This Is Not a Diet Book!

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While reading two books, The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Two Whole Cakes, I came across references to a movement called “Health at Every Size (HAES).”  Unfamiliar with the phrase, I did a little research and found a book called Health at Every Size: the Surprising Truth about Your Weight by Linda Bacon.  In her book, Bacon discusses obesity and dieting and concludes that humans have evolved to store fat well, but not to lose it.  She uses scientific studies (she herself is a scientist) to back up her argument that diets don’t work and that a number on scale does not determine a person’s health or wellbeing.  Bacon urges people not to look at food (any food) as good or bad, but to listen to their bodies and eat food that makes them feel their best—energized and  strong.  She also encourages readers to incorporate more activity into their daily lives, but to focus on activity that is enjoyable and not a chore. 

This is not a diet book; in fact it’s the opposite: Bacon advises people to pay attention the way their bodies feel in relation to food and movement to improve health, not to lose weight.  I really, really liked this book; it was incredibly refreshing to read a book talking about health that urges you to listen to your body, to trust it to tell you what you need—I’d rather trust myself with my health than a diet industry that makes a huge profit selling people one particular body ideal.


health at every size: the surprising truth about your weight

Posted by Caitlin Hoag at 06/06/2013 09:51:13 AM | 

Thank you. I hadn't heard of this book. I've shied away from anything that sounds as if it could possibly be a diet book because so many seemed to sidestep the unique nature of each body. And so many seem to be devoted purely to the agenda of promoting an image of some non-existent ideal form. It's nice to think there might be something out there that promotes sensibility rather than trying to jam bodies into eating disorder-based illusions.
Posted by: Lee Ann Johnson ( Email ) at 6/6/2013 12:46 PM

Thank you for sharing! I've been trying to tell my sisters and girlfriends for years that we all have different body types, and we won't all get the same results if we do the same thing. Finding what works best for you is the key, and if you enjoy it.. well, all the better!
Posted by: Bethany ( Email ) at 6/6/2013 2:15 PM

I totally agree with everything here except this: "Bacon urges people not to look at food (any food) as good or bad, but to listen to their bodies." Bacon (pun intended) is objectively bad for you, even though I personally love it and feel great just thinking about it! Oatmeal for breakfast is simply better. Blueberries good; fast food bad. Spinach good; red meat bad. In other words, there is such thing as nutrition-science. Still, I get the underlying point and agree and think that excercise and moderation are all part of the conversation.
Posted by: Matt S ( Email ) at 6/7/2013 10:32 AM

Matt--Of course some foods are more nutritious than others, but seeing food as either moral or immoral (good v. bad) doesn't do anyone any good. It just causes a lot of guilt and shame and yo-yo dieting. Chances are, eating tons of bacon and fast food aren't going to make you feel good--and eating all of the same foods (either "super foods" or junk food) is going to get boring. It's all about context--is bacon objectively bad for you if you eat it occasionally as part of a varied diet?
Posted by: CaitlinH ( Email ) at 6/11/2013 7:40 AM

I know someone who for many years was in denial of being lactose intolerant. A big bowl of milk and cereal every morning and never thought twice about cheese or any other dairy. When she finally cut dairy out her diet completely she felt so much better, but prior to this I don't think she ever realized how bad she was feeling. It was just day to day life. I also have had friends throughout the years who have been such picky eaters they will barely eat any fruits or vegetables. If you asked them, they would say they felt good eating only cheeseburgers, pizza and pasta and felt bad after eating spinach or an avocado. I like the idea of eating what makes my body feel good but it may be too simplistic on its own. I feel good when I eat that second Dorito because I am craving it so badly or that Sweetwater's donut that has been making my mouth water. Couple hours later I may feel lethargic and spacey but in the short course I feel good. When I eat a bowl oatmeal or a salad, I may again feel good and energized for a while but crappy after two hours when my breakfast or lunch has worn off and I have no snack at work. Of course, if I continue to eat the oatmeal and salad on a daily basis and try not to stop at Sweetwater's each time I drive by, this healthier lifestyle should help me feel better for years to come. "Good" in the short term is too subjective and there has to be a level of education that goes along with a message like this about what constitutes a healthy diet.
Posted by: Elysha ( Email ) at 6/11/2013 9:14 AM

Well, the book's information isn't as simple as "do what feels good"--there's more to it than that. Bacon recommends keeping a food journal to track how you feel before, during, and after eating--she specifically wants people to recognize how they feel later. So maybe you feel great at first eating a donut, then an hour later have a sugar crash--the idea is to recognize that and keep those feelings in mind when you're making food choices.
Posted by: Caitlin H ( Email ) at 6/11/2013 12:59 PM

I absolutely LOVE that this is not a diet book and the author's name is Bacon!

I've always known that dieting doesn't work (having watched my mother try all the different fad diets) and that the best thing for a person to do is to eat healthy, watch their portion sizes, eat several smaller meals throughout the day and get some exercise (I consider two flights of stairs in my house and doing laundry as exercise when the washer is in the basement & my bedroom is on the second floor haha).
Posted by: Amie Fournier-Flather ( Email ) at 6/12/2013 10:41 AM

I also had not heard of this, so thank you for "Staff Picks" that provide opportunities to explore books that may not show up on the radar in other ways. This has affirmed much of what I've wondered. Certainly society's fixation on being thin to be healthy puts out pressure to diet to attain that goal. I've never heard anyone suggest that diets perpetuate the problem, rather than help it.
Posted by: Deb ( Email ) at 7/10/2013 7:56 AM

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