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Happy 20th Anniversary!

Twenty Years.  TWENTY Years.  Two Decades.  A Score.  An infamous date in the life of Sgt. Pepper and his band. The amount of time I lived before College Graduation.  (Your math is fine,

I graduated early).  The amount of time my son has been alive. For those of us who are parents, we tend to find ambiguity in the time/space continuum.   For most of us over 30, whether we have children or not, we have glimmers of the same paradox…does 20 years feel like a long time or just a blip?  Or both at the same time?

Twenty years ago if someone had told me that 20 years later I would still be involved in the Size Acceptance movement I would have scoffed and “sassily” said,

“There is no way that in 2013 people are still going to be that limited, that bigoted, that fanatic about this ‘one size fits all’ mentality.”

Of course if someone had told me that I’d still be fighting for equal rights for women, gays, and immigrants I would have thought they were naïve, delusional or both.  Yet here I am doing all of that (and have been since the 1970’s) and now I’m celebrating Healthy Weight Week’s 20th Anniversary.

As I tuck away any traces of disappointment, temporarily suppress my cynicism, and focus on the positive aspects of this landmark in the HAES®, Size Acceptance, and Size Diversity movements, I remind myself that there are some of you, who are just climbing on board this Peace Train with fresh ideas, optimism, and energy to move forward.  But we can’t go forward without looking back, and in the spirit of passing on the baton to the next wave of warriors and curious as to how far we have progressed over the past two decades, I contacted Francie M. Berg.

Ms. Berg, author of Women Afraid to Eat, a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, has chaired Healthy Weight Week since 1992. Although Francie is still active in the Healthy Weight Network, she has recently published a new book, Montana Stirrups, Sage and Shenanigans: An old west epic with a modern touch filled with vivid personal stories of ranching, wildlife and western humor.”  and is devoting the lion’s share of her time and energy in that arena.  Despite her limited available time, she generously agreed to answer a couple of questions and provided me with additional information about Healthy Weight Week to share with all of you.

“Healthy Weight Week, Jan. 20-26, 2013 is a time to celebrate healthy diet-free living habits that last a lifetime and prevent eating and weight

Francie Berg, Chair of Healthy Weight Week

problems.  Our bodies cannot be shaped at will. But we can all be accepting, healthy and happy at our natural weights.

 This year, Healthy Weight Week honors Israel with a Healthy Body Image award for its new law that redefines beauty in advertising and on the fashion runway. Promoters of the Israeli law that took effect Jan.1, 2013, charge that impossible standards promoted by designers and model agencies have led to an epidemic in eating disorders. “Beautiful is not anorexic,” said Rachel Adato, who helped push through the new ruling. “This law shatters the anorexic ideal, serving as an example for the country’s youth.”

Other Healthy Weight Award winners are Julia Bluhm a 14-year-old girl from Waterville, Maine, who took on unrealistically thin images in the teenage fashion magazine Seventeen and Deb Burgard, PhD, a Los Altos, Calif., Psychologist and long-time leader in combating weight stigma.”

During Healthy Weight Week, people are encouraged to improve health habits in lasting ways and normalize their lives by:

  • eating well without dieting,
  • living actively
  • feeling good about themselves and others (promoting acceptance of body diversity)

Healthy Weight Week also includes: 

  • Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day, January 22, which: exposes weight loss fraud and quackery in an effort to help educate consumers.
  • Annual Slim Chance Awards which:  highlight the four “worst” weight loss products of the year.

For more information on this year’s award recipients  Click Here and then scroll down.

I asked Ms Berg, what, if any, changes did she notice in regards to the recognition and publicity surrounding Healthy Weight Week? Her response was,

“Each year more and more people know about Healthy Weight Week and more understand its message—two different things, obviously. Today I got three calls from professionals writing about HWW and it’s still almost two weeks away (most calls come during HWW). All wanted to reprint from our Healthy Weight Network website—one a journalist from China. We get calls from all over the world, but this is my first from China. The other two were American dietitians involved in health departments. Of all health professionals, dietitians understand and appreciate my work best. They deal with eating and eating problems every day. They get it. Too many doctors think for a large person with health problems, just take off the fat quickly and problem solved. Seasoned dietitians know better.

Instead we need to help people normalize their lives and become healthier at the size they are. HWW is a time to showcase this message and I’m always encouraged that more people are interested in spreading the word. It’s a difficult message to get across because the weight-loss industry is so lucrative and powerfully entrenched within our health system. However, journalists today seem much more willing to discuss size acceptance issues and the failures of the diet industry.   I believe Healthy Weight Week and what all of us working in this paradigm have done has made a difference.”

As I considered Francie’s response, I did feel a sense of pride in the collective advances that have been made by the Health at Every Size and Size Acceptance communities.  There is no doubt that the awareness that diets do not work and to opt instead to love your body, has increased over the years as a result of consistent efforts of a motivated group of dedicated professionals.  There have been more longitudinal studies questioning the efficacy of dieting and the assumption that fat always means unhealthy and thin always means healthy.

Francie shared the following two thoughts with me as well.

  • “More people today know the value of size acceptance. They’ve experienced the harmful effects of dieting, idealizing thin models and harassing large children and adults. They’re ready to move on.”
  • “Many people are surprised to learn that extensive research at the US Center for Health Statistics, CDC, led by senior statistician Kathleen Flegal and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 and again Jan. 2, 2013, shows that overweight persons tend to live the longest. This includes people in a broad range from body mass index of 22 to 40. Most Americans are in this healthy weight range.”

I asked Francie how she would like to see people acknowledge/celebrate/promote HWW either for themselves or for others?”

“I’d like to see people begin to change one habit, especially inactivity, and develop a plan for gradual change to a more          active lifestyle that works in their own lives and that they can succeed with. Succeeding in this can open the door to many more positive changes. They can find help here:  and also (Healthy Living at Any Size).

When I went to the Healthy Weight Network website I saw that their list of resources included many folks, like myself, from the “old guard.”  But it also included new links, websites, books, DVD’s, etc. from people relatively new to the community.  I also make a concerted effort to keep my website, Dr. Deah’s Body Shop, updated with new bloggers and activists who are strong and dedicated to backing up their claims with research and challenging the old paradigm. (If you have any resources to add please email me with the subject line New Resources). The list, I am happy to say, is growing.

Change is often slow and incremental.  Not the best scenario for someone as impatient as I am who most definitely has a WAIT problem.  But as I look back over the past twenty plus years, while I am not thrilled that the problems of size discrimination, body hate, and eating disorders have not been eradicated, neither did we whimper away and give up the fight.  The train is growing longer, the engine is growing stronger and I will happily keep my big fat caboose hitched on, if necessary, for the next 20 years.

Until next time,

Dr. Deah