health at every size

Privilege can affect your health

I mentioned last week that I want to address how to deal with thin privilege. 

Privilege is when, for a reason that is out of your control, you have an advantage. Thin privilege refers to the privilege that people who are considered thin have. For example, I am white and middle class. In the world I live in, this provides me with advantages that I might not have if I was not white or middle class. Thin privilege specifically refers to people the advantages one gets just for being thin. 

In last week's post with Melissa Fabello, she lays out the definition of thin privilege pretty clearly. Click here to check it out. 

(Disclaimer: I benefit from thin privilege. As such, I know that I am not the expert on living with a body that does not have thin privilege. )

The real problem with thin privilege is that it elevates one body type while silently disadvantaging another type. If you feel discriminated against, it's hard to feel good in your body. It's hard to fit it in when you physically can't fit in. 

People feel size discrimination in a visceral way. 

It turns out that it's not great for your health if you struggle every time you try on a dress or sit in a chair. It's not great for your health if you can't find a date on the most popular dating app. It's not great for your health if someone looks down on you every time you order french fries.

This everyday experience of straight-up discrimination can be rough. In fact, research shows that disempowerment leads to poor health. 

I learned this recently on a new podcast. created by Caroline Dooner, creator of the Fuck it Diet. She interviewed Linda Bacon. Linda Bacon is the brilliant researcher behind Health at Every Size and Body Respect. Everybody loves Linda Bacon because she is the go-to source for all things Health at Every Size.

In Linda's conversation with Caroline, she emphasized the effect privilege has on health. 

She says social positioning in the world really has the most impact on health. She points out that people who feel disempowered often struggle with staying healthy.  

She remarks that even the CDC says that behavior plays less than a 1/4 of a role in health outcome. The biggest contributors are race, sex and money. The more resources and support you have in the world, the easier it is to live a healthy life. 

She mentions a study about diabetes. In the study, they gave people with diabetes and were lower income housing vouchers. This alone reduced diabetic symptoms. This means that changing a person's social environment has an enormous impact on that person's health. 

People talk about the war on obesity as if it's so simple. They make it sound like it's just calories in and calories out. It's not. 

The CDC says that behavior only affects health outcomes less than 1/4 of the time. This means that the best way to fight thin privilege is to not treat people who don't have it like they don't deserve it. 

Instead of jumping on another diet, the best thing to do is create a culture where people have more resources and support.

And you can do your part by joining this list or sharing it with your friends! 


Looking "Healthy"

If you've been reading my blog for a while, by now you're probably really comfortable with the idea that you don't have to be super skinny to be healthy. 

Most of us have seen pictures like this and believe that we don't need to be only skin, bone, and muscle to be healthy. 


How do you view health? Do you think you can tell if someone is healthy just by looking at them? 

I used to worry about this soooo much. If I felt fat, I was "SURE" the cheesecake I had the day before had caused a 5 pound weight gain. Cellulite? I "KNEW" that was the result of not working out that week. 

I used to think you could EYEBALL my health indiscretions. 

This made me feel like Big Brother was always watching. And my body revealed every misstep like a scarlet J for junk food or L for lazy.  I thought, for sure, people could see what I had done wrong with my body. 

I truly believed this. I was a regular Ayn Rand about body size. I figured if you were "overweight," that it was your responsibility. I thought getting to a "healthy" body was simply a matter of hard work and dedication. I thought we all had the tools and resources to look healthy. We just had to pull ourselves up by our booty-boot-camp straps. 

 Not all bodies are designed to be chiseled like Jillian Michaels and Channing Tatum. 

You can't tell somebody's story just by looking at their body. You don't know their genetics. You don't know if they've lost 100 pounds to get to where they are. You don't know if it's healthy for them. Some people are healthiest at larger sizes. Some are born to be small. Some are muscular. Unless you're a trained medical professional, it's just not your job to assess their physical well-being by giving them the up-and-down.

And, frankly, my dear, you shouldn't give a damn.

The truth is, regardless of one's size, human beings are entitled to freedom. Freedom to choose what to do with their lives. Freedom to eat freedom fries and liberty toast. People should be allowed to eat cheesecake and skip the gym. Life is not about doing everything right all the time. 

And that sounds alright to me. 


Love Your Body

The 8th principle of Intuitive Eating is "Respect Your Body."

It sounds simple enough but I have to tell you that it's not easy. This one principle is CRITICAL to becoming an intuitive eater. 

I'm probably going to write about 10 million more blog posts about this because believing your body is good enough is really hard. It's especially hard when there's tons of magazines, advertisements, and pictures everywhere reminding us that we need to buy wrinkle cream, botox, a fast car, or McDonalds to be good enough or in order to love life. 

In fact, they made a whole documentary about it. Our culture very much values appearance. This is especially true for women.  When we don't meet the standards, it can be hard to feel good enough. Even if you don't have a diagnosable eating disorder, managing food can be one way to cope with this very human and very normal feeling. 

For me, the process of coming to love my body came from learning to recognize that my body weight was NOT somehow an indicator of my worth or my health.

The idea that your body should look like the cover of some magazine is not only unattainable but not necessarily healthy for your body.  I would argue that the fallacy that we can all fit into one size is one of the worst myths out there. 

Here's the big thing: 

Weight doesn't really matter the most when it comes to your health. 

Socially, we  have conflated the two. And GURRRRRRRRRRRL, (or BOOOOOOOOOOIIIII) do I have some youtube videos for you to watch:

1.  You can be healthy at every size: 

This video unpacks one of the largest nutrition studies in the world and shows how weight is not a significant factor in health and longevity when people exercise regularly, eat fruits and vegetables, don't smoke, and drink minimally. 

Stop stepping on the scale to measure your "health."  Focus instead on healthy habits. 

2.  BMI is bologna:

 BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a formula that takes your weight and divides it by your height squared. In this video, Laci Green unpacks how it evolved from a simple formula that was explicitly not to be used as an indicator for health to being co-opted by life insurance companies and the dieting industry. Now, BMI is the rallying cry of people fighting the "obesity epidemic."

I give you these videos because the conversation around weight has bled into the conversation about health and part of learning to love your body is learning to know the difference. Taking care of your body is about listening to it, not berating yourself for being "overweight." 

Because, c'mon, how well has hating your body worked so far?




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