My husband is a rockstar at sniffing out the best places to eat when we travel. He’s also a pro at navigating the Disneyland scene – we’ve never waited longer than 10 minutes in a line. But that’s a story for a different day. This story is about this past week and our adventures traveling to Sun Valley, Idaho.

Have you been to Sun Valley? This was our first time and it reminded us of Park City – both ski towns with fun shops, eclectic eating establishments and lots of outdoor activities. It’s an 8+ hour drive from St. George so we split the drive and stayed in the Salt Lake area on the way up and back.

I’ll share a couple of our favorite Sun Valley meals. We had a lot of trouble deciding where to eat, there were SO many fun restaurants to choose from. Thursday night I met a group of dietitians for dinner at a very tasty Peruvian restaurant where I got Peruvian fried rice with chicken…but no picture. We also tried grilled artichokes and yucca fries, which I need to recreate at home. The food was great, but the company was even better!

The next night my husband and I went to Rickshaw where I ordered the Coconut Curry with tofu. It had broccoli, bok choy, carrots, green onion and rice noodles in a slightly sweet coconut broth with a hint of lime. The tofu was fried which is the best way to eat tofu. It was an absolutely fantastic meal.

Coconut Curry

The next morning we decided on Big Wood Bakery and Cafe where I ordered my favorite meal of the trip – the Galena Bowl. It was a mix of sautéed kale, shaved brussels sprouts, onion, garlic (lots of that), red peppers, potatoes and farro topped with the creamiest scrambled eggs. Everything on the menu sounded terrific and I hope we have another chance to eat there in the future!

Galena Bowl

I was honored to be asked to speak at the Idaho State Dietetics Annual Meeting and have been anticipating this event for the past 6 months. Brady, my husband, took work off and we brought our 2 month old with us, leaving our 3 oldest with grandparents for a few days. I’ll tell you what, having only one child to take care of instead of four made it feel like a vacation all by itself!  Eating out, sleeping and planning activities was a totally different experience 🙂

Anyway, I spoke to this group of dietitians about weight bias and weight stigma, which is a topic I think needs to be addressed regularly among dietitians. We are in such a unique position to offer a different kind of experience for our clients. Because of their own internalized weight stigma, our clients may feel they deserve to be labeled “overweight” or “obese” and need to be told to lose weight. They likely don’t realize they are being stigmatized or at all aware how that stigma is only encouraging body dissatisfaction and disordered eating patterns. Conventional thought is that body discontent motivates someone toward healthy behaviors. Mounting evidence and clinical practice finds the opposite – body discontent is associated with disordered eating patterns, binge eating, lower levels of physical activity and increased weight gain over time.

For these reasons and more (delayed healthcare, weight cycling, increased psychological and emotional stress, increased inflammation, etc) weight stigma is actually worse for someone’s health than the weight itself. If we are truly concerned with the health of an individual, we will treat them as a whole person rather than treating their weight. Very real and harmful health consequences happen when clinicians are blinded by weight bias.

Stigmatization happens when we pathologize weight or body size, encourage the fear of fat or dehumanize the individual. You may be surprised to find that encouraging weight loss or labeling someone “overweight” or “obese” is in fact weight stigma. Using words like “weight control”, “weight management” would also apply. Instead, we can engage in conversations about weight and size by using terms like “weight concerns”, “higher weight” or “fat”. These types of terms are weight-neutral, or terms that would only describe body size. Just as we may describe someone as “thin” we can also describe someone as “fat”, with no “good” or “bad” connotation.

weight stigma

Placing value on weight loss causes widespread anxiety about weight for everybody of every size. It’s hard to see weight loss as positive goal for anyone when we recognize that no method has been proven to reduce weight long term for a significant amount of people. Weight cycling is the actual outcome, which causes inflammation and increased risk for hypertension, insulin resistance and dsylipidemia. It also increases the individual’s set point, or the genetically predetermined weight range where the body functions most optimally. You’d be hard pressed to find any situation which warrants placing value on weight loss. Even if the goal is to manage a health condition, many nutrition interventions can change metabolic profiles within days (blood sugar for example), before any significant weight loss. We can treat the condition, not the weight.

When clients come to see Registered Dietitians, we can offer an experience they likely aren’t having in any other area of their lives. They will probably be experiencing weight bias and weight stigma in society, in their work places, in their doctor’s offices and possibly even in their own homes. By assessing our own weight bias and avoiding stigmatizing language, we can make them feel seen, valued and heard in ways they maybe haven’t felt before. We can provide an environment conducive to healing their relationship with food and improving their body image – but only if we aren’t placing emphasis on weight control or encouraging judgment about their food choices.

Using weight as an indicator of health assumes that whatever behavior is necessary to lose weight is automatically a healthy behavior. THAT is what encourages disordered eating patterns – they appear healthy because of weight loss. A healthy weight will not be one found through restriction, extremes, manipulation and/or preoccupation. Instead, from a nutrition perspective, let’s help our clients establish nourishing, adequate, consistent and satisfying food patterns (with no strings attached) and trust that their body is already fighting hard to protect their natural and most optimal body size.

A weight-inclusive approach is the belief that when given access to non-stigmatizing health care, we can maintain a healthy body and achieve a state of well-being regardless of our size. Research supports this approach, clinical practice supports this approach, and I know that we will find better health outcomes for our clients as we practice this approach.