“weighty matters” part 1

I’m very lucky that I’ve known one of my best friend for 19 years.

Wow, that sounds like a long time and it is, but ever since the first time we started playing together in kindergarten, we’ve been family. Our parents weren’t “Mr.” and “Mrs.,” but “Uncle” and “Aunt.”

This is Whitney (and our sugar waffles) 🙂

I’m also very lucky because Whitney lives in NYC now. Living in Florida, she hadn’t been to Paris or NYC as of 3 years ago… and then I created a monster! hehe! When I went to Paris and Normandy with my family for my 21st birthday, Whitney came and while she was shocked at first with some of the cultural differences (like laundry), she feel in love by the second week. Then I went to NYC and while she had visited before, suddenly after a few life changes, she moved up when I moved back to D.C.

Maybe bad timing, but it’s actually worked out quite easily because whenever I go up to NYC, I get to stay with her. Yes, it’s free, but it’s also home. I’m on the list at her building so I can go straight up. I know her dog and he knows me so if Whit’s not there when I get in, I take him out. I know where everything is and I just see her when our schedules cross. Doesn’t that sound nice?

So when I saw a panel discussion that I wanted to go to in NYC on a Friday morning, that’s where I stayed. I took the train up on Thursday afternoon and met her at the apartment before going our separate way for the evening. Of course no good “sleepover” would be complete without “girl talk” when we got back in 😉

But then Friday morning came and I got up and went to Weighty Matters hosted by the National Eating Disorders Association at Pace University. First may I just say that the people on this panel were fabulous. It was such a nice mix of people from both sides of this discussion on obesity and eating disorders in our society today.

At first glance, there two issues seem very different and they are on the outward appearance, but at the same time, they’re not different at all. That was part of the introduction between the two groups- the story about how they met. After Mrs. Obama announced her fight against obesity (and also her daughters nutrition and weight), Lynn Grefe, the current CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, wrote to the White House to discuss how to include eating disorder in the talk of health. They directed her to talk with the “obesity people” which led her to Christine Ferguson of STOP Obesity Alliance. After talking about what both sides wanted- overall health, treatment and coverage for their patients, they realized how similar their goals were and that they could work together… and thus this panel.

There were 6 major topics that were talked about and while I won’t completely summarize since I’ll probably lose you, I’ll bullet the important points. I’ll do 2 topics here and 4 on a following post to break it up since there’s a lot to digest and think about. Also, at the end of a comment, I’ll write who said it at the first topic and then use initials for the following topics.

Mixed messaging

  • Like eating disorders, the obese are stigmatized in society. Patients and the doctors who treat them will not be covered by insurance because of this. (Donna Ryan, President of The Obesity Society)
  • Weight has become a cosmetic issue with the different surgeries, but the discussion needs to shift from cosmetic and outward appearance to health. (Joe Nadglowski Jr., President and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition)
  • The quality of life of obese patients is worse than those surviving cancer and that’s a real problem. At the same time, “we live in a setting, in an environment where we’re told to eat, eat, eat, but not look like it.” (Ovidio Bermudez, Past President of NEDA and now represents AED, IAEDP and BEDA)
  • We have to capture the language women use to talk about her body, her daughters body and use that to create a shift. We also have to redefine the speed of health because since the “after” pictures are glamorized, people will go to extreme measures to have that overnight. (Jen Drexler, Partner at Just Ask a Woman)
  • We have to first change our own beliefs as consumers and realize that we’re supposed to be different to thrive. We also need to work together as a task force for diversity. Also, watch how you look at a person. When the actress was nominated and won for her performance in Precious, there was a lot of anger towards her weight, but if she was a man, that wouldn’t be the case. (Emme, model, activist and NEDA Ambassador)
  • In our society, we use a shorthand that thin= healthy and fat= unhealthy, but we need to develop a marco view and a language to describe that range in between. (Katy Dailey, Health and Lifestyles Editor for Newsweek.com)
  • Fat people need heads! No more headless, large torsos! (KD)
  • Time shows a large disconnect and because of that, the fairy tale ending is fueling the quick-fix, diet industry. Real women come in all shapes and sizes. Some have curves, some don’t. (Wendy Naugle, Deputy Health Editor at Glamour magazine)
  • The media gets a lot of blame, but it’s all of the U.S. We want the quick fix and since we’re looking for it, producers make it (or try to). We have to all work together from the food industry to the diet industry and everything in between (beauty, media and policy) to address this, but also walk the fine line to not overly address obesity and send more into eating disorders. (Max Gomez, medical reporter for WCBS-TV)

