Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight (3 page)

—STEVEN BLAIR, MD, professor, University of South Carolina
 
 
“You weren’t born with a user’s manual for living happily and in good health. What do you eat? What exercise do you do? How do you think and feel about your body? I’m tempted to say that this book writes the chapters on these crucial questions for the user’s manual. What you hold here is even better—a description and proof of how you (and your body) are already the best possible how-to guide available. Linda Bacon’s
Health at Every Size
is a humane and necessary resource for everybody.”
—MARILYN WANN, activist, author of
Fat!So?: Because You Don’t Have to Apologize for Your Size
 
 
“A more sensible approach to thinking about body weight regulation than the current mainstream view and a welcome change from the diet-of-the-month roller coaster. Perfect for repeat dieters looking for a new path and those interested in taking the first step toward size acceptance.”
—SONDRA SOLOVAY, JD, author of
Tipping the Scales of Justice:
Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination,
director, Fat Legal Advocacy, Rights and Education Project
 
 
“In
Health at Every Size,
Linda Bacon offers a fascinating exploration of the science behind weight gain and loss, or more to the point, why we have such a hard time losing weight and keeping it off. The
coup de grace,
though, is her presentation of an approach to giving up the weight struggle and getting on with your life in a healthy, happy way. If you want to end weight worries, buy this book.”
—MARSHA HUDNALL, MS, RD, CD, program director, Green Mountain at Fox Run
 
 
“Dr. Bacon eloquently provides readers with a clear understanding of the science regarding the body’s physiological response to restrictive dieting and excellent tools for building a new relationship with one’s self in respect to food, body image, physical activity, and attitude.”
—MARCI GETZ, MPH, health educator
 
 
“Every person considering a diet should first read Dr. Bacon’s book
Health at Every Size.
Dr. Bacon does an excellent job of explaining the science behind the failure of dieting to successfully maintain weight loss. She offers an alternative health model that takes the emphasis off of weight, and results in people enjoying food and physical activity and making peace with their bodies. Well done Dr. Bacon!”
-CONNIE SOBCZAK, director, The Body Positive
 
 
“Now, I finally have a concise clear source for my clients who are casualties of the ‘war on obesity.’ In
Health at Every Size,
Linda Bacon introduces the concept of self-care and body appreciation for every body of every size! This is a profoundly new way to make peace with our bodies and with food. This is the end to the battle of the bulge.”
—KELLY BLISS, MED, ACE, psychotherapist, author of
Don’t Weight: Eat Healthy and Get Moving Now!
and
Kelly Bliss’ Yellow Pages
 
 
“One would think that with as much emphasis in advertising and public health policy on weight loss that a great deal of research has been done as to the benefits of dieting for weight loss. One would think that logically, but one would be wrong. While statistical correlations between weight and health are constantly being calculated, the truth is very little direct study has been done regarding dieting, weight loss, and health.
Health at Every Size
is based upon groundbreaking research by Linda Bacon, PhD, which set out to see if going on a diet really makes one healthier. What Bacon’s research discovered is what every fat person who has spent years conducting [his or her] own personal experiments already knew:
Diets Don’t Work.
This book should revolutionize America’s obsession with weight!”
—PATTIE THOMAS, PHD, coauthor of
Taking Up Space: How Eating Well and Exercising Regularly Changed My Life
 
 
“This book will revolutionize the way people think about what it means to be at a “healthy weight.” Linda Bacon is at the forefront of an exciting new field of research that is debunking many of the myths about weight and health: myths that combine to make Americans less healthy, less happy, and often heavier than they would otherwise be. As Dr. Bacon illustrates, the key to a happy, healthy weight is to recognize that one person’s own “ideal” weight is quite independent of—and often radically different than—that of other people’s. This simple but powerful idea is crucial to understanding what it means to achieve health at every size.”
—PAUL CAMPOS, professor of law, University of Colorado, and author of
The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession With Weight Is Hazardous To Your Health
 
 
“Dr. Linda Bacon’s
Health at Every Size
makes laudable strides toward a long overdue revolution of the diet industry and the war we have waged against our bodies. She eloquently details the science of nourishing oneself and maintaining a healthy body amidst a culture fraught with political and economically driven agendas. With scientific reasoning accessible to a popular audience and abundant data to support her arguments, this book is a must-read not only for people struggling with their weight, but also for those in the health care profession who treat people struggling with their weight. This book is a sobering reality check of the unforeseen consequences of America’s obsession with weight, and more importantly,
Health at Every Size
provides a tenable solution.”
—JANELL MENSINGER, PHD, director, Office of Research, The Reading Hospital and Medical Center
 
