NP0014 Diets and Our Demons

This blog focuses on discussion regarding the course NP0014 Diets and Our Demons.

NP0014, Diets, Session 3, Linda Bacon


Linda Bacon, researcher, professor, and author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, will discuss the evidence illustrating that popular ideas regarding weight loss as equal to positive self-care can actually hinder a healthy lifestyle. She’ll cover the science that disputes conventional perspectives about health and weight, how working toward weight-loss goals can undermine a client’s ability to achieve positive, healthy habits, how to help clients understand that self-nourishment is more important than weight loss, and much more.

After listening to the session, please share on the Comment Board what you learned and any questions you may have. What was most interesting or relevant to you? We invite you to include your name and hometown with your comment, and to take a few minutes to read and respond to other participants’ comments.

If you have any technical questions, please feel free to contact support@psychotherapynetworker.org. Thanks for your participation.

01.31.2012   Posted In: NP0014 Diets and Our Demons   By Psychotherapy Networker
You must login to leave comment. Why?

  • Not available avatar Jim Kubalewski 01.31.2012 14:05
    I appreciated the opportunity to have my attitudes challenged regarding weight and fat. It appears that it is much healthier for us to focus on what kinds of behaviors are healthy, rather than what should I weigh. Getting in touch with my own self or the client's inner life and what his or her body is telling her seems to be better than having those outside the self telling one how to live and to eat in order to lose weight.

    I also really liked the idea of self acceptance and compassion which I think is a much healthier approach than being thin and attractive with little self acceptance and compassion. Putting the emphasis on the self rather than external controls and mandates made a lot of sense.
  • 0 avatar Michael Winters 01.31.2012 14:06
    Linda: I agree with most of what you have to say. However, I believe that BMI, as a population measure (not as an individual health index), is demonstrating increase in weight at an alarming rate. I do not want to stigmatize individuals, but am concerned that the health and mental health fields need to be aware of and appropriately respond to this phenomenon. How can we do that while reducing bias about any individuals weight?
    • Not available avatar Linda Bacon 02.01.2012 20:05
      If your concern is that weight is increasing at an alarming rate, rest assured that that's old news - according to CDC data, weights actually stabilized almost a decade ago. I can't imagine that anyone in the physical/mental health fields is unaware that weights have increased over the last few decades and I'm not sure why you feel they need increased awareness. I'd like to see more attention to the other issue you raised, however, weight stigma, which gets remarkably little attention yet causes quite a bit of harm. For a more detailed discussion of why fat stigma is much more problematic than fat, please see this blog post I wrote: http://healthateverysizeblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/the-haes-files-fat-stigma-not-fat-%E2%80%93-is-the-real-enemy/. The post makes the argument that we will be much more successful at addressing health concerns by tackling stigma as opposed to weight. Glad you're thinking about these issues.
  • Not available avatar sunny 02.04.2012 17:24
    Hi Linda,
    I enjoyed and agree with the essence of your talk philosophically, especially considering that we don't have anything effective for sustainable weight loss at this point and time. However, I would be interested in seeing how you would debate against all the basic research data showing the oxydative stress and general derangement comes with excess fat in the body in metabolic and circulatory end meaning to the very obvious diseases like CHD and DM type 2 etc. thanks.
    • Not available avatar Linda Bacon 02.06.2012 11:12
      There's no doubt that for some people, excess fat contributes to disease risk, though it does seem clear that it's role has been highly exaggerated. But regardless, its clear that there are more effective ways to improve metabolic health than encouraging weight loss. For example, you'll be much more successful at improving the metabolic disorders that are associated with obesity by supporting people in improved stress management, exercise and nutritional habits. These factors have been well demonstrated to yield good results, regardless of whether there is weight loss. I address these issues in much more academic detail here: http://www.nutritionj.com/content/10/1/9.
  • Not available avatar Nina 02.04.2012 23:31
    I very much appreciate your emphasis on self-acceptance as fundamental to self-care and well-being, also on the body's ability to know what it needs. (As a therapist who is equally interested in my clients' physical health, I tend to advise them to simply eat healthy, and their body will respond as it needs to--whether it is to gain or lose weight or stay the same.) But I am wondering whether a person might not be so unbalanced nutritionally that they cannot depend on the body's wisdom and must make some decisions initially that run counter to what foods they are attracted to--which of course would create a struggle. I'll be very interested in your response. Thank you so much for an excellent presentation.
    • Not available avatar Linda Bacon 02.06.2012 11:56
      I think body wisdom always provides us with good info. (There are of course exceptions to this. For example, I think of people who have Prader Willi Syndrome, which damages their appetite control center.) The challenge for most people is re-learning sensitivity to their body's messages.

