they are actively engaging in unhealthy restrictive behaviors.

So how is our set point weight determined?

There are a many factors that help determine body size-and our eating habits are pretty low on the list. Below are some of the major contributions:

Genetics is a large predictor in what our bodies size will be and what shape we may have. I know this sucks and our teenage self may want to come out and say "My parents ruin everything!" but honestly they didn't choose it either. And did that blame game ever get you anywhere, really?

Another factor that can influence our set point weight is environment. Which we may or may not have control over depending on, well, life and it's many mishaps and mayhems. Do you have access to fresh food and water? Are you in an environment that causes a lot of stress? Does your environment encourage you to be sedentary or physically active? This list can go on for a while, but our control over this varies with our age, wealth, and so much more.

The last thing, which we have the most control over, is our dieting history. And no, dieting typically doesn't do what you want it to (lower the set point) but actually raises it. Diet cycling particularly, where we are yo-yoing between diets triggers our set point may go up... and up... and up. What happens is that our body does not know when we are actively trying to lose weight versus a famine. So when we diet our body's alarms go off because of the restriction done in dieting believes we are starving. Our body, the self preserving machine  it is (see above desire to keep us in equilibrium), will do everything it can to get us back to our set point. Often times, it will raise the set point in anticipation of another famine... because if we have a bit of extra weight, we can survive for a little bit longer. You will see this weight gain as your body betraying you. Your body sees it as a means to survive.

Our body, the self preserving machine it is (see above desire to keep us in equilibrium) will do everything it can to get us back to our set point. Often times, it will raise the set point in anticipation of another .png

So what is my set point weight?

We're not talking about an exact number here. There is no specific formula to figure out your set point. There's not even an ideal number. As I said above, it's likely a range that can vary by nearly 20 pounds (depending on the individual). But if you're ready to give up dieting, if you want to work towards body acceptance, you can get there.

How do I get to my set point? 

As I said before, it's possible to achieve your set point. I wish I could tell you it's going to be easy... but it probably won't. It will take unlearning. And relearning. And a lot of patience and compassion for yourself and for your body. But you can do it by:

  • Rejecting diet culture
  • Listening to your hunger and fullness
  • Honoring your appetite and begin to return to eating intuitively (we'll touch more on intuitive
  • Recognize food for its values beyond nutrition by allowing yourself to feel not only full but satisfied by food whether it's physically, emotionally or mentally

If you are struggling with any of this but still want to continue on the path to accepting your body and saying no to diets for good, I highly recommend meeting with an anti-diet dietitian. We can help you move away from the restriction that comes with diets and into freedom. If you are in Bloomington, or wish to work virtually with me, you can check out my services here!

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Sources

Set Point: What your body is trying to tell you http://nedic.ca/set-point-what-your-body-trying-tell-you

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon

Health At Every Size

Recently, Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon got some extra publicity when Matt McGorry shared that he read the book and personally endorsed it. Linda Bacon posted on social media that she has seen a surge in purchase of the book on Amazon. I must admit that while I am very excited this space is getting the notice and attention that it definitely deserves, I know how hefty this book is and how easy it is to be resistant to the information or misuse and abuse it if in the wrong mindset. In spite of the extensive research she lays out and myths she debunks at the beginning of the book, I was not open to it when I first picked it up a few years ago. However, I came around and now consider myself a Health at Every Size (HAES) practitioner. 

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I'm assuming at this point, many of you may be wondering, what is "Health at Every Size"? 

Health at Every Size is not only a book by Linda Bacon, but a social justice movement and approach used by a growing number of practitioners who believe that health is so much more and has very little to do with how much you weigh or where you fall on the BMI curve. Everyone of every size has a right to pursue health for themselves and they do not have to diet or even pursue weight loss to do so.

There are five main HAES principles, which the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) lay out on their website:

  1. Weight Inclusivity
  2. Health Enhancement
  3. Respectful Care
  4. Eating for Well Being
  5. Life Enhancing Movement

Over the next couple of months, I want to deep dive into these principles as well as other HAES concepts, and discuss what they imply, some of the research behind them, and how to apply it to your own lives. 

If you have any particular questions, comments or concerns about HAES, I would love to hear from you in the comments below or through email!

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