What is your take on healthy weight?

I was contacted by a health organisation last week as they were after a comment for healthy weight week. I froze, “are you really sure I’m the right person to be commenting for you? Maybe you will get the comment you’re after from a different dietitian?” I was quite surprised when, in the end, they were interested in my approach and I was glad to be able to put the HAES® message out there. 

When the two words – healthy – and – weight – are put together, I have a little *shudder* grit my teeth moment for I know the association most people have. The image conjured up is of fitting into the “healthy weight RANGE” on the BMI chart. It’s of a fit/toned body, without excessive visible body fat. It’s being able to buy clothes in the “normal” stores. Really, it’s a hijacking of the word “healthy” by the phrase “socially acceptable” (try it, and see). When, healthy weight should just mean the weight that an individual is at when they are practising healthy behaviours (and no, this doesn’t meant their weight will automatically fall into this magic BMI charted land).

Should it just be called “healthy habits week” or something to a similar effect? Why does the word weight even need to be there? Yes – for some it may be helpful seeing a variety of nutrition and physical activity messages as part of a week-long event, but what has weight got to do with that? Weight is not a behaviour, but a physical aspect of our bodies. Like height. And foot size. You get my drift. 

Whilst the idea is starting to filter through that you can be of a so-called socially acceptable weight and be unhealthy, society are still really fighting against the idea that if you live in a larger body – there is nothing healthy about that. That right there – is fatphobia at play, our implicit biases shooting automatic thoughts our way to confirm the stereotype that fat is bad. 

As a dietitian, if there are aspects of your diet you would like to improve that you feel might have a positive impact on your HEALTH, then yep let’s chat about that. But when we start focusing on weight being the gold standard marker of health, things get messy as this ignores the complex input of social, emotional and physical factors. 

YOUR healthy weight is individual to YOU. Measuring health by numbers on the scales is misleading, it ignores individual human variation – implying a high weight will result in poor health and vice versa. A dietitian can help you find out where YOUR healthy weight may fall, not via a chart or number, but by helping you to reconnect with and trust your body. When you hear healthy weight – challenge that automatic picture that arises and think, do they mean socially acceptable?