bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Why obesity prevention is not the answer


One of my twitter friends recently shared a link to this article: How Early Should Obesity Prevention Start? My immediate reaction was that they’re asking the wrong question. They should be asking how early health promotion should start.

While I think that the authors make some good points about obesity influences beginning in the womb, I stand by my initial reaction. No one likes to hear the term obesity. No one wants to be told that they’re obese or that their weight may cause their children to become obese. Is an obesity intervention really going to make much of a difference? I’m doubtful. Framing such an intervention as health promotion, and not only targeting overweight and obese women might be slightly more effective. However, these interventions are still putting the onus on the individual. Interventions targeting individuals and groups serve a purpose in the battle against obesity in the same manner that food banks serve a purpose in the battle against food insecurity and poverty. They are bandaid solutions for gaping wounds.

As I’ve said many times before: we need systemic change. The only way that we’re going to truly see a decrease in obesity rates is if we, as a society, change. We need to put more emphasis on food preparation and incorporating physical activity and exercise into our daily routines. We need to stop wearing long workdays and sleep deprivation as badges of honour. The best way to address the obesity problem is to not talk about obesity.



The other side of weight discrimination

20130609-133533.jpgSomething that’s been percolating in my mind over the last little while is the concept of weight discrimination.

There were two things that got me to thinking about this topic. The first was a survey I completed for the Yale Rudd Centre. They were looking for people’s opinions and experiences pertaining to weight and discrimination. There was a question about whether or not you’d experienced bullying (or something to that effect) as a result of your weight as a child. I said yes. The survey implicitly assumed that it was due to my being overweight. There was no opportunity to clarify that I was sometimes picked-on because I was underweight.

The second thing that got me thinking about the subject was the cartoon shown above. Someone had posted it on Facebook. I found it offensive. I would never post anything (cartoon or otherwise) that stated being thin was superior to being large. I’m sure that many people would be outraged. So, why on earth do some people think that it’s okay to insult people for being skinny??

We all have naturally different body shapes and sizes. Please consider the impact of your words and actions on others. Weight discrimination can go both ways. Whether you’re fat or thin it can still hurt.

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Don’t judge a dietitian by her or his cover

On a number of occasions I’ve had people remark to me “Oh, I’d actually take advice from you!” upon learning that I’m a dietitian. Apparently this is because I’m a fairly small, fit individual. Even though this comment is always intended to be a compliment, and I appreciate it. However, at the same time, it always irks me a little. My size and fitness level have no bearing on my nutrition knowledge or my ability to provide nutrition counselling. Sure, it might seem that I practice what I preach (and I certainly try to!) but a person can be a healthy weight, and even physically fit, without eating a nutritious diet. Conversely, I know many people who eat healthily but are not physically fit. Oftentimes our own healthy habits fall to the wayside when we’re busy, this is independent of profession. I know that judging a book by its cover is difficult to avoid, but please try to remember that dietitians are people too and as such we come in all different shapes and sizes.

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In the battle against obesity who will win? Physical activity or healthy eating?

I was reading this article about Dr. Blair today at work. He was the recipient of a $50, 000 research award last week. Now, I haven’t seen much of his research so I can’t weigh in too much on that. Although I think that anyone encouraging people to get more physically active is doing a good thing. I just feel that the messages in the article are a little confused and unfortunate. The article suggests that we should stop focusing so much on what we eat, and losing weight, and more on being physically active as obese people can be fit. I agree that focusing on weight is getting us nowhere in the “war on obesity.” However, I don’t think that this means we just stop worrying about what we’re eating. Regardless of your weight, healthy eating is important for your overall health. And if you do want to lose weight, healthy eating is actually a far more important factor than physical activity. Personally, I think that both physical activity and healthy eating are important to your overall health. We shouldn’t be pitting healthy eating and physical activity against each other. We should be combining forces to fight for our health and the health of future generations.