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Weighty Thoughts

How many times a day do you think about your weight?

I believe there are people out there who can honestly say they never, or at least rarely, think about how much they weigh. I have several friends whose weight doesn't seem to fluctuate, who appear to eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full, and who never ever bring up the topic of weight in conversation.

I would like to become one of those people.

For this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column about whether overweight and obesity are as bad for your health as they're made out to be, I interviewed Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size. Bacon believes that our collective and individual obsessions with our weight are, paradoxically, preventing too many of us from attaining and maintaining our ideal body shape and size.

Mind you, ideal may mean something different to you than it does to Bacon. She believes that when people stop obsessing about how much they weigh and focus instead on eating healthfully, getting more physical activity just for the fun of it and adopting other sound health habits, their bodies will naturally gravitate toward the weight they are meant to be.

Of course, that doesn't mean everyone will be a size 6. But in Bacon's scheme (which is shared by many other health, nutrition and diet experts), so long as our bodies are healthy and our lives full and rich, we shouldn't really care about being a size whatever, any more than we should care about the number on the scale.

For me -- and, I suspect, for many others -- going on a "diet" encourages me to think about food all the time. Being constantly aware of my weight makes me do all kinds of silly things, from incessantly assessing the size of my waistline and thighs to checking my image in any reflective surface I pass. And the more I think about food and my thigh size, the more I want to eat.

On the other hand, when I get consumed with engaging activities, I somehow shed a few pounds, as if by magic. Planning a big trip, for instance, or digging into a juicy novel distracts my attention away from my weight. When food and fat no longer consume most of my waking thoughts, my body does, as Bacon predicts, tend to take care of itself.

I wish I could take back all the moments (adding up to hours, weeks, years) I've wasted thinking about my thighs so I could put that time to better use. Starting today, I'm going to try not to obsess about my weight. I'm going to work on noticing when those thoughts pop up and on nudging them aside as I shift my focus to something else. It'll be hard -- lots of habits to break.

Care to join me?

This week's poll:

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  July 7, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness  
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Next: Do Food Safety Fixes Miss the Mark?


It is one thing to hear about "dont worry about your weight" from some. However, one needs to also keep in mind that health providers and insurance say differently and act accordingly on "proper height, weight and BMI" ... As long as these differing views co exist, most people will be concerned about weight...

Posted by: rudolphdc | July 7, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I think finding a healthy diet and exercise schedule can happen, but change does involve thought. For years I bit my fingernails, then I decided to stop and I had to stop myself "all the time" for a week. I spent the last 3 months on a diet to take off weight gained between moving, a new job, no kitchen for a month, and Christmas holidays. The change required initial effort, but I know what works for me (exercise, salad, cooked veg, protein, very limited junk). I tracked my weight and food intake, and that includes cooking and shopping and planning meals, but I'd have to do all that stuff anyway. I didn't sit around thinking "there's chocolate in the cupboard, I wish I could have some", because there wasn't, but there's a CVS a few blocks from me and I didn't think about that either. I just made it Not An Option, and instead of a minute-by-minute "what am I going to eat", I took 10 minutes at night to plan what I'd eat the next day, so when I was hungry I'd pick something from that list. I know this is shocking to some, but it really wasn't painful. The food obsession typically lasts 2-3 days, and the body adjusts. I lost 28 pounds, 20% of my bodyweight. I have exercise I like and can read or surf while on the machines.

Posted by: bloggomio | July 7, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Normally I eat kind of a set plan of things. This for breakfast, that for lunch, the same thing all the time for a mid-morning/mid-afternoon snack (I'm big on snacks :) ).

So a big time when I think about my weight is when I'm contemplating eating something that isn't in my calorie "budget." Since food seems to surround us this can be quite often. However it does seem to help me not eat everything in sight!

Posted by: RedBird27 | July 7, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I just don't get this viewpoint.

It's like saying, "today, don't worry about how much money you have in the bank. Just spend what 'feels' right. It will all work out."

Problem is: it doesn't. Not for money, unless you're really good at estimating and remembering how much you've spent, and how much you've got left. Frankly, that takes a certain brain talent. Maybe you have it. I know I don't have it. Not for money, not for food.

Not paying attention to how much I ate, and my weight, earned me a 220 lb scale weight (on a 5'2" female) and years of aching joints, soaring cholesterol, and plumetting energy.

I was profiled as a "Successful Loser" in 2005 by Sally Squires, your predecessor. I lost 80 lbs with Weight Watchers, and I'm proud to say that I've now kept that weight off 5+ years. It's not hard, it doesn't take THAT much thought every day. I don't have a "diet" mentality - I eat what I want within reason, but balance income and outgo (same as with my checkbook). I don't do extremes, either in eating or exercise. I love food, unabashedly, and I eat both healthy foods and "junk."

My point? Moderation. I neither eat to live nor live to eat. I balance the two. I never feel guilty about a single thing I eat. I keep track of what I eat - in more detail at home than on, say, vacation - and I monitor my weight. My weight and my intake loosely dictate, day to day, what I eat. "Loosely," because I don't hesitate to enjoy special food situations -- I just balance it all out over time.

You know, maybe some of us just can't do the unconscious food balance thing. It's not in our make-up. It's like this: I'm a CPA, but I can't do math in my head. Give me a calculator, though, and I'll calculate your socks off. My calculator's a tool that I use to do my job.

Being conscious of my food intake is a "tool" that I use to stay at a healthy weight. It makes me the equal of your friends who don't have to watch their intake all that closely. I don't waste time agonizing over the fact that I'm not like them; I just make use of any and all tools available to me to do the job.

And in the long run, it's netted me more energy, less pain, better cholesterol and blood sugar numbers. Being at a healthy weight may not add years to my life, but it sure as heck has added life to my years. In 1999, I was essentially an 'old lady' at 47, judging by the way I felt. Today, I feel about 30.

That's what being at a healthy weight can do for you. Worth it? You bet.

Posted by: dkosnett | July 8, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

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