Health at Every Size: Fact or Fiction?
Health at Every Size: Fact or Fiction?

Health at Every Size: Fact or Fiction?

In recent years, there has been a growing movement towards body liberation and Health at Every Size (HAES). HAES is a movement that promotes the idea that health and wellbeing isn’t determined by body size or weight. Because you can’t tell anything about a person’s health by looking at them. It aims to combat weight stigma and promote positive body image by encouraging healthy behaviors, such as intuitive eating, joyful movement, and self-care. This is an alternative approach to diet culture (the literature shows that 95% of diets just don’t work in the long run). However, like any movement, there can be misconceptions and misunderstandings about what the HAES movement actually stands for. In this post, we will explore some of the facts and fictions of the HAES movement.

Fiction: HAES promotes obesity and unhealthy habits.

Fact: HAES does not promote or encourage obesity or unhealthy habits. Rather, it promotes healthy behaviors that support physical, mental, and emotional health, regardless of body size or weight. It recognizes that everyone has a unique body, and that weight is not a reliable indicator of health or wellbeing. Additionally, HAES acknowledges that weight stigma and discrimination has negative effects on health, including increased risk of mental health issues, disordered eating, and physical health problems.

Fiction: HAES discourages exercise and physical activity.

Fact: HAES encourages movement that feels joyful and pleasurable, rather than exercise that is punitive or focused on weight loss. This means that individuals are encouraged to engage in activities that they enjoy, rather than forcing themselves to do exercises that they dislike. The focus is on promoting physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, rather than achieving a certain body type or weight.

Fiction: HAES is anti-science and ignores the health risks associated with obesity.

Fact: HAES is not anti-science, and it acknowledges that obesity can be associated with increased risk for certain health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. However, it also recognizes that weight is not the sole determinant of health, and that health and wellbeing can be achieved at any size. HAES encourages individuals to focus on behaviors that promote health and wellbeing, rather than solely focusing on weight loss as a means to achieve health.

Fiction: HAES is only for overweight or obese individuals.

Fact: HAES is for everyone, regardless of body size or weight. It promotes body positivity, self-acceptance, and self-care for all individuals, regardless of their body size or weight. Additionally, it encourages healthcare professionals to provide compassionate and inclusive care for all patients, regardless of their size.

Fiction: HAES is a fad or trend.

Fact: The HAES movement has been around for over 20 years, and it continues to gain momentum and support from healthcare professionals, researchers, and individuals. It is a scientifically-supported approach to health and wellbeing that is based on the principles of body positivity, self-acceptance, and compassionate care.

The HAES movement is a scientifically-supported approach to health and wellbeing that promotes body positivity, healthy behaviors, and compassionate care. While there may be misconceptions or misunderstandings about the movement, it is important to understand the facts and principles behind it. By promoting a positive and empowering relationship with our bodies, and rejecting harmful societal pressures and norms, we can create a world where everyone has the opportunity to live their healthiest and happiest lives, regardless of their size or shape.

What the Research Tells Us

There is a wealth of research that lets us know that being in a larger body doesn't not correlate with poorer health outcomes. What's more, 95% of diets fail, Poor outcomes result from a focus on attempts to control your weight or body size, instead of on the root of a behavior. For example, if you eat an entire bag of chips every day after work, you may decide you simply cannot have chips in the house and rule them off forever. While this might work for the first few days, this seemingly innocent choice can build up a lot of charge around that food. As a result, a perfectly fine food becomes vilified and suddenly holds misplaced power over us. This could lead you to overeat the chips at the first opportunity, then “repent” with exercise you don’t actually enjoy, repeat.

Attempting to micromanage your food intake through restrictions, food rules and “self control” only sets us up for failure. This leaves us feeling frustrated with ourselves and constantly looking for the next foolproof diet or “lifestyle change.” These attempts to control our weight through sheer willpower require us to tune out the internal signals and rely solely on these external cues. This drowns out our inner wisdom and leaves us susceptible to our surrounding environment. This ultimately leads to feeling out of control around food, losing touch of our natural hunger and fullness signals, and disembodiment.

Our Bodies Hold Wisdom

Set-point theory describes the well-researched biological mechanism that serves as our body’s internal weight-regulation system, almost like a thermostat. Your set point is the weight range that your body aims to maintain via various means. Your body is extremely well-equipped to assure that you stay within this healthy range, whatever that means for YOU. If we attempt to diet, suppress our appetite, deprive ourselves, etc., our bodies have a harder time maintaining this balance.

When we attempt to lose weight, our body enters “fight or flight” mode. Our body doesn’t know the difference between restricting for weight loss purposes and starvation; the response is the same. It likes to maintain the status quo. By doing this, we preserve a certain amount of body fat relative to our set point to protect us. When that status quo is threatened, our bodies adapt and kick in the survival instincts. This may include over-eating or binging, slowing our metabolism to hold onto energy reserves, and a host of other responses. Attempting to override our body and micromanage our intake and energy expenditure is ultimately an act of self-sabotage.

For this reason, we take a weight neutral approach. This means the number on the scale doesn’t dictate our care plan or influence our recommendations. It is shown that weight stigma or bias is more likely to cause harm, resulting in poorer health outcomes as a product of being fat shamed, especially in a clinical setting. When fatphobia among health care providers is reflected on patients, those individuals are less likely to seek care and more likely to skip appointments.

Let's Find Body Liberation Together

We are born with an innate ability to tune into our body’s messages for what it needs. However, somewhere along the way many of us lose that ability when we seek and rely on external cues for how to nourish and care for ourselves. A strong emphasis on weight and other numbers makes it becomes nearly impossible to tune into internal cues. This cues enable us to care for ourselves supportively and to work on our health without the goal of weight loss.

At Inner Atlas, we are here to empower our clients to achieve overall health and well-being on their terms. This can be done without rigid diets and food rules. We provide the skills and confidence to become more attuned eaters and focus on healthful behaviors, not specific numbers.