Too often I see mindful eating framed within the weight centric paradigm, as a strategy to help people manage their weight, to fix their bodies and make them conform to the normative idea of health. Thus, both in clinical practice and in research, what is in essence a practice for liberation is being co-opted by oppressive paradigms and structures.
As mindful eating teachers, we are ethically bound to examine and check our internalized biases around weight. When we believe that weight / a person’s body size is a problem to be fixed, that mindfulness / mindful eating is the antidote or solution to the “problem” of “overweight” and “obesity”, when we assume and hope that if a person does this practice in the right way an inevitable outcome will be weight loss, we do harm. As my dear colleague Caroline Baerten has pointed out in a previous blog post, many people are trying to be what they think they should be, and when a teacher reinforces an oppressive inner monologue by using an outcome driven approach, mindfulness becomes a form of violence.
A weight-centric approach is incompatible with mindful eating. Until we are able to leave weight out of the equation – having truly understood that it is not something that can be modified, managed or controlled at will; and ceasing to use it as a reliable proxy for health and well being – we won’t be able to truly support someone in listening to their needs and getting comfortable in caring for those needs consistently, letting go of outcomes.
What makes sense then, is to practice and teach mindful eating rooted in a weight inclusive paradigm, which advocates for social justice and seeks to disrupt weight stigma.
In practicing from a weight inclusive paradigm, language matters. The words most often used to describe people’s body size, “overweight” and “obesity”, are not neutral descriptors. These words do harm. They are etymologically wrong and oppressive and have been created and centered by a system that pathologizes and marginalizes certain bodies.
We need to reframe our teaching to make room for humans of all sizes and levels of health to be nourished in mindfulness and compassion, without expecting bodies to change externally as a marker of success, progress or healing. We need to advocate for the right of all bodies to be held in radical acceptance, respect and trust.
We need to honor the ethics of our practice to create a more just, kind and compassionate society in which we are not colluding with weight bias, diet culture or body oppression.
We need to stop promoting and selling weight bias, sizeism, ableism, healthism, and nutritionism disguised as mindfulness / mindful eating / compassion.
May we all hold our mistakes in compassion and offer ourselves, and each other, patience as we continue to examine and challenge internalized bias and oppression, and resist oppressive structures and discourses on the path to collective liberation.
What are your beliefs and internalized biases around weight? How do they influence and impact the way you teach mindful eating or eat in your every day life?
Lilia Graue, Mexico City
You can read an extended version of this post, with references, here. Or paste this address into your browser: https://www.fiercelyembodied.com/blog/2018/7/13/teaching-mindful-eating-from-a-weight-inclusive-paradigm