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Sep. 22, 2009

Health At Every Size (HAES)

by Miriam Gordon

Tara Parker-Pope, in the health blog section of the New York Times website, addressed in her post "A Diva’s Lessons on Weight and Beauty" the scientifically based concept that controlling body weight is not a matter of will power. Thank G-d, it's finally dawning on the New York Times' editors that fat people actually don't deserve to be punished for their lack of will power (particularly after that awful Times magazine cover touting Clive Thompson's misguided article ("Are Your Friends Making You Fat?") on Christakis and Fowler's research).

What many people don't understand about the very important concept that controlling body weight is not a matter of will power is that people can still be healthy, or improve their health dramatically, no matter what they weigh. Everyone can make changes in their lives that will improve their health. It is absolutely true that a sedentary lifestyle combined with poor eating habits is clearly linked with disease, such as diabetes and heart disease. The important thing is the process of learning to incorporate healthier habits, while doing away with prejudice or discrimination against fat people. Shaming fat people will not lead to improvement in anyone's health. Instead, it will continue to engender low self-esteem, unhealthy dieting practices that will slow down metabolic rates, and eating disorders. In short, the focus should be on learning to live a healthier lifestyle that doesn't involve beating oneself up on a regular basis, based on one's appearance or a number on a scale. Check out Linda Bacon's website and the website for the Association for Size Diversity and Health.

About Miriam Gordon

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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