You don't have to be thin to be healthy

Eat Fat to Stay Thin, and Healthy
Eat Fat to Stay Thin, and Healthy

I find it quite disappointing that Oprah Winfrey, who has spent a lifetime dissatisfied with her weight and has tried every weight-loss program imaginable only to regain lost pounds, would invest in a diet program and use her substantial influence to try to persuade people to join her in this futile weight-loss quest.

Oprah has every advantage that wealth has to offer, but has never been able to sustain her weight loss. So why would she do this, and why now? Perhaps it is because her financial advisors know that if House Bill H.R. 2404 – the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act of 2015 – becomes law, companies like Weight Watchers could be positioned to see windfall profits as Medicare begins to pick up the tab for certain such services as part of the war on obesity.

Regardless of how Oprah and Weight Watchers try to reframe their message, hanging a different label on a diet does not make it anything other than a diet, and, as we know, doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. It deeply troubles me that so many more people could be swept up in this yo-yo dieting cycle, poised to see themselves as failures when the weight begins to come back; poised to feel ashamed and depressed and stressed, which only leads to poor health outcomes.

If health and happiness are your goals, there is a better way. Health at Every Size, or HAES, is a movement that encourages us to make peace with our bodies. HAES principles encourage the development of healthy habits for the sake of health, not weight control. HAES supporters believe that traditional weight-loss methods do not lead to permanent weight loss for the majority of the population. They believe that health is a result of behaviors that are independent of body weight.

HAES supporters teach respect, including respect for body diversity. HAES encourages compassionate self-care, learning to be sensitive to our body's cues of hunger and satisfaction, and realizing that it's normal for the consumption of food to be pleasurable and guilt free. HAES principles encourage individuals to find the joy in moving and being physically active. I highly recommend that you read "Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight," by Linda Bacon, Ph.D., for a fuller understanding of this lifestyle choice.

On her website, she writes: "Decades of research – and probably your own personal experience – show that the pursuit of weight loss rarely produces the thin, happy life you dream of. But what if you learned that your fears around that dreaded fat were misplaced? That 'overweight' may confer some protection that actually results in increased longevity? That when factors such as activity, nutrition and history of dieting and weight cycling are considered, the relationship between weight and disease disappears? That biologic safeguards prevent most people from maintaining weight loss, despite vigilant dieting and exercise? That the body has a built-in regulatory system to maintain a healthful weight, if only we'd trust it?"

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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Originally published