Stepping on scales, eating in public and buying clothes are often trigger points for those who are conscious of their weight. A 2014 study found that 21% of patients felt judged by their doctors and, as a result, were less likely to attend follow-up consultations.
However, over the past few years, more people have realized that basing someone’s worth on their size holds no weight. Movements like Health at Every Size (HAES) provide an inclusive and holistic approach to health and wellness, and they’re here to stay.
What Is Health at Every Size?
HAES is a unique approach to fitness, health and wellness. It promotes healthy behaviors rather than severe weight loss, diet culture and over-exertion.
The HAES approach is rooted in the belief that everyone has the potential to live a healthy, long life, dispelling the old notion that weight is the only determinant of overall health.
Instead of placing value on dieting, HAES implements healthy behaviors such as keeping active, prioritizing self-care and eating wholesome foods. HAES keeps in mind that the societal and cultural pressures to conform to specific aesthetics can be harmful, as all bodies are created equally and beautifully. Eradicating stigma and judgment are at the core of HAES.
The Principles of Health at Every Size
HAES has been popularized by associate nutritionist and weight science researcher Lindo Bacon, who wrote the book Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. The fundamental principles shared in this “new peace movement” are accepting and respecting the diversity of different body shapes and sizes without judgment.
This approach makes one aware of the multi-dimensional nature of health, where weight is not the only constant. Instead, it focuses on all people’s physical, emotional and intellectual well-being, regardless of body type.
HAES also emphasizes the value of eating intuitively, balancing the needs of the self, hunger and pleasure. This approach translates to movement, too. Physical activity should be enjoyable, not inherently punitive.
The goal of HAES is to provide an all-encompassing approach to health and wellness, focused on supporting six positive behaviors:
- Respecting and accepting body diversity;
- The knowledge that health is multidimensional (physical, intellectual, social, spiritual, occupational and emotional);
- Realizing that people with different bodies can be healthy, too;
- Balancing meal times with nutritional needs, hunger, pleasure and satiety;
- Enjoying physical activity;
- Separating the self from the social and cultural standards surrounding weight, body image and beauty.
All bodies, regardless of shape or size, are worthy of acceptance, respect and love. HAES promotes body equality — people of all sizes should pursue their health journeys without judgment, discrimination or stigma.
Healthy enhancement is the continuous endeavor to improve one’s health and well-being. It encompasses numerous factors, such as eating well, exercising, considering one’s mental health and engaging in regular self-care.
Making small, actionable lifestyle changes is the best way to enhance one’s well-being. It is not all about things one can add to their life, but also focusing on what can be removed, such as reducing alcohol consumption or quitting smoking. Each step in the right direction can help prevent chronic diseases and improve quality of life.
Eating for Well-Being
Eating with well-being in mind ensures that intentional choices during meal times are maintained. Eating a variety of foods will give the body the vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally.
One should pay close attention to hunger, fullness levels and pleasure when choosing what to eat and when to stop. Being in tune with the body’s cues is integral to eating for well-being.
Providing care and support to oneself and others respectfully creates a positive community. Incorporating this mode of thought as a core part of one’s ethos makes individuals feel valued, motivated and empowered to persist in their unique health and wellness journeys.
It would be remiss to think everyone loves the same physical activity. Whether it is walking, dancing, yoga, weight training, running or calisthenics, there is a form of exercise that works for everyone’s preference. Engaging in some life-enhancing movement is essential because it complements eating for well-being to improve one’s quality of life.
The Benefits of Practicing Health At Every Size
The benefits of practicing HAES are plentiful, but one of the primary boons of this approach is that it facilitates the development of a positive, healthier relationship between individuals, food and their bodies.
The HAES philosophy underlines the utility of eating in a balanced manner so that one can enjoy their meals while feeling satisfied in knowing that they are nourishing their bodies appropriately. HAES offers its adherents an alternative to the extremes of stringent dietary restrictions while supporting them in their quest for health.
HAES also encourages individuals to participate in exercise they find enjoyable instead of urging them toward physical activity on a merit-only basis. The advantage of pursuing a physical activity one enjoys is that they are more likely to participate without feeling resentful.
By adopting these practices, followers of HAES learn how to trust their bodies and foster intrinsic motivation, strengthening their resolve to adopt a lifestyle conducive to health, wellness and overall well-being.
Prioritizing Self-Care and Self-Acceptance
Practicing HAES aids individuals in feeling more accepting of and comfortable in their own bodies. By recognizing the diversity of body types, HAES promotes body positivity. This mindset allows people to freely seek out positive lifestyle choices for their health instead of being pressured to conform to external standards for arbitrary reasons. Adherents of HAES enjoy the benefits of following an intuitively healthy lifestyle and enjoy the fruits of self-care, self-acceptance and self-love.
Incorporating Health at Every Size Into Your Life
HAES aims to equip its followers with a holistic approach to health and wellness, encouraging healthy behaviors, promoting overall well-being and supporting people of all shapes and sizes. This approach seeks to create a future where society collectively accepts that health is possible at every size, free from stigma and judgment.