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Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight Paperback – October 11, 2008
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About the Author
Dr. Linda Bacon, a nutrition professor and researcher, earned her doctorate in physiology from the University of CaliforniaDavis. She also holds graduate degrees in psychology and exercise science.
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It isn't a coincidence that with the rise in obesity there has been a rise in heart disease, cancer, diabeetus sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, hormone imbalance, infertility etc...etc... It just isn't. No one should be taunted or shamed because of their size, but if you really are at risk for being sick it's your doctors job to tell you and then tell you how to fix it. People aren't attracted to the sick, obesity in these times is a sign of illness so people don't react well to it, it's a natural defense. Just like back in the day when being underweight was common, even in the 50's girls were shamed for being too skinny or bony and tried to gain weight so that they were on the upper end of average size instead of rail thin. People thought that being skinny was a sign of illness and glorified chubby (though not obese). Today it's the same, we over glorify skinny because fat is unhealthy and proven to be healthy. Both underweight and overweight are bad for you, it's important to be in a healthy range for your frame, muscle mass and height. It just is. Ask a doctor to take your muscle mass, calculate your BMR, and loose weight the right and healthy way. Hell, I had a friend who was horribly underweight, but she didn't ever complain that her doctor was shaming her, or being mean, when she had to be perscribed disgusting gain shakes that she had to drink with each meal or even when she tried to build some muscle. She didn't cry each time a boy didn't thinks he was cute for being "too thin". She just did what her doctor told her and got to a healthy weight, which evened out her hormones and made her happier.
It's not descrimination if your life is at risk, it just isn't.
I can understand Bacon wanting us to join the Health at Every Size movement because that's exactly the way people's attitudes would be... in a perfect world. It would mean everyone accepting everyone else just the way they are. Not many of us would argue with that logic.
That being said, Health at Every Size is depressing if you want to be your ideal size. It's true, as brought out in this book, that almost everyone who loses weight on a diet inevitably ends up gaining it back. We've all seen that happen far too many times. And yet, I can not quite accept that their is therefore no hope of anyone ever being able to lose weight and keep it off. It's true that Bacon does include tips on how to eat healthy, but she nevertheless drives home the point that being slim just will never happen for any of us.
The writing of the book seemed clumsy at times. I feel the main points could have been put more simply and that some of the text was too long and meandering in getting to a point.
The parts on accepting and finding your set-point weight were quite good. One of the strongest parts of the book was the letters at the back of the book which were to give to family to let them know it'd be great if they made no positive or negative comments about your size changing because you're focusing on health and not mere weight change. A letter for doctors was also included.
There are also some not-so-good parts of this book. I feel this book would have been a lot stronger if the sections on nutrition were omitted entirely and the book just made the points about health being more important than weight more clearly and powerfully. The author should focus on the topic she really knows a lot about.
The nutrition information in this book really is bad. It's basically a description of the food pyramid. 30% of calories from fat is talked about as way too much fat - this despite the fact lipid experts such as Mary Enig PhD say that for some of us 30% is nowhere near enough dietary fat. 10% of calories from protein is said to be too high a protein intake. So what you're left with is a diet that is probably 70% or more carbohydrate. That is a level many of us just cannot cope with and which makes us feel constantly starving hungry, ill and weak even after meals. Not to mention making us gain weight like crazy even if we're putting everything we have into eating in a healthy way.
For some of us eating beans counts as a hungry-making starch food, not a protein food. Not telling readers that some people just can't cope with high-carb diets and are not suited to them sets them up for failure following the HAES plan and then blaming themselves for it. The same is true for people with food allergies to common foods such as grains and soy. Eating foods you are allergic to makes you crave them, it is one of the symptoms. The concept of eating the same old junk but in moderation just doesn't work for many of us. It sets us up to fail.
The message to enjoy junk foods and other not-so-healthy common foods in moderation is problematic. Some of us physically can't eat these foods in moderation, that is the whole problem. They do things to our bodies which shut off our bodies natural satiety signals and make us feel unwell afterwards too - or constantly unwell if we eat them often enough. This subject is tackled brilliantly in the book `A Life Unburdened' - I highly recommend it. It also explains why saturated fat is a healthy food that is good for you, along with cholesterol-containing foods! It is the new fangled unnatural fats which don't suit us, not the ones we have been eating for tens of thousands of years such as animal fat.
There is so much wrong information in the nutritional chapters, but it's also very badly written and constantly contradicts itself. The research quality is poor. The author says we have virtually the same genes today as our Paleolithic ancestors had so we will do best eating the same diet they did - a diet which gave animal foods very special importance. Then she says that because of industrial meat farming practices the best way to emulate a Paleo diet today is to eat a diet of mostly plants with meat there as a condiment only or avoided entirely because everyone knows meat and animal fat is unhealthy. Ummm...what?
High-fibre (highly processed) breakfast cereals are super healthy and so are highly-processed foods such as tofu says the author. The huge problems with soy as a staple food (as explained in books like `The Whole Soy Story') are never mentioned. The problems with anti-nutrients in whole grains are never mentioned as of course are the ways to soak and otherwise prepare grains to reduce them. The book repeats lots of myths about fibre and omits information that explains that for some of us a lower fibre diet and fibre from vegetables and fruits only (and not grains) suits us best. No amount of fibre in your diet will make your meals satisfying to you if you aren't eating enough fat in your diet, or protein.
Accurate information on eating what our ancestors ate and the foods our genes are best suited to is in books such as `Primal Body, Primal Mind.'
I'm not convinced by the `thrify gene' theory this book puts so much importance in. A few good books - such as `Good Calories, Bad Calories' - have done a great job debunking this myth far more convincingly. Seeing how ignorant and misled the author was on basic nutrition theory it also made it hard to have much faith in the quality of some of the more novel ideas on body chemistry and weight regulation put forth in this book.
At the end of one of the nutrition chapters the author says that if in doubt eat food that is as whole as possible and as minimally messed with as possible. That should have been the entire nutrition section really. Eating what makes you feel good makes sense but doing so when guided by a bit of basic nutrition knowledge is essential too, especially if you have any health or nutrition issues. It helps you better understand the messages your body is trying to send you.
I give the sections on focusing on health and not the scales 4.5 out of 5. I give the nutrition section 1 out of 5 so have settled on a 3 star rating overall. I'd love to see an updated edition of this book that was much shorter and sharper and that omitted all nutrition information. I'd buy several copies for friends and family. But right now I couldn't give anyone a book with such problematic nutrition information in it.
Jodi Bassett, The Hummingbirds' Foundation for M.E. (HFME) and Health, Healing & Hummingbirds (HHH)