You may hear therapists, dietitians, coaches and eating disorder survivors mention HAES on social media, but do you know what it means?
Health at Every Size® (HAES®)? HAES® is an alternative approach to weight management. The HAES® approach rejects both the use of weight, size and BMI as a representation of overall health and the myth that weight is a choice.
Health at Every Size® was written by Dr. Linda Bacon in hopes to create a society without weight stigma and eating disorders.
The HAES® approach has 5 principles:
Weight inclusivity- This means that we need to accept and respect the inherent diversity of all body shapes and sizes
Health enhancement- This means that HAES supports health policies that allows everyone to have equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve overall health and well-being.
Respectful care- This principle acknowledges our biases, and works to end weight discrimination, oppression, weight stigma and weight bias.
Eating for well-being- It is extremely important to promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs and pleasure rather than trying to control food and your weight. This comes from the Intuitive Eating concept.
Life-enhancing movement- Lastly but not the least, we want to support physical activities that allow people of all shapes, sizes, abilities and interest to engage in movement that they enjoy rather than pushes them to do exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss.
Now, why is this movement and approach important for the eating disorder recovery community?
It is important because we know that eating disorders can affect anyone of any size, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic status. Eating disorders are not just a thin, white, woman's issue.
Each individual person has their own genetic make-up that influences their bone structure, body size, shape and weight. This is why we should appreciate and respect the diverse society that we live in and respect the fact that not everyone is meant to be the same size.
Avoid comparing your body to others, even the bodies you see on TV, and magazines and on social media. Most photos on social media and magazines and tv are edited in some way. Let us try to remember that we are all naturally different, this does not mean your body is wrong.
The principles that are mentioned above can help us in our recovery and in our everyday life, and here's how you can start:
Accepting your size can be hard, especially if your body is changing, find appreciate within your body. Self-acceptance can help empower you to move on and make positive changes. If this step is challenging you can try body neutrality, instead of being negative or positive towards your body you can work on being neutral towards it. Then work your way up to accepting it.
At the beginning of recovery, it can be hard to trust yourself, once you have worked with a treatment team and have gotten stable you can work on trusting yourself. Trusting yourself can help your body and mind feel safe, which can help you heal your relationship with your food and body.
Support your body by listening to your hunger and fullness cues, this will help you eat when you are hungry, and help you seek out pleasurable and satisfying foods.
Once you are able to, you can find joy in moving your body in ways that feels good to you.
Embrace size diversity, there is no wrong way to have a body, each person is unique in their own way and each human comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.
It is important to keep in mind that HAES® is a movement that came from the fat acceptance movement which came about because of weight stigma, discrimination and oppression of people in larger bodies.
Weight stigma can increase body dissatisfaction, which is a leading risk factor in the development of an eating disorder. Not to mention the best-known environmental contributor to the development of eating disorder is the sociocultural idealization of thinness. This is why the HAES® approach can help prevent and treat eating disorders, it puts that idealization away and creates a safe environment for body diversity, body acceptance and body trust for all bodies.
Blair is an eating disorder recovery activist who promotes self-love and self-acceptance. Blair Thompson is currently studying to become a Registered Dietitian who will specialize in eating disorders, intuitive eating and the non-diet approach.She has been in recovery from an eating disorder for +5 years and is a strong believer in speaking and writing about the stigmas around eating disorders..
Read more about Blair here or follow her on on Instagram.