Truly, the New York Times is catching up!
In yesterday’s paper (the magazine section) was this refreshing story about the virtues of the Health at Every Size movement — such as the fact that it actually helps people be healthier and — Lord be praised — the fact that, yes Virginia, fat itself may not be such a strong indicator of true health after all:
This viewpoint received a boost in August when The Archives of Internal Medicine reported that fully half of overweight adults and one-third of the obese had normal blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar — indicating a normal risk for heart disease and diabetes, conditions supposedly caused by being fat.
This is a core argument of fat acceptance: that it’s possible to be healthy no matter how fat you are and that weight loss as a goal is futile, unnecessary and counterproductive — and that fatness is nobody’s business but your own.
Many fat-acceptance activists prefer a new approach to dieting that focuses on nutrition, exercise and body image. A new book out this fall, “Health at Every Size,” by Linda Bacon, a nutritionist and physiologist at the University of California at Davis, outlines this approach, which is less about dieting than a lifestyle change that emphasizes “intuitive eating”: listening to hunger signals, eating when you’re hungry, choosing nutritious food over junk. It encourages exercise, but for its emotional and physical benefits, not as a way to lose weight. It advocates tossing out the bathroom scale and loving your body no matter what it weighs.
Several studies suggest that if the aim is getting healthier rather than slimmer, then in the long run the “Health at Every Size” approach works better than dieting. In 2005, Bacon led the only randomized control trial to date that tested this hypothesis physiologically. She randomly assigned half of the 78 subjects, all women, to a “Health at Every Size” group; while they lost no weight, their healthier behavior led to lower blood-pressure and cholesterol levels, which stayed low even two years later. In the weight-loss group, more than 40 percent dropped out before the six-month low-calorie diet ended, and at the two-year follow-up, the average dieter had regained all her lost weight, and the only measurement that dropped was one for self-esteem.[Emphasis by Francesca]
Fat has been blamed for cardiac trouble, diabetes and some forms of cancer. But fat-acceptance activists argue that the epidemiological studies that link fatness to disease often fail to adjust for non-weight-related risk factors found more often in fat populations. Poverty, minority-group status, too much fast food, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of access to health insurance or to nonjudgmental medical care, the stress of self-loathing and being part of a stigmatized group — all are more common among fat people, and all are linked to poorer health outcomes at any weight. This makes it harder to say to what extent an association between obesity and disease is due to the fatness itself or to the risk factors that tend to go along with being fat.
Kudos to writer Robin Marantz Henig and the New York Times for finally hearing what Kate Harding has been trying to say all along.