“HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE™ (also known as HEALTH AT ANY SIZE) is a health-centered paradigm that focuses on total health and well-being, not weight. It promotes active living, eating well without dieting, and a nurturing environment that includes respect and acceptance for people of all sizes.”
From: Healthy Weight Network
Like many, I used to think that being fat was unhealthy. I used to think it was my fault when I gained or lost weight. I believed that the BMI determined my level of self-esteem. I thoughts that my “ideal weight” was something I should be in control over and if I couldn’t control it, something was wrong with me.
Katherine M. Flegal, PhD, Senior Research Scientist at the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, explains, “Although people think there’s all this evidence out there showing a high mortality risk associated with (being) overweight, in fact the literature doesn’t show it.” Far from it. Flegal’s research, analyzing 30 years of actual deaths in the US, corrected an earlier CDC report that indicated severe risks related to (being) overweight. She showed instead that being clinically ‘overweight’ is associated with a lower death rate than so-called ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ weight. (JAMA 2005;293:1861-1867). It confirmed much earlier research that had been studiously ignored. -Taken from: Healthy Weight Network.
In addition, weight loss attempts don’t work…for anyone! Instead, the more you diet, the more you become obsessed with food, your body and your failures. So, even if you do believe that being fat is unhealthy, is dieting really working for you?
To support the people I work with, one of the first steps we take is to help them stop dieting. The majority who do this experience an immediate freedom from food they have never before experienced as an adult! They tell me they eat less because they enjoyed what they really wanted. They say the need to binge decreases right away and many report fewer obsessions with their body size. Very quickly, those who stop their dieting practices feel healthier. You can too!
HAES™ (Health at Every Size) Principles at Work:
The Association of Size Diversity and Health along with many other organizations and individual people are committed to helping spread the word about Health at Every Size and the HAES Principles.
According to the Association of Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH), the HAES Principles are:
- Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
- Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.
- Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.
- Eating for Well-being: Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.
- Life-Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.
Let’s break these down a bit.
Number 1, Weight Inclusivity talks about realizing that we come in all shapes and sizes and this is normal and healthy! After all, if we all looked the same and thought the same and had the same strengths and weaknesses, we certainly would not be a thriving culture. Instead, accepting your body and the bodies around you will help you stop focusing on your body! Imagine never again allowing your appearance to stop you from enjoying your life! You can stop the familiar and sad thought process of “I’ll do that fun thing when I lose weight.” No… DO IT NOW!
First, your body will not allow you to maintain weight loss. If you’ve cycled up and down before, it will happen again and again. Your body doesn’t like to lose weight and will battle you to prevent it! It’s much easier, believe it or not, to just accept yourself as you are than to fight this life-long, losing battle with your body! This can be challenging, of course, but with help it is possible!
Number 2, Health Enhancement speaks to improving health and wellbeing from a social and political consciousness. A culture that idolizes thinness (or anything one dimensional) is an unwell and unhealthy culture. This causes prejudice and harm to others, and leads back to you.
Number 3, Respectful Care is a lot about acknowledging your own biases around weight and health. We all have them. It would be nearly impossible to not have biases in this culture. Start by owning your own bias. From there, you can more readily accept yourself and others and counter the conditioning and harm that weight bias causes us all!
Number 4, Eating for Well Being is the opposite of dieting for weight loss (and often for health that really means weight loss hope). Diet actions and thoughts lead to lack of self-trust and inability to listen to your own body’s hunger and fullness cues.
Number 5, Life Enhancing Movement is about moving your body in any way that feels good to you! Unlike the many who dole out conflicting nutritional advice (and often diet talk), most experts will agree that exercise without the emphasis on hope for weight loss is healthy! What movement you choose and how often you choose to do it is completely up to you! It’s your body… you decide!
The HAES Principles are a healthy and helpful way to embrace and make the changes you wish to make. They help put your life and health back in your hands and support positive change in the culture around you.
HAES also provides a community to reach out to! It’s a lot easier to handle prejudice, discrimination and the thin ideal when surrounded by like-minded people! Start by getting help for your own body image shame and disordered eating behaviors.