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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Health at Every Size

Funky Kids

Health at every size is a movement in healthcare that is gaining traction.  In a world where body shaming, weight stigma, and food fear and guilt are showing up in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on our feeds, pages, and inboxes, the concept of Health at Every Size provides a refreshing alternative.  HAES celebrates body diversity and honors differences in individuals, challenges the narrow cultural assumptions on weight, encourages finding joy in being physically active and eating in a flexible, mindful way that values pleasure and health.

It is some brilliant but scary marketing that allows a 66 billion dollar weight loss industry to continually grow when 95% of diets fail long-term.  Ironically and sadly, the success of the industry is built on the failure of individuals.  What’s more, the reality is that the more America diets, the less healthy we become. We accept all sorts of diversity in people, but very little diversity is accepted when it comes to body size.  

At this point most people raise the issue, “but doesn’t being fat mean you are unhealthy?”  Maybe yes, and maybe no.  Some health issues are governed largely by genetics and other factors outside out control, while other aspects of our health are well within our control through our behavior.  But let’s be clear.  Weight is not a behavior.  Think about that for a moment.  These are behaviors:
·      how we move and exercise
·      what, when and how we eat
·      how much sleep we allow
·      how we balance work and relaxation
·      how well we hydrate ourselves
·      how often we seek medical care
These are all behaviors that we can alter and improve. We can improve those behaviors, but body weight and size may or may not respond in the way we expect.  Fitness and fatness are not mutually exclusive terms, and it is important to realize that while every body is a good body, every body should and will look different.  Health doesn’t have a specific look or shape.  I recommend that everyone watch the Youtube video Poodle Science with their family as a way to start thinking about your views and perspectives on weight, size and shape.

It’s important to understand that the term is Healthat Every Size, not apathyat every size.  This is encouraging healthful lifestyles, but in a gentle, individual approach that helps heal relationships with food and is based on self-compassion, not guilt.  If repeated dieting causes you to become a casualty from the war on obesity, embrace the new peace movement, Health at Every Size.