Body Liberation Fits in Public Health, Reason #2
Working in a more weight-inclusive way aligns well with basic public health principles and goals. In many cases, a body liberation approach enables us to be truer to the values that underlie our work. In this series of posts, we will examine ways we can improve our public health work by becoming more weight-inclusive.
Reason #2: Health is Multi-Dimensional
This image is from Declutter the Mind and the article, “The Wellness Wheel: A Better, Balanced Life.” It is just one example of a representation of multi-dimensional health. This reminds us that our health encompasses much more than just nutrition and exercise, and all aspects must be attended to for the wheel to “roll along” effectively. When we focus on body size, our concept of health narrows to physical health (e.g., nutrition and exercise) with possibly a bit of mental health thrown in (“you just need to love your body”). It discounts other aspects of health (including things outside of our individual control) and the fact that we may need to focus on different needs at different times. Increasing stress in one dimension of health (e.g., weight stigma’s impact on mental health) in order to improve another dimension (such as nutrition for physical health) is unlikely to improve balance or overall health.
A multi-dimensional view is also more respectful of a variety of cultures, as well as individual autonomy. It recognizes that we may eat certain foods for cultural or social reasons, and that these are also important to our overall health. Or, while we may value exercise, our current living situation requires us to focus on emotional or financial health for the time being. Obviously, doing a bit each day or week for all dimensions of our well-being would be ideal, but this is not accessible to most people. This view also helps us to keep our public health focus on the social determinants, rather than individual behavior.