Ragen Chastain, a renowned global expert on Health At Every Size® and weight stigma, shines as an author, certified health coach, and functional training specialist. Her relentless dedication to debunking myths about diets and weight loss drugs has made her a beacon of truth for over a decade.
She delves into why diets often fail, examines the harm of weight loss medications, and uncovers shocking truths surrounding the American Academy of Pediatrics’ push for weight loss medication and surgery for children.
Get ready to question and transform your beliefs about weight loss.
What is Health At Every Size®?
Health at Every Size® (HAES®), the Association for Size, Diversity, and Health branded trademark, promotes weight-neutral health.
This approach emphasizes that health-supportive behaviors are more beneficial and less risky than weight loss attempts. HAES® advocates for individual health and a world free from barriers, where everyone has access to healthcare.
It focuses on combating social issues like racism instead of focusing solely on individual responsibility. This evidence-based movement aims to enhance access to health and healthcare, addressing social determinants of health and challenging the current focus on weight as a public health issue.
My doctor tells me I need to lose weight for my health, but I don’t know if he’s right.
Research, often funded by the weight loss industry, suggests a correlation between higher weight and certain health issues. However, assuming that weight is solely to blame for these issues is an oversimplification and not scientifically sound.
Correlation does not imply causation, and it’s important to consider confounding variables.
As a responsible researcher, you would explore other factors that could contribute to or cause the health issue observed in higher-weight individuals. For instance, improper blood pressure measurement techniques or the effects of weight stigma and weight cycling (yo-yo dieting) are also correlated with these health issues.
Unfortunately, many studies overlook or fail to control crucial factors such as testing bias, weight stigma, weight cycling, and healthcare disparities. Consequently, these studies inaccurately promote weight loss as the sole solution.
How can I overcome my deeply ingrained belief that weight loss is necessary for me?
The research, spanning over 100 years, consistently demonstrates the failure of intentional weight loss. Studies reveal that most individuals who attempt intentional weight loss regain the weight in the long term.
The weight loss industry capitalizes on this cycle, taking credit for initial weight loss while shifting blame to individuals for regaining the weight.
Our bodies have a biological response to weight loss, where metabolism slows down, hunger signals increase, fullness signals decrease, and type two muscle is lost. This physiological adaptation turns the body into a weight-regaining machine.
Weight cycling, the repeated loss and regain of weight, is not benign and is linked to increased inflammation, mortality, and health issues associated with body size.
Additionally, weight stigma is a real and pervasive issue, affecting every aspect of a person’s life. The belief that stigmatized individuals should change themselves to escape discrimination is inherently wrong.
Loving oneself cannot overcome systemic oppression, and fighting weight stigma on behalf of our bodies is a more productive approach.
What about if my mobility is being impacted by my weight?
When addressing mobility, it’s crucial to acknowledge the reality of ableism and the intersectionality of multiple marginalized identities.
It’s important to recognize the complexities involved and not gloss over them when aiming to cultivate a healthy and peaceful relationship with our bodies. Barriers, such as difficulty finding suitable mobility devices with higher weight limits or increased costs, further compound the challenges.
In terms of increasing mobility, considering the evidence-based approach can be helpful. One option to explore is starting with a mobility device, such as a scooter if needed. It’s unfortunate that mobility devices are often stigmatized as a last resort. This contributs to internalized ableism and the fear of encountering ableism from others.
By focusing on immediate solutions, like finding a device that enhances mobility and allows for activities with loved ones, the path towards improved mobility can be initiated without reliance on weight loss.
It’s common for people to believe that weight loss is necessary for health or improved mobility. However, statistically, attempting weight loss yields a 95% chance of short-term weight loss. Followed by long-term weight regain, with up to a 66% chance of gaining back more weight than initially lost.
As Ragen Chastain says, if body size is viewed as the problem, attempting weight loss is statistically the least effective solution and often leads to weight gain.
The encouraging news is that regardless of body size, individuals can work on aspects such as strength, flexibility, and stamina. Thin people can also experience similar mobility challenges, demonstrating that weight loss is not the only path to improvement.
Even if weight contributes to mobility issues, it doesn’t make weight loss any more likely to succeed.
Everyone is talking about weight loss drugs, and I don’t know if I should believe the hype.
Individuals have body autonomy and can make choices regarding their bodies, such as dyeing hair or trying diet drugs. However, being informed about the research surrounding these choices is essential.
Regarding weight loss drugs, one example is liraglutide (Victoza or Saxenda), initially approved for diabetes treatment. The weight loss industry uses research that correlates higher weight with health issues to justify these drugs’ risks and side effects.
Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of liraglutide, has a history of aggressive marketing and price gouging on insulin.
The drugs may benefit diabetes control. But it has a boxed warning for risks such as thyroid tumors and organ damage. Common side effects include gastrointestinal distress. While short-term weight loss occurs, it often accompanies flu-like symptoms.
Long-term studies show weight regain, with people losing two-thirds of their initial cardio-metabolic benefits within a year of stopping the drug. Novo Nordisk’s profit-oriented solution involves lifelong drug dependence.
The Obesity Action Coalition and The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) receive funding from Novo Nordisk. This raises concerns about conflicts of interest, espically with the recent AAP guidelines endorsing weight loss drugs.
It’s essential to recognize financial interests and understand the risks and limitations of weight loss medications.
Is the AAP’s push for weight loss medication and surgery for children an evidence-based recommendation?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) practice guidelines include health and behavioral lifestyle treatment starting at two years old, weight loss drugs at 12, and surgeries at 13. However, a closer examination reveals major flaws in their approach, and cited research fails to support their recommendations!
Most of the studies they reference are conducted on adults, not children. The surgical recommendations for children are based on a small number of kids. And most studies use data from the same 81 children.
The potential eating disorder symptoms caused by restriction, frequent weighing, and the side effects of drugs and surgeries are alarming. It’s absurd to claim that pediatric weight management programs decrease eating disorder risk. Many reputable eating disorder organizations have voiced opposition to these guidelines.
Parents facing these guidelines may find it helpful to request literature for review, or consider a second opinion. They can do this before making any decisions. Explicitly stating not to discuss weight or BMI in front of their child can protect them from potential shaming.
When discussing weight loss surgery, it’s essential to recognize that these interventions turn a healthy functioning digestive system into a lifelong disease state.
Understanding the limitations and potential risks associated with intentional weight loss is crucial. It highlights the importance of examining research, questioning societal norms and stigmas, and advocating for body autonomy and respect.
Learn more during episode 208 of the Plus Mommy Podcast with special guest Ragen Chastain.
Recording & Show Notes: Plus Mommy Podcast Episode 208
Transcript happily provided upon request.
Resources Mentioned On The Show
- NPR article – Lifesaving or stigmatizing? Parents wrestle with obesity treatment options for kids
- Connect with Ragen via Weight and Healthcare and HAES Health Sheets. And via @ragenchastain on social media.
- Ragen’s headshots by Lindley Ashline.
Ragen Chastain is a speaker, writer, researcher, Board Certified Patient Advocate, and multi-certified health and fitness professional. She’s a thought leader in weight science, weight stigma, health, and healthcare. Ragen lives in LA with her fiancée Julianne and their adorable dog.