Satinsky brings “Health at Every Size” to SIUE

The importance of health and well-being for people of all shapes and sizes was just one of the crucial messages that Sonya Satinsky, assistant professor of health, sport and exercise sciences at the University of Kansas, brought to students at SIUE in her presentation last week.

“Health and well-being are multidimensional… so when we’re talking about well-being, let’s not forget the whole person,” explained Satinsky in her talk, on March 31 in Peck Hall, titled “Health at Every Size: A Scientific Perspective on Weight and Health”

(L-R) Dayna Henry, assistant professor of kinesiology and health education, with guest speaker Sonya Satinsky, assistant professor of health, sport and exercise sciences.

Satinsky’s presentation touched on the role of the health care system, media and society–in general–in defining what constitutes healthiness and well-being. Satinsky also enlightened the crowded room of SIUE students and faculty on the issues that stem from this faulty way of defining health.

“If everything is about making the fat kid skinnier or making the fat adult skinnier by giving them nutritional information and access to physical activity… then, what about the other adults? They need access to nutritional education and physical activity as well and yet we focus only on [the overweight] group,” said Satinsky. “So then, if weight is our major criterion then we’re missing a whole lot of people who may be experiencing ill health but we don’t see it because they fit certain weight criteria.”

Satinsky encouraged students and faculty to focus on making healthy nutritional choices and engaging in regular physical activity. She urged those in attendance to place a larger emphasis on “fitness” instead of “fatness.”

“Notice how people are feeling and the quality of their lives rather than their weight,” said Satinsky. “Practice what is called “weight neutrality;” focus on what you would focus on if weight was not an issue–whether you’re a therapist, a friend, a family member or a clinician.”

Satinsky seeks to spread messages that encourage “life enhancing” activities rather than an obsession with weight loss and caloric restrictions.

“Promote individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activities rather than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss,” advised Satinsky.

Satinsky’s presentation was hosted by Women’s Studies. According to Linda Markowitz, chair of women’s studies and professor of sociology and criminal justice studies, Satinsky’s talk was a critical one that students and faculty needed to hear.

“Weight is so emphasized–being skinny is so emphasized–in our popular culture and in the medical establishment like Dr. Satinsky discussed,” said Markowitz. “There is this really simplistic notion that if you’re skinny, you’re healthy–I thought it would be really interesting to shatter that myth.”

Markowitz hopes that those who attended Statinsky’s presentation would see the problem–equating obesity with ill-health and skinniness with healthiness–as a social justice issue.

“The issue of health is way more complex and if we’re going to make our population more healthy we need to think about the issue of health way more structurally than simply the individual problem of obesity,” explained Markowitz.

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