Weight is not the problem

29th March, 2021

As a society, we are so convinced weight is the issue, we have lost sight of what it really means to care for our health.

Key reasons we believe weight is the problem, are:

  • The weight cycling industry (aka weight loss or diet industry) that keeps selling weight loss as the answer to success and happiness
  • The traditional medical model that so often blames weight for ill health even when it’s unrelated and that labels people’s body size based on a recognised inaccurate measure of health – the BMI scale
  • Our culture’s strong weight bias (fat is bad, thin is good) and weight stigma (people in large bodies are constantly judged by their size)
  • Friends, family and loved ones who (with misguided good intention) comment about your food and weight and who congratulate you or say “you look great” when you lose weight
  • Well meaning health professionals who have so much to offer, but are themselves caught up in a weight focused paradigm and diet model and haven’t yet realised how problematic this is – I used to be one of these

Let me give you an example…

A patient came to me wanting to lose 10kg she had gained over the past 2 years, increased back pain was a key reason. The message she received from her doctor, health care provider, her family and society was that the weight gain was the key issue.

I asked my client, if anything had changed in her life 2 years ago? Her response… “I suddenly got busy at work and my activity dropped off, I wasn’t sleeping as well, I felt stressed and exhausted much of the time and my comfort eating increased.”

It should be clear that this person’s issue is not the weight itself, but rather all the factors that affected her self care and for which the weight gain was just a side effect of. It must also be noted that activity levels, sleep (or lack there of) and stress can all influence back pain independent of body weight. So even if she hadn’t gained weight, she may well have experienced worsening back pain.

As a society, we would be much more effective at helping people if we took the focus off weight and instead discussed the myriad of aspects that affect our capacity to self care.