October 23, 2017

Are We Emotionally Attached to Weight Loss?

Everything about this poster is screaming "body image disorder"!
Yet, we have normalized and internalized this message to the point
of no return...perhaps.
Does anyone else see the problem with this? I am (at this moment) sitting in the back of a large conference room in the middle of Ontario, Canada, with "my people" in the health promotion field.  Over the course of the day, I have been exposed to some of the most boring presentations of my lifetime (I will NEVER get that time back).  If this isn't a reason to quit my day job, I don't know what is.

During a break, a poster on the newest (and most amazing) weight loss program caught my attention. It boasted a proven and effected program for blasting off those unwanted pounds. My cohort around the table were celebrating this innovated idea and saving themselves copies to take to their own workplaces.  For me? As per usual, major bells rang in my head, my heart sank to a new level of disappointment and I proceeded to share why these programs are problematic, promote disordered eating and exercise, and shouldn't be offered.  When asked what I would put in its' place I offered the idea of hosting a body acceptance program while focusing on healthy practices in balanced exercise and eating. Of course, after that, I only heard crickets in the background.

I offered my usual reasons for this including, health and fitness is not directly related to body shape, that weight loss will only lead to weight gain over time.  I offered what we know about the brain and its' shady behaviours of promoting appetite and decreasing the metabolism (sneaky little beast).  I offered the facts and dispelled the fallacies and all I got in return was, "Well, I think it's a great idea!"

At that point, I lost the attention (and probably the respect) of many health promoters around the table.  Another reacted by commenting, "If you are so against weight loss programs, why aren't you trying to change the culture?".  My answer? I've been trying to change the culture over 20 years through education, training, writing, presenting, constant reading/research, always challenging our notion of "good" and "bad" foods, challenging our need to do 2 hours of exercise per night! I've been working to change this culture for most of my professional life....and all I get is crickets.

What is getting in the way of changing our approach to health? I'm thinking it must be more than just education and awareness.  There is an emotional attachment to weight loss.  Perhaps we (the global we) cling to this hope that someday we will lose the weight and damn anyone who suggests we must accept our bodies the way they are (how scary is that thought).  Perhaps our identities are so immersed in this notion of weight loss that we can't see past it. Perhaps we have been so programmed as health promoters that we are blind to anything else.

OMG...I hope not.

That's all I got...for now.

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