Jess Weiner, body image activist, wrote a recent Glamour Magazine article: Jess Weiner’s Weight Struggle: “Loving My Body Almost Killed Me”. Earthquake-like experiences flow through the eating disorder and Health at Every Size (HAES) communities with this courageous article. I am an active member within both communities and reading this article has been like learning Dr. Dean Ornish is now following the Atkins Diet. A body image warrior is on a diet.
Part of the debate focuses on whether Ms. Weiner is focusing on health or weight loss or both. This matters significantly because mindful eating experts value health and health promotion without calorie restriction. Mindful eating, a core principle within HAES, also focuses on behaviors that help a body feel healthier. Weight loss can be a side effect of this yet weight loss is not a behavior. It can’t be predicted and it’s not as important as the behavior change.
Ms. Weiner is honestly talking about both health and weight loss. And, although her experiences are her own, I respectfully (I do own her books!) disagree with some of her assumptions based on her own body loving experiences.
Ms. Weiner describes her body acceptance leading to unhealthy eating and exercise choices with proud permission to do so. Further, I am led to believe that in her description, loving one’s body is mutually exclusive with not choosing health promoting food and movement.
As a strong proponent of HAES, I’m saddened this article equates self acceptance with promoting unhealthy eating, exercising, and living. That sounds more like a teenager rebelling against an over-controlling parental voice. If you’ve met with me in individually, you may have discussed this exact experience. Many people who’ve experienced disordered eating and/or years of diets will notice this teenage-like rebellion message. It is part of the process of healing. And, when acknowledged and sorted through, it is temporary. It is not HAES or loving one’s body. The rebellious teen voice contributes to another external motivator to eat or exercise. Just like a diet.
Loving one’s body is living in the present with it. Mindfulness allows the body to talk to the mind and vice versa. It is being aware of the conversations between the two and how they influence each other. Loving one’s body using a HAES approach seeks to unite mind and body while calmly, in one’s adult voice, letting the teenager and parent in your brain know they aren’t needed right now.
I hope Ms. Weiner experiences health while she loves her body. At the same time. Listening for her adult voice, she can experience both.
[Note: This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Those who know me well, know that I am an anti-diet zealot so you are not surprised by this post. Please read the following message from your local RD that I submitted to the N&R…I hope you get something out of it whether it is for you or someone you know. Cheers!]
Everyday we see and hear messages dictating what size we should be. Countless people punish themselves when their body types do not fit into the thin ideal. Many of us hold on to a pair of “skinny jeans” in hopes they will fit someday. Part of the shameful self punishment includes unhealthy fad diets or even starvation to try to meet society’s skinny standards. These diets promise failure and usually more weight instability. Instead of continuing the cycle this week, celebrate National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Here are a few ways to be a part of the festivities:
• Realize much of your body type is determined by genes passed on from your parents. Stop putting your body down because it may not mimic the thin ideal. Realize we are diverse creatures and thus we are diverse in size.
• Do not regard your food choices as degrees of moral failures. Food can be enjoyable and that is okay. Like body shapes, food should not be regarded as good and bad.
• Be good to your body. Allow yourself to eat when you feel hunger. Stop when your hunger goes away. Do not judge your hunger as a dishonorable signal from your brain. Trust yourself and do not try to trick it. You are receiving it because your body needs the fuel.
• Participate in movements that are fun for you. Do not feel like you have to exercise on the hamster wheel of treadmills or machines (unless you enjoy them). Instead, find activities and clubs that allow you to move your body in a way that is fun and healthy not punishment.
It is normal to struggle with accepting your natural shape. We live in a world where it is tough to escape this pressure. Support each other by recognizing the beauty among the differences. Support yourself by donating your “skinny jeans” to a charity clothing drive. Those jeans are really not your genes. Find some jeans that fit and, therefore, demonstrate the beauty of the genes only you can call your own.