Weight stigma & how to improve the NHS.....
So, I’ve been at a conference for 3 days and it’s been quite a ride! Amazingly inspiring in places but also, sometimes, unbelievably weight stigmatising. There was a Plastic Surgeon there on Wednesday who made a comment that made me absolutely furious 😡. My brain struggled to comprehend how an educated person could say something like that.... I know he’s a product of his training and his environment, as we all are, but hey.
A friend pointed out to me, that 'he is a plastic surgeon, so is ‘bound’ to look at bodies and judge from an appearance point of view'.....true. However I look at it though, his comments were discriminatory against larger bodied people. Which is NEVER ok. This is tantamount to discrimation, weight prejudice and weight stigma.
My head has been grappling with my thoughts below for ages: I dearly want to offer what I do on the NHS. I was a Midwife until Dec 2016 you see, so have a real desire for the services offered, to ‘work’, not waste the resources we spend, and not mess people up in the process....Because, I know that traditional, weight loss focused approaches don’t work long term and our weight is SO much more complicated than calories in vs calories out.
And I’m trying, I really am! I’m constantly looking for avenues to make what I do available to all, and on a bigger platform. I even had a phone call with the South West Academic Health and Science Network on Friday, (This is an arm of NHS England) which looks at spreading innovation in the NHS....(so I have a few more ideas to go on).
Because, to get the NHS interested, I need to get some research done, to ‘prove’ what I do works..... though, I already know it does, through my own, personal experience and through the way women are transformed when they’ve been through my programme and through the research already performed on other ‘Health at Every Size’ providers.
Yet, currently the NHS refers people with a BMI over 30 to slimming clubs, as their standard treatment pathway, that DOESN’T WORK in the long term. Oh the irony! I looked up the research on this-it claims that weight loss programme are successful, because participants "lost weight in the first 12 weeks".....but what about doing the research again, about a year after or even 3 years after, because, longitudinal studies shows that 95% of ‘losers’ regain ALL the weight they lost (and even up heavier than when they started?) Where’s the follow up?
What this recent experience has made me realise, is how important what I do is and actually, how I KNOW THIS STUFF. It’s made me grow in confidence that mine is a valid AND WELL NEEDED psycho-social, (rather than medical) alternative way of looking at this.
My approach is more than Mindful Eating, it’s ‘Health at Every Size’. Which applies to EVERYONE OF ALL SIZES. It’s moving towards health behaviours by learning to think differently about our relationship with food, and exercise. It’s a process, not a diet sheet. It's also about valuing and respecting that people come in all shapes and sizes, which the medical profession sometimes, (often!) forgets.
It’s Research based. It works. It just isn’t well known yet, by the NHS, by the general population. Change takes time. Particularly in big organisations. I hope, in years to come, the weight loss industries start declining and 'My Body Positive' and other Health at Every Size practitioners continue to emerge.
This is NOT giving up on health. It’s actually, about embracing health. It's understand that health is a multi faceted thing.
- Learning to eat well to fuel your body,
- Learning to move more because it feels good.
- Undoing, less helpful eating behaviours & beliefs whilst learning more helpful ones.
- All under a self compassionate gaze.
Learning to love/appreciate your body is the game changer.
WHATEVER SIZE you are, makes no bloody difference to the person you are.
Also, learning to be able to challenge the well held stereotypes about people in larger bodies, and see how that current perspective is NEVER going to be helpful for this part of our population.
And when you are challenged, or affronted even, as I have been at times during this conference, to understand those people mean well, they just don’t understand.
And that’s their loss. Their gap in understanding something that could revolutionise health everywhere and end up with happier, healthier people!!
And just to reiterate, you cannot determine a persons HEALTH by a person’s WEIGHT (whatever you’ve been told so far!)
Want to chat about this? Feel free.....