Sunday, November 20, 2011

HEAS Rhetoric: Understanding how weight =/= health

Cross-posted at

In response to a blog post I recently read from Balancing Jane, I wanted to hash out how to reconcile the idea of the "Healthy At Every Size" (HEAS) philosophy by reframing how we look at weight loss in relation to health.

Many have pointed out that the correlation between weight and health is not as direct as the media would have us believe. Being overweight is not always an indicator of poor health, just as being average or underweight is not an indicator of good health.

In my comments on the post I proposed a simple change in framing to kind of articulate how the rhetoric around weight loss can be reconciled with the HEAS principles by focusing not on size but on choices.

For example, one might say something to the effect of:
"My friend recently lost 100 lbs. As a result, her blood pressure and insulin levels have evened out."
This phrasing indicates a direct correlation between weight loss and health and implies that it was the loss of 100 lbs that directly contributed to an increase in the friend's health.

Now, what if we worded it as the following:
"My friend recently started making changes in her eating habits. She's been watching her portions and choosing more fruits and vegetables and less processed junk. As a result, her blood pressure and insulin levels have evened out. She's also lost 100 lbs."
In this phrasing, the change in the friend's health is not correlated with her weight, but with her food choices and activity level. The weight loss is treated as an additional benefit of her choices rather than the causal factor. If we left out the last sentence, and did not mention the weight loss, one could reasonably argue that by changing habits one could achieve better overall health, without weight playing into it.


  1. I'm severely underweight and I don't believe I'm the pinnacle of good health either.

  2. I don't know your history but I don't doubt what you say. I've heard said before, all you can tell by someone's weight is that they are over/under/average. It's not an accurate indicator of health... higher risk for certain conditions? Yes, but there are always confounding variables.


Engaging in discussion and/or general sucking up.. that's where it's at!

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