Have you ever felt so passionately about something that your mind cannot stop racing with excitement?
Have you ever felt so passionately about something that you wish the whole world could know about it?
Have you ever become so incredibly inspired by something or something that you felt as though your life has changed; perhaps forever?
At the end of my post on Thursday, I had mentioned that I was going to school to listen in on a presentation with my friend Cheryl.
This presentation is the reason I feel all of the amazing things listed above.
My university offers a “professional success series” of lectures and presentations each year put on by one of the Foods and Nutrition clubs called SHEA (Student Human Ecology Association). The lecture series offers students a wide range of presentations to attend that expand our knowledge on the field of nutrition and dietetics. Nutrition and Dietetics is such a broad field and their is so much that one is able to do with their degree, so the series of lectures are very beneficial in allowing us to broaden our scope and learn that there is many more opportunities awaiting us other than doing an internship and becoming a clinical RD.
To be honest, when I first moved to London to begin school at Brescia, my end goal was to be a clinical RD. I thought I wanted to be working in a hospital and do all of the clinical work that comes along with that, but after being introduced to the amazing program at Brescia and all of the little “extras” that come along with it, like attending these lecture series’, I have so many more ideas as to what my “end goal” may look like now.
Last year, I attended the full series of lectures provided by SHEA and each were worth my while. This year, I have attended two so far. The first one I attended was a lecture on post trauma stress disorder (PTSD). As I said, the field of nutrition and dietetics is very broad, so SHEA brought in a panel of individuals who have suffered or are currently suffering with PTSD because we may come into contact with an individual struggling with this disorder throughout our practice and we need to learn how to approach and deal with it.
I definitely learnt a lot about PTSD and am so happy that I attended the presentation. It was really eye opening to see that, much like when recovering from an eating disorder, the entire family is affected by this disorder. Each panel member said that “we don’t understand” because we have never experienced what they have experienced. I totally agree with them. I will never fully understand what they went through, but I do know that I have felt many of the same feelings that they have because of my past with ED, so it was a very powerful presentation as I could somewhat relate.
The lecture on Thursday; however, was life changing. I never wanted it to end. I just wanted to keep learning and learning.
A Brescia graduate, presented a “newish” health approach to us. This approach is called Healthy At Every Size (HAES). The reason I say that it is a “newish” health approach is because it has been around for 20 years already, which is quite a long time, but, like any new idea or theory, it must be tested and tested and tested… Therefore, after many years of being studied, HAES is finally coming into the spot light.
So what is HAES (other than something that I am completely passionate about)?
Our wonderful (and very inspiring) presenter began explaining the approach HAES takes on health by first defining weight stigma.
Weight stigma is a weight-based discrimination. We all know it occurs, but the presenter illustrated actually how prevalent weight stigma is. Weight stigma is everywhere. Weight stigma is not just present within high school amongst nasty girls back-stabbing their friends; no, weight stigma is even seen in health care! A study was done and health professionals such as nurses, physicians, and dietitians were to describe how they felt when working with individuals who were overweight or obese. The health professionals within the study described their interactions with overweight and obese individuals in very negative terms. The words that were used shocked me and I do not even want to repeat them, but in order for you to understand how awful weight stigma is and that it actually occurs in health care settings, I will give you a few examples:
Some health professionals described overweight and obese individuals to be lazy, unmotivated, unsuccessful, incompliant, and even – disgusting. (More on a study done on weight stigma can be found here).
These words hurt me and I am not even the one who is being affected by weight stigma, so it truly brings tears to my eyes that this actually occurs. Imagine how the people who experience weight stigma feel.
Weight stigma causes depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor body image, suicidal acts and thoughts, and extreme stress. All symptoms are horrific for anyone to experience, but I am going to focus on the physiological aspects that occur when one experiences stress.
When an individual experiences stress, the body triggers the stress response, the fight-or-flight response. This response leads to the secretion of cortisol, adrenaline, and other hormones. When the stress is gone, cortisol and adrenaline levels drop. However, when stress is excessive and constant – as it is in individuals experiencing weight stigma – an individual’s fight-or-flight response is constantly “on”. Therefore, cortisol levels are constantly high and cortisol plays a huge role in the development of obesity.
