• Emily Cooper

Book Review: Body Respect by Linda Bacon, Ph. D. and Lucy Aphramor, Ph. D, RD

Let me just start by saying, THIS WAS THE BEST BOOK. It's seriously a must read for an introduction to the body positivity and health at every size movements.

It's not necessary to know much about the Health At Every Size movement in order to enjoy/understand this book, but I'll tell you a little bit about it just so you have a general understanding of what it's all about.

Health At Every Size is a movement that started in 2003 by the Association for Size Diversity And Health. It focuses on treating yourself well in the body you have right now, whether or not it's your "optimal weight". HAES doesn't say everyone is at a healthy weight, but it does say that all bodies deserve respect and we should focus on behaviors instead of weight.

The Health At Every Size® Principles are:

  • Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.

  • Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.

  • Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.

  • Eating for Well-being: Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.

  • Life-Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.

Linda Bacon is a researcher who has researched HAES. She is amazing! She literally has like 4 degrees. She has a Bachelor's in cultural studies, a master's in psychotherapy with an eating disorders and body image specialty, a master's degree in exercise science, and a Ph. D. in with a focus on nutrition and metabolism. She has her own struggles with body image and that manifested itself in her wanting to get all the education she could to understand how the body works. (Read more about her on her website, here.). Lucky for us, we get a book out of all her hard work!

This book is great for:

  • People who live in larger bodies and are sick of being unhappy with how they look and how they are treated

  • Health providers who are knowingly or unknowingly perpetuating weight stigma

  • Skeptics of the Health At Every Size movement (After all, the worst case scenario is that you'll strengthen your argument. But I think you'll be pretty challenged by some of the evidence laid out.)

Things you'll learn about:

  • Why the term "fat" is preferred to "overweight" or "obese", and other preferred language

  • How and why the obesity epidemic started (I didn't know it was 6 months after 9/11 when America was on high alert)

  • What is thin privilege and how are larger bodies oppressed

  • Whether or not fatness shortens your lifespan (plot twist: it doesn't)

  • Why BMI is a bogus measurement of health and why it's RIDICULOUS it's still being used

  • Why exercise and dieting aren't effect weight-loss techniques

  • Why weight-loss itself isn't sustainable (there are no long term studies) and why it isn't your fault for "failing"

  • Why exercise and diet make up a MUCH smaller fraction of a healthy and happy life than you'd think, and what other factors contribute more

  • Why science is biased and why we should be smart with what we take as fact

  • How the childhood "obesity" and "type 2 diabetes" diabetics are exaggerated

  • How weight stigma is dangerous and its negative effects

  • The counterintuitive effects of dieting and how it raises our set point weight (and what set point weight is)

  • How our bodies regulate themselves with a precision of 99.5% (wow!!)

There were a few things I didn't love:

  • There are a few parts where I would have liked to see a citation/reference.

  • Some of the studies referenced weren't conducted well.

  • There are some parts that are a bit technical for my interest level.

There are some criticisms of HAES which you can read online, just google around. However, I'd urge you to consider this: Whether or not you think fat is bad is irrelevant so far as sustainable weight loss has not been scientifically proven.

Anyway, I'll stop here for now! But I'd love to write more about this topic in the future! Let me know what thoughts/questions you have down below.

Oh, and if you'd like to see me for therapy, you can view more information about that here.