Find out how the movement of Health At Every Size is changing the way people see their bodies!
This month, we will dive into a topic I was introduced to just five years ago, Health at Every Size (HAES). HAES was developed by Lindo Bacon, formally Linda Bacon. Health at Every Size is what it says that you can be healthy at every size. The premise is that you can have healthy everyday practices and body acceptance. HAES promotes that your body’s weight and size are not as important as your body’s overall health.
Some of you may be saying, now wait, how can you be healthy at every size? The key is looking at behaviors; it is what truly impacts health. Someone who is actively restricting and at ninety pounds is not any healthier than the person who is binging and sitting at 400 pounds. This is what HAES is looking at-the behaviors. HAES is not anti-weight loss either. But rather, anti-prescribing weight loss as an intervention.
I can’t tell you how many people I see that are in a bigger body that will say, “I want to be healthier,” or “My parents or partner are concerned about my health.” When I ask them about their blood work and what it says, they usually respond with, “Oh, my bloodwork looks great.” The worst is when I have a young girl saying that her parents are concerned for her health because of her body size. I talked a lot about this in my article, “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Your Words Will Forever Stay With Me.”
One of the main reasons people fight with their weight is that they have been told their body is wrong because it is bigger. It ignores family genetics that determines what your frame size and genetic setpoint weight are. Setpoint weight is the ten-to-fifteen-pound weight range that you naturally sit in. It is the weight you are at when you are not dieting or obsessed with food or exercise, binging or restricting. Has it been a long time since this was the case?
A great video, called Poodle Science, describes how genetics play a role in our body size and how diet culture sends the message that our body must only look one way. Thin. This is why you can be on the never-ending roller coaster of dieting. You try so hard to change and shrink your body to a place that it is not meant to be. You can diet and get to a weight that you are at for a split second, then start gaining weight. Your body is telling you, “NO!” But your head tells you “try harder,” “have more willpower,” “you’re a failure.”
Your body is amazing! It is so smart in protecting you against starvation that it will do everything in its power to make sure you always safely have enough fat reserves. When you are dieting, you are putting your body into a caloric deficit. You are putting your body into a state of starvation. Your body always wants to keep you in a state of equilibrium. When your body senses that it is out of balance, your brain will switch, and you are all of a sudden having intense food cravings or feeling like you can’t stop eating when you break the diet. Your body is literally starving. What it does is store more fat because the norm is that there will be famine again. The result is your weight will get higher and higher the longer you diet. You keep pushing the set point higher because your body is used to famine and wants to protect you. Not only that, but most people become very disordered with food. There is an increase in obsessive thinking with food and body, where it can consume the majority of your thoughts. All because of the threat response that dieting has on your body. If you’re interested in learning more about these biological, physiological, and psychological changes, check out the Key’s Study.
There are five principles of Health At Every Size created from the Association for Size Diversity and Health or ASDAH. These principles are to promote the movement of HAES and size acceptance. It is to end the discrimination on weight and decrease the cultural obsession with weight loss and weight. The goal is to promote balanced eating, joyful, life-enhancing movement, and respect for all body shapes and sizes.
The first principle is Weight Inclusivity. It is finding and promoting the respect and acceptance that we are a culture of all different body shapes and sizes and find an end to the idealizing of specific weights.
The second principle is Health Enhancement. The goal is to support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services and personal practices that enhance well-being. And that attention needs to be directed to the individual’s physical, economic, social, spiritual, and emotional needs.
The third principle is Eating For Well-being. Eating for well-being is a foundational piece of intuitive eating. It is eating for hunger, satiation, pleasure, and nutritional needs rather than a prescribed eating plan focusing on weight loss or control.
The fourth principle is Respectful Care. The lack of this is felt by so many people that live in a larger body. It is acknowledging the bias that exists and ending weight stigma and discrimination. It further acknowledges and understands the inequity in socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities that impact weight stigma.
The fifth principle is Life-Enhancing Movement. This kind of movement supports physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable activities, to the degree that they choose, rather than being told.
As you can see, these principles are bringing to light the biases that someone in a larger body experiences. It is an activist approach to acknowledge that all sizes matter and need to be treated be equally. I can’t tell you how many clients I have that avoid going to the doctor because everything gets attached to their weight.
Through this month, I will go into more detail about these principles and the importance of Health At Every Size. It is important to understand the linking of Health At Every Size and the healing that it can bring. It is an integral piece of the intuitive eating journey. Releasing body judgment and finding acceptance and respect for your body will lead you to a place of freedom and an opportunity to experience and see your body in a new light.