Self-Esteem & The Great Weight Debate: Acceptance v. Diet

Fat Here's the thing. There are people out there who hate their body. A lot of overweight people judge themselves in a way they would never judge any one else. Every ounce of their self-esteem is wrapped up in what the scale says. Success or failure is measured by pounds lost and gained from day to day, week to week, month to month. At its worst, this way of thinking can lead to a serious life-threatening eating disorder.  But even at its best, self-esteem/weight dependency is not good.

Yes, I struggle with being overweight, but I try not to hate myself for it. I am grateful for my body. It's worked hard to keep me healthy over the years through all my relapses and dealings with chronic illness. God made us the stewards of the earth, the animals and our bodies. It's my responsibility love and care for these gifts, in sickness and in health.

When I saw this article about the acceptance movement in the New York Times recently I was intrigued. Acceptance has a nice sound. It reminded me of the Love Yourself Thin approach to weight loss which I strongly advocate. However, a few paragraphs into the article I was struggling with enough cognitive dissonance to make my head ache. What did it mean? It was confusing. Mandy Katz, the author of the article Tossing Out the Diet and Embracing the Fat says, 

"This movement — a loose alliance of therapists, scientists and others —
holds that all people, “even” fat people, can eat whatever they want
and, in the process, improve their physical and mental health
and stabilize their weight. The aim is to behave as if you have reached
your “goal weight” and to act on ambitions postponed while trying to
become thin, everything from buying new clothes to changing careers.
Regular exercise should be for fun, not for slimming."

See? Which is it? Eat whatever I want or behave as if I reached my goal weight? Because those two things are different. If I were to behave as if I were at my goal weight I couldn't eat whatever I want. And exercise? If I waited for exercise to be fun, hell would be well on its way to freezing over.

On the other hand… I totally agree with living life to its fullest now. Wear clothes for the body you have now. You look really good now! Don't postpone dreams until we reach our goal weight. Go for that promotion now!

self-esteem needs nurturing as much as our bodies do. When we make
loving ourselves conditional, like, "I will be so happy after I lose 30
pounds," it's like holding our self-esteem hostage

If the Acceptance Movement is about loving ourselves for who we are today, unconditionally, body and soul, and caring for ourselves responsibly AND reasonably, then you can count me in!

Today is the first day of the rest of my life and eating like I've reached my goal weight.

Photo courtesy of billy_martin5 via Photobucket


  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    I read the article and I am not sure I get it. How does stopping the diet work? If I let myself eat what I want I will most definitely gain weight.
    I understand about not having weight a part of self esteem though I have that very problem. So if I were to give up the diet and gain weight, what happens to the already low self esteem?
    I also understand about fitness. I do agree that an overweight person that works out is probably healthier than a thin person who does not. But like you if I waited until exercise was fun there would be no exercise.
    Thank you for posting your thoughts. It does get a person thinking.

  • SD,
    Yes, it is confusing, exactly what I was trying to say.
    This is how I interpret it. I do not follow a specific diet, per se. What the acceptance movement people are saying (I think) is that if you want to lose weight, that’s great, just don’t hate yourself and postpone living while you do it. Eat like the weight you want. So if I go to a party and there’s cake I ask myself, what would a 140 pound healthy person do? I can’t eat what I want (a huge, hunky slice with lots of ice cream) but my goal weight self can have a very thin slice and enjoy that.
    About exercise, I have to exercise for health and mood reasons. Most of the time it’s like taking medication. Not fun. Sometimes it can feel good (mostly when it’s over). I can’t wait for it to be fun so this part I don’t agree with.
    I hope this helps clarify.
    Dr. A

  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    Thank you. You did clarify things for me.
    When I read “The aim is to behave as if you have reached your “goal weight” and to act on ambitions postponed while trying to become thin, everything from buying new clothes to changing careers” I thought it meant make your goal weight the weight you are now because they were talking about not dieting. What you are saying if my goal weight is 125 and my weight is 150 then I should eat what I would eat if I was 125? And for the clothes it is saying don’t wait until you lose the weight to get new clothes, let yourself reward yourself now.
    So what I need to do is remember what I would have eaten when I was 125. I would have had the big piece of cake on that day, however I would not have eaten a lot prior to it. I would not have the “large piece of cake” every day as I think am doing now. My pieces of cake are too close together.
    That is a pretty good way to think of it.

  • Hi, am just wondering if i could get any form of advice from you… I’ve tried different pills and ways to eat healthy still no changes, i just need to reduce my weight, please advice


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