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.


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Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (Book Summary)

I read this book by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, a social psychologist, because, well, I want to be more successful at reaching my goals – don’t we all? The research discussed here-within supports my objective because willpower is not an innate strength – it a muscle of self-control and perseverance – and therefore it can be improved through exercise and rest, and compensated for with customized incentives.

The cherry on top is that developing self-control in one area improves it in many other areas of your life – cleaning more regularly, for instance, when you get in the habit of exercising regularly – without conscious intention. Resting, by the way, can be as simple as thinking of something uplifting or someone you know with self-control (as long as you don’t imagine simulating it, which exercises self-control when you need to rest). The point is that anyone can succeed, you and me included.

Get Ready

Know thyself. I tend to think in more abstract terms, describing the why of my behaviour, because big-picture and long-term give me a sense of purpose. But thinking in concrete terms is more useful when the behaviour is unfamiliar and complex, or when you need to evaluate feasibility for the near future and take action.

I also tend to believe if I have to work hard at something, I must not be very good at it, and therefore prefer to do things that come naturally to me. This approach can cost me enriching life experiences. At the same time, I’ve always been a fan of self-improvement, secretly practicing basketball for hours and hours because it was something I wanted even while I recognized it was never going to be my forte. Following this incremental theory keeps me improving despite mistakes.

  • Set specific, difficult (but possible) goals so you don’t settle for “good enough” and instead enjoy your accomplishment.
  • Be confident you will succeed but recognize the process will be challenging so you’re prepared to put in the effort required.
  • Just about anything can trigger goal pursuit unconsciously, including cues we set up for ourselves. Simply befriending academically ambitious students, for instance, led me to pursue my desires more directly without realizing the effect at the time.

Get Set

Different outlooks impact many aspects of how we attain goals. For instance, due to my tendency toward conservative preservation (see prevention-focused goals below), I can pick a path and stick to it without procrastinating. But when I have a promotion goal (see below), I’m more exploratory, abstract, creative, and risk-taking. The trick is to set the right goal for the person and situation. If I need speed now, I go for promotion – if I need accuracy and maintenance, I go for prevention.

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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

Introvert Visibility at Work

Many managers and vice presidents I’ve worked with want their communication loud and fast. One VP only reads subject lines, not the body of emails. As a conscientious introvert, I am not naturally or comfortably loud or fast. I am thoughtful and reserved.

I’m glad I’m thoughtful and reserved. I listen and take my time to process thoroughly. I’m less happy about being misunderstood and unheard by extroverts. Also disappointing is when fellow introverts seek approval by “fixing” their personality, i.e. acting extremely extroverted.

Unless I can change the way things work now, though, it’s up to me to adapt to the environment. There are some circumstances when introverts are better off playing up our extrovert sides. Sometimes we all do well to go outside our comfort zones.

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Improve Emotional Intelligence to Benefit All Areas of Life

Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ) is more beneficial than IQ to all areas of your life: work satisfaction and success, physical and mental health, relationships, happiness – everything. Genetics and life experience help shape EQ, and it increases with age, but you can also improve it deliberately with consistent effort just as easily – or as difficultly – as, say, changing your eating habits. 

To assess your current level of EQ, Success magazine recommends reflecting on the following questions:

  • Are you usually aware of your feelings and why you feel that way?
  • Can you manage your distressing emotions well–e.g., recover quickly when you get upset or stressed?
  • Can you usually sense the feelings of the people you interact with and understand their way of seeing things?
  • Do you have a knack for persuasion and using your influence effectively? 

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