Weight inclusivity is the foundation of Health at Every Size. Being weight inclusive means accepting and respecting that there is a diversity in body shapes and sizes. How does this land with you? I know for me, it took some undoing to really grasp this concept. As I have shared, in my training and coursework to become a dietitian, I was taught the opposite of this. I was taught that anyone who is in a larger body is someone I am to help “fix” to be in a smaller body. Depending on what I was learning at the time, there was always an aspect of health applied to this, whether it be high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, but you can bet that losing weight was the cure-all that would make everything better.
This mentality and approach are still greatly used in the medical community. As I mentioned last week, in my article, “Can You Be Healthy At Every Size?” I have had many clients avoid going to doctors because their weight is always brought up to be the reason for their ailment/sickness, or they know it will be brought up sometime within the interaction. It becomes dread. It becomes a fifteen-minute appointment that leaves the person walking away feeling shame, unworthiness, and like a failure. And if that person was brought up in a diet household, where weight was commented on, it perpetuates all the emotional trauma attached to that time.
Part of Health At Every Size is the movement to end weight bias and stigma. There is very much an activist piece to stop the judgment and perpetual criticism of people who live in a larger body. For some people, being in a larger body is their genetic makeup. For others, they grew into a larger body because of the constant dieting and weight cycling, therefore, shifting their set point weight higher and higher. Either way, there is a need to end this stigma and belief that people in a larger body are lesser than, lazy, or do not care about their bodies.
The base for someone’s size is genetics. There is a beautiful passage from the book Women Who Run With the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes about this very thing. “While compulsive and destructive eating disorders that distort body size and body image are real and tragic, they are not the norm for most women. Women who are big or small, wide or narrow, short or tall, are most likely to be simply because they inherited the body configuration of their kin; if not their immediate kin, then those of a generation or two back. To malign or judge a woman’s inherited physicality is to make generation after generation of anxious and neurotic women. To make destructive and exclusionary judgments about a woman’s inherited form robs her of several critical and precious psychological and spiritual treasures. It robs her of her pride in the body type that she was given to her by her own ancestral lines. If she is taught to revile this body inheritance, she is immediately slashed away from her female body identity with the rest of the family.”
Let these words sink in. Most people living in the United States dismiss this very thing that sets the stage for your body. We can acknowledge and even be proud of the linage of hair or eye color, but body size came to the judged gene somewhere along the line. The gene that is criticized and forcefully attempted to change. It is important to look at several generations back, especially if your parents were dieters and if your grandparents experienced food trauma or were dieters themselves. It is looking at how your ancestors were before the diet industry exploded. Can you give yourself some space to reflect on this? What would it be like to know that your body frame matched a long-distance grandmother? In fact, you were just in line with the lineage of the people you came after.
When you resist acceptance and fight to change your body, you become more out of alignment with what your genetic set-point was meant to be. Set-point weight is a ten-twenty-pound weight range that your body wants to sit in. Your body can comfortably maintain this weight without any compensatory behaviors. It’s likely the weight you keep returning to after a diet.
But when you keep dieting over and over, you shift this “weight control” mechanism inside of you. Your body feels the threat of deprivation and starvation, and it works harder to makes sure you don’t lose your reserves. Its response is to gain weight, the weight you lost, and then some. Your set-point shifts higher to protect you from future dieting (aka starvation).
So if you find yourself fighting with the same ten to twenty pounds, stop. It is your body’s variance. If you know that your weight is higher than the ten to twenty pounds you used to sit in, stop trying to change it. You may be at your new set-point. Actively pursuing weight loss increases your chances of continuing to push your weight higher and higher.
If you can learn to listen to your body, its cues of hunger, its signal of fullness, the foods that energize your body, and find movement that feels pleasurable and good, you will be just where your body wants you to be. This is the work. It is undoing the mindset that diet culture has branded in your mind.
The Change Starts With You
Weight inclusivity is a societal issue. But we can’t just tell society, “CHANGE!” It can only change with you. That is the trickle effect. It is being aware of your own weight stigma. It is taking steps to find acceptance in the body that you were given and are in.
Once you stop fighting with your body, stop depriving it, stop punishing it, your body will work on trust. It will work on trusting that you are going to take care of it. But taking care of it can’t be dependent upon what size your body is. You must be the first one to be inclusive of your body. To not hold bias, stigma, or judgment. To take steps to mend the relationship you have had with your body and treat it with respect. This means saying no to dieting, saying no to punishing exercise, setting boundaries with people that comment on your or any other person’s body size. It means engaging in behaviors with your body for your body’s health and well-being and not shrinking or changing your body. The intention behind this is significant.
Every body is a worthy body. Once you shift to end your weight stigma with your own body and find respect and acceptance, you’ll be amazed at the shift you find. You find so much space and lightness in releasing the weight of other people’s judgment of your body, including your own.