Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

'Everyone knows' obesity kills, but is weight loss the answer?

By Lydia Turner - posted Thursday, 3 May 2012

Yesterday an opinion piece by author Kasey Edwards emerged as a leading story on The Sydney Morning Herald's website. Edwards criticized weight loss company Jenny Craig (now rebranded as Jenny) for using celebrity Barry Humphries/Dame Edna as its latest ambassador.

Acknowledging that fifty years of research demonstrates weight loss maintenance carries a 95% failure rate, Edwards concluded: "given such 'evidence', it's no surprise diet companies resort to a stream of celebrity ambassadors to sell the fantasy that their tailored eating and exercise plans are a path to permanent weight loss and happiness."

It's refreshing to see articles questioning the traditional weight loss message in mainstream news. For many years we have been bombarded relentlessly with one-sided articles about how obesity makes one a 'ticking time bomb,' that Australia is the world's fattest nation (which is not true), that we need to lose weight now or die!


It seems a confusing time for Australians who want to improve their health. Most are not yet aware that in recent years there has been a quiet war being waged amongst health professionals about how to approach health.

In one corner, the traditional weight-centred paradigm tells us obesity is harmful, that the only solution to avoid these harms is by losing weight, and more often than not, that we only have ourselves to blame if we don't maintain the weight lost.

There are of course variations on this narrative, but they more or less follow this script.

In the other corner are various versions of non weight-based approaches to health, with a dominant health-centred paradigm emerging. This paradigm is still in its infancy and trademarked to prevent the weight loss industry from hijacking its approach to health and distorting its key principles to support the ultimate goal of weight loss.

Known as Health At Every Size®*, the HAESSM paradigm is often mistaken to mean an individual can be healthy at any size. In fact HAES is about engaging in healthy behaviours, whatever one's size, and letting one's weight fall where it will as a result of these health-giving behaviours.

HAES acknowledges that only one of three things will happen to a person's weight when they engage in a process of health: it will go up, go down, or remain the same. Regardless of weight, a person's health will improve simply by engaging in healthy behaviours.


HAES critically examines peer-reviewed research and challenges current day understandings about health and weight. It accepts that biological safeguards make weight loss ineffective for the majority over time, and that weight loss attempts put people at risk of unintended consequences, including food and body preoccupation, cycles of weight regain and loss, reduced self esteem, weight stigma and discrimination, binge eating, and higher than pre-diet starting weight.

While "everyone knows" obesity is harmful, a close examination of obesity research shows many of the claims about obesity have been exaggerated. Pop health 'experts' who claim that people should strive to be the 5% who manage to keep some weight off in the long term, and that people should 'try, try again' reveal ignorance about the harms of weight cycling and risks of weight loss dieting.

The HAES paradigm acknowledges that research shows health risks can be mitigated by engaging in healthy behaviours and letting your weight fall where it will.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

3 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Lydia Jade Turner is the Managing Director of BodyMatters Australasia ( and co-founder of Endangered Bodies Australia, a non-profit grassroots activist movement dedicated to challenging visual culture and the harmful multi-billion dollar diet industry. As a public health advocate and psychotherapist specialising in eating disorders prevention, she has featured in a range of media including The Sun Herald, The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, National Nine News, The Morning Show, 2UE and ABC Radio.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Lydia Turner

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Lydia Turner
Article Tools
Comment 3 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy