Recently my young son asked me “do people get fat from eating French fries?” innocently reiterating our society’s simplistic notion that we are overweight from eating too much food. Even as a healthcare professional, I was taught that being overweight is a simple matter of eating too much food; never taking into account that thin isn’t always equivalent to healthy. Furthermore, with over 95% of diets failing (and we all know someone who is on a “diet”) we clearly are not accomplishing our goal of everlasting thinness. While I have witnessed great improvements in our society’s false belief that thinness is the only way to a life of health & happiness, we still have a long way to go. As a dietitian, I have worked with numerous athletes; while in the best shape of their life, still strive to achieve a weight that will be counterproductive to their athletic performance. This theory of thinness has troubled me for some time, leading me to search for science-based information regarding weight & health. My search for body acceptance led me to the HAES organization-Health at Every Size. HAES is a science (i.e. evidence) based approach to supporting the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes, while rejecting the notion that weight is the only indicator of health. I fully support this movement that celebrates the health & diversity of our bodies, breaking us free from the never-ending struggle to achieve a body habitus that is simply unachievable.
The Health At Every Size® Principles are:
1. Weight Inclusivity:
Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
2. 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.
3. Respectful Care:
Acknowledge our biases and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.
4. Eating for Well-being:
Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.
5. Life-Enhancing Movement:
Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.
Sources: Empowered Eating Health at Every Size