 
“Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight
is the book we’ve all been waiting for. Dr. Linda Bacon has translated complicated information about the physiology of weight, food, dieting, and eating into manageable, understandable language. She intersperses her own life experiences into the text, making her book highly personal and readable. The interactive checklists will help individuals put the
Health at Every Size
concepts into practice immediately. I plan to recommend this book to all my clients and colleagues.”
—ELLYN HERB, PHD, CEDS, psychologist and eating disorder specialist
 
 
“For years, Linda Bacon has been the voice of reason to professionals working with clients who have eating, exercise, and body-image problems. We now have a great way to offer that same assistance to our clients.
Health at Every Size
will definitely be on the ‘Top 10 Recommended’ list I give to clients.”
—LAURA MCKIBBIN, MSW, LISW, clinical social worker
 
 
“Packed full of surprising but convincing information about nutrition, food politics, and fat politics,
Health at Every Size
is an eye-opener. Linda Bacon cuts right through the lies, half-truths, biased reports, and questionable science about eating and exercise, and teaches us how to treat our bodies with genuine care and respect.”
—KATE HARDING, co-creator, Shapely Prose blog
 
DEDICATION
 
 
 
 
F
or Meg Tara Webster, a role model for a life well lived.
 
I asked Meg to help me live more fully in the present. She advised that I choose an ordinary action and imbue it with meaning. Each time I did this action, I was to take a few deep breaths and appreciate the present. I chose a challenging action to serve as this cue, something I do many times each day: beginning and ending work on my computer. This process has been invaluable to me as I’ve written this book, helping me to be productive and appreciative of the work and also supporting me in letting go of my work at appropriate times.
 
The value of cultivating an appreciation for the present has become even more painfully vivid to me as I watch Meg bravely confront her mortality, providing yet another lesson in how to live life with gratitude, immediacy, authenticity, and heart.
 
Thank you, Meg, for your contribution to this book and to my world.
 
MEG TARA WEBSTER
Died 10/8/08
 
PREFACE
 
I
am tempted to weigh myself, to reassure myself and you, the reader, that I am qualified to write a book about weight regulation and can lead you through your own journey of understanding and making peace with your body. Withstanding the temptation has at times been like the fight of an alcoholic to stay sober, the drive a clear statement of the insidious nature of the cultural attitudes that have lodged inside my psyche.
 
Only through extraordinary effort and education have I been able to free myself from my obsession with weight. Starting in early adolescence, I stayed abreast of the day-to-day differences on the scale. Convinced that I would be more popular if I weighed less, I started dieting to escape a weight problem that existed only in my head. I would endure weeks on a semi-starvation diet until my desperation for food drove me to eat everything in sight. I thought there was something deeply wrong with me because I could not control my unrelenting drive to eat.
 
Despite my preoccupation with losing weight and my repeated attempts to shed pounds, however, the scale continued to document my failure. My weight inched up. My self-esteem plummeted.
 
Both my parents are well practiced in the art of weight loss. During many dinners, I watched my mom exhibit extraordinary self-control, barely eating or nursing her shrimp cocktail, while the rest of us dined on course after course of sumptuous, heavy restaurant foods. The next day a large bag of potato chips would mysteriously disappear from the pantry. My dad was also adept. He would order his turkey sandwich dry and then carefully remove a piece of bread, only to experience an attack of the munchies later at home, where he would wolf down ice cream and cookies.
 
But I don’t blame them for my own dieting history. If I didn’t get it from them, I doubt I would have escaped the culture outside our home.
 
My pain regarding my weight reached an intolerable level by the time I was in college. I became convinced that if only I could lose weight, I could change my life. And so my life deteriorated as I obsessed about food and activity to the detriment of my studies and social relationships. I weighed myself daily and let the scale determine my mood.
 
My junior year of college, when I studied for a year in India, was a turning point. My surface reason for going was a fascination with India’s spiritual traditions and the hope for discovering some sense of inner peace. But I was even more motivated by the idea of escaping my family, friends, and social insecurities so that I could diet in earnest. I naïvely pictured myself meditating and rising above earthly needs, especially food.
 
For short periods, I did find solace. Even better (or so I believed at the time), I accomplished my goal: returning to the United States thin. It only took a few months, however, for my weight to zoom back to its previous level—and then higher.
 
My pain preoccupied me so completely that I felt little choice in deciding on a course of study when I returned to college. To save myself, I became determined to understand everything I could about weight regulation.

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