What are the chances you look at yourself naked in the mirror and you feel like you finally SEE your body for the first time? I feel like that happened to me a few weeks ago. It was one of those, out of the shower moments where I’m trying to put on some underwear while covering myself with my towel (alone) and with all the fumbling said towel slips to the floor. I’m right in front of the mirror, catch a quick glance and do a double take and look, really look. “Hmmm, that’s interesting. I don’t hate this… Did I just say that out loud?”
Eighty or so pounds into this weight loss journey and I’ve hit a plateau. Not losing weight, not gaining weight but definitely obsessing over it; which I think is the worst of all roads to take. I have a goal but for some reason or excuse I haven’t been getting closer to it than I did three months ago. I’m not terribly upset about it but in a way it’s been making me feel like I’m faltering in some way. Yet my usual go-to motivation of “you’ll be so much happier with the way you look” doesn’t hold as much water as it did before. That makes me ponder what I’ve come to think is a legitimate question:
Is it OK to be fat?
I came across this TEDtalk and it’s been on my mind for a while now. It’s a talk from a woman, Golda Poretsky, who posits that you can be healthy while still being overweight.
Honestly when I first saw this post my first instinct is to disagree with almost every bit of evidence she presented. I had to sit through this talk a few times. I understood her experience. She identified even as a little girl that being fat was the worst things you could be and she worked all her life to change that. What she was saying after that felt off because the idea that you could be overweight, healthy and happy went against what I believed was accurate. Fat and happy maybe, but fat and healthy?
I relate to Golda’s story. She was overweight as a little girl, someone called her a name that upset her. She confided in her mom and rather than sooth or perhaps coddle her mom suggested going on a diet- suggested to her daughter at 4 years old. After that her pattern followed one I know very well: go on a diet, lose some weight, gain it back , accept the fat, gain more weight, self-hate, go on another diet, repeat. She achieved a lot of things but on the inside felt like a failure because she was consumed with her weight. She referred to this as ‘Scale dependent self esteem’: Scale number goes down, you feel on top of the world and everyone tells you how great you look. There is that anxiety that you will fail but in that moment this is the answer to the weight loss dreams. When the number goes up things don’t feel as great. You feel ashamed and like you failed. Worried about what people will say. The don’t actually say anything but you are not getting the compliments and gaining their approval. Sounds very familiar to me.
Golda’s Manifesto on The Myth of Fat and Health- 95% of people that lose weight on diets gain it back within 3-5 years, some gain back more weight. The other 5% are mostly losing and keeping off relatively small amounts of weight. Large scale weight loss is an outlier. If you lose and gain back weight in any amount you are not weird, you didn’t fail. You are totally normal because all dieting is yo-yo dieting, it’s designed to cycle your weight in order to keep you coming back for more. Ok this part I get it’s what she says after that I don’t know about.
The Myth that fat is dangerous– Golda references medical research that concludes that weight and fat don’t determine life expectancy. That healthy lifestyle habits determine it instead. She presented an obesity paradox in a study that showed people that are fat can actually help extend life expectancy. Although she doesn’t condone getting fatter she presented this research to say that the fact that you have fat doesn’t determine your mortality.
She presents 4 basic healthy habits that result in roughly the same life expectancy.
1- Not smoking
2- Moderate or no drinking
3- 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day
4- Getting moderate exercise (30 min)
With these 4 habits life expectancy is the same, weight doesn’t correlate with mortality or health.
I can’ts say I agree with this but I can attest to the fact that exercise, not smoking or drinking, and an increase intake of fruits and veggies did improve my health resulting in weight loss.
Golda’s Body Love Initiative– Now the next thing she said I found intriguing. If healthy behaviors matter not weight and dieting doesn’t work, what if we changed the paradigm all together? So she presented this ‘Health at Every Size’ initiative. To care and accept you body as is within the beautiful variety of bodies in the world in which yours fit right in. Accept your body just as it is. If you can let go of the judgement of your body and others bodies it creates a peace that you won’t find when dieting. Engage in process of intentionally loving your body. What happens when you do that you create a beautiful ripple effect. Golda offered an invitation for others to love their bodies to let go of judgement and stop listening to all the messages telling us our bodies aren’t good enough.
Jos loves her body- I’d like to explore this idea of Body Love further so I decided to start a series on my blog by the same name. I don’t want it to be some sappy love letter to my body in hopes of finding acceptance. Like the initial start of my weight loss journey the best way to affect change is to step outside of your comfort zone. So I’m going to make a point of challenging myself to act and put myself out there. I’m not yet sure how I’m going to do it and have no idea where it’s going to take me but it’ll be an exercise in self acceptance and that has only lead to good things so far so I’m hopeful.
Until next time.
This has definitely got me thinking this morning. What a great post.
Thanks, I’ve been pondering this for a while now. I don’t have an answer to the question but I’m going to see what I find. Maybe Golda was presenting her research to remove some of the ‘facts’ that add to the stigma of being overweight to then lead people into positive body images and acceptance. I think that’s where she was going. I should try and find her and see if she can elaborate.
How amazing would that be if you could find her!