BMI

  • It’s a good way to access health on a population basis in research, but it’s not good on an individual basis because it doesn’t estimate risk especially in the elderly, body builders and other ethnicities. Also by having cut points, it reinforces an ideal like “if I could only get to…” (DR)
  • Weight creates a barrier- we need to frame it as a health discussion related to a person’s size. (JN)
  • It’s an assessment so it shouldn’t be thrown away, but used as a part of a comprehensive test because being underweight is just as dangerous as being overweight. (OB)
  • It’s a balance because most women do not know their exact weight or BMI, but the size of their clothes. The unfortunate part is all size 2s or size 8s are not made the same and women flock to the smallest size possible so it leaves the question of “how do I measure myself?” (JD)
  • BMI is only in the physical realm, but doesn’t show habits. We need to start stressing healthy habits at any size because that will lower risk aside from weight. (KD)

Did you get all of that? Now relax, digest, and comment…

What do you think about these two issues? Where do you stand and what do you think should happen? Part 2 is coming up tomorrow where topics include the diet industry, who’s to blame, how to start change and recommendations!

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10 responses to ““weighty matters” part 1

  1. This is an excellent source of information so thank you for posting it. The thing that stuck out for me was that our society encourages eating AND being thin. Obviously those two don’t go together.

    I’m glad you were able to see your friend! How nice that you guys have made it so long 🙂 xo

    • It was truly a fabulous panel so I’m happy that more people can be aware now through reading this. You’re right they don’t go together and feel that focusing on overall health will help that. It’s not the weight that’s the problem, but the behaviors.

      And I’m glad too! it is amazing, but special too 🙂

  2. So many good points here. Can’t wait to read about the other 4 topics

  3. I think these topics definitely belong together – people who are obese have an eating disorder too – eating too much (rather than too little) and many engage in the same types of compulsive behaviors, self-degradation, etc, that those with other eating disorders display.

    I think the opinions on both issues of mixed messages and BMI are right on! Great post!

    • That is very true. To me, unless it’s genetic, people who are obese either have bad eating habits or an eating disorder. Both can be helped so it’s out job to just educate others who haven’t seen the correlation yet!

  4. This is wonderful. As a recovered eating disorder sufferer, I have personally experienced two of these points: after I had a series of seizures, the insurance company refused to pay for a $$$ medical test because they didn’t think I “needed” it. How could they know what I need?? Eating disorders (and all mental disorders, for that matter) on your medical record definately have a bad stigma. Also, while I was suffering from anorexia, my goal was to reach the “Underweight” category of the BMI chart for my height. No matter how much weight I lost, I was never able to get down to that perfect number. I was definately underweight, but the BMI chart said I was “normal”. ??? Thank you for sharing the real things that society does to cause/react to eating disorders.
    -C

  5. I feel like our society needs to alter from sending messages of THIN and SKINNY to being active and fit. Most countries that have low obesity rates are extremely active (lots of walking, exercise, etc.)

    I think a lot of it has to do with fashion magazines, which women buy up. Those models are not healthy. They don’t eat. They’re thin beyond belief. But that’s what we see.

    And I also feel like we need to emphasize overall mental health. There’s a negative cycle that comes with obesity. First, you eat because it’s awesome and tastes good (and we have massive portions in America and are told to eat everything on our plate because there’s starving kids in Africa). The bigger you get, the harder it is to move. The harder it is to move, the harder it is to lose weight. The harder it is to lose weight, the more upset about your weight you get. The more upset, the more you eat.

    There’s SO many mental issues that comes with obesity that diet magazines/pills/advertisements neglect to cover. They think that “healthy” equals body fitness. I tend to believe that healthy equals mental fitness. The body fitness will come if the mental is there.

    I think it’d also be great if society as a whole learned that eating a salad does not equal weight loss, that you can’t only eat a tomato for dinner to lose weight.

    I’m glad you got to sit in on this panel! It sounds really interesting and informative 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  6. BMI is only in the physical realm, but doesn’t show habits. We need to start stressing healthy habits at any size because that will lower risk aside from weight. (KD)

    Love this! I know that for the longest time my goal was to be within the lower range of BMI and I have always been in the upper range, even at my feel great weight. I used to think lower range of BMI= healthy. Now I know this isn’t the case, I think BMI can really send the wrong message.

  7. Pingback: “weighty matters” part 2 « the sweetest thing

  8. Pingback: "weighty matters" part 2 | the sweetest things

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