body, movement, & dance

Weighing in on the Weight Debate

Pediatricians discuss in New York Times this week how best to address weight with their patients. I’ve heard health and physical education staff debate without resolution how to communicate with students and parents about BMI measurements. Who knows how to do this effectively, supporting students’ health and well-being without spawning lifelong obsessions and insecurities? In her memoir Moose, Stephanie Klein recalls her childhood experience seeing weight management specialists and attending fat camps. She also poignantly illustrates how the cycle of weight loss and gain continued through college and adulthood to hurt her self-esteem, her relationships, and her family.


I believe that the values of transformative sex ed can inform how we address weight with children. I also believe that we have a lot of work to do before we can meet this challenge head-on. Furthermore, we will best cope with this epidemic of disordered eating if we can in turn allow our dealing with it to transform our thinking about bodies and relationships.


Teenagers must access positive feelings about their body in order to achieve a strong sense of sexual health and agency. As long as teens face an onslaught of messages criticizing their bodies and making them feel physically bad or unworthy, they will lack a basic motivation for taking care of their bodies and for choosing respect and safety over degradation in danger.

Distorted body image also grossly distorts the ways in which we relate to each other. Klein details how body hatred so painfully alienated her from her romantic partners. We need a new way of thinking about bodies that can serve as a basis for stronger, healthier, and safer relationships.

I don’t have the answers on this one, but searching for answers is essential. Any ideas?

Published by Mimi Arbeit

applied developmental scientist, antifascist community organizer, sexuality educator

One thought on “Weighing in on the Weight Debate”

  1. Anonymous says:

    maybe we also need to think about our bodies insofar as they don't directly relate to our sexual health… a counter to so many cultural associations that equate a certain type of body with a certain type of being sexy (and the assumptions that go along with that, that our bodies are in some ways sex objects), maybe if we were encouraged to enjoy our bodies for all of their wonder- the joy of being able to run or dance (if we are able), the joy of simple touch, the feel of sunlight and wind on our skin. we live sexually in our bodies, but we live so many other ways in our bodies. with a more holistic view of our embodiment, maybe we can grow toward both healthier body image–appreciating our bodies for what they can do–and through and with that, healthier relationships.

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