HAES book: “But not dieting is harmful, right?”

You may have read about the study Linda Bacon conducted comparing a standard diet program with a nondieting, “Health at Every Size”-style program, or my post about Bacon’s book (Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight) yesterday.

This is a story from the book that I wanted to shout from the treetops. :)

Dr Bacon describes how she asked her mentor, Judith S. Stern, to join the study:

I teamed up with her not only for her expertise and the respect she receives in the field, but because I knew she believed strongly in dieting and weight loss and would supervise the study carefully to ensure fair testing of the conventional [diet] model.  […]

Now I should acknowledge up front that Dr Stern was hesitant about conducting this research. She worried that if we didn’t encourage the women in our study to diet and lose weight, we might be harming them.  In fact, she was so skeptical about the HAES program that she required that we test the women’s progress after three months, including surveys, blood samples, and weight.  If we saw either the weight-loss group or the HAES group getting worse, she said, we had to stop the study immediately.  I agreed with her condition. — p157

Bacon and Stern also worked with researchers from the USDA.  The study’s results are summarized here. A few highlights:

Diet Group HAES Group
Lowered systolic blood pressure during the first six months. No significant change at 2 years. Lowered systolic blood pressure and maintained it at 2 years.
Doubled general activity levels at 1 year, but did not maintain it at 2 years. Quadrupled general activity levels and maintained it at 2 years.
No significant change to total cholesterol Lowered total cholesterol and maintained the change at 2 years.
Worsened self-esteem Increased self-esteem
Lost weight during the first 6 months, then regained. No significant weight change at 2 years. No significant weight change.

This is not to say that diets can’t work for anyone ever at all.  But the research on diets tends to show the same sort of results as those above, which mirrors my own experience.  The HAES approach certainly seems more practical!

3 thoughts on “HAES book: “But not dieting is harmful, right?”

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