Fat? Who Cares! Why Weight Doesn't Matter

A major expert speaks out on how weight-loss efforts are statistically futile—and how you can boost your health big time without dropping a pound.

By Peter Jaret
scale garbage can trash weight loss diet picture
Photograph: Dan Saelinger

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who has the best body image of all? When Tracy Tylka, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University in Columbus, polled 801 women about body image for a study published in January, their responses surprised her. “We assumed that the biggest factor would be how much a woman weighs, given the emphasis on weight in our culture,” says Tylka. Instead, her findings showed that the most powerful influence was the opinion of others. “If a woman is surrounded by people who accept her as she is, who don’t talk about weight in a negative way, she’s much more likely to have a positive body image,” she explains. “No matter how heavy a woman was, if she had positive social support, she tended to have a positive body image.”

Liking your reflection in the mirror is more than a matter of vanity. A positive body image is associated with life satisfaction, better coping skills and healthy behaviors, including more physical activity and good eating habits. “Women who appreciate their bodies are more likely to take care of themselves—for example, by getting regular breast-cancer screenings,” says Tylka.

Originally published in the October 2011 issue of More.

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First Published October 10, 2011

Share Your Thoughts!



So who exactly are these people who eat healthy foods in the correct quantities and who aren't sedentary but somehow still manage to be obese? There are people who are heavy boned and large framed, who will never be thin. But I find it hard to believe that you can live in a health-giving fashion and be as fat as half the people I see waddling around North Florida. You don't get that huge without working at it.

Linda Bacon11.07.2011

Thanks for raising these issues, Peter. Just wanted to let people know of some follow-up resources. Check out the (free) HAES Community Resources to show your commitment to these issues and/or to learn more or connect with others: www.HAESCommunity.org. Also, I've written a book which discusses the scientific basis for HAES in more detail, and gives readers tools for implementing it. The book is called Health at Every Size and more details can be found at www.HAESbook.com, where you will also find many free excerpts.

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