This is not just a book report. Then again, Health at Every Size is not just a book.
A couple of months ago I owned up to an eating disorder and sought counselling. I was/am a closet eater. And I don’t mean that I was someone who ate a lot some times and was looking to lose weight. No, I’m the type of person who would keep stashes of high calorie foods in secret places so no one would know I was eating these foods. I would carry cash so that fast food stops didn’t hit the joint bank account and send up a red flag. And when my partner left the house, this meant I could and would binge freely until his return.
While I was definitely looking for a sugar rush, it wasn’t just about the food. It was about having something that was just mine, something I didn’t have to share. It gave me control through utter lack of control. It gave me something I could feel, even if that feeling was shame.
(I hold a particular painful memory of a friend stealing a french fry off my plate at a restaurant once, and FLIPPING MY SHIT. The “offender” didn’t think it would be a big deal, which it probably shouldn’t have been. However, they were met with my wrath and an unnecessary critique of their manners, instead of an explanation about how I had planned to eat every scrap on that plate because that’s all I was “allowed” to eat in front of people. I’m not sure the other person remembers this, because they recently cracked a joke about sharing food that made my blood boil, but I don’t think it was intentional.)
In my first session with my current therapist, she asked if I’d read Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD. I said I was aware of the movement, but didn’t even know it was a book, so she suggested I find a copy and give it a try. Eager to show I’d do my homework, I ran to Powell’s to pick it up.
It didn’t take long to know this was a good book. It kicks off by saying that if you’re looking for a weight loss program you’re in the wrong place. Then it proceeds to debunk myth after myth in regards to diets, how bodies work, advertising, government and health, backing it up with cold, hard science. She discusses why health matters more than weight and how there isn’t much of a correlation. She also explains how studies can get skewed to show specific findings by adding or subtracting certain factors, and how these studies are often funded by the organizations that can benefit from these findings.
Once armed with the facts, Bacon then walks the reader through self care – why eating your vegetables and getting “movement” is more important that “diet and exercise,” how to identify fullness, and how to set up a regimen that works for the reader.
I have two complaints. The first is that the book really seems to focus on women. I realize that the typical demographic that will respond to this book is female, but it makes it an awkward recommendation for my male friends. The second complaint is that the book is really geared towards people who have dieted and dieted and weight cycled, and to that end I couldn’t relate. I mean, I have certainly dieted and had my stints with fitness trainers and gyms, but when it comes down to it, I’ve never been pushing for a certain number on a scale. Knowing that I look skeletal at 30 lbs over my recommended BMI busted that goal for me years ago… no, I’ve simply been striving for health all this time.
That said, get rid of all the anti-diet and female-centric stuff, and it’s still a great, informative read.
In fact, the book was so good that there was a noticeable shift in my habits while I was reading. Early on, it told me to trust and listen to myself. I practiced this as I read, getting better with each step. And by the end of the book…
Well, I don’t know if I’m any lighter or healthier. I do know that I have more energy, less gas, and seek out food based on the satisfaction I expect to receive. I have taken the time to know what it feels like to eat whole food versus processed food. I have learned that the foods I consume are a choice. And I know that if I choose to eat junk food, it’s my choice. Simple as that.
I would absolutely recommend this book for everyone, and find myself wanting to thrust it into the hands of people I love… not just as a read for people who could benefit from the tome, but also for the people who are relied on for support. I think it’s critical for the #bodylove movement that we get and stay informed, for ourselves and our allies. This book is a great start.
And to anyone who might judge future Bean’s eating habits, may you be met with the same wrath the fry-stealer received. I only share my fries with allies.