December 9, 2009

Eating Disorder Groups Urge Focus on Health, Lifestyle Instead of Weight

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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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 to advocate 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 students deemed obese are required either to lose weight or pass an extra course focused on physical fitness. In response to this requirement 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 this well-intentioned but underinformed and unproven strategy of focusing on weight fuels weight prejudice and neglects groups that 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 disordered eating behaviors. Neither the scale nor BMI (body mass index) calculation provides the full picture regarding health status, such as lifestyle and activity patterns, as well as physical and mental health measures. 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, Ph.D., F.A.E.D. states. "Further, we cannot ignore the opportunity to create a healthier environment, [in which] 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" to address the issues inherent in global efforts to combat rising weights. Additionally, the EDC has developed talking points regarding BMI testing.

Theresa Fassihi
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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
September 23, 2010

Last Updated:
December 3, 2013