There’s a bunch of lingo in the eating disorder treatment world that can be confusing. You’ve probably seen me mention Health at Every Size or HAES many times. For a lot of folks, HAES is a relatively new concept. So what the heck is it? And why should you be interested?
Here’s a description from the official Health at Every Size website (https://haescommunity.com/):
HAES is about:
- It celebrates body diversity;
- Honors differences in size, age, race, ethnicity, gender, dis/ability, sexual orientation, religion, class, and other human attributes.
- Challenges scientific and cultural assumptions;
- Values body knowledge and lived experiences.
- Finding the joy in moving one’s body and being physically active;
- Eating in a flexible and attuned manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite, while respecting the social conditions that frame eating options.
Health at Every Size gives us a liberating new way of looking at weight, health, and bodies. Studies have shown that folks participating in HAES oriented health programs leave with better body satisfaction and motivation to care for themselves. Long term weight loss from diets doesn’t last for 95% of the population, so it’s important to consider alternatives to what “health” actually looks like. (And I’m here to tell you it’s not thin=healthy).
The collateral damage done by the war on obesity has made things worse: we’re more preoccupied by food and body image, folks are discriminated against because of their weight (which actually does more harm than being in a larger body), increased rates of anxiety, depression, eating disorder issues, and poor health (because, let’s be real, health isn’t just about eating fruits and veggies and exercising a lot). If you’re doubtful, check out the book Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD, for evidence-based research.
HAES exists to help folks find peace within their here-and-now bodies. The body you have RIGHT NOW deserves to exist just as much as your fantasy body. The body you were born with and have at this very moment is ENOUGH just as it is. (Say that to yourself in the mirror and I will guarantee some tears—good ones. The kind that heal your small, wounded inner child that has been a victim of body terrorism in the form of diets and eating disorder issues).
Some of you might be saying, “But Kate, we just want people to be healthy. People are at risk of dying from obesity by glorifying fatness!”
To that I say:
- We are all going to die—even thin people.
- No one made you the fat police. Your fat phobia is showing.
- Are you really concerned about people’s wellbeing when you make assumptions about folks’ abilities and physical health based on appearance?
- Research shows that weight-based cruelty, stigma and shame cause more harm to health than actual fatness (and this goes for folks in “normal” weight bodies, too). So if I’m glorifying people’s bodies (even and especially fat bodies), then it’s because doing the opposite is far more harmful overall.
- Thin people are not immune to disease and death. In fact, many thin or “normal” weight people’s health problems get overlooked because they’re assumed to be “healthy.” Folks in higher weight bodies may skip going to the doctor or have medical problems attributed to their weight, which may skip over serious health concerns unrelated to their body size. This is lazy medicine!
- Fat phobia and healthism contribute to the rise of eating disorder problems which are the most fatal of all mental health issues.
I could go on. If you’re getting charged up about what I’ve said, then read Body Respect by Linda Bacon, PhD and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD or Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD. You’ll get a whole lot more information about why HAES is important for eating disorder treatment and changing our diet obsessed culture.
It is entirely possible to be healthy (in all spheres of your life) and still not be model thin! Diets and eating disorder issues aren’t necessary (or helpful!) on the pursuit to be healthy. In fact, they’re doing the opposite.
Further, in my work as an eating disorder professional, HAES makes sense. It’s an ethical, compassionate, evidence-based way to help people reconnect with their bodies and heal from eating disorder and dieting problems. As your partner in healing, I am here to listen, advocate, and educate. I’m here to help you understand and build a loving relationship with your body, so *you* can figure out what’s “healthy” for *you* (because it’s going to be different for everyone). HAES allows room for that.
Healing an eating disorder is not always kumbaya. It can be hard sorting through our body history. But it’s totally worth it. Respect, critical awareness, and compassionate self-care are building blocks to coming home to your body. For body trust. For body liberation. A HAES approach to body acceptance can be the first step to finally celebrating your body and finding the joy you’ve been missing.
If you’re curious about HAES and want to get off the rollercoaster of diets and eating disorder issues, then feel free to reach out to me. I’m available for diet recovery and eating disorder counseling services at my office in Raleigh, NC and online. You deserve to feel good in your body as it is right now.