The science


A review of interventions that Promote Eating By internal Cues

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Research Summary:

Traditional diet programs that restrict intake are not only ineffective but are also counterproductive in that they promote unhealthy eating behaviors and phycological distress such as depression, body dissatisfaction, and lower self-esteem. Evidence also shows that frequency of dieting is directly related to weight gain. An alternative to dieting is intuitive eating. This is an approach based on internal cues, body acceptance, and navigating health choices based on both health and enjoyment. Studies on intuitive eating show that intuitive eating promotes positive improvements in eating habits, body image, improved self-esteem, and an overall better quality of life. Those who report trusting their bodies to tell them how to eat were also less likely to exhibit disordered eating habits and showed significant decreased bulimia, body dissatisfaction, depression, and drive for thinness as compared to the traditional diet group who had no significant difference in all of these areas. Furthermore, these studies showed that weight loss is not necessary for improving blood pressure, total cholesterol level, triglyceride level and cardiorespiratory fitness….all suggesting that IE may be superior to weight-centered approaches.


Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift

Research Summary:

We need to shift our focus from weight to health.

“Randomized controlled clinical trials indicate that a HAES approach is associated with statistically and clinically relevant improvements in physiological measures (e.g., blood pressure, blood lipids), health behaviors (e.g., eating and activity habits, dietary quality), and psychosocial outcomes (such as self-esteem and body image), and that HAES achieves these health outcomes more successfully than weight loss treatment and without the contraindications associated with a weight focus (such as food and body preoccupation, repeated cycles of weight loss and regain, distraction from other personal health goals and wider health determinants, reduced self-esteem, eating disorders, other health decrement, and weight stigmatization and discrimination.”

This article breaks down assumptions including:

  • Adiposity poses significant mortality risk

  • Adiposity poses significant morbidity risk

  • The pursuit of weight loss is a practical and positive goal

  • Anyone who is determined can lose weight and keep it off through appropriate diet and exercise

  • The only way for overweight and obese people to improve health is to lose weight

  • Obesity-related costs place a large burden on the economy, and this can be corrected by focused attention to obesity treatment and prevention

DO No Harm & Unpacking Weight Science


“Sustained weight loss of greater than 5% of body weight is rare. Even when people adhere to strict, high-volume exercise, weight loss varies. Both in naturalistic, longitudinal samples and in randomized controlled trials, various weight-loss efforts and strategies lead to long-term weight gain. Furthermore, a person’s perception (or in children, their parents’ perception) that they are overweight also leads to long-term weight gain, not weight maintenance or loss, regardless of their BMI, suggesting that awareness-raising conversations about body weight can do more harm than good.” The National Weight Control Registry is a popular resource used to represent the opposite-that people can sustain weight loss in the long term. However, this study only uses the "statistical unicorns"-those people who lose weight and keep it off more than 2-5 years. It is important to note that these "statistical unicorns" are the study's outliers. An outlier is a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set. Therefore you can not make any conclusions using these outliers to tell us about what is true/helpful for the vast majority of humans.

In addition to the article linked below, a great resource I want to add is the incredible Fiona Willer. She is the expert of unpacking the weight science. Unfortunately much of the science we hear that promotes weight loss and fear mongering of foods are just plain wrong. However, how are we to know if we don’t know how to critically look at the science? Lucky for us, Fiona Willer AdvAPD is great at this and has made it one of her missions to take apart the science to bring you the truth. Subscribe to her HealthNotDiets Digest to receive a weekly round up of weight-neutral articles, blogs, research, clinical guidelines and shareables. Listen to Fiona and Laura Thomas, PHD and RD as they discuss the “statistical union” on Laura’s podcast “Don’t Salt My Game.

weight Loss Is Not the Answer: A Well-being Solution to the “Obesity Problem”


The fact that we think “obesity” is a problem IS the problem.

Abstract: “Americans have been gaining weight in recent decades, prompting widespread concern about the health implications of this change. Governments, health practitioners, and the general public all want to know: What is the best way to reduce the health risks associated with higher body weight? The dominant weight- loss solution to this “obesity problem” encourages individuals to lose weight through behavior change. This solution rests on the assumptions that higher body weight causes health problems, that permanent weight loss is attainable, and that weight loss improves health. But comprehensive reviews of the scientific evidence find mixed, weak, and sometimes contradictory evidence for these premises. We suggest that a different solution to the “obesity problem” is needed – a solution that acknowledges both the multifac- eted nature of health and the complex interaction between person and situation that characterizes the connection between weight and health. Thus, we use the lens of social psychological science to propose an alternative, well-being solution to the “obesity problem”. This solution has the potential to improve health by encouraging eating and exercising for optimal health rather than weight loss, by developing in- terventions to reduce weight stigma and discrimination, and by helping higher body-weight people cope with the stress of stigma and discrimination.”