Is Health at Every Size Really Possible?
Last updated: March 2022
There’s a movement gaining momentum in the United States, and it’s called Health At Every Size (you may see it written as HAES).
I first heard about it when I read Dr. Linda Bacon’s book of the same name around 2013, but the movement has been around since the ’60s. I found Dr. Bacon's work absolutely intriguing: Was it possible that health could be found at every size?
Why diets don't work
Well, here's what we know: Research indicates that, while most diets can cause at least a small amount of weight loss in the beginning, they very rarely work long term, and often dieting results in gaining even more weight once the diet ends. Dr. Traci Mann has written extensively about this topic.1 There's also some evidence that weight cycling (aka yo-yo dieting) might increase your risk of death.2
So if dieting isn't working, does that mean anyone, at any size, can be healthy? Well, maybe.
What does health at every size mean?
Here’s the deal: The Health At Every Size movement has a number of principles, such as: "Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights," and "Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs," among others.3
Benefits for people with type 2 diabetes
The movement also believes in respectful care, aka doctors and health providers ending weight-based discrimination (and other types of discrimination) and eating for well-being, which includes eating based on hunger and pleasure as well as nutritional needs. In other words, the movement isn’t about throwing all caution to the wind, it’s about accepting your body for what it is, and from there adopting healthy behaviors.
Studies indicate that this method actually produces pretty good results, everything from improved blood lipids to blood pressure to promoting physical activity and improving self-esteem and body image.4
Is your interest piqued? Here’s what you need to know about being healthy at every size.
How to find a participating medical professional
There are doctors and other health providers that are fully accepting of the HAES paradigm. You can go to their database and search for a dietitian, doctor, or other wellness professional to find someone who isn’t automatically going to try to get you to lose weight or change your body size. They’ll work with you, not against your genetics.
Follow on social media
There are tons of HAES accounts on social media. Search for #HAES and follow others who are part of the movement, either by being a health practitioner as above or simply living the principles for themselves. It's highly motivating and helpful to see other people who are living this way.
Share the resources
If loved ones express concern, point them to the Association for Size Diversity and Health website or the research about the way this method is actually improving the health of people of all body sizes.
As with just about every health topic, there's still lots of conflicting research about what's best. You should always do what feels right for you.
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