The Washington Post

Does overweight equal unhealthy?

Washington Post opinion writer Eugene Robinson’s column yesterday about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s weight argues that being obese is both a political and a personal liability.

But is being overweight necessarily as unhealthful as we think? Some argue that overweight in and of itself doesn’t translate to poor health and that it’s the lifestyle choices that contribute to overweight (lack of exercise, poor diet) that make people sick. And research has shown overweight people actually have tend to live longer than those of “normal” weight.

Linda Bacon, a nutrition professor in the biology department at City College of San Francisco, has been leading the call to reevaluate our assumptions about fat for years; her 2008 book “Health at Every Size” (HAES) and Web site spell out the stance that negative attitudes toward overweight (a term she doesn’t much care for; she uses “high weight”) are the real problem and that the incessant diet cycling so many people (including, according to Robinson’s story, Christie) undergo is more dangerous than carrying extra pounds. Bacon maintains that people can enjoy good health at any weight by taking steps — other than going on a diet — to control blood lipids, blood pressure and other risk factors for chronic disease. The HAES manifesto urges people to:

— Adopt healthy lifestyle habits.

— Develop and nurture connections with others and look for purpose and meaning in your life. Fulfilling your social, emotional, and spiritual needs restores food to its rightful place as a source of nourishment and pleasure.

— Find the joy in moving your body and becoming more physically vital in your everyday life.

— Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and seek out pleasurable and satisfying foods.

— Tailor your tastes so that you enjoy more nutritious foods, staying mindful that there is plenty of room for less nutritious choices in the context of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.

What do you think of Bacon’s approach? Should Christie take note?



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