Spreading The Health At Every Size® Message

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Beth Rosen, MS, RD, CDN

There is a growing population of women who have been empowered to ditch diet culture - caloric restriction for the pursuit of weight loss (and the shame and guilt that come along with all diet rules) - and instead, practice Intuitive Eating, mindfulness, and Health At Every Size®, and truly care for their bodies in a kinder way. There is an alternative way to pursue a healthy lifestyle using the following HAES® principles:

WEIGHT INCLUSIVITY

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes and all bodies deserve respect. We love dogs, right? We love teacup Yorkies and Great Danes, and we love them for their unique qualities. We don’t expect Great Danes to diet and exercise down to become teacup Yorkies, and we certainly don’t shame, harass, or torment the larger dog because of its largeness. So why shouldn’t the same be said for people? Naturally, people come in all shapes and sizes. It is our society that has decided what is beautiful and what is not. Health at Every Size® includes all people and all sizes and celebrates our diversity.

Want to see a cool video about Health At Every Size® with another dog analogy? Check out this one (after you finish reading this article): Poodle video

HEALTH ENHANCEMENT

Our culture doesn’t change without people standing up and speaking out. Health enhancement goes beyond physical health and encompasses supporting scientific research, legislation, and social movements towards total wellness. Access to practitioners, programs, and resources to improve or maintain total wellness is not available to all. HAES® supports equalizing access in order to achieve total wellness.

RESPECTFUL CARE

Weight stigma, discrimination, and bias is not only part of our culture, it is part of our healthcare system. Too often, people in larger bodies are shamed when receiving medical care, by being told to lose weight and exercise as a solution to their “problem.” The problem with this approach is three-fold. First, people who experience shaming in while seeking medical care tend not to seek care in the future, risking their future health. Second, not every ailment can be cured with weight loss and exercise. In fact, there is no research to prove that weight loss alone is an effective tool to curing or treating disease. And third, telling someone to lose weight solely based on their body weight or BMI can result in the misdiagnosis, or a lack of a diagnosis, of an illness or disease. Furthermore, telling someone to lose weight via food restriction can trigger those with a genetic propensity for an eating disorder. Health care practitioners need to treat all people from a weight-neutral place; taking weight out of the equation and treating our metabolic health (measurements of our risk for disease like blood pressure, blood glucose, and hormone levels).

EATING FOR WELL-BEING

Eating for well-being means honoring what your body needs. It means learning to listen for your hunger and satiety cues, rather than the restriction and shame associated with diet rules. Everybody is unique, thus our needs to fuel and nourish our bodies are unique. Following a boilerplate diet will not give us all the same results, no matter how many times we try it. In fact, dieting – aka restrictive eating – does not honor our bodies. But, quitting dieting does not mean that we let ourselves go either. Eating for well-being includes honoring our nutritional needs to maintain our metabolic health, while also finding pleasure in eating, rather than following a strict set of guidelines aimed at weight reduction. When you re-learn to listen to what your body needs – what fuels you, what energizes you, what make you feel good – and what it doesn’t – what depletes you, what leaves you “crashing”, what doesn’t satisfy your hunger – your body will be nourished and cared for. In addition, size just doesn’t matter in the case of metabolic health: You can be fat and healthy or thin and unhealthy, and vice versa. As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover; doing so with people can be life-threatening.

LIFE-ENHANCING MOVEMENT

Exercise, or movement, relieves stress, strengthens muscles and bones, supports a healthy heart, keeps certain organs running efficiently, and reduces the risk of some diseases including heart disease and some cancers. What exercise doesn’t do is lead to weight loss. Using exercise as a weight loss tool leads to frustration, and in many cases, ends with dieters not using movement at all. Therefore, finding forms of movement that you enjoy will lead to a sustainable practice of taking care of your body and mind. Health at Every Size® promotes movement for all people, at every size and level of ability. Yoga, hiking, Zumba, walking, running, weight-lifting, cleaning, dancing, gardening, Pilates, playing with your kids/dog/friends, etc are all forms of movement that will benefit your total well-being, and is not limited to those who fit the “thin ideal.” Movement is for all of us, at every size.

If the Health At Every Size® principles resonate with you, you can learn more at the Association of Size Diversity And Health.

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