Thoughts after a Health Fair


I had a new experience a couple of weekends ago, I went to a health fair and led a couple of Mindful Eating Taster sessions. I’ve done this before on my own, of course, but never as part of a larger event. It was an exciting thing to be part of but one thing I hadn’t expected, was to be unsettled by a couple of the stalls there!

This was because their focus was weight loss. This is a REALLY STICKY issue for me, because I know that focusing on weight loss is what leads people to a life time of pain. I focused on weight loss when I dieted for years and then fell off my diet countless times and felt RUBBISH about myself. I was still focusing on weight loss when I realised I JUST COULD NOT DIET and I overate as a direct result. 

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I thought trying to lose weight would result in losing weight - because it sounds simple, right? Bit like ‘eat less & exercise more.’ If ONLY I had thought of that! 

As far as I am concerned, trying to lose weight, whether it be dieting, clean eating (dieting), 5:2 (dieting), juicing (also dieting) will not work. Well OK, I accept it may ‘work’ in the short term, because you may lose some weight BUT, here’s the thing…. how many of us actually manage to keep the weight off once we’ve reached our ‘goal weight’? Or, manage to stick to the diet for long enough to reach ‘goal weight’? I don’t think I ever reached my target weight, thinking about it.

So, what happens? You get fed up not having the foods you love, you’re DESPERATE to eat whatever your ‘thing’ is, and when you fall off the wagon, you REALLY fall off the wagon! And you might as well really go for it, because you’ll start again tomorrow… and on the cycle goes.

The thing that sorted out my overeating, is (drumroll please!) NOT FOCUSING ON WEIGHT LOSS, i.e. NOT DIETING or THINKING I SHOULD BE DIETING. 

In my brief session at the event, I explained why I was feeling out of kilter about these other stalls. I know, of course, the people behind these stalls have others best interests at heart… but I can’t stand the blatant, ‘come and buy this and I will help you lose weight’. The tragedy is, we buy into this stuff - like the MOST IMPORTANT THING is to lose weight? 

Why do we do this to ourselves? 

Actually, I know why, it’s what we are told, it’s what we learn and we accept it as true.

“Lose weight and live happy!”

“I have to lose weight for my health”  

“I can’t be happy until I lose weight”

This is NOT TRUE! Losing weight does not actually solve all our problems and more than that, weight is NOT a direct determinant of our HEALTH. What I mean is, you can’t tell just by looking at a person whether they are healthy or not. There is much more to it than that.

Let’s challenge that thought… is health JUST down to a person’s weight? Are all thin people healthy? I can think of thin people who don’t exercise and eat ‘unhealthy’ food. What about people who are thin because they’ve lost weight due to an illness? Are they necessarily healthy? 

Can you be healthy and be (have) fat? Yes, I think so, and so do lots of other people. Yes, I know we don’t hear much about it in the papers/news etc. but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Papers tend to report the idea that ‘fat and fit’ is a myth, and will cite whatever the most recent study is to prove their case. However, don’t tell me there is no bias in reporting, because there certainly is - and in healthcare - in the way the medical profession views people who are ‘of larger size’. 

We’ve all heard cases where the medical profession has missed conditions in a person because of the inherent bias regarding a person’s size. The false notion that ‘losing weight’ will solve all your health care issues . 

There is an emerging movement called ‘Health at Every Size’ as discussed in the film ‘Embrace’. This is about working with a weight neutral focus. This focuses on

  • Accepting and recognising Body Diversity- the fact that we all come in different shapes and sizes
  • Health and wellbeing are multi-dimensional and include physical, social, spiritual, emotional and intellectual health
  • Promoting ALL ASPECTS of health and wellbeing for people of ALL sizes
  • Promoting eating which balances nutrition, hunger, fullness, appetite and pleasure
  • Promoting enjoyable, life enhancing physical activity rather than exercise focused on a goal of weight loss. 

The ‘Health at Every size’ approach has been adopted by LOTS of people I know in the Body Positivity world, including myself. It works. It helps people embrace the bodies they have, whilst enjoying their lives. No shame, no restriction, just focusing on wellbeing. 

Back to the health fair…

I had a message the day after from a lady who asked me to speak at an event in the New Year for women who want to lose weight. I was rather taken aback to say the least. I replied and thanked her for the opportunity, telling her I did not see myself as part of the ‘helping women lose weight’ industry. For me, I explained, it has been taking the focus off weight loss and ONTO eating mindfully that has helped me sort out my food issues. Her reply was that she thinks there’s a big difference between helping women lose weight & dieting. 

Personally, I’m not so sure. 

Find out more below about Embrace and my 8 week course of workshops which are starting on 16th October at 7 - 9pm.

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