The following post was written by Elizabeth Jarrard, RD.
Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me. Right? Words like “fat” “obese” get tossed around a lot in our society. Unfortunately they are often also associated with words like “gross” or “lazy.” These words do hurt. The stigma of weight hurts not only the person at which they are directed, but our society in general.
What exactly is weight stigma? According to BEDA “Weight stigma is bullying, teasing, negative body language, harsh comments, discrimination, or prejudice based upon a person’s body size.”
Weight stigma and bias can be verbal (insults, teasing, stereotypes, or derogatory names) or physical-bullying.
We now see that discrimination based upon weight is more prevalent than race discrimination-with a 66% increase over the past decade. “There’s an atmosphere now where it’s O.K. to blame everything on weight,” said Dr. Linda Bacon, a nutrition researcher. Research suggests images in news media of obesity extremely negative, biased, & stigmatizing- which creates prejudice. In some cases stigma results in employment discrimination where an obese employee is denied a position because of their appearance regardless of their qualifications. This isn’t just a few people-43% of overweight people report weight stigma by employers or supervisors.
Recent research has highlighted just how deeply weight stigma runs-and it’s not just in job interviews or promotions. According to Huizinga et al The higher a patient’s body mass, the less respect doctors express for that patient. Weight stigma is a significant risk factor for depression, low self esteem and body dissatisfaction. Victims of weight stigma have increased levels of stress (seen explicitly in cortisol levels and increased blood pressure), decreased desire to exercise. This creates a negative life environment that may perpetuate cycles of overeating and underexercising-creating an unhealthy lifestyle.
So what can we do?
No matter what size he or she might be it’s important that you talk to your child about weight stigma and foster within them a positive self esteem.
- Help us all to create school environments that are conducive to learning-by reducing weight stigma.
- Are you a health provider? Talk to your patients without weight stigma. Yale Rudd Center is a fantastic resource for all providers.
- As an employer-make sure you are not perpetuating weight stigma.
- Just because someone is overweight doesn’t mean they don’t exercise, they don’t eat healthfully or they are lazy. Stop those you see using weight stigma and bias. Change the stereotypes within your own mind.
We must learn to take a Health at Every Size approach and treat all individuals the same-whether they are our clients, our friends or just people we meet on the street. Weight is a number, and you can not tell someone’s entire life or health history from judging their outward appearance.
In the space of 7 days I had 3 clients tell me that they recently discovered that they truly loved getting physically active. Yes, I mean exercise (a dreaded word for some of you, I know, bear with me). And I had to blog about this because all 3 stated that they started loving exercise when two things happened:
1. They were eating enough on a consistent basis. They were no longer overly restricting but getting adequate fuel to be able to sustain a workout.
2. They were NOT doing it with the intention of trying to lose weight. They were exercising because it was fun and felt good.
Now that, my friends, is what makes my job feel totally worthwhile. So many people, particularly women, dread working out. And I’d gamble that those women
who hate exercise choose an activity they hate (does 60 minutes on the elliptical sound like hell to anyone else?) and are overly hungry (ie on a diet
and trying to lose weight).
Just imagine what would happen if you had enough energy to dance your way through a zumba class, hike through the mountains, go for a stroll with a friend,
take a restorative yoga class. If this sounds like something only dreams are made of, consider my tips for finding peace with exercise.
1. Don’t call it exercise if you hate that word.
2. Don’t do it in the name of weight loss. Check out this blog post for more detail as to why this point is so important.
3. Select activities that rejuvenate your body, not exhaust or deplete it.
4. Make sure that the types and amounts of exercise you are doing alleviates mental and physical stress, rather than contributing to or exacerbating stress.
5. Find the things you genuinely enjoy and NEVER with the intention of providing pain or punishment.
While my 5 tips may fly in the face of the advice in every Shape magazine article ever written, they just might help you find a happier, healthier balance when it comes to keeping your body strong and healthy.
And now, I gotta’ get out of my office to take stroll!
Originally published October 2013.
I don’t often use a lot of self-disclosure on my blog. In fact, the last time I shared something personal was July 2011 when I talked about my body image. But after finishing my dinner tonight I had a little conversation with myself that I wanted to share.
I love chocolate…like, a lot. I especially love German chocolate. Ok, to be more specific I LOVE Milka Schoko and Keks and I love the Butter Biscuit by Rittersport. As luck would have it, Trader Joe’s sells those Rittersport bars at a very reasonable price. I typically have at least one back up bar in my treat bowl at home. (Yes, another reveal, I have a treat bowl at home.)
So I came home tonight after a very full day at work. In fact, it was an unusually full day. I sat down to a meal that was just what I needed on a cold, rainy evening. I was tired and hungry and couldn’t wait to eat. After I finished my meal I started to think about my Butter Biscuit waiting for me in the treat bowl. I got all excited knowing that it was just what I wanted to finish my meal. I broke off a line of chocolate and noticed that I was eating it with tremendous delight. The chocolate was making me quite happy, quite warm and fuzzy, and I noticed the stress of my day begin to dissipate.
And that’s when I started to think about the difference between eating WITH emotion and emotional eating. I talk about emotional eating most days with my clients and I can assure you that there is a difference! Emotional eating has a few particular qualities:
- It is used to cover up, diminish, numb or avoid challenging emotions.
