What is Health at Every Size?
I provide nutritional therapy from a Health at Every Size (HAES) perspective. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have quite a good idea what I'm all about, but for anyone who wanted a bit more info about HAES, this post is for you!
HAES is a non-diet and weight inclusive approach to health. HAES believes that a person’s health and worth cannot be determined by their weight, and anyone can improve their health when non-weight focused behaviours are improved (such as diet, physical activity, stress management, quitting smoking etc.) regardless of their size and/or shape.
The HAES approach includes acceptance of the;
Natural diversity in body shape and size
Ineffectiveness and dangers of dieting for weight-loss
Importance of relaxed eating in response to internal body cues
Critical contribution of social, emotional, and spiritual as well as physical factors to health and happiness.
HAES acknowledges whilst not everyone may be within their ideal weight range (which cannot be determined by body fat percentages, height/weight ratios or BMI), by moving towards a healthier lifestyle they are more likely, over time, to reach and maintain a weight that is healthy for them. HAES also promotes self-acceptance and self-worth regardless of body size and shape, and a relaxed and joyful relationship with food and exercise should be used as a way of enhancing the quality of a person’s life as well as their health status.
The movement is founded on a large (and ever increasing) body of scientific evidence that suggests a higher weight is not the problem, and in fact, the focus on weight, rather than health, may actually be a factor that is causing many, if not most, of the problems that weight is often blamed for.
For example, two-factors that are rarely (if ever) included in weight science are weight stigma and weight-cycling. Weight stigma is suggested to be a pervasive and widely held principle in our society and health care system, perpetuated by the belief that weight-loss should be the primary approach to treating people in larger bodies, and has been linked to an increased risk of stress, depression, lack of motivation to engage in healthful behaviours (such as healthy eating and physical activity) and increased binge eating.
Furthermore, due to the very high likelihood of dieters regaining weight, many may end up repeatedly attempting to lose weight through further weight loss diets and this is the process known as weight-cycling. Weight cycling has been linked to an increased risk of various health issues including inflammation, high blood pressure, cancer, cardio-vascular disease and all-cause mortality. Note that these conditions are often blamed on weight, but you can see how this premise starts to lose it's validity once you introduce the effects of weight-stigma and weight-cycling.
There is no proven way to lose weight and keep it off in the long-term, not even surgery. The vast majority of dieters will regain all the weight they lose on a diet and some will actually gain even more weight than they had in the first place. One of the reasons for this is that dieting messes with your metabolism.
Dieting and especially weight cycling (or yo-yo dieting) is incredibly bad for your body and your health. Evidence suggests that it is far healthier to stay at a consistently higher weight than trying to get smaller.
You absolutely cannot assume someone’s health status based on their weight. Fat people who maintain a healthy lifestyle have the same health outcomes as a thin person. Furthermore, fat people who engage in healthy behaviours do better than thin people with unhealthy habits. Assuming someone’s health status based in their weight would be the same as basing someone’s intelligence on the size of their head.
Dieting and weight stigma are strongly correlated to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, which are all of the conditions usually blamed on being fat. What is also very interesting, is that in countries where being fat is considered desirable, the link between weight and health becomes much weaker.
Ultimately, whatever your size or shape, you CAN improve your health, as well as your happiness and self-esteem, without ever having to go on another diet again.
What to expect when working with HAES practitioner
When working with a HAES practitioner, such as myself, you can expect to be treated with dignity and respect, whatever size or shape you are, with no weight based assumptions or judgements made on your health or worth. When working with me specifically, you will never be weighed or put on a restrictive weight-loss diet. Instead, I can work with you to heal your relationship with food, guide you through the concept of intuitive eating and joyful movement, and use gentle, sustainable and enjoyable nutrition and lifestyle recommendations to support you with any health issues.
If this feels like an approach that could work for you then get in touch to book a consultation.
Below are links to some great resources for anyone who wants to learn more about HAES;