We are thrilled to share the latest installment of Body Trust Insights with top Health at Every Size® leaders, Drs. Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor. Linda and Lucy are known internationally for their work with HAES® (Plug: Don’t miss their one day workshop with us next month!) but few know their personal experience. Well, that’s about to change…
Lucy Aphramor, RD, received a PhD in Critical Dietetics from Coventry University in 2011 that revisioned body weight management practices to advance health, in every respect. She is widely published and the thesis drew on her academic contributions in turn informed by insights from her innovative community engagement projects adopting a HAES approach. Throughout her career she has sought to engage people in thinking differently about bodies, wellbeing, and ways of knowing using imaginative learning techniques to design a HAES course, curating exhibitions, and most recently through performance.
Linda Bacon, PhD, an internationally recognized interpreter of HAES science, is a professor in the Health Education Department at City College of San Francisco, serves as an associate nutritionist at the University of California, Davis, and holds graduate degrees in physiology, psychology, and exercise metabolism, with a specialty in nutrition. Linda has conducted federally funded studies on diet and health, is well published in top scientific journals and the author of the bestselling Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight. She is a sought-after public speaker and appears regularly in international print, radio, television, and internet outlets.
Linda & Lucy frequently collaborate. Participants call the HAES training workshops they deliver “life-changing.” The groundbreaking peer-reviewed study they co-authored, Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift, is taking the HAES message into the mainstream with over 120,000 hits to date. Their forthcoming book, Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, or Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, a crash course in what you need to know about bodies and health, is coming from BenBella Books in September 2014.
Join Linda & Lucy for their day-long seminar, Body Respect, For All Bodies: Kicking the Diet Habit and Moving On, sponsored by Be Nourished on July 1, 2014.
- What led you to Health at Every Size® and Intuitive Eating?
Lucy: Fittingly enough, my journey to HAES started when I allowed myself to make a body-mind connection. I hadn’t been working long as a dietitian when my clients’ narratives of self-hatred, size stigma and failed dieting meant I felt really uneasy with what I was doing and began to question the party-line on weight control. It also seemed intuitively very wrong that the approach I adopted towards health improvement existed in a vacuum, away from the stark economic and social realities of residents’ lives, which my gut instinct told me must surely play some part in the high prevalence of illness in the area. This felt sense of doubt and disbelief led me to interrogate the evidence for weight-reduction, and investigate how psychosocial factors influence health. It was a tricky time personally and professionally as I found myself in apparently uncharted waters, clear that I could no longer recommend weight-loss and trying to work out the harm-free, socially-real alternative. A google search for “feminist dietitian” threw me a lifeline with its one hit – Jacqui Gingras – and the e-conversations we had were my gateway to HAES. Although I found HAES from a professional route, I’m profoundly grateful for the influence it’s had on me personally, especially for how the practice of compassion and acceptance helps builds conscious relationships.
Linda: My journey began from own personal pain: in my adolescence and early twenties, I believed that I was fat, that there was something wrong with being fat, and if only I lost weight, everything in my life would be better: my parents would be more proud of me, I’d be more popular… Those thoughts sent me on the painful journey of fighting my weight, and included an academic search for a solution. What I found along that academic journey surprised me: the research contradicted many of the commonly accepted beliefs I held about weight. I developed a critical lens, and from there my journey paralleled Lucy’s. Through my work first as a psychotherapist, next as an exercise physiologist and later a nutritionist, and the influence of many HAES pioneers I found my way over.
- What has surprised you the most as you have learned to accept yourself?
For both of us it was the sheer relief of giving up the battle! Once we’d seen the HAES/social justice light we felt compelled to fight the dieting mantra: things had to change. We were both finding our feet with a way forward, and though we understood their significance therapeutically, we were slower to embrace acceptance and compassion in any real way personally. Learning to accept ourselves, faults and all, and to let go of the need to fix, to let go of the need to make sure people ‘get it’, and then to let go some more, has surprised us with its counter-intuitive outcomes. The work just got so much less taxing, more fun, and we found greater resilience. Another eye-opener as we learnt to accept ourselves was the shift this engendered in others, the seeming paradox that acceptance makes for transformation.
- What are three aspects you feel are the most important to remember when moving toward radical self-acceptance?
Remembering the transience of the hard times to avoid getting stuck in a cycle of painful emotions; remembering the impermanence of the good times to savour and appreciate them while they last.
Let go. You’re ok.
How it all comes back to self-compassion. Every time.
- What is your favorite part of your body? How do you celebrate it?
I [Lucy] love running and am surrounded by hills where I live. It’s wonderful to go out first thing and watch the light change against a backdrop of miles and miles of quiet bleakness, heather and wild horses. I’m glad for everything my body does that enables me to experience this!
Favorite body part? I [Linda] am stumped for a response. But like Lucy, I can refigure the question and emphasize how much I appreciate that my body allows me to experience a connection with nature.
- What inspires and renews your dedication to your process when you need it the most?
People’s stories: hearing the difference it makes when people make the switch from trying so hard to take personal responsibility, to trying out compassionate self-care, is an incredibly powerful, renewing narrative.
We regularly hear from people who say our work has been transformative for them. It’s so gratifying to be part of that process!
- Radical self-acceptance means…
Remembering that just because we can do it doesn’t mean we have to. Especially when you’re passionate about something, and enjoy what you do, it can be so easy to get caught up in our own and other’s expectations work-wise. The sun will rise, the world will turn, even if we turn down that request, and maybe we’ll be taking better care of ourselves too.
[Note: Lucy wrote that to remind Linda, who struggles with this!]
- Favorite quote or poem?
I [Lucy] love poetry and it’s hard to narrow this one down. Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese” is definitely in there. Adrienne Rich is another one of my favourite poets and I often use her work in teaching, as well as dipping into it to reconnect personally. She reminds us “the moment a feeling enters the body is political” which I like for its insistence on the power of valuing our embodiment.
Another excerpt that speaks to me of acceptance and compassion is from her poem Splittings:
I believe I am choosing something new /not to suffer uselessly yet still to feel
I [Linda] also love poetry. One of my favorite poets is Lucy Aphramor. I’d like to share a poem Lucy wrote for me; it helped me get through a particularly challenging time in my life, and speaks to the strength that is found through vulnerability in the power of connection:
I give you Resilience
I give you Resilience
as a place to walk into
where it is safe
to befriend your inadequacies
imagined and otherwise
howsoever you need to construct them
(which, reading between the lines, seems to mean
realizing that you are not rock or robot but a fleshy,
leaky, soft bodied, button muscled being that hurts
with injustice, that bleeds blood, rage, despair not
clichés, insults, wire) Here, in the cave of Resilience
I invite you to look tenderly on your frailties to take ten
minutes with each other to sit upright together
without judging and lift then lower your stripped
soles into the tear-warm foot bath of acceptance,
soak there. And if you choose to, you can recall
the feeling of this, carry it with you to draw
on, always, can remember it stems from the same family
of feeling as the one that belongs to knowing you can
press send on an email that has you struggling
confident that it will chorus blood, rage, despair
at injustice, confident that you are not alone.