So, perhaps individuals should recognize that obesity is caused by many other factors than diet and inactivity alone.
Perhaps, weight stigma should stop and we would be able to see a reduction in obesity.
During the presentation, the speaker gave us a case study in order to explain to us that WEIGHT DOES NOT NECESSARILY EQUAL HEALTH. She presented us a picture of a girl who was noticeably overweight and gave us some information about her, as well. The information given was her BMI, blood pressure, HDL, LDL, and blood glucose concentrations. It was interesting to see that all of her metabolics were in the “healthy” or “normal” range; however, her BMI was 33. A BMI of 33 is labeled as obese. And often when we think of obese we think “unhealthy”, right?
And that’s where HAES comes in.
We began to analyze this girl who had a BMI of 33 and question why she was overweight and if it should be suggested that she lose weight for her health. Well, it is hard to tell someone to lose weight if their health status is in check, isn’t it? How can you just tell someone to lose weight if there is no reason as to why to do so. Her health is fine, the only factor that raised a red flag was her BMI, right? If her BMI was within the normal range would we be concerned? No. Of course not. If her metabolics were the exact same (all healthy and within the normal range), but her BMI was just lower and in the “normal” or “healthy” range we wouldn’t be concerned at all.
Isn’t that true?
So, this is how HAES introduces the idea that BMI does not equal health. Rather, weight does not determine health.
We were shown a chart to illustrate that even people of a healthy or normal weight still possess health problems.The chart also illustrated that people who are overweight and obese can be healthy, too. (If I can get my hands on this chart I will add it into this post afterward).
So, really, does weight actually determine the status of your health after all?
HAES focuses on a persons health status rather than their weight. Our presenter actually went as far as saying that she will not weigh a patient. If a blood level concentration is out of wack, then she will be concerned. But, the weight of a person will not change her opinion of their health status.
We were presented with another study done showing results of individuals who followed a diet which consisted of a specific meal plan to follow and individuals who followed the HAES approach – intuitive eating. (Again, if I can find the results to this study and the chart that was presented to us I will add it into this post).
The results indicated that individuals who used the HAES approach completed the study with better results than the group that were put on the diet. Another great factor to look at is the individuals who actually stuck with the study all the way through. The drop out rate of people following the HAES approach was 8% whereas the drop out rate for those following the diet was within the 40% range.
The only aspect that the HAES approach didn’t fair as well in as the group following the diet was weight loss. Very little weight loss was experienced in the group following the HAES lifestyle and way of thinking, but, remember(!) their health was better than those who followed the specified diet.
This presentation really hit home for me. When I was going through my ED, I was very unhealthy. My lab results and blood pressure were not good and I was underweight. However, once I started to introduce food back into my life, I was able to regain my health. My health came back a lot quicker than weight gain (gaining weight has always been a challenge for me), but this presentation taught me that that is OK. As long as I am healthy. Of course, I believe that a woman should be of a proper weight in order to have her menstrual cycle, but the intuitive eating and listening to bodily cues as HAES suggests will allow that to happen naturally.
We were told that everyone has a weight that they are naturally supposed to be at. So if someone is healthy, but over or under weight – why tamper with their weight?
Health. That is what we need to remember.
Throw those scales away.
It is your health that it utmost important. Not the number on the scale. Seriously. Throw that scale away!
Have you heard of Healthy At Every Size before?
What are your views on this approach to health? HAES can be described as a “compassionate” approach to health. I love that
Are you interested in learning more about PTSD? I could definitely do a more in depth post on what I learnt from that presentation if you so wish It was very interesting to hear what those suffering had to go through.
HAES has been questioned a lot. It’s a new way of thinking, so of course there are going to be people who disagree and think that it is bogus. Jackie has told us she has had several people tell her that right to her face! If you want to know more about HAES, I am trying to get into contact with the girl who gave the presentation, so hopefully I will have more links for you to check out soon! It is always important to do your own research and reading on a subject in order to form your own educated opinion on a topic, so I really hope I can provide you all with those resources ASAP
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
HAPPY SUNDAY <3