Fat but fit

Give yourself some big love

No formula. Just a fridge full of love.

No formula. Just a fridge full of love.

I come from a long line of disappointed dieters who tried everything: grapefruit, Ayds candies, diet pills, those inflatable plastic pants that help you sweat off fat while cleaning the house, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, Atkins, South Beach, even a large drawing of a very fat woman bulging out of her clothes taped to the refrigerator.

Each time, however, the result was inevitable: regained weight, disappointment, shame.

My mother, grandmother and aunts lost and gained the same pounds over and over in a never-ending quest to fit the mold of feminine beauty. So I was amazed to pick up a copy of UC Davis researcher and City College of San Francisco professor Linda Bacon’s new book and discover that dieting isn’t just futile: It’s downright unhealthy.

Bacon’s book, Healthy at Every Size, presents scientific evidence that being obese isn’t a health problem. She systematically debunks myths about being overweight, clarifying that obesity doesn’t cause illness—diabetes, heart disease, hypertension. They’re just likely to co-occur.

Bacon suggests a simple response to the public “war on fat.” “People are always looking for the formula. They want to be told what to eat and what to do. The biggest thing is not to give it to them,” she explained last week. But this is tough to do; there’s a $50 billion a year weight-loss industry, pitched by stars like Queen Latifah.

Bacon recommends encouraging people to learn to trust their bodies. “The first step is to work on living in the body that you have. Recognize that it can take good care of you; you don’t have to fight it,” she said. By focusing on eating good food when you’re hungry, moving around regularly (some people might call it “working out,” but it shouldn’t be punishment) and appreciating your body just as it is, you can be fat but fit.

Or not-so-fat but fit. “Loving your body as it is isn’t giving up on it being different some day,” Bacon said. “If you love the body that you’re living in, it gives you motivation to treat it well.

“This is very different from the old approach, which teaches you to change your body first to become something different from who you are.”

An added plus is that this has a positive impact on our planet, too. Bacon is now working on a book that will look at the relationship between eating for health and eating for sustainability. “What’s good for you is good for the planet,” she reminded.