The health care system in the UK is becoming overly expensive and overly burdened, almost to a tipping point.
So now – in an effort to stay afloat – nearly a third of UK hospitals are now denying health care to patients with a BMI over 30.
These hospitals have restricted knee, hip, and other lower body replacement surgeries from obese patients and active smokers, saying that the interventions are “wasted” on the obese.
There are so many unfortunate things about this scenario. One of them, however, is in my opinion the worst of all.
It’s that they might actually be making the problem worse.
Fat shaming causes overeating.
This is something we have been saying here at Paleo for Women for a very long time (read my book on it, here).
Four years ago, I wrote a post on what I call the ‘binge-restrict’ pattern of overeating. This is what happens to people who are fat shamed.
When fat shamed, you feel guilty about your body. This motivates you to starve yourself. You “eat clean.” You do a bunch of whole 30s. You might even “feel great.”
But after a while it wears on you. You begin to obsess over what you’re restricted from. You feel hungry and irritable all of the time, perhaps. And you develop very, very, very strong cravings.
So then you ultimately (and inevitably) fall off the wagon, and overeat.
This makes you feel guilty again, so you starve yourself again. Then you develop cravings again. Then you overeat again.
And again, and again.
Restricting food intake has drastic consequences, especially with an unhealthy mindset.
This is exactly what happens with “obesity awareness”
The more that our culture shames people for the size of their bodies, the more we doubt themselves.
The more we doubt themselves, the less capable we are of making changes that focus on health instead of weight loss.
And the more we doubt ourselves, the more we hate our bodies, and resent our bodies, and therefore develop unhealthy relationships with food. We fall into binge and restrict patterns.
Here at Paleo for Women, I often talked about this phenomenon as though it was definitively true. And I did believe that it was.
But now we know more certainly that it is, and that it affects our society on a broad scale. It didn’t just happen to me. It didn’t just happen to Noelle. It didn’t just happen to you. It happens to cultures as a whole.
It is happening to the world.
With such big players like the UK and US health care systems at bat, there is a lot at stake.
This article interviews Researcher Eric Robinson regarding his study of obesity awareness. He says of obesity and the intentions behind it that:
““There is quite a substantial body of research showing it is not really very much fun being an overweight person in this climate,” said Robinson. “It is a stigmatised condition. Realising you are an overweight individual is in itself likely to be quite stressful and make making healthy choices in your lifestyle more difficult.
“It is a tricky finding for public health intervention work. You would hope that making a person aware they are overweight would result in them being more likely to change and lose some weight.”
What Robinson and others instead found is that, from a study of 14,000 adults in the US and the UK, perceiving yourself as overweight actually has the opposite effect. Thinking you are overweight doesn’t incentivize you to lose weight.
Instead, it is strongly associated with weight gain. And this is entirely independent of people’s actual size. It has everything to do, instead, with their own perceptions of themselves.
In the study, the authors write that, “Individuals who identified themselves as being ‘overweight’ were more likely to report overeating in response to stress and this predicted subsequent weight gain. These findings are in line with recent suggestions that the stress associated with being part of a stigmatised group may be detrimental to health.”
So now we know. This happens to people. It wasn’t just me. It isn’t just you. It’s all of us. It’s a part of how we work. It is basic human psychology – that we do, for any number of reasons, overeat in response to negative body image.
But what do you do about it?
You may find yourself then in a bit of a Catch 22. If you already have these feelings about yourself, what do you do?
Does this study actually help? Can it help you choose love, or self-acceptance, or weight loss for the sake of health or energy, instead of for validation?
I think that it can. It can affirm your humanity. It can provide proof for your suspicions. It can help you throw off the condemnations of people around you, and perhaps start looking for ways to stop thinking of yourself in a negative light.
You may want to sit down and think seriously about the relationship between your size and your health. “Health” is no longer a good excuse to starve one’s self. As it turns out, the relationship between health and weight is much more complex than we ever thought. It is totally possible to be healthy and to be overweight.
You may also want to think about the “health at every size” movement. Since it is possible to be healthy at any size, becoming a part of a community of people focused on living well instead of restricting food intake could be great for you. I wrote about why I love Healthy At Every Size in this post.
You may also want to consider thinking about food intake in terms of setting minimums, not maximums. In this post, I describe the way that I like to do macronutrients. Instead of saying “only 100 grams of carbs a day” or “only 50 grams of fat a day” or “no more than 1800 calories a day” I set minimums: “at least 100 grams of carbs a day,” I say. “At least 50 grams of fat.” “At least 2000 calories.”
You might also want to think about fitness in a new way. Many people do work outs because they have to, because that’s what you do in order to lose weight. But what if you engaged with fitness because it was fun…because you found an activity that makes you come alive? I talk about that a bit in this post on why I will never run a marathon.
I have provided a few of our resources in the paragraphs above that I think could be helpful for your relationship with your body fat percentage, whatever that may be. Of course it is all insufficient – our need for self-affirmation and love in this society is truly never ending. So perhaps I should just leave with this thought:
They may that you are not enough. You may sometimes feel like you are not enough. But what you are is beyond enough. You are acceptable, and then some. You are a powerful human being with a body that lives and breathes and thrives no matter how rocky your relationship has been in the past, no many how many hardships it has been through. You are a body that is strong and lovely and your home, and seriously screw any body, any resource, any lingerie company that may make you feel otherwise. You can be healthy at any size, and you deserve it as much as you might deserve anything. You deserve to be nourished more so than anything, to let food be your friend, to let your body be your friend. Your body really does love you. All you have to do is let yourself love it back.
(“Your body is a natural body with natural needs, that, when loved properly, loves you right back” is actually the “golden rule” of our community’s best-selling manifesto, Sexy by Nature. Check it out on Amazon!)