Last week I attended an iaedp event on “One Size Does Not Fit All: Understanding the Complex Interplay of Body and Mind when working with Overweight (or Fat) Patients”. I went into the meeting thinking I had a good understanding and insight into what it feels like to be overweight (I used to be heavier than what I am today not counting pregnancy). However, I left the meeting with even better insight and lessons learned. How we word feelings is very important. Not only with the way that we talk to ourselves, but the way that we talk to patients/clients and other providers.
The main part of the meeting was three professionals presenting cases and case studies to our group. All three talked about feelings associated with treating overweight clients and reactions in themselves as well as what they learned treating the clients. We discussed wording used when talking about overweight (using the word “fat” vs. not using it), as well as what came up for providers. We also talked about how genetics and biology play a huge role in determining someone’s weight and size and that we also shouldn’t always assume clients want to lose weight. We always want to ask the client how they feel and what they want to get out of sessions when talking about weight.
The meeting ended with a great discussion on words we use in everyday life. What do these words really mean?
Obesity: what does it really mean to be obese? Now that the USDA has declared obesity a disease, how does it feel to be diseased?
Overweight: over “what weight” does overweight really mean?
Plus Size: Are you calling yourself a clothing size?
Fat: What does it mean when you call yourself fat? Are you describing a feeling or describing your weight?
I came away from the meeting realizing I need to use these sensitive words in a sensitive way, as well as how I choose to use the words “fat”, “overweight”, “obesity” in my everyday life. I really do believe in a “health at every size approach” for so many reasons. So why would I use the word “overweight” when working with someone- what does that word really mean? On the flip side, some people commented that we should all use the word “fat” in everyday life- as it really doesn’t mean anything other than an adjective to describe someone that is bigger. It’s just like when we use that word more often, the less “shameful” it becomes. The beautiful thing was that so many health professionals had a great discussion about these issues and respected all opinions.
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Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of Eat With Knowledge in Nyack, NY. She is on a mission to help people heal from diets, and find peace and balance with their food choices. She leads a team of dietitians who support the philosophy, “Feel Fabulous about Food!”
Start your own healing by downloading her Free Stop the Cycle of Binge Eating guide or her Free Hunger – Fullness Scale.