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Want to get healthy Post TBI this year? Be wary of this wolf in sheep’s clothing…

Read to me!

How do you feel about your BRAIN since your injury?

Love it? Hate it? Frustrated?

And how do you feel about your BODY since your injury?

Love it? Hate it? Frustrated?

So much of the pain, symptoms, and changes post TBI are on the inside and cannot be seen. And as a result of those changes, plus less ability to work, exercise, and self-care, our body on the outside may change too.

Whatever your feelings are towards your brain and your body, know that they are valid. It’s what you choose to do with those feelings that make the difference.

If you’re reading this in real time, it’s the 2022 new year. And although it seems fewer of us may make New Year’s resolutions post TBI (this isn’t scientific; I’m basing this off of a small Instagram poll I did, lol), it doesn’t change that we are still surrounded by messages, conversations, and advertisement this time of year talking about weight loss in the name of health…

Which, in my opinion, is often like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

If you want to hear the background info and evidence on why I don’t tell people they must lose the extra pounds post TBI, you can hear all about that here.

So I want to be clear.

I do NOT promote weight loss.

And I can at the same time respect your desire and decision to attempt it.

My job is to guide you to fully understand where that weight loss desire comes from and if that decision is truly in your best interest post TBI.

Because going on and off diets is harmful. And there are some side effects that are particularly important to note in brain injury…

Did you know that repeated dieting for weight loss (i.e weight cycling) can:

  • lower cognitive function
  • increase inflammation
  • worsen heart health markers
  • increase risk of eating disorder
  • and can even speed up weight gain

So then why do people do it?

Why do so many weight loss programs exist?

Why do so many healthcare and wellness coaches recommend weight loss diets?

Like a lot of things, the problem is systemic. Weight loss, weight management, and equating weight to health comes from a history of racism and discrimination supported by some exaggeration of data, and an idealization of small thin bodies preferentially pictured in popular media.

Yay.

It’s a weird world we live in. I think we all know that by now…

With all these problems tied to seeking weight loss, you might be wondering what it’s like for me to work in this industry where so many people come to me ultimately wanting nutrition to help them shed pounds…

I’ll be honest with you. This has been tough for me to reconcile with. But so far all of my clients really appreciate the non-weight centred approach I take.

Listen. I’m a white woman living in a naturally thin body. My shape and size has changed since my injury, and yes I’ve gone up a size or two. But I’m still what’s considered “normal.” For example, when I go to the doctor for a knee injury (which I have since my concussion with a torn meniscus!), I’m ordered an MRI, referred to Physio, and given rehab exercises. I’m NOT told to lose weight like so many others living in larger bodies.

People in larger bodies face daily discrimination. Part of my job is to help spread that awareness, elevate the advocates in this area, and help take down the systems that perpetuate weight stigma any way I can.

AND, I don’t feel it’s right for me to judge a person in a larger body for wanting or trying weight loss when they are pressured and stigmatized to do so every day.

I don’t feel it’s up to me to make a decision about your weight for you. Ultimately, it’s your body, your choice.

I just wish your choice was better influenced by actual health science, cultural diversity, and love & compassion instead of scare tactic oppressive misinformed rhetoric.

So, I offer EVERYONE, regardless of body shape or size, to reflect on this to help us shift towards actual health, well being, and systemic change:

IF “ideal weights” and body measurements never existed…

IF all body shapes & sizes were accepted and celebrated as beautiful…

IF calories were never discussed…

IF different bodies abilities were unquestionably accommodated and recognized as valuable…

If all that were true,

How would you know you are healthy?

How would you define health and beauty?

How would you know what to eat?

And how would you feel about your brain and body then?

Best in brain and body health,

Krystal Merrells, RD

Resources & References:

Why you should rethink weight loss as a New Year’s resolution: by Alia E. Dastagir, 30 Dec 2021. https://chicago.suntimes.com/well/2021/12/30/22858580/new-years-resolutions-rethink-weight-loss-anti-fatness-health-wellbeing?utm_sq=gxwg74x6ma&fbclid=IwAR1aDJKA0VNT6TevJA25KlcZj895CrYiNvl26oe-7xX1QbfLP_bfxxhA_AA

Weight Loss May Not Actually Make You Healthier, Study Reveals: by Catherine Pearson, 14 Oct 2021 .https://www.huffpost.com/entry/weight-loss-may-not-make-you-healthier_l_61638056e4b0cc44c50dcbfe?fbclid=IwAR0LeUB2_VtoLx89Tr6UEIfvea_hv0Mmk9iRYLF5sDB0JEbHvOJ-HEIckRw

Recognizing and Resisting Diet Culture: by Ragen Chastain National eating disorders association ambassador. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/recognizing-and-resisting-diet-culture

Racism Needs to Be Part of the Conversation About Dismantling Diet Culture: by Chrissy Kind, 9 Feb 2021. https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/racism-diet-culture

Kakinami L, Knäuper B, Brunet J. Weight cycling is associated with adverse cardiometabolic markers in a cross-sectional representative US sampleJ Epidemiol Community Health 2020;74:662-667. https://jech.bmj.com/content/74/8/662

Kemps, E., Tiggemann, M., & Marshall, K. (2005). Relationship between dieting to lose weight and the functioning of the central executive. Appetite45(3), 287–294. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2005.07.002

Puhl RM, Lessard LM, Himmelstein MS, Foster GD (2021) The roles of experienced and internalized weight stigma in healthcare experiences: Perspectives of adults engaged in weight management across six countries. PLoS ONE 16(6): e0251566. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0251566

Sares-Jäske, L., Knekt, P., Männistö, S., Lindfors, O., & Heliövaara, M. (2019). Self-report dieting and long-term changes in body mass index and waist circumference. Obesity science & practice5(4), 291–303. https://doi.org/10.1002/osp4.336

Siahpush, M., Tibbits, M., Shaikh, R. A., Singh, G. K., Sikora Kessler, A., & Huang, T. T. (2015). Dieting Increases the Likelihood of Subsequent Obesity and BMI Gain: Results from a Prospective Study of an Australian National Sample. International journal of behavioral medicine22(5), 662–671. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-015-9463-5

Sierra J McDonald, Alexander T Sougiannis, Brandon Vanderveen, Taryn Cranford, Reilly T Enos, KandyVelazquez, Ioulia Chatzistamou, Daping Fan, Angela E Murphy, Inflammation associated weight cycling contributes to an obesogenic memory phenotype in adipose tissue The Journal of Immunology May 1, 2020, 204 (1 Supplement) 144.17; https://www.jimmunol.org/content/204/1_Supplement/144.17

Strohacker, K., & McFarlin, B. K. (2010). Influence of obesity, physical inactivity, and weight cycling on chronic inflammation. Frontiers in bioscience (Elite edition)2, 98–104. https://doi.org/10.2741/e70

Vreugdenburg, L., Bryan, J., & Kemps, E. (2003). The effect of self-initiated weight-loss dieting on working memory: the role of preoccupying cognitions. Appetite41(3), 291–300. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0195-6663(03)00107-7

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