Stop Conflating Weight with Health, Particularly with Diabetes

Trigger/Content Warning: Discussion of harm of weight-loss dieting/focus, mention of calorie deprivation and psychological impacts.

Look, I am not a doctor or nutritionist or in any form of medical care (please see my complete disclaimer at the end) – but as an observant human being with a brain, and a lifetime of my own lived experiences behind me, I’d like to point out some things that seem clear and obvious to me.

First of all, I spent over 20 years of my life as an active, perfectly healthy and health-conscious fat woman. (I was blessed with good health and some people of all sizes and shapes are not – health is not a sign of doing things “right” and it is not a measure of worth – there are too many factors that play into health to go into here – bottom line: health is a gift. Can we do things that enhance health? Sometimes. People who suffer from health conditions deserve support, not judgment.) My health indicator numbers were all consistently good, even though more than one doctor wrote the condemning words “morbidly obese” on my chart. I grew up eating a wide variety of healthy foods – eating my fruits and veggies and balancing my color palate is second nature to me.

Prior to becoming fat, I had spent about two decades trying desperately to become thinner than I naturally was. I’m not going to go deeply into it here, but that weight loss dieting affected my “set-point” weight – and when I stopped dieting and ate normally, my weight rose. I still stayed healthy – and other than needing to get my gallbladder removed (arguably caused by my previous weight-loss attempts), I remained well for many years.

If you are interested in learning more about the science of “set-point” and why weight loss dieting is harmful, I recommend reading Lindo Bacon’s book, Health At Every Size, following Ragen Chastain at her blog, Dances With Fat and her new Weight and Healthcare newsletter, which has excellent information and links to endless resources, and checking out ASDAH (the Association for Size Diversity and Health) – lots of resources by physicians and nutritionists and mental health care professionals.

I had no problems with my blood sugar until May of 2018, following two courses of antibiotics for a tooth infection and root canal. Now, I have no scientific proof of this, but I had to stop the second round of antibiotics because I could literally feel them destroying me inside, like a wrecking ball on all of my systems. The pain was terrifying. A month or two later, I got my diabetes diagnosis. I don’t think they are unrelated, but like I said, no proof. Although, if you Google “getting antibiotics after taking diabetes” you will see right on top “Those that filled 2 to 4 prescriptions of antibiotics of any type had a 53% increased risk of having type 2 diabetes than those who filled 0 to 1 prescriptions of antibiotics.” Then there are a bunch of links that discuss the connection between diabetes and antibiotics. So … maybe proof? Anyway, that’s not the point of this post.

Once I got my diagnosis and went on Dr. Hyman’s plan, within a few weeks, I had my blood sugar back at normal levels. As I’ve talked about previously, I maintained those normal levels for over 18 months, until I started sliding off the program and not being as careful. It’s a delicate balance and dance for me as I cope with some of the mental health damage from trauma I suffered from so many years of weight loss dieting. Don’t believe that weight loss dieting causes trauma? Look up the work of Ancel Keys. The men in that starvation study were on a “starvation diet” of 1570 calories a day – which was a feast compared to the limitations that I used to impose on myself based on recommendations from endless women’s magazines.

When I was growing up, women were constantly encouraged to eat 500 calories a day, or sometimes a more moderate 1200 calories a day. I took that seriously – even when I felt like I was starving and even when I felt despondent about not being able to enjoy foods like everyone else. I once went 10 days without eating anything at all, just drinking water. No wonder my metabolism and my mental health suffered! But again, I digress – that’s not the point.

Here’s my point: less than two weeks ago, my morning blood sugar was quite high. Without medication and without weight loss (full disclosure: I haven’t weighed myself, but certainly I haven’t lost the 10% of my body weight that doctors ridiculously recommend) – my blood sugar is back to normal. Yesterday, it hit 99 – the first time I’ve been under 100 in months. I didn’t starve. I didn’t count calories. I just did the program that I know works for me, avoiding foods that I’ve learned set off my blood sugar and making sure to get some form of exercise/activity most every day.

I’m writing this post because almost everywhere you read about diabetes, the recommendation is to lose weight. Well, it may happen naturally as you avoid inflammation-causing foods (which are the same foods that drive my blood sugar up), but it also may not happen. The body regulates its own weight – and putting a focus on weight-loss detracts from the health-promoting steps one can take to get back in balance. Even suggesting weight loss can create a body-shaming vibe that makes it more challenging to treat one’s body with the love and self-care one deserves.

If people happen to lose weight, fine. If they don’t, fine. It is healthier in every way if the focus is on health and well-being (physical, mental, emotional) rather than on weight. What foods feel good in your body? What foods make you feel tired? Nauseous? Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Check your blood sugar regularly to ascertain for yourself which foods raise your blood sugar levels too much. Keep records and lists for reference. I use my journals. Are you moving enough? Do you need to dance or get outside and walk or go for a bike ride? Ask your doctor to work with you in a weight-neutral way. If they won’t, find a doctor who will. You deserve to have your body and health cared for in a way that is supportive and respectful of the body you have. If you need any help with self-love or body image, check out my website where I offer coaching programs. Best wishes to you on your health journey!

Disclaimer: Please be advised that I am not a medical professional nor a dietician. This site is not in any way, shape, or form providing any sort of diagnosis, advice, cures, or recommendations for medical or dietary treatments. I am simply sharing my own journey and experiences. Nothing I say is intended to replace proper medical care.

Published by freekat2

I'm choosing as much as I can to be curious rather than afraid, to be open and willing to learn, to express myself as authentically and vulnerably as I can manage in any given moment, and to enjoy this journey of life.

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