Health at Every Size
We know that our genetic makeup is different from one person to the next, from body size and shape, to body structure and weight. So why do we think that the “ideal” body weight is the smallest size we can possibly get down to? Instead, our “ideal” body weight should be the weight that allows you to feel your strongest, whilst also living a healthy life, free of restriction.
It can often be misleading to search for what your "ideal" body size is, as ideal weight and BMI charts, and different formulas can be not only confusing, but they leave you wondering what’s best? The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) states, “Measures of body weight/size do not accurately reflect an individual’s health status and often lead to ineffective interventions rather than efforts that enhance health and wellness.”
Lindo Bacon, PhD and author of the book, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, has written a well-researched, healthy living book which helps readers to end their long overdue battles with their weight. Lindo talks about how the real problem isn’t dieting, or fat. The real problem is that society rejects those that don’t have a thin body shape, and our medical establishments equate being “thin” with “healthy.” People are universally denied healthcare coverage and screenings, which results in harm to the individuals not only physically, but emotionally and socially. Measures of one's body weight and or size do not accurately reflect one's health status, which results in the use of harmful intervention measures that can be detrimental over time as they do not enhance the health and wellness of the individual. It’s crucial to utilize the guidance of a trained, qualified nutrition expert if you find yourself struggling with all the misleading information that is out there.
The HAES approach places the emphasis on healthful behaviors, not weight loss. It is a weight inclusive approach to health. It means healthy at every size, however does not mean that everyone, no matter what size they are, is “healthy.” The behaviors include implementing a healthful and non-restrictive diet, body movement, proper stress management, adequate sleep, and intuitive eating (eating mindfully and following your body's hunger cues). Ellen Glovsky, PhD, RD, LDN states, "Acceptance of where one's body lands in terms of shape and size is the goal."
The ASDAH first developed the HAES principles in 2003, and revised them in 2013 to be more inclusive and clear on their stance of discrimination. The 5 principles which guide the approach are taken directly from the ASDAH website and is as follows:
1. Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
2. 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, economical, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
The HAES approach acknowledges and respects each individual's circumstances, and assists in working with the individual to both investigate and support them in the best way possible in an effort to make choices that will benefit both their health and well-being. The focus of healing is not weighted on one thing or another, it is collectively highlighting their strengths and vulnerabilities and leaning into these new learned behaviors. By taking the focus off of a specific weight, as there is no specific number to health, in turn helps us to live our life mindfully, and free of restriction.
Written by: Tiffany Robertson, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern