Weight Science from Linda Bacon’s Body Respect – HAES Book Summary

We are constantly warned about the dangers of obesity and urged to manage our weight. These messages come from all directions, including authorities we trust and peers who judge us. But consider for a moment that our accepted assumptions may not represent fully what we know from scientific evidence.

To begin with, the following facts are from Body Respect by Linda Bacon, and you can confirm them in the peer-reviewed article at http://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-10-9

  • People who are categorized as overweight or moderately obese have shown time and time again to live as long as or longer than people with weight in the normal category (confirmed even by the CDC)
  • BMI standards were written by the pharmaceutical industry to increase weight loss drug profits, ignoring that health decrement hasn’t shown to occur until a BMI of 40 (they funded the international obesity task force that determined the WHO’s standards and therefore the U.S. standards)
  • Larger people are more likely to develop several diseases but fatness is not the cause – there are many confounding factors like fitness, stress from discrimination, and inflammation from calorie-restriction dieting and weight cycling – “blaming fatness for heart disease is a lot like blaming yellow teeth for lung cancer”
  • “There has never been a research study that has demonstrated long-term maintenance of weight loss from lifestyle change for any but a small minority” – the rare person who does maintain weight loss is as lucky as the smoker who lives to be ninety
  • Health can improve when diet and/or exercise improve – not as a result of weight loss – yet at the same time, health behaviours account for less than 1/4 of differences in health outcomes, while social differences (i.e. poverty and discrimination) are the main determinants (again confirmed by the CDC)

If you’re like me, you’re probably tempted to object to the above sample of facts because we fear fat so strongly. However, ignorance has hurt us through lifetime yo-yo dieting, obsession with food and body, disordered eating, weight discrimination, and even poor health, the very thing we think we’re helping by stigmatizing fatness.

Honestly, though… even if I can be healthy at my current weight, I still deep down really want to look the way I did when I was slimmer. In the past I was able to lose weight by manipulating calories – if only I’d just tried harder and longer! Mind you, I’m still stuck with these feelings years after I learned exactly why the belief that I can just force a caloric deficit long-term is, well, unfounded. So let’s forgive each other for not being without bias and just open ourselves up a little more to the possibility that there may be a better way than constantly forcing an attempt to lose weight.

Weight-Loss

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End Emotional Eating (100% in 1% Book Summary)

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I’ve read a lot of books about healthy eating and mood disorder therapy, not to mention seeing professionals on the subjects, and I have to say End Emotional Eating: Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Cope with Difficult Emotions and Develop a Healthy Relationship to Food by Dr. Jennifer Taitz is one of the best books I know. I find it scientific, relatable, and practical.

That said, it’s harder than it sounds to “sit with” emotions without letting it turn into feelings of deprivation. This is something I’m still practicing, so I’ve summarized the key points below to remind myself (and you, if you’re interested) most especially in those times of weakness what I can do to truly have a positive relationship with food and why it’s best for living a life I value.

Concept

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is based on accepting reality because suffering comes from trying to fight pain. Radical acceptance is an active process of “purposely adopting an open, nonjudgmental receptive stance” while at the same time deciding whether or not to change the way you respond, often choosing to accept commitments required to take action in order to live life fully.

It is illusory correlation to believe an increased urge to binge means an increased need for it. In fact, urges come and go, whereas “the more we indulge in a habit, the more habitual it becomes.” Giving into emotional eating takes away opportunities to develop other coping skills making you believe it is the only way to cope.

Thinking about food may be less painful than some emotions, but emotional eaters then develop pain and suffering around food. Emotional eaters tend to be more sensitive to rewards as demonstrated in caudate nucleus response research. In fact, motivation is fleeting and unnecessary. “Action leads to action.”

Recommendations

“Accept life as it is without indulging or controlling.” Pain can be “something you experience in the service of living according to your values.” Being mindful of this can foster self-compassion and empathy with others. Self-compassion involves kindness and warmth while maintaining realistically high standards.

Focus on changing behaviour rather than trying to control feelings. “You don’t have to feel willing to behave willingly.” Master mental aikido by weaving and surfing, not throwing punches. Be in the present, aware of the full experience, and problem solve. “Look at the thoughts rather than from the thoughts.”

