Health at Every Size: Mini-Conference & Chicken Nuggets

Last Saturday, a few of us from SDA attended the Bay Area Nutrition Mini-Conference over at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center at Herrick to hear presentations on topics representing different aspects of the field and the kinds of issues on the minds of dietitians today. I’m not being paid to advertise here, but we were fed well with local goodies like Rabbit18 granola, Straus Creamery yogurt and Acme bread! We also met some dietitians and excitingly enough, found a few who wanted to share their experiences with SDA. Carolina, Tina and I even learned how to jumpstart a car.

I was inspired to write this post from this article. “Fat Doesn’t Mean Unhealthy: Obesity, Judgment, and Chicken Nuggets” by the Good blog writer, Amanda Hess. You might have heard of the 17 year old who purportedly ate nothing but chicken nuggets and the occasional side of french fries. Amanda’s observation is that people initially heard about it and thought it was revolting, of course, but they also expected that she would be obese; after all, we’ve all seen those pictures of the fat kids shoveling McDonalds. Surprisingly enough, the pictures came out with the UK dailymail article.. and she looked pretty much normal. What? People were posed to utilize this as a salient example of the childhood obesity epidemic, but it turned out to be a story about malnourishment.

The comments are mixed, some approving Amanda’s article as a good reminder that thin can be unhealthy and fat can be healthy, while others were irritated that it seems like a justification of overweight. 

At the mini-conference, former UC Berkeley instructor Joanne Ikeda presented on the Health At Every Size approach to weight management. I won’t go into all the details, but here’s a list of 5 things from the talk.

1. “Fat” is preferred to “obese”, because “obese” sounds like a medical condition.

2. Overweight children need support for their mental and social well-being. Helping them make friends is important because they experience discrimination and social isolation.

3. In public health, encouraging a weight stigma to “stop obesity” is not a good strategy. Instead, public health people should include fat people on advisory committees that encourage health and acceptance.

4. The NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) is a civil rights organization that dietitians in weight management should consider joining. They also have a Child Advocacy Toolkit available online for their approach to children’s health.

5. One common alternative to Health At Every Size is Dieting, which is mostly ineffective and potentially harmful. Health At Every Size focuses on well-being, size diversity and communities.

It’s not easy to know who is truly unhealthy, but I think people generally are a fair judge for themselves. We know how much we exercise, how well we eat, our habits and the effects on our bodies. Encouraging everyone to improve and be their best sounds attractive to me. What say you?   

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