I want to start by saying if you've heard of the Health at Every Size approach and want to trust it, but have emotional reservations holding you back... I get it. The idea that we can be healthy and even happy at any body size goes against the world's culture right now, and it can be a scary leap to take. But I hope this blog post helps walk you through why you don't have to try to control your body size to be healthy, and provides some peace for you.
WHAT IS HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE?
HAES is a philosophy that focuses on health outside of weight, based on the evidence that we don't need to be lighter to be healthy. Research shows that focusing on behaviors provides much better outcomes than an approach focused on weight loss. And what's more, weight that's lost in the short term is regained in the long term - meaning our current approach to health keeps us running around in circles.
"It is only the rate of weight regain, not the fact of weight regain, that appears open to debate” (source)
Instead of the traditional weight loss approach, Health at Every Size encourages:
Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes
Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite
Finding the joy in moving one's body and becoming more physically vital (source)
HAES DOESN'T MEAN YOU DON'T CARE
One common misconception about HAES that I hear is that by embracing HAES, you "don't care about your body" or aren't pursuing health. I find those kinds of statements so ironic, because by learning about how your body works and why weight loss is a bad approach, you actually set yourself up for greater success in improving lab values, respecting your body, and finding a sustainable version of health that works for you.
SIZE ACCEPTANCE IS THE FOUNDATION OF TRUE HEALTH
In the graphic above, HAES is shown as the umbrella/overarching theme of other concepts like intuitive eating and joyful movement. This is because a neutral attitude towards weight is necessary to develop before you can work on those other things. Intuitive eating with the intention of weight loss is still a diet, which sets IE up to fail you. Attempting to lose weight creates stress and stigma around daily decisions like what to eat or if/how to move, which can actually affect your digestive health as well. Taking steps towards size acceptance and learning about the science behind HAES allows you to freely and truly practice intuitive eating, which will allow your body to find its natural weight and help your health so much more than a diet ever could.