Focus on health, not weight

A statement released jointly by the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), the International Association for Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP), and the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC)* has urged health care providers to focus on health, not weight, when promoting various "wellness" measures.

The statement is just that good, and I have copied and pasted it here, in full, for all of you to read:

Eating Disorder Organizations Join Forces to Urge Focus on Health and Lifestyle Rather Than Weight

(Deerfield, IL) December 9, 2009 – The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), Eating Disorder Coalition (EDC), International Association for Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp), and the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) have joined forces and are advocating together for a focus on health and lifestyle rather than weight as a measurement of well-being.

In late November, media stories reported that an American university implemented a new strategy for combating rising weights by requiring students to be weighed during their freshman year. Those deemed obese are required either to lose weight or pass an extra course focused on physical fitness. In response to this, and other similar strategies within the global “war against obesity”, national and international eating disorder organizations have joined forces to recommend school administrators, employers, and health policy makers focus more on health and lifestyle for all populations rather than on weight alone.

Eating disorder groups assert that this well-intentioned, but under-informed and unproven strategy of focusing on weight fuels weight-prejudice and neglects groups which may be in equal need of improving their health and lifestyle. There is also the concern that these programs may contribute to negative self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and eating disordered behaviors. Neither the scale nor BMI calculation provides the full picture regarding health status, such as lifestyle and activity patterns, and physical and mental health measures. Thus, assuming illness health based on weight alone is not only inappropriate but harmful and discriminatory, and should be discontinued.

“There is concern that we have lost sight of the importance of avoiding harm in the process of addressing obesity.” AED President Susan Paxton, PhD, FAED states, “Further, we cannot ignore the opportunity to create a healthier environment, where people of all sizes are given the opportunity to lead healthy and productive lives, instead of singling out individual groups for reform based on weight alone”.

Paxton continues, “It is our hope that professional and community societies can join hands in fighting for healthier lifestyles and increased respect for people of all sizes, thus simultaneously promoting all aspects of health (i.e., physical, social, and emotional) within our communities.”

The AED has developed “
Guidelines for Obesity Prevention Programs”, which are intended to address the issues illustrated by the above example, and the more global issues in combating rising weights. Additionally, the EDC has developed talking points regarding BMI testing.

Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) is a global professional association committed to leadership in eating disorders research, education, treatment, and prevention. For more information go to

Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) is a national organization focusing on the need to increase prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for binge eating disorder. BEDA is committed to facilitating awareness, high quality of care, and recovery for those who live and those who work with binge eating disorder through outreach and support, education, and resources. For more information go to

The Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) is a federal public policy organization that works to advance the federal recognition of eating disorders as a public health priority. For more information go to

International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp) promotes a high level of professionalism among practitioners who treat those suffering from eating disorders by promoting ethical and professional standards, offering education and training in the field, certifying those who have met prescribed requirements, promoting public and professional awareness of eating disorders and assisting in prevention efforts. For more information go to

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders, and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. The programs include a National Helpline, Annual Public Conference, Educational and Awareness Programs, sponsorship of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Media Watchdog Program, Parent Family and Friends Network, Young Investigator Research Grants and more. For more information go to

Yay, teamwork! Yay, health and wellness! Yay, Terri Fassihi, Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, and Sigrun Danielsdottir for their hard work in drafting the statement.

*I think I have just arrived at the tenth circle of acronym hell...

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Fiona said...

I agree!

Adrianna said...

To be truthful, I don't think colleges have any place in monitoring or regulating the health or lifestyle of students. I am completely in favor of making health education and resources available to them. I think it's a good idea to have fitness facilities and physical activities on campus, school counselors, classes about health topics, etc. but they students should be the ones to seek them out.

If those are the objectives eating disorder organizations are fighting for, I support them 100%. If they want to actively intervene in the lives of students that are not in imminent danger, I cannot support them.

In any case, I think it's a great thing that someone, finally, is challenging this obesity obsession and is actually getting a response. Usually, if you want to challenge obesity hysteria, you get blown off completely.

Carrie Arnold said...


I am totally with you on schools not being the right places to monitor a child's health. BMI screening is a medical tool and should be done by a medical professional.

That being said, most states have mandatory health classes that address a whole glob of topics, ranging from STDs to obesity and eating disorders. I'm not anti-health-ed, because sometimes this might be the only accurate information a kid may get. I'm also not anti-physical-education, but I would like it to be more of a structured activity time rather than a time when the most unathletic kids (like me!) get to stand around looking like idiots because no one will let them play.

What I think is that there is a big difference between helping a kid understand the benefits of being active vs. the need to be active in order to avoid OMG TEH FATZ!

Unknown said...

I feel blessed and lucky to have come across your blog. You have such beautiful insight to offer and to aspire to.

Thank you.
Hope you have a wonderful, relaxing evening. Looking forward to your next post
bec xo

Anonymous said...

Hi Carrie -- it's Sophie from work. I'd like to talk with you sometime soon about my own struggles -- please e-mail me at my work address sometime soon.

I hope all is well.

Very best,

Anonymous said...

All well and good on the statement re: focus on "health and lifestyle", but how will they be defined? Does "health" mean low cholesterol, a "healthy" (ie. healthful) diet? I think it's too easy to b.s. the idea into surrogate weight/diet issues. And just what is meant by "lifestyle" and whose business is some else's lifestyle? I agree fully with Adrianna- college students are, in most senses of the word, adults, and should be able to make "lifestyle" decisions for themselves, whether it be what they eat, whether they exercise or go dancing all night, whether they are monogamous or chaste... you get the idea. I don't like those buzzwords.

Anonymous said...

I like AED's guidelines on obesity prevention programs too.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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