“Health at Every Size” is a term you probably have seen all over social media and news. People either embrace it or demonize it. Some claim that it helps with self acceptance, positive body image, while others argue it enables obese people to remain obese, and those suffering with eating disorders to justify their behaviour. But what does it really mean? What is the purpose of the “Health at Every Size” movement.
The term “Health at Every Size” was coined by Linda Bacon, PhD in her very popular book The Surprising Truth about your weight: Health at Every Size released in 2008. According to Linda, the problem with weight is not fat itself, but with dieting. “A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates thin with healthy is the problem.” Additionally, Linda states, HAES is not a weight loss book, diet book or exercise program. The book is designed to encourage healthy living and support a shift from a client hating their themselves and fighting their body to learning to appreciate their body and their life.
There are five main principles to HAES®:
As one can see, the overall principles of HAES®: are positive and meant to support a healthy, well balanced lifestyle.
Unfortunately, this term has been skewed by media and persons around the world to support unhealthy lifestyles and lifestyle behaviours including eating disorders, clinical obesity, sedentary behaviours and excessive food consumption.
You are probably wondering, can someone be overweight/obese and be healthy. The answer to this is not a simple yes or no. It would depend on the definitions of the terms. Is someone judged overweight/obese based on the BMI alone (an outdated measure of body health); or is it based on weight circumference, body fat percentage? Is healthy based on the numbers found on a laboratory report or how active the person is? Or is it based on how balanced their life is with respect to food, exercise, sleep, social activity, etc.?
As you can see, there is no simple answer and there is no single answer that is perfect for everyone. It is individual and specific to each person. What I can tell you, HAES®: is not a means to justify restricting, binging or purging food. Nor is it a justification for living as a couch potato. Engaging in any of these activities is not healthy for the body, mind or soul.
So, what can you take away from this. Health comes in many shapes and sizes. The judgement of healthy comes down to more than a number on a scale, miles run, calories burned. Being healthy is about finding balance, acceptance and self-love. It is about being kind to our bodies, respecting our bodies and engaging in thoughts and behaviours that enable a positive lifestyle.
Written by: Catherine Rose-Loveless, RD (Registered Dietitian, HAES Practitioner, Yoga Instructor and Wellbeing Coach)
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