10 Reasons to Practice Health at Every Size

The Awesome Marilyn Wann and I sharing a Belly Bump, the not-so-secret handshake of rad fatties! Photo by Linda Garber

The Health at Every Size® movement suggests that focusing on healthy habits is our best chance for a healthy body.  Somehow that is considered highly controversial.  Here are ten reasons why it’s actually a no brainer.

1.  You have a much better chance of taking care of something that you like than something that you hate.  HAES allows you to take care of your body and like it at the same time.

2.  Research from the University of Califoria, Davis found that Health at Every Size practitioners are more likely to maintain long-term behavior change and health improvements than dieters.

3.  Because HAES focuses on fitness rather than fatness. Steven Blair of the Cooper Institute, a non-profit founded in 1970 whose mission is scientific research in the field of preventive medicine and public health and communicating the results, said “We’ve studied this from many perspectives in women and in men and we get the same answer: It’s not the obesity—it’s the fitness.”

4.  HAES tells the truth – that healthy habits matter regardless of your weight and size; rather than the lie we currently hear that if you’re fat healthy habits don’t matter unless they make you thin and if you’re thin healthy habits aren’t important unless you get fat.

5.  HAES works with the fact that health is multi-dimensional and includes genetics, environment, stress, access, and past, present, and future behaviors by putting the focus on the health that is possible for each individual body; instead of ignoring that and chasing an amorphous, unattainable concept of “perfect health” and the ridiculous notion that our health is only a matter of our current behaviors and is entirely within our control.

6.  HAES encourages choosing movement options that you enjoy rather than punishing your body with exercise that you hate.

7.  Health at Every Size helps you find peace with your weight which is important because studies show that women who are concerned about their weight have more physical and mental illnesses regardless of their weight.

8.  Because research repeatedly finds that, contrary to common opinion, intentional weight loss attempts predict weight gain and eating disorders but do not predict weight loss or improved health.

9.  HAES encourages developing a healthy relationship with food.  That can replace or prevent food relationships that are obsessive, fear-based, unhealthy, and even disordered.

10.  Because weight and health are two separate things and if you want to be healthier it makes a lot more sense to focus on health than on body size.

For more information about practicing Health at Every Size I would suggest checking out Linda Bacon’s HAES community resources!   While you’re there, sign the HAES pledge!

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12 thoughts on “10 Reasons to Practice Health at Every Size

  1. I just want to say that picture is adorable – and you hit the nail on the head with this post, as usual. Such a great summary of the reasoning behind HAES. It makes me wonder how anyone can disagree.

  2. I think it’s silly that the idea so so controversial. Is it because it doesn’t focus on weight loss? What is it going to take for people to see that obsessing over a number on the scale isn’t going to promise you a healthy body? Just doesn’t make sense to me. And I have believed that since even before I even found out that fat/size acceptance or HAES was. Maybe it was because I have always been an outsider looking in and shaking my head at the people obsessing over their weight like it is life or death.

    1. I agree and I’m getting SO FRUSTRATED! I keep seeing people who are okay with obese people being discriminated from working because it’s a lifestyle choice. I keep seeing people say that obesity is a risk factor. I keep trying to tell people over and over and over and over (okay, mainly on ONE forum I go on for parents but I see it on there A LOT) that there is more to health than how much you weigh and they keep arguing with me about it. I see women on this parenting site and on another group I frequent who obsess with their weight and how close/far they are from normal BMI. I see women who don’t want to be at the high end of their weight range (according to height). I try to post links but they’re discounted because they’re from blogs and not to be believed. It’s frustrating and I don’t know how you do it Ragen because right now, I’m to the point of wanting to bang my head into a wall. I mean, I have seen some pretty hurtful stuff towards obese people (and goodness forbid if you are obese and on food stamps!). It’s frustrating but it’s accepted because obese people are choosing to be that way.

  3. 5 and 6 are where the concern trolls come out, of course. Because going “I will do the best within the practical limits and not beat myself up for failure to do stuff that isn’t feasible for me” and “I will favor enjoyable ways to get my body moving over stuff I hate” doesn’t translate well to people who are continually assuming that fat people are all stupid and lazy and bad all knowledge and diligence and goodness has to come through external pressure.

    If you believe fat people are humans with working brains, then it makes sense to put accurate information out and let us make our own decisions. If you believe fat people are humans with the normal vulnerabilities of a human body, then it makes sense to assume that some of us have health issues and disabilities that have nothing to do with our weight. If you believe fat people are humans who have a human capacity for hard work and willpower, then it makes sense to assume that we can make our own choices on exercise and movement instead of constantly needing to be prodded. And if you believe fat people are human with a human right to autonomy and basic decency, then it’s clear that whether or not we’re making the best possible choice is our business, and it’s not okay for some random stranger to appoint themselves as the keeper of any fat person they see.

    1. Ako, this sounds very like the Theory X and Theory Y schools of business management.

      Very basically, Theory X bosses assume workers are lazy and need to be constantly prodded and micro-managed; Theory Y bosses assume workers want to do well and will be self-motivated under the right conditions. Theory Y gives you greater productivity and happier, more motivated workers; nevertheless, many organizations still like to assume that Theory X is more valid.

      We may have a Theory Y of health promotion in HAES. If that’s the case, it’s unsurprising that Theory X (conventional weight loss) proponents will make those claims against it; it’s just the way their mindset works.

      1. That’s one of the reasons why I’m wary of people who loudly push “People suck!” points of view. Because too often, the corollary is “And therefore, they need to be treated like crap for their own good!”

  4. Thank you for your blog. I was always the chubby kid growing up, which was made worse because I was also really smart. Fat nerd = no end to the bullying. Since then, I’ve gained and lost a lot of weight, and it was amazing to me how differently I was treated when I was “thin” (aka looked like what our society currently portrays as beautiful). In response, I tended to internalize it and treat myself badly when I (inevitably) gained weight. I didn’t understand the HAES movement before, and I think I was afraid of it because I had always been told for the millions of (incorrect) reasons you point out so eloquently why being fat was always bad. But you have really helped me to understand and appreciate it, and I am now a firm supporter. I am still trying to learn how to give myself permission to feed my body and practice healthy habits regardless of my weight, but I’m not going to lie–it’s a struggle after 30 years of internalizing the message society is sending loud and clear that your worth is directly tied (and inversely proportional) to your waistline. Please keep writing and know that you really do make a different. I know it’s not easy–deaht threats?! That’s just so crazy to me.

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