A recent study, linked below, addresses the different attitudes and lifestyle choices of those who are thin vs those who are dieting to be thinner, we presume. The study’s press release has a few unaddressed issues I want to address.
For example, what are the BMIs of each group? Also, since the subjects all volunteered to take a survey regarding these attitudes and behaviors, are we really getting a snapshot of how these two cohorts really act and believe? Finally, what the authors refer to a subset of the subjects as “mindlessly thin”.
Not all thin people are mindlessly – or should we say “unconsciously” – thin as many are shaped, naturally, by genetics and through choices of their own become or stay thinner (or fatter) over time. Some, then, would be unconsciously thin in the same way others may be unconsciously overweight/obese. Through lifestyle choices, mindfully.
Those who adopt the lifestyles listed in the study – cooking at home, eating healthy foods, and listening to their body’s cues that inform them of how much to eat – are not mindless about it; they are conscious about watching what and how much they eat.
In other words, I’m not so sure, except for a very select cadre of people, esp in youth, that there are many people who are thin without making mindful choices and considerations at many levels. Such a label suggests that there are thin people who don’t have agency over their thinness – and to some degree, that may be true, up to a point.
But we all have heard of the thin obese – people who, in clothes or even naked, look thin but are overfat due to lack of muscle mass or sedentary lifestyles that don’t actually use fat for fuel. These people, fortunate in their skeletal structures, could be listed as ‘thin’ by BMI standards and yet not compliant with the lifestyle choices of those in the study who very consciously diet for health healthfully.
By the same token, the study inappropriately and without intention labels those who do not make similar choices, who are dieting, who are watching what they eat and how they look or what they weigh, as somehow ‘mindfully fat’ (my words.)
What we may be seeing, but this press release does not tell us, is that those who are thinking about their food intakes, who fret about their weight/appearance, are unable to relax, less able to enjoy eating precisely because they are weight-conscious.
Those who are dieting, and are weight conscious, may be like those who are inclined to be thin in that their body structures and/or metabolisms may be oriented toward overweightness and/or obesity and they are mindfully aware and chronically conscious that being so requires greater diligence in order to ‘succeed’ in our body-aware culture.
This study has value at a very deep level, not at the level at which the average reader will see it. It is telling us that
(1) lean people have the wherewithal to enjoy a more liberal view of life and diet than overweight/overfat people;
(2) overweight/obese people have to be more diligent about their food and dietary habits detracting from the enjoyment thereof;
(3) lean people are somehow lucky (mindlessness = naturally = good fortune) and hence do not require such diligence;
(4) that being mindful is not necessarily being healthful.
But its other, more subliminal conclusions are:
(5) weightier people are condemned by themselves to live al life of shame and unhappiness for their excess weight; and
(6) that simply changing one’s attitudes toward diet and foods can move you from one category to another.
And these are all wrong!!!!
In fact, and I wished this was the researchers’ intent, it is telling us that eating mindfully, choosing healthier foods, and enjoying them and the camaraderie of eating with others are pathways – not exclusively and not 100% easily – toward a body shape more aligned with our concepts of metabolic and psychological health.
But instead it posits society’s expectations and preferences for a particular body shape. It suggests that thinness is this societal ideal – and unfortunately that seems to be the chronic message in all studies of this sort.
What it should state is that thinness AND any other healthy body shape requires diligence every bit as much for those to whom it comes naturally as for those who are dieting.