What is commonly called “dieting” has been recognized as a health hazard for some years now. As Wired contributor and author Virginia Heffernan explains,
[F]ood restriction of almost any form — famine, elimination diets, wellness diets — routinely upsets hormonal regulation, potentially setting off serious mental and physical health problems and, paradoxically, weight gain.
In “Watching Our Weight Could Be Killing Us,” Heffernan talks about the work of Food Psych creator Christy Harrison, who is described as a “rogue dietician.” Apparently, her podcast is a bastion of fat acceptance, which some folks believe is not a philosophy that ought to be spread around.
Heffernan says that Harrison seems to “put up for grabs the self-evident connections between food, weight, and health.” In this she is not alone. She attracts followers who agree to the proposition that the effects of weight stigma might be more destructive to a person than the actual obesity.
Harrison is regarded in some quarters as being very similar to a science denialist, just because she points out that too much concern over weight has been known to damage people. Her admirers are convinced of the possibility not only of health at any weight, but of beauty at any weight.
The discussion veers off into interesting byways, like the thought processes of diet critic Isabel Foxen Duke, who wants people to maintain awareness of their thoughts in the moment, and to be on the lookout for one particularly dangerous thought.
This is Heffernan’s interpretation:
Anytime you’re eating something while telling yourself you’re not going to do this tomorrow, she says, you’re in peril of mental poisoning. Probably you’re pumping out sickening cortisol, but at the very least you’re pumping out thoughts: What I’m doing now is shameful, horrible, “unhealthy,” and I won’t do it tomorrow. When you do, you deepen your own sense that you can’t be trusted, that your appetites are excessive, thereby interfering with the dynamics of tasting, swallowing, digesting, and even liking food.
Another digression stems from an observation that according to the World Health Organization, “fast and shelf-stable foods are unsafe at any dose.” This is bad news for survivors of apocalyptic disaster, whose existence will be miserable for many reasons but basically from nutritionally inadequate diets.
But wait— Christy Harrison does not agree:
Food is food, plain and simple, and it’s time to stop labeling with our brains and start listening to our intuition.
This bright-eyed heretic says diet culture is a form of oppression. She calls out fat phobia in the media. She rails against wellness diets that are really all about “the moralization and demonization of food” by the diet culture, which talks judgmentally about clean eating and dirty eating, and…
[…] demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
Harrison does not even want nutrition classes to teach children that some foods are unhealthful, a viewpoint that meets with opposition.
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