- It happens with great speed and little pleasure. It goes in the mouth and down the hatch before you can savor a single bite.
- It leaves you feeling physically unwell after you have eaten.
- It creates disconnection with yourself.
- It is often followed by guilt, remorse, and shame.
Now what I described above is light years away from eating WITH emotion! Eating WITH emotion includes getting super excited to eat a meal you love or try a new restaurant you’ve heard friends raving about. Eating WITH emotion is eating things that are super yummy and satisfying. Eating WITH emotion leaves you feeling physically satisfied and content and emotionally balanced or even happy!
Not every snack is going to be the zen experience I described earlier. Not every meal will send you to Cloud 9. BUT, I truly believe that experiences of eating WITH emotion are vital to our health and well-being.
So when was the last time you ate WITH emotion? What did you eat? And if you haven’t lately, what’s stopping you? Hop to it, your body will thank you. J
There often seems to be common themes that appear in my nutrition counseling work. And it always amazes me how many clients seem to be working through similar struggles at any given moment. Over the past two months there has been an unusual amount of grief that my clients have been working through.
Grief is such a challenging emotion. All emotions ebb and flow. But when grief hits it can feel unending. One of the best therapists I know has called grief “emotional death.” And if you have experienced it, you know that description feels incredibly accurate.
So why talk about grief on a nutrition counseling blog? I talk about it because grief affects our ability to take care of ourselves. When we are overcome with grief our sleep suffers, eating becomes difficult, and getting through the day feels like climbing through quicksand. So here are some self-care tips to consider while coping with grief.
- Find a mantra that feels soothing- “I will not always feel this bad”, “Other people have gone through this experience and survived”, “This level of emotional pain cannot be sustained and will subside”.
- Send a message to trusted people in your life to express your pain. Explain that they don’t have to necessarily do anything. Just let them know so you feel less alone in your pain.
- If you can think of specific things that another person could do for you, ask. When I was going through a particularly challenging time I emailed some friends to make me food for a week. I knew feeding myself felt too overwhelming and I was tired of eating cereal for every meal.
- Focus on engaging in one task per day that settles your nervous system down. We often forget that we experience emotions in and through our bodies. Our bodies need care and nurturing in order to get through difficult times. Things that settle your system may be a bath, a massage, listening to peaceful music, or practicing mindfulness.
A client of mine, who is going through some serious grief, found and shared this wonderful yoga for grief meditation. It’s free and I highly recommend it. It’s actually what inspired this post, so enjoy!
Have you made it through a seemingly impossible and painful time in your life? What helped you cope with the feelings of grief and how did you take good care of yourself during such a difficult time? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Satisfaction: Fulfillment of one's wishes, expectations, or needs, or the pleasure derived from this.Synonyms: gratification - contentment - content – pleasure
Eating food that is truly satisfying is one of the MOST important aspects of feeding yourself. Now those words may be considered heresy in a day and age that promotes rigid, controlled eating. In fact, I just read a greeting card the other day that said something to the effect that getting healthy is the equivalent of eating food you don’t like. This card made me both angry and sad. Just think of the French! Now these are people who know how to eat with satisfaction.
When you are fully tuned in to the experience of eating in a way that brings genuine satisfaction it feels both nourishing and energizing. And don't forget that it's one of the pillars of Intuitive Eating. And as I explain to my clients when you eat a meal that is sufficiently filling and satisfying, some amazing things happen:
•Obsessive food thoughts decrease
•Urges to over or compulsively eat lessen
•Self-esteem improves as you gain confidence in feeding yourself
•Physical health improves
Often, people confuse eating with satisfaction and eating with abandon! Take a look at those synonyms again: gratification, contentment, pleasure. Now imagine the following scenarios.
Scenario 1: It’s lunch time and you are craving a cheeseburger. You immediately tell yourself that it’s fattening and bad and ignore the craving and order a chicken salad (dressing on the side) instead. In the moment you feel virtuous…but then an hour or so later you feel hungry and you’re still thinking about that burger. You're bothered by hunger and food thoughts the rest of the afternoon, thanks to your unsatisfying meal.
Scenario 2: It’s lunch time and you are craving a cheeseburger. You tell yourself that it’s fattening and bad but somehow find yourself in the drive through ordering a supersize meal of a cheeseburger, fries, and soda. Before you know it, you eat it up quickly telling yourself you’ll be better tomorrow. You’re left feeling guilty, overfull, and uncomfortable.
Scenario 3: It’s lunch time and you are craving a cheeseburger. You tell yourself that it’s fattening and bad but then you suddenly remember that all foods are legal! You can eat whatever you want when you feel hungry. So you check in with your hunger levels and assess that the cheeseburger down the street is exactly what you’re craving and matches your hunger level just right. You eat it with full permission, without the shame and guilt and return to work feeling great both physically and emotionally.
I often share the following scales with my clients:
And for those of you doubters out there, scenario 3 is not impossible. The wonderful thing about TRULY listening to your hunger and cravings, is that you’ll learn to feed your body just what it needs when it needs it. You’ll come to realize that your body doesn’t want M&Ms 24/7. Don’t trust me? Give it a try and let me know your results.
What are your thoughts about eating with true satisfaction? Impossible? Frightening? Exciting? Share!