what is health at every size?
A term coined by Author, Linda Bacon, Health At Every Size is the theory that we can PURSUE HEALTH FROM ANY SIZE, weight and size do not equal health (i.e. you can’t look at someone and tell whether they are “healthy” or not).
You might want to read that again, YOUR WEIGHT AND YOUR SIZE DO NOT EQUAL HOW “HEALTHY” YOU ARE.
What does “healthy” even mean anyways?? That’s a rant for later.
I know, I know. This is pretty radical stuff, but I tell you what, it has CHANGED my life.
Life prior to HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE (HAES)
- Disappointed with my weight and body size.
- Go on raving FAD diet for X days.
- Obsess about what I’m eating for every meal, can’t stop thinking about food in between meals, want all the carbs I can get.
- Okay I’ve had it, I’ve lost x pounds and now I’ve plateaued. Screw this I’m “cheating”.
- Quit said diet.
- Gain weight back (or more).
- Rinse, repeat.
My life with HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE
- I DON’T THINK ABOUT FOOD AT ALL! FOOD IS just that, FOOD.
- I’ve freed up brain space to discover the passions in my life, like being able to let myself go home to play with my child at night instead of feeling like I have to go to the gym.
- As well as, having time to think about Non-Dietitian related topics like finances and figuring out how to be FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT.
In fact, when I finally started to embrace Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size (about a year after finding it), I had my lowest income year and yet it was my HIGHEST SAVINGS RATE YEAR. Isn’t that mind blowing??
Not to mention what I was doing to my body with constant weight cycling….
DID YOU KNOW that there is NO WEIGHT LOSS REGIMEN THAT IS GUARANTEED TO KEEP WEIGHT OFF LONG TERM?
There is no research that has studied any diet or weight loss plan beyond 2-3 years.
DID YOU KNOW that each dieting attempt can actually make your body GAIN MORE WEIGHT than you were before?
Your body goes into a state of FAMINE every time you diet. Your body doesn’t know that you actually have food readily available even though you are choosing not to eat it. So… it goes into survival mode. Survival mode to the body means LOWERING YOUR METABOLISM and holding onto every piece of energy (food) you put into it so it is prepared for the next state of famine.
DID YOU KNOW that weight cycling can actually INCREASE your risk of certain diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Death?
Dieting causes inflammation in your body because it doesn’t like living without food. This constant inflammation in the body can lead to increased risk of disease.
DID YOU KNOW that dieting is CAUSING YOUR CRAVINGS.
Your body is SO SMART. It knows when it hasn’t had food for awhile (aka you’re restricting intake), it needs food that it can get energy from quickly (aka carbohydrates). So the reason that your body is craving carbohydrates (i.e. bread, cakes, brownies, candy, etc.) is because the body can break it down and use it for energy QUICKLY.
DID YOU KNOW that dieting is making you have obsessive thoughts about food?
Think about it this way. Every morning when you wake up, you usually mosey your way into the bathroom to pee. Next time you do that, I challenge you to stop peeing when you have emptied HALF OF YOUR BLADDER. Then try to go about your day.
It’s the same when it comes to eating. If you eat half of what your body needs for energy in the morning, you are probably going to think about when your next meal or snack is coming. Quite a few people do this in the form of searching for recipes to make all the time.
I remember sitting at work and looking up recipes constantly when I was dieting, INSTEAD OF DOING MY JOB.
NOW, instead of thinking about food, if I have downtime at work, I’m able to have brain space to work on my side hustles!
I also make sure I have packed enough snacks so that if I do find myself thinking about food, I can go get myself a snack.
Basic concepts of HAES:
Eat for well being.
In the form of Intuitive eating.
Instead of body shaming people for their size, this means accepting all body shapes and sizes. Remember what I said, there is no long term weight loss regimen that works to keep weight off past 2-3 years, then you risk all of the things we already discussed with weight cycling.
Finding some exercise you enjoy doing such as walking or biking. You don’t have to go to the gym for it to be considered movement. Enjoyable movement is going to be much more sustainable long term!
Weight inclusive healthcare.
People in larger bodies have extremely stigmatizing visits at the doctor and often there health issues go un-diagnosed because the doctor is so focused on their weight and/or arbitrary BMI number. This also keeps people in larger bodies from going to the doctor when something is wrong.
Likewise, if a thin privileged individual comes in, they may also be misdiagnosed because to a health professionals, that individual “looks healthy”.
The reality is, WE COULD ALL EAT THE SAME AND STILL ALL LOOK DIFFERENT.
How I found Health At Every Size
I discovered HAES at the beginning of my dietetic internship. I was working with an Eating Disorder Specialist Dietitian, Michelle Kuster. She uses HAES and Intuitive Eating in her Practice.
Since I was going to be travelling quite a bit for my internship, she gave me several HAES focused podcast ideas:
- Food Psych Podcast: Christy Harrison
- Love, Food Podcast: Julie Duffy Dillon
- Dietitians Unplugged Podcast: Glenys Oysten & Aron Flores
And from those podcasts, I learned about other resources, including the Health At Every Size audible book. I listened to it during my 4 hour drives to and from Chicago.
The information it exposed me to was absolutely mind-blowing!
I remember gripping my steering wheel and angrily thinking, why haven’t I been privy to this information before?
Why wasn’t I taught this in school instead of just by chance learning it now?
I was so excited to tell my husband the facts that I had learned on my car ride!
**P.S. Get Audible for FREE for 30 days: includes 1 free audio book!
Next Steps in my hEALTH aT eVERY sIZE journey…
I talked to all of my internship preceptors about this new concept/way of life that I had learned. Some were very receptive to it and some were not.
I find that is still true with how I walk through life. And for my own emotional and mental health, I choose to only talk about it with people who seem a little bit more open to learning about new ideas.
At first, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops and tell everyone, but the reality is, everyone lives in *diet culture* and it was mentally draining to keep repeating myself over and over.
**What is diet culture you may ask? It is a system of beliefs that worships thinness and it equates it to health and moral virtue. And the fact that the diet industry is worth $72 billion, just shows how many Americans still live in diet culture.
So I try to plant seeds when I can and I practice dietetics in the most compassionate way that I see possible.
Because focusing on weight loss when there is no researched regimen that works and can actually cause harm to your patients isn’t just morally wrong. It is ethically wrong too.
So I Challenge You…..
If you were someone who wanted to “eat healthier” or “eat clean” or “diet” for your New Year’s Resolution, try an act of SELF-CARE and choose one way to learn about Health At Every Size instead…
- Health At Every Size, Linda Bacon
- ANTI-DIET, Christy Harrison
- Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole & Elise Resch
- No Weigh, Signe Darpinian, Wendy Sterling, and Shelley Aggarwal
- The body image workbook for teens: Julia V. Taylor, MA
- RD Real Talk Podcast: Heather Caplan
- The Body Love Project Podcast: Jessi Haggerty
Drop your comments below if you have questions.