      Sometimes nutrition or health education can help people learn more about how to read their bodies and the effect that food has on them. It's very common for people to believe that their body isn't talking to them, but when I probe I can see clear evidence. How many people do you know, for example, who have magazines in their bathrooms? That's a sign of lack of fiber in their diet. Yet its so normalized that many people don't even notice the message.

      Part of the challenge of the therapeutic relationship is to help people make good choices despite their individual challenges. Consider a lactose intolerant client who loves the taste of dairy products. You can't take the conflict away - eating foods she is attracted to results in pain - but you can support her in accepting her reality, considering the consequences, and negotiating the choice.

      The question of how to handle struggle is quite challenging and I can't come up with a sound bite response. (Do get on my mailing list because I have an entire book coming out on this topic.) But I do think its important to make peace with conflict. Humans will have conflicting values - for example, our tastes may draw us to certain foods that may not be in the best interest of our health - and again, we need to learn how to manage this and make peace with our choices. Forcing ourselves to eat certain things because we have an idea that they are healthy is not the answer, as people will find that quite unsatisfying. Likewise, eating stuff that only tastes good but doesn't provide other benefits will result in discomfort. But we can come to a place where we make choices that feel right to us and honor all our different values.
  • Not available avatar Sneha Nikam 02.05.2012 09:32
    It is so interesting to know the notion of self-acceptance and compassion itself resolves many of the issues in life, including now with regard to health and fitness. Truly, its important how we think and feel about ourselves reflects back to us at every point of time and in any circumstaces. My sincere thanks to Linda Ma'am, what an informative and interesting presentation.
    Regards, Rich Sir, enjoying all the presentaions.

    Mumbai (India).
  • Not available avatar Constance Cordain 02.05.2012 19:23
    Linda, Thanks so very much for bringing science and sense to this issue. The knowledge that dieting doesn't promote health or long term weight loss has been known for so long, but our experts cling tightly to their fat-phobic attitudes. I think fat phobia is related to misogyny, as the only good woman is a small woman is a commonly held belief. Your comments on this webinar are so refreshing and hopeful. Looking forward to reading your book.
  • Not available avatar Anne 02.05.2012 21:20
    This is thought-provoking and important - it's always important to look at the data and draw conclusions, rather than starting with our conclusions and seeking confirmatory data!

    If we can get everyone moving and getting some daily exercise (including me!), it seems like we'll be heading in the right direction. I wish I didn't have such a sedentary job!
  • Not available avatar Kaye Wright 02.08.2012 02:01
    Hi Linda,
    Thanks for the webinar. I really enjoyed your simple explanation of what appears to be complicated (but really isn't). Your thinking very much reflects my own way of working with clients so it's great to have another resource. Good luck with your conference debate.

    Kaye Wright
    Naturopath, Melbourne Australia
  • Not available avatar Klay Lamprell 02.08.2012 07:45
    This is fascinating stuff. The idea that dieting causes us to be overweight was suggested back in the 70s within a sociological framework, but it wasn't given credence by the medical community. Perhaps Linda's science-based premise will inspire a change in approach... Thank you Linda.
  • Not available avatar Karen 02.13.2012 23:18
    Hi Linda I work with young people in a school setting and am translating what you are saying is also relevant to young growing bodies. I am wondering the best way in educating and reassuring those very special adults who have genuine care concern and regard for the young people who are "fat" or "obese". What is the best way to work together with these improtant people in the lives of our young children to help the young people develop well and in a healthy way. Thankyou for your webinar.
  • 0 avatar Elena Estanol 02.25.2012 21:36
    I am so glad that you are working so hard at putting the message out there and disseminating this information amoung professionals who can have the most impact. I completely endorse your message and practice this with my clients. I am an eating disorder therapist and I have so many clients who come to me who have been on a diet for many years, have attended "weight loss camps", have been given messages by doctors that they need to lose weight and given terrible advice, and are now struggling for their lives because they developed eating disorders! It is incredibly sad that this is happening and that we continue to disseminate and to propagate erroneous information in the name of health. I am also a sport psychologist, so I often encourage intuitive eating, physical activity and engagement in their lives in accordance with their values and strengths, rather than focusing on appearance. I am also a fan on health at every size, so I was so glad to hear you will be going to ADA and debating. Well done!
You must login to leave comment. Why?
I do blog this IDoBlog Community