If you’ve never heard of “Health at Every Size,” you might think it’s just about accepting people of all weights, shapes, and sizes. It’s much more! Health at Every Size, or “HAES,” is the radical idea that health can be independent of weight. Let’s take an individual who exercises frequently, eats a balanced variety of foods, and honors their body’s hunger and fullness cues, but has a BMI within the “overweight” range as defined by the National Institutes of Health. Is this person necessarily any less healthy than someone with a “normal” BMI who practices the same health behaviors? The answer is no! Health is defined by so much more than a number on a scale. Health includes physical well-being, but also social, emotional, and mental health.
Health at Every Size is about rejecting a diet mentality and giving up making dietary and lifestyle changes solely for the purpose of weight loss, but rather adopting habits that honor your body and your own personal preferences. By learning to listen to internal cues of hunger and fullness, resolving to honor those cues, and learning to move joyfully, your body will heal and begin to take care of you, regardless of the number on the scale. HAES is about trusting your body to settle at its own natural weight when you’re treating it well.
After extensive work on my graduate school thesis, I found an overwhelming amount of evidence that a HAES approach does not result in weight gain, and may even result in weight loss for certain individuals, even though weight change is not the primary goal. The HAES approach helps people heal their relationship with food, something that has lasting effects for the rest of their lives and the lives of those they interact with: parents, children, friends, colleagues. The approach can decrease anxiety around food, decrease eating disorder behaviors, and even help individuals improve their blood pressure/blood sugars, ALL regardless of any changes in weight. For those in recovery from eating disorders, the HAES approach can be a wonderful way of learning to maintain HEALTH rather than weight and promote transcendence into intuitive eating patterns.
A recent article published in Pediatrics reviews guidelines for clinicians to simultaneously treat obesity and prevent eating disorders in adolescents. The article emphasizes the importance of shifting treatment focus off weight and onto lifestyle behaviors in order to help adolescents achieve healthy habits without fear or shame about their weight status. The article urges clinicians to discourage dieting and identify bullying as well as assist adolescents in developing healthy self-image and self-esteem. These are great steps to help empower teens to develop healthy dietary patterns for life and it’s a framework we have adopted at Mood Balance Nutrition!
If you, someone you know, or your child might benefit from this kind of approach and is ready to start a journey into healthy living, please contact us today!
Golden N, Schneider M, Wood C. Preventing obesity and eating disorders in adolescents. Pediatrics. (2016);138(3).