A brief rant about health headlines

I typed up this brief rant after having thought about for a few days. It’s not the most eloquent of posts, just some thoughts I’d like to get out there!

As a student of nutrition and future RD, I do my best to be in the know with hot topics that are developing in the field. I read journal articles, magazine clips, and position papers in order to stay up to date. Normally, I learn a lot of fascinating information. Not always applicable information, but typically it’s at least enlightening. 

Sometimes, however, I read a headline and just makes me angry. Now, it’s probably no surprise to you, but Health at Every Size has not caught on with the majority of the profession (much less the rest of the medical world), so many times these headlines center around weight loss. One particular headline really set me off recently- 

“Divorce May Shrink an Older Woman’s Waistline… while marriage may widen it, study suggests”

Now tell me, what do you think people imply from this headline? Is the article suggesting divorce as a viable weight loss solution, since you know, there are some people who would literally try anything to shed the pounds. Probably not, but it sure seems to be shining a desirable light on a negative experience. 

And what about these women who “shrink” following divorce? My guess is that a lot of the weight loss that comes after divorce is associated with mental health. Perhaps a woman loses her appetite and struggles to eat following a rocky divorce, leading to unintentional weight loss (a risk factor for malnutrition). Or maybe a woman leaves an emotionally abusive relationship where she was not able to tend to her own needs and now she is able to do things to make herself happy like exercise? 

The weight loss in these situations would not be because of positive reasons, but due to an emotional hardship. The study itself even mentions that a possible reason for weight loss in some divorced women is the return to smoking. We all know that smoking is not a recommended method of weight loss…

Another headline that made me a little angry-

Parenthood, not leftover pregnancy pounds, may cause weight problems

Yes, please, let’s make mothers even more insecure about their weight “problems.”. The article suggests that weight gain is associated with “inconspicuous lifestyle changes.” Well, of course! When a mother has a child, she takes on countless responsibilities that often mean having to eat for convenience or miss a workout. It’s not a surprise to anyone that having children often means spending less time on yourself, leading to possible body changes. It’s perfectly normal- and kudos to mothers who pour themselves out for their children.  

I’m sure my reaction to these articles seems a little over dramatic to some of you guys. My point of contention/annoyance is putting weight loss or weight gain  in the center of health as if it reflects how healthy some one is. I know plenty of people who weight gain meant a greater sense of being (I’m one of them) and I know plenty of people who weight loss reflected negative circumstances in their life.

Weight is not the measure of good health, despite what health headlines would like to imply.


15 thoughts on “A brief rant about health headlines

  1. I immediately took absolutely nothing desirable from the first headline. The thought that “maybe she is happier and has time to exercise etc.” didn’t even cross my mind. Immediately I thought about depression and emotional health – that she (the divorcee) was very sad, and that that would be the reason for the weight loss. Therefore – again – nothing desirable. Not only does the fact that this article was written make me sad, but I just don’t understand why it had to be written in the first place? What good is it doing anywhere? And the second headline – again – what good news is this going to bring anyone? Mothers are the hardest working people out there. And they are beautiful. They are doing more and better things in this world than anyone who spends an hour each day in the gym. I guess I just don’t understand why EVERYTHING has to be dramatized with talk about weight now to try and lure people in. Thanks, Kate.
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  2. This is SO frustrating. It reminds me about how one of the first things (mainly women) say to post partum women is about their weight. “Oh you look so great” or “oh it looks like you lost all the baby weight”. How about “how are you feeling? Are you taking care of yourself too?”
    Sometimes our society gets so caught in external concepts that actual important matters get pushed aside.

    Thank you for writing this.
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  3. I cannot even begin to express my indignation over the parenting one. There is SO much pressure on us moms to get everything right all the time, including our looks. I’m over it. I’m stepping out of the competitive mom game, but these articles do not help…especially when they are under the guise of scientific research.
    Jamie@TheMomGene recently posted…Roll with It…Adaptive LivingMy Profile

  4. You are for sure correct that Health at Every Size hasn’t caught on in mainstream media yet. When I mention to people that I support the Health at Every Size movement, people get legitimately angry at me. So I generally keep myself to myself about my “opinions.”
    As for these headlines, they’re absolutely gross. The fear-of-weight-gain-with-motherhood thing that’s so deep in our culture really, really erks me. Like, a mother’s body goes through huge biological changes, not to mention the lifestyle changes that accompany that. And you expect her to still have the body of an adolescent? As for the first headline, I was actually reading some studies a few weeks ago that showed that weight loss among the elderly can actually be dangerous. Yet we have this stupid weight-loss-in-every-situation-must-be-healthy-even-if-brought-on-by-really-unfortunate-life-circumstances mentality. Blargh!
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  5. A very nice post, Kate! You’re not being even the slightest over dramatic about this. This is an important issue. The headlines seem to prey upon those who are going through a lot and are disturbed. My aunt became so disturbed and negative about her pregnancy last year because of such articles in Women’s magazines. I’m so glad you shared your perspective on this issue.
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