Health at Every Size and Mindful Eating
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most common New Year's resolutions these days. However, there are many ways to do so, some that are more effective than others. The decision to lose weight can be motivated by several factors such as genetics, metabolism, personal appearance, and self-esteem. But it is important to note that maintaining your current body shape or size is not always the best option for health. In fact, many experts now say that seeking to maintain your current weight is likely to do more harm than good.
In the recent past, being overweight has been associated with many diseases and conditions that are chronic such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. Ideally, cases of obesity and the incidence of chronic diseases associated with being overweight have increased in the last couple of decades. The “obesity epidemic” has been a growing concern in the United States, which has prompted the development of weight loss techniques and the stigmatization of being overweight or obese. Meanwhile, the life expectancy of Americans has also increased, which begs the question of whether correlation implies causation.
According to information released by the CDC, “Overweight people actually live longer, with 86,000 fewer deaths in the overweight category than in the normal weight category. On the other hand, “underweight people died more often than either overweight or obese people, suggesting that the thinnest people in the U.S. may be at a greater health risk.” Such revelations have led to the growth of the Health at Every Size movement.
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The Health at Every Size (HAES) movement is an organized effort by individuals and groups who believe that a size-inclusive approach to health is healthier for everyone. It also advocates for a shift in the way healthcare professionals think about people, their weight, and the health of their bodies. The 'Health at Every Size' movement includes four tenets.
With regards to the maintenance of a healthy body, HAES recommends intuitive eating or mindful eating. Intuitive eating is a flexible approach to food and eating. One's intuitive capacity can change over time. A person may eat intuitively for many years, and then gradually start to eat less healthfully as other coping strategies get in the way. When one starts eating more mindfully again, it's called being "in tune." The aim of HAES is sustainable weight management for life. That means addressing all factors that contribute to weight, including diet and physical activity, without shaming or excluding any components which may be part of someone's health journey.
Adherence to intuitive eating principles has been associated with improved weight loss and better food choices. This may be related to a greater sense of autonomy and control over how one eats. Essentially, HAES suggests that taking care of yourself is not the same as weight loss.
Why Dieting is Not the Solution to Better Health
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One of the theories that explain the lack of a causal relationship between weight loss and health is the set point theory. The set-point theory is the idea that our bodies have a weight range that it wants to maintain. These set-points are different for each individual and are influenced by genetics, current diet, and lifestyle. When this set point is not being reached, then you can expect some pretty serious weight loss resistance. Basically, if your body thinks you're starving, then it will do everything in its power to make sure you stay at its preferred weight level, which may be higher than what is healthy for your body type.
The hypothalamus is the region in the brain which regulates many of our bodily functions, including hunger and metabolic rate. For instance, if we want to lose weight then our hypothalamus would be sending signals for us to eat less and expend more energy, but conversely, we could also try to put on some extra weight by increasing our food intake and cutting back on exercise. However, the hypothalamus is not a single entity that suddenly has an epiphany or an idea - it is influenced by other parts of the brain, as well as hormones released elsewhere in the body. For example, ghrelin (a hormone) stimulates appetite; ghrelin levels increase before meals which makes us feel hungry.
This leads to the question of whether dieting weight loss techniques are effective in achieving better health. Overall, the pros of maintaining a healthy weight go far beyond being able to simply keep up with modern life. Weight loss is not always the right choice for everyone. Even if you have the desire to be thinner or fit into a certain clothes size, it's best to avoid unnecessary dieting or any other form of unhealthy weight loss that can cause health problems down the road.
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HAES Approach to Improved Health Outcomes
Do you have an unhealthy relationship with food? Most obese people do, and it's not always easy to break free of our habit. So, if you are like most folks, there comes a point when you need to just "attack" your weight, whether you have had no luck for years or never had any luck at all. What's the best way to go about this?
Accept your size
It seems counter-intuitive, but by accepting your size you can start the process of changing your eating habits, and ultimately improving your health. With Mindful Eating, you could change not just what you put in your mouth but also how much. It has been proven time and time again that body love leads to weight loss—and counterintuitively, it's more likely to happen with less struggle! Mindful Eating emphasizes health over weight loss. It takes into consideration what each individual needs and strives for the balance that's right for them personally.
We all have unique physiologies that determine our health and healthy weight. Honoring our bodies' signals of hunger, fullness, and appetite through Mindful Eating, allows us to reconnect with our bodies through awareness and acceptance.
Adopt healthy lifestyle habits
Like weight loss, getting into shape, or quitting smoking, it is possible for everyone to adopt a healthy lifestyle. It is not about having any special possessions or wealth; it's about having discipline, the ability to change your habits and modify your life so that it becomes healthier. That doesn't mean living without flavor because what would be the point? It just means making changes every day so that each day is more delicious than before.
Embrace size diversity
Accepting your body at any size is the starting point to making positive changes in your eating habits and your health. It doesn’t mean that you embrace being overweight; rather, you accept where you are on the size spectrum.