Exercise Program & Fat Acceptance
Posted on January 3, 2013
I had to switch to a new insurance provider at the start of the new year. If I join the university exercise tracking program and work out 150 minutes per week, I get $100 per quarter added to my HSA. Considering my insurance is abysmal–the kind of thing that makes medical staffers say, “Wow, that’s the worst insurance plan I’ve ever heard of”–I can use every little bit of help I can get when it comes to medical costs. I’ve enrolled in the program. I think it will be fun to have a motivating factor for exercising, because it’s not like working out is my favorite activity ever. I prefer exercise that comes with intellectual stimulation, like backpacking or walking on the trails at the state park. Those are the times when I can breathe good air, work up a sweat, and look at interesting things in nature while I think about the fact that bodies are such fascinating things.
During an Indiana winter, there aren’t a lot of places to get exercise like that, so I lose motivation pretty fast. Maybe getting paid for working out will help.
I like that the plan focuses on activity and NOT on weight. I am in the process of becoming more and more comfortable with the fact that the entire weight loss industry is a scam, and that we as Americans have way, way, way too much of a focus on weight.
Just today, The New York Times ran an op-ed by Paul Campos called “Our Imaginary Weight Problem,” which discussed a recent analysis of weight and health that was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. That analysis found something that many scientists and nutritionists are coming to understand, but that medical professionals and armchair physicians are quick to dismiss: that bodies we categorize as “overweight” and “obese” do not actually carry an increased risk of morbidity. In fact, according to Campos:
If the government were to redefine normal weight as one that doesn’t increase the risk of death, then about 130 million of the 165 million American adults currently categorized as overweight and obese would be re-categorized as normal weight instead.
To put some flesh on these statistical bones, the study found a 6 percent decrease in mortality risk among people classified as overweight and a 5 percent decrease in people classified as Grade 1 obese, the lowest level (most of the obese fall in this category). This means that average-height women – 5 feet 4 inches – who weigh between 108 and 145 pounds have a higher mortality risk than average-height women who weigh between 146 and 203 pounds. For average-height men – 5 feet 10 inches – those who weigh between 129 and 174 pounds have a higher mortality risk than those who weigh between 175 and 243 pounds.
In the season of New Year’s Resolutions, can you imagine anyone saying, “I want to increase my chances of living longer, so I’m going to try to pack on a few extra pounds?” Of course not. What people don’t want to hear–and what weight loss companies really, really, really don’t want you to hear–is that long term weight loss is not exactly, well, possible.
In 2007, UCLA did a study that analyzed 31 different major studies of dieting and weight loss. What did they find? That dieting is one of the best indicators of whether or not a person will gain weight. According to Traci Mann, the study’s author:
“What happens to people on diets in the long run? . . . Would they have been better off to not go on a diet at all? We decided to dig up and analyze every study that followed people on diets for two to five years. We concluded most of them would have been better off not going on the diet at all. Their weight would be pretty much the same, and their bodies would not suffer the wear and tear from losing weight and gaining it all back.”
That’s one of the main reasons I won’t make weight loss goals anymore. I’ve made enough of those in my life, and while it feels good to reach them, it’s also not something I feel like wasting my time on anymore.
Instead, I am working toward embracing a philosophy called Heath At Every Size. Health At Every Size advocates argue:
“Let’s face facts. We’ve lost the war on obesity. Fighting fat hasn’t made the fat go away. And being thinner, even if we knew how to successfully accomplish it, will not necessarily make us healthier or happier. The war on obesity has taken its toll. Extensive “collateral damage” has resulted: Food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, discrimination, poor health… Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat.
Health at Every Size is the new peace movement.
Very simply, it acknowledges that good health can best be realized independent from considerations of size. It supports people—of all sizes—in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors.”
I read fat acceptance blogs like Dances With Fat, remind myself of the excellent Health At Every Size resources that are available online, and am looking forward to adding Two Whole Cakes to my Kindle right away.
So if I were making a New Year’s resolution as it relates to weight, maybe it would be this: I want to continue to broaden my appreciation for the human body no matter what it looks like, and no matter whose it is. My little girl is going to be three at the end of this month, and the first association I want her to make with exercise is that it’s something we do to feel good and healthy and strong, not something we do to lose weight.