Why obesity is not the problem we think it is


I wonder what you thought when you read the title....

Did you instantly think “Yes, it is! We are in the midst of an obesity crisis and obesity is a drain on the NHS?”

My statement may be contrary to what you believe at the moment but please suspend your disbelief.

I am going to explain to you why I think we are dealing with this all wrong.

We live in a culture where we are told it’s NOT ok to be fat. 

Our fear of fat is what drives many of us to eat in a way that is not aligned with our hunger or our true needs. If we weren’t scared of the F word, weren’t constantly striving to lose the weight and were happy (or more accepting) of what we’ve got, then we wouldn’t be dieting. 

Dieting messes us up. FACT.

It causes rebound overeating- by this I mean overeating as a direct consequence of dieting- and a cycle of disordered eating and psychological distress for those who are caught up in it. 

I know the allure of thinking “I’ll go on a diet to lose X pounds, because I just can’t stand this anymore and this time it will work because I will stick to it!!”

I’ve been there many times, but believe me when I tell you, dieting doesn’t work. It makes you fatter. 

So, what I’m saying is, if we weren’t scared of being (or getting fat) we wouldn’t need to starve our bodies and restrict what we eat and we wouldn’t have rebound eating either. 

I meet so many women (and men) who believe they need to lose weight. Why? 

What do we think will happen when we do? What will be different? What will we be able to do that we can’t do when we are the size we are NOW? 

Many of you may think “I need to lose weight for my health”.

Newsflash: weight loss isn’t the cure for all.

I can think of plenty of people who are thin who died young and plenty of naturally thin people who don’t eat ‘healthy’ food or have particularly healthy behaviours. I’m not promoting obesity. I’m just saying that we don’t need to accept the concept that we need to be thin to be healthy. It isn’t true. I know lots of people who are thin and not healthy. I know lots of people who are fat and healthy (as demonstrated by medical testing, as opposed to the arbitrary measure of weight).

Weight alone does NOT determine a person’s health.

It’s complicated and multifaceted. 

But when we think it does, we feel ashamed of our size. We think it’s our fault, for ‘letting ourselves go’ or for not being able to control our eating. Or eating the ‘wrong’ foods. We feel guilty, and all that does is perpetuate the ‘well, I might as well eat it all now….’ landslide. Those of you who have this thought process will understand what I mean. 

If we weren’t so hung up on ‘obesity’ and weight loss, we could look at this whole eating thing differently.

The pressure would be off. We could start to think about what our bodies need as opposed to what we are ‘allowed’ to eat.

We could look at what drives our eating habits, the ones we have and we don’t like and we feel bad about. But instead of feeling like we’ve failed, we could come at it from a place of self-compassion. For example, when we overindulge in a favourite (probably ‘forbidden’) food we can reflect on why we did that. Was it a conscious choice or a habit? Was it linked to anger or sadness or whatever, or maybe it just tasted nice so you wanted to keep going? Whatever the case, it’s OK. The world has not ended, you just ate more than you needed. In this situation the worst thing to do is berate yourself because that makes it all worse. 

I would like to see a world where we don’t judge others for their amount of body fat (because it’s discrimination) and we don’t judge ourselves on that basis either.

We are all JUST as worthy whatever our weight is. 

Bottom line, all the weight phobia and the diet thinking, makes the situation worse.

It doesn’t even need to be complicated. What can help people get out of emotional or disordered eating is a mind-set change, a new way of looking at an age old 'problem' NOT a new '7 day eating plan' or a 'body transformation programme'. 

You can learn how to eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full and to enjoy ALL foods, even the ones you currently feel guilty about eating. This is not rocket science, it’s been around for ages and it's time we gave it the credit it deserves, (are you listening Public Health people?) because it changed my life and the lives of countless others all over the world who understand that dieting is NOT the answer.

Weight loss is not the answer either x 

Picture of an empty plate with an unhappy face, symbolising a disordered relationship with food

If you need some help with your relationship with food and your eating, I would be delighted to help.

I run Bristol based workshops and offer 121 coaching in the UK and beyond. 

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