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Body Fat Solution (100% in 1% Book Summary)

The Body Fat Solution: Five Principles for Burning Fat, Building Lean Muscle, Ending Emotional Eating, and Maintaining Your Perfect Weight by Tom Venuto is like the regular person’s Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, an extremely popular fat loss and bodybuilding book. The approach in this book is to get 80% of the BFFM benefits (about 1% weekly weight loss) for 20% the work (clearly an approach I like very much). Venuto found “the only thing necessary for most people to succeed is a handful of daily behaviour changes and a shift in mind-set.” He spends a good amount of time addressing root causes of overeating and inactivity from physical, mental, emotional, and social angles. In addition to the “softer” ideas like affirmations, I find this book realistic, particularly focusing on caloric deficit and admitting willpower will be necessary at first to get healthy habits set up, but those will build a natural long-term lifestyle. It’s about putting priorities in order and adjusting your environment to support them. “Work develops your character, strengthens your discipline, and boosts your self-esteem.”

Create priority lists not to do lists.

Beliefs are only interpretations, generalizations, and evaluations we’ve learned. Yet we act as if they’re facts. Beliefs about identity and values are particularly resistant to change. “Behaviour is the true expression of what people believe on the unconscious level.” Accumulate small victories to reinforce more accurate empowering beliefs like “Everything I value depends on good health.”

If I eat healthy, natural foods at least 90% of the time, I know I will get good results.

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Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual (100% in 1% Book Summary)

The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual: A Practical Mind-Body-Spirit Guide for Putting an End to Overeating and Dieting has three main parts: Mastering Self-Care Skills, Tuning Up Biochemistry, and Filling Up Spiritual Reserves. Since I found myself taking a lot of notes and personal reflections throughout the first section, I summarize it here to share with you the wisdoms of Julie Simon.

1. Establish the Habit of Self-Connection

–   Disconnection from self is the primary cause of emotional eating; it leads to feelings of emptiness and meaninglessness.

–   Overeating is an attempt to soothe or increase pleasure but it often leads to unpleasant emotions like guilt and frustration.

–   Ignoring emotions take energy and results in their inappropriate expression, such as in chronic body pain, reactive emotional states, and relationship difficulties.

–   Some needs are met by others, sometimes intimacy and companionship, but most of the time adults can meet their own needs and are in fact best equipped to do so.

–   Inner Conversations ask and answer, in writing at first:

o   How am I feeling in this moment? What am I thinking and sensing? Is this someone else’s emotion?

o   What do I need? What developmental stage of life is this need? What would it look like if this need were met?

o   How can I comfort my feeling self and address my needs?

–   Self-talk thoughts have various learned “voices”: thinking self, inner nurturer, inner critic, or neutral adult.

–   “Feeling self” represents authentic childlike sensing, intuition, and pleasure-seeking that is core and unchanging.

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Intuitive Eating (100% in 1% Book Summary)

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Intuitive Eating already provides an excellent summary as appendix to the book and very worthwhile details including the science behind intuitive eating. However, as per usual, I’ve taken notes for my own reference and, of course, I’d like to share. Note many sentences are word-for-word, I’ve simply condensed it to the main parts.

Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality

Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.

The problem is that dieting thoughts usually translate into diet-like behaviours, which becomes pseudo-dieting or unconscious dieting. Examples include meticulously counting calories or carbs; eating only “safe” foods; eating only at certain times of the day; paying penance for eating “bad” foods; cutting back on food, especially when feeling fat or a when a special event comes up; pacifying hunger by drinking coffee; putting on a “false food face” in public; competing with someone else who is dieting … feeling obligated to be equally virtuous; second guessing or judging what you deserve to eat; or restricting any food for the purpose of losing weight.

One food, one meal, or one day will not make or break your health or your weight.

It can feel scary because it’s been the only tool you have known to lose weight (albeit temporarily). Let go of the false hope and disappointments from dieting.

You’re bound to defy external factors and authority figures. Only you can know your internal wisdom and be empowered.

Paradigm Shift Steps

1) Recognize and acknowledge the damage that dieting causes

– undereating leads to overeating

2) Be aware of diet mentality trains and thinking

– Forget about willpower, being obedient, and failing. Discipline only works when it aligns with deep beliefs. Rebellion to rules is a normal act of self-preservation – protecting your space, or personal boundaries. When a diet doctor or a diet plan invades your boundaries, it’s normal to feel powerless. But, instead of feeling strong from rebellion, you actually feel out of control and miserable. You can’t fail at Intuitive Eating – it’s a learning process at every point along the way.

3) Get rid of the dieter’s tools: the meal plans and the scales Continue reading