Change the conversation about ‘diet’ and ‘weight’

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I recently read your article, “Doing without diets,” from the May 5, 2012 edition of The Telegram and I found it very enlightening. I cannot agree more that today’s society has a disturbing preoccupation with weight loss and the methods Canadian’s are using to drop pounds can have a negative effect on their overall health.

Although there is a lot of talk about the obesity epidemic in this country, most of the methods used to get obese populations to a healthier weight require some type of food deprivation. Methods such as the Atkins diet eliminate an entire food group (carbohydrates) while a program like Weight Watchers limits your caloric intake by giving food point values. They all come down to reducing consumption and lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.

Pamela Ward, a MUN PhD candidate, instructor in the School of Nursing and member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Applied Health Research’s Affinity Group on Eating Issues, Disordered Eating and Body Image did a great job explaining this issue by pointing out the main problem which is diets fail

90 per cent of the time, they lead to a negative mentality and the relationship between body size and health isn’t as clear as we believe.

Today’s society has an extremely narrow view of what defines health.

Most people see a thin woman or man and assume that they must be a poster child for good diet and exercise. The reality is very different. People need to be educated that there are many different variations of a healthy body.

I’m not trying to say having an extreme excess of weight is healthy, but I am saying that striving for a “perfect” body is unrealistic because this perfection does not exist.

This obsession with an ideal body type has lead to a society striving towards dangerous goals and I believe it is the reason eating disorders are becoming more prevalent across the country.

Ward’s words that we are, “stigmatizing one segment of the population instead of putting it (money) towards the overall health of the population” strikes a nerve that I think everyone in this country needs to acknowledge.

The conversation of diet and weight needs to change drastically.

We need to change the focus away from what can’t I eat to what should I eat? Changing that one word eliminates the incessant feelings of deprivation and the preoccupation with food that Michelle Allison discusses in your article. Asking what should I eat opens the doors to becoming educated on what foods will nourish your body and provide it with the fuel it needs. It allows individuals to learn the benefits of eating foods to improve their health and feelings of well-being as opposed to only looking at the scale.

Learning to be a healthy individual shouldn’t be limited to calorie counting and I enjoyed this article for pointing this fact out. It is refreshing to see someone discussing the issue’s with our weight loss methods and explaining that diets are not the solution for all individuals who consider themselves or are labeled as unhealthy.  

Thanks for a wonderful read.

Alicia Curran

St. John’s

Organizations: School of Nursing, Newfoundland and Labrador Applied Health Research, Affinity Group on Eating Issues

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  • Anna
    July 24, 2013 - 13:49

    I was at Wendy's on Sunday eating a salad. I looked around and just about everyone in the restaurant was fat and not only the adults all the kids. I still say if parents were giving the kids alcohol or cigarettes they would be charged with child endangerment, but they can load up the tray with burgers and fries and no one says a word. We are not models living here in NL so I don't think talking about diet and weight is a problem here. Go into the Avalon Mall theatres and see the line ups for overpriced junk food and you will see it is all kids and adults.

  • Eli
    July 22, 2013 - 19:08

    Anybody see the news item Monday nite relating to the MMSB's claim there were hundred thousand-plus soft drink cans/bottles turned-in last year? Perhaps it was just an ad but there's got to be a message in there somewhere as it applies to this well written articled.

  • Virginia Watersa
    July 22, 2013 - 14:09

    Well written letter Alicia - but I don't agree with your logic or your conclusions. First of all we are not talking about people who are carrying around an extra 10 or 15 pounds. We're not promoting supermodels. We are talking about people or are morbidly obese or what ordinary people call 'fat'. Nor are we trying to 'stigmatize' or condemn fat people. What we are condemning is the behaviour that caused them to become fat and to remain fat at great peril to their own health and to the financial well-being of the province. Yes that includes taking personal responsibility for what and how you eat, as well as how much you exercise. And we are certainly not saying that it is your behaviour alone that is causing you to be fat. Governments, large corporations, special interests and lobby groups must share a lot of the blame for allowing our food chain to be so severely compromised that even people who consume relatively quantities of food are at risk of becoming fat. That's because many of our foods are calorie dense and because, as others have pointed, out they are being grown, cultivated, processed, manufactured and adulterated in a manner that strips them of much of their original nutritional value. ... You're a good writer Alicia, but you need to add your voice to the growing chorus of people who see the 'epidemic of obesity' as, first, a matter of personal responsibility and, second, as the inevitable outcome of passing control of our food supply over to corporate interests.

  • mainlander
    July 22, 2013 - 08:46

    Cyril, read "Wheat Belly" by William Davis. The wheat of today is not the same wheat our grandparents ate. A lot of people have done what you did & gotten the same results. If people eat real food, and not processed food with ingredients that no one can pronounce, then most people will lose weight.

    • Eli
      July 22, 2013 - 09:53

      Most wheat grown today is genetically modified and we can thank Monsanto for that. And we thought they just manufactured carpets.

  • Cyril Rogers
    July 22, 2013 - 08:20

    Having experimented with weight maintenance and some weight loss for the past couple of years, I basically agree that we need to focus on what we need to eat rather than what not to. I recently cut out carbs normally obtained through wheat and wheat products, promptly losing about 8 pounds of stubborn belly fat. I still eat lots of crabs, by having fruits and vegetables every day, and still enjoy the odd muffin with no increase in weight. For awhile, I was also exercising for 15-20 minutes most days but lately have been lazy about even that...still no return of the belly fat. It appears I have stumbled on a lazy way to lose some excess weight, which for a person of my small stature, was a fair amount. Don't know if it would work for others but I am totally happy with the results and still get to do a "cheat" day once a week.

  • david
    July 22, 2013 - 06:12

    Obesity is a Canadian problem, but a Newfoundland epidemic. You can dance around it with more carefully chosen words, and you can avoid making people feel bad, but this is one really unhealthy place full of very fat people. Face facts.

    • In my view
      July 22, 2013 - 10:01

      Right on, David. The article says ," The conversation about weight needs to change drastically." I say the conversation about weight here in Newfoundland needs to START! The appalling Newfoundland diet is killing us and costing the health care system a fortune. But no one seems brave enough to get the collective discussion going.