Book Review: Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Dr. Linda Bacon

This week, when we were in Las Vegas, I finished reading Dr. Linda Bacon’s book Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.

Bacon didn’t coin the term Health at Every Size (HAES), as she points out in the book. It was a movement before her involvement. But she has written a book that spells it out in a very readable, understandable way.

Health at Every Size starts with a discussion about the social and cultural myths surrounding weight. She talks about how at different times in the last century, women’s magazines have had articles about how to GAIN weight, instead of how to lose it. Maybe the most important lesson in the book is how the weight loss industry, which includes government agencies, lies and manipulates statistics in order to make us believe that if we are fat, we are going to die.

1.) We’re all going to die. Skinny does not equal immortal. (In case you were wondering.)

2.) The Center for Disease Control helped to design the ‘obesity crisis’ with false statistics.

3.) The act of trying to obtain a ‘perfect’ weight causes far more health problems than the act of trying to be as healthy as possible at your current weight, whatever that may be.

The first part of this book, for me anyway, felt like a battle cry.

The next part of the book  talks about Health at Every Size and how to implement it into your life.

I’ll admit something here. I skipped ahead to section two. And I was confused. Because I was looking for menu plans and concrete steps to follow. I’ve read a lot of diet and ‘life style change’ books, starting with Susan Powter and ending right here. They all have steps to follow.

This book doesn’t break HAES down that way, and at first I was confused. Because–well, how am I supposed to do this if you don’t tell me how? Where are the charts? What about a training schedule or a list of HAES friendly snacks?

Then I went back and read from the beginning. (This was one of those times that my penchant for reading books backwards didn’t work out for me.)

Turns out that HAES isn’t a diet. I was a little slow integrating that information, because I actually knew that going in. It isn’t a fitness plan. It isn’t anything other than a validation, permission to treat yourself well right this minute. So Bacon’s section two talks more about easing yourself out of what may well be a decades long addiction to dieting. It gives you permission to exercise because it’s fun and feels good, or even as training, rather than as a punishment for the sin of being fat. To enjoy whatever food you want to eat–literally, whatever food–without putting a moral judgment on it.

HAES breaks down like this:

1. Love yourself. Yourself today, not yourself 10 or 50 or 150 pounds from now. Your body is just your body, it is neutral morally.

2. Eat good food, eat what you want and enough of it, and stop when you’re full.

3. Move because it feels good, it is good for your health (yes, even if you never lose a pound) and it’s fun.

Deceptively simple, right?

Bacon does talk some about set points and how you may be keeping your body above its comfortable weight by eating past when you’re full and avoiding exercise. I was impressed, however, that she didn’t turn this into a weight loss book.

Eating well and moving your body moderately will improve your fitness and your health–even if your body never gives up a single pound.

If you’re anything like me, you have so many years of ‘accepting’ that your health and your weight are intricately tied, that turning that off is really difficult. It’s one thing to say “I can be fat and still fit” and another to believe it deep down. Even in the face of evidence that it’s true. Even knowing that feeling like you have to thin before you earn being fit is a response to cultural conditioning.

You can buy this book on Amazon for about $10. You might be able to get it from your library. However you get it, prepare to have your ideas about your body, you culture and yourself be challenged.

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3 Comments

Filed under body, mind

3 responses to “Book Review: Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Dr. Linda Bacon

  1. Kary

    Challenges to ideas are good in my opinion. 🙂 Specially good for a topic as loaded with assumptions as weight and/or body image. How did you find the book?

  2. Pingback: BenBella Books Press Room — Health at Every Size on NYTimes.com blog

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