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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100% of Overwhelmed in 1% the Time (Book Summary)

In the Middle Ages, the sin of sloth could mean two things: the laziness we picture now and the sense that “There’s no real place I’m going, but by God, I’m making great time getting there.”

It seems we have contradictory information. John Robinson’s studies show people work the same amount of time, or less, as 40 years ago. He believes “Saying, ‘I don’t have time,’ is just another way of saying, ‘I’d rather do something else.'” Meanwhile, a Health Canada report shows more and more experience role overload, leading to mental and physical ails, suggesting “these workloads re not sustainable over the long term.” Any leisure time is scattered and fragmented by multi-tasking.

Busyness serves many purposes, making people feel important with purpose. Many feel guilty for any leisure. But the chronic stress of busyness actually shrinks the prefrontal cortex (while mindfulness grows the prefrontal cortex), which is responsible for our highest cognitive executive functions. It also impairs the immune system, increasing vulnerability to inflammation and a host of ails. And, it can literally alter the DNA in children. How you feel about stress in your life is the best predictor of your general health.

Overwork is also harmful to work performance. Face time for the sake of face time, for instance, impedes creativity and good thinking. When employees have a full personal life, though, they are more engaged, productive, and innovative in their professional life. This is why France, Germany, and the Netherlands established rights to flexible or short work hours. This is why the Dutch government promotes a program that allows parents to work overlapping 4-day weeks so childcare is only needed for three days.

Danish mothers have on average 1.5 hours of child-less leisure time daily – more than any other country studied. They belong to sports clubs, take courses of interest, and build lasting friendships at mothers groups. They tend to value achievement and possessions less – instead prioritizing a good life and finding status in leisure activities. At work, they focus on efficiency. Denmark is one of the most productive countries with one of the highest standard of living, and the smallest gap between rich and poor.

Strategies

The ability to choose what really interests you and follow through on the leisure plans, without letting them become more work, may need to be re-learned. Part of it has to do with developing self-efficacy to put yourself first by (1) doing things you do well to remind yourself you can, (2) finding role models or mentors, and (3) accepting and believing positive feedback. When you worry you’re not enough, you set unrealistic expectations for yourself to try proving that worry wrong, but it backfires because you set yourself up to fall short. The other part is priority. Plan weekly the important stuff in the calendar, including a small chunk of time to complete the unimportant stuff, and everything else will flow around it.

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Attention: Mindful Meditation FTW

A common place to find me is on my computer in front of TV. My boyfriend is often playing a video game in front of TV. Add the third distraction of a cell phone, and you have my typical state of divided attention.

When I did the free week of Headspace, I actually found improved ability to sit calmly and focus on the guided meditation. It’s a good place to start. Once you have that skill, you can bring mindful meditation to walking, yoga, and other relaxing activities. Some people find running meditative – I haven’t gotten there.  Continue reading

50 Ways to Soothe Yourself (100% in 1% Book Summary)

Many people are taught to mindlessly distract themselves to self-soothe. These temporary solutions like emotional eating can become the source of distress. For this reason, I just finished the audiobook for 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food by Susan Albers (who also wrote EatQ, the first book I summarized in my 100% in 1% series). Although I’m familiar with many of the techniques described in this book, I found it very helpful to have them listed together with practical advice.  

Albers states we learned self-soothing from our primary caregivers and others early on. Interestingly then, if you did not get hugs when you were younger, a hug now may not help. You also may not have been taught how to talk yourself down. Or perhaps you taught yourself through trial and error. According to attachment theory, you can strengthen these skills at any point in your life.

Practice healthier coping mechanisms so you’re good at them by the time you need them.

At first, you don’t have to change your behaviour, just mindfully observe your eating patterns for at least a week. Go at your own pace. Pay attention to your feelings, observing urges. Take baby steps. Shape your behaviour by rewarding gradual steps. You don’t have to do anything perfectly, just do something close to the desired behaviour. When you’re ready, fully engage in the behaviour to get familiar and habituated.

Take an inventory of your most successful soothing techniques to leverage your strengths. Every morning, check in with yourself and make a self-soothing forecast to prepare accordingly. Check before eating if you have emotional or physical hunger.

If you don’t know what to do in an emotional emergency, choose one technique from each of the five areas below to cover all needs. Try techniques more than once because they may be more helpful in different circumstances.

Mindfulness Meditation

1. Create mindful moments. Stop and mindfully smell the roses, noticing sensations. Try a mindful walk.

2. Practice meditating. There are many meditation styles to help clear your mind. The relaxation response reverses the fight-or-flight response.

3. Breathe. Mindful breathing draws your attention away from stressful thoughts. Talk to yourself about how to breathe well.

4. Strengthen your endurance to counter stress eating. Slow down and make conscious choices. Create a 5-10 minute gap between feeling an urge to eat and responding to it.

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Eat Q (100% in 1% Book Summary)

This is the first post in my series of ‘100% in 1%’ by which I mean 100% of the key messages in 1% the time to read. I devour books, particularly the self-improvement variety, and create summaries for myself to reference. Speaking with an expert in the wellness community, I was encouraged to share these summaries with people who have the interest but not the time to read so much (in other words, most people).

I hope you’ll help me shape this to be as helpful as possible for you! Please comment below or contact me directly via the About page or Twitter.

Original: Eat Q: Unlock the Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence by Susan Albers

Concept

  • Eat Q is a play on IQ which combines implications from research on Emotional Intelligence (EI), emotional eating, and mindfulness. For instance, EI involves emotional regulation, which is is about understanding and tempering emotions so they work for you, not against you. It is the dimmer switch that allows you to turn down a specific emotion to the level that feels right.
  • Emotionally driven eating is when food decisions are determined by current emotional states, often leading to automatic reactions. For instance, emotional eaters tend to consume more sweets when sad, double the chocolate when depressed, and overall more calories whether happy or lonely.
  • Eating issues are ingrained in our brains. Food reward is associated with the mesolimbic dopamine system and sensitivity to sweet and fatty foods. In the prefontal cortex, both inhibitory control and time discounting (favouring an immediate reward over a better reward in the future) are located in the dorsolateral region. The memory of a food that felt good or comforting in the past is stored in the amygdala.
  • What we resist persists. Both avoiding and clinging to feelings drain your energy.
  • Self-control is a strategic allocation of your attention; “change the way you think instead of trying to suppress a thought.” “You can’t decide how you feel. You can decide what you’ll eat.” The moment of decisions is the one you can control so it is the one that matters.

 Recommendations 

  • The EAT Method is to Embrace feelings (notice, identify, feel); Accept them; and, Turn to positive, healthy ways to manage feelings and moderate eating. Learn to reconnect and identify feelings with words. Sit with them – pain is okay for a short time and feelings pass, cravings pass.
  • Rather than emotionally driven eating, the objective is insight driven decisions. In this way, feelings are used for guidance only. They are still important or you may get stuck in an internal pros & cons debate.
  • Know yourself. What is your decision making style? Consider how you deal with stress in a good moment, and how you deal in a difficult moment. Peek behind your cravings to understand triggers: where are you, what are you doing, who is there, how are you feeling, and why do you want to eat?
  • Food may numb an emotion but it won’t get rid of it. Look for what is useful about an emotion then commit to taking one action to manage it in a positive way.
  • Build a new healthy habit consistently for 2 months; it may take that long before it becomes natural with little effort, no willpower. Then move onto the next.
  • Planning to eat may be part of the pleasure and overeating an attempt to prolong the pleasure. Turn daydreaming toward aspirations beyond the next meal.

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