by Alex Inman
I had the great opportunity to attend the Provincial Health Services Authority’s Healthy Weights Forum on June 21st when BC healthcare professionals discussed healthy weights and weight bias/stigma. This became particularly relevant as both Canadian and American media have been reporting heavily about two news articles related to weight. First was the recent discovery of a possible link between school healthy eating programs and eating disorders found by Dr. Leora Pinhas in Toronto, ON (CBC article here). The second news-making announcement was the recent classification of obesity as a disease by the American Medical Association (CBC article here).
Even though healthcare professionals have known for years that weight (i.e. the Body Mass Index or BMI) is not the best indicator of health, our society still equates being thin with being healthy. However, it is just as possible for an overweight individual to be healthier than a normal weight individual, as categorized by the BMI. In actuality, someone’s perceived weight tells us very little about their overall physical, mental, and emotional health. These aspects of health cannot be quantified into a number or onto a scale; they are achieved by a holistic approach to health both at home, at work/school, and in healthcare. Therefore, in my opinion, obesity is not a disease because having a BMI over 30 does not guarantee you are ill. In fact, it doesn’t really mean much at all.
Working at DASH has allowed me to learn more about the Comprehensive School Health (CSH) approach, which is a holistic way of looking at healthy schools. Instead of trying to make healthy changes in schools only by educating children, CSH encourages us to look at other aspects that may be affecting the health of the school community. For example, besides the teaching and learning aspect we need to also consider: the social and physical environment, school policies, and the potential for partnerships and services. Through the healthy eating lens, CSH would inquire how we can encourage students to eat healthier through nutrition education, ensuring the school environment and policy promotes healthy eating behaviours, and looking to the community and surrounding organizations for support. By looking at changing eating behaviours of students through CSH, we’re approaching the issue in a holistic way. The pressure, then, is not entirely on students to ‘be the best’ at eating healthy or ‘getting an A in nutrition’ which may trigger disordered eating in a select few students. With CSH, the whole school community is making the shift to living a healthier lifestyle.
Both of these issues are obviously very complicated and inextricably linked to many aspects of our society and other topics in nutrition, weight, and healthy lifestyles. However, we all need to keep in mind that your weight does not define your worth. Healthy weights, in conclusion, should not be about what you can lose, but what you can gain.
We here at DASH would love to hear about what you think about these stories. Did you already know about the shift in BC from ‘battling obesity’ to ‘promoting healthy weights’? How do you think all of us can continue to encourage health (physically and mentally) to British Columbian students? How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle? Leave a comment below!