How Far Does Health at Every Size Go?

Ask QuestionsI got a question today from reader Nalla that is a common question that I get about Health at Every Size (HAES)

Hey Ragen,
your blog seems really well developed and neat! One thing I’m curious is, are your thoughts on how far the “health at every size” goes. Obviously its completely normal for someone with a bigger BMI to be healthy, and I think it’s so inspiring you focus on bigger people being healthy, but what are your thoughts on thinner people? Some just are genetically small or skinny, and while it doesn’t make them necessarily healthy (TOFI), is it unhealthy? I’m sure there are people who are tiny and are shamed too (My friend was one of them in high school) Does healthy at EVERY size include those like her? I don’t know as much as you but at least my idea is just how it’s okay to be fat it is okay to be thin. I guess my question is does “healthy at every size” mean healthy is size blind or is being genetical skinny bad?  Thanks for your awesome blog and hopefully response! keep rocking!

The first thing that I want to do is separate out how people are treated based on their body size from people’s health and their choices around it, because they should be, in my view, kept separate.

The first is about Size Acceptance – the fact that people of all sizes should be able to exist in their bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression.  It doesn’t matter why they are that size, what being that size means, or if they could be some other size.  Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies. Period. Thin people have the right to exist in thin bodies.  Period.  People of every size have the right to exist. Period.

Health at Every Size is something else. I see Health at Every Size as a framework that someone may choose for personal health, as well as a paradigm for public health and medical care. Understanding that health is not an obligation, barometer or worthiness, completely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances, HAES is based on the research that shows that our best chance to increase our odds of good health are through behaviors that we can control, rather than attempting to manipulate our body size into some pre-determined height/weight ratio.

HAES also recognizes that things outside of our own behaviors have tremendous impact on our health and as such can encompass activism around elimination of oppression and stigma (racism, transsphobio, homophobia, sizeism, ageism, ableism etc.), and for everyone to have the options for food and movement that they would choose be accessible to them, and that their choice about prioritization and path to health be respected.

So, to more directly answer your question:

People come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and every body is a good body, and nobody should be shamed, bullied, stigmatized or oppressed for the size of their body,their health status (real or perceived), or their behaviors around health (real or perceived).

As a practice that puts the focus on behaviors and away from manipulating body size as a path to health, Health at Every Size can be used as an approach to personal health by people of any size. As a paradigm for public health and medical care, HAES encompasses people of all sizes since the focus is placed on actual health and wellness, and evidence-based interventions, rather than on diagnosing people based on their body size, and prescribing a change in body size as if it’s an evidence-based intervention.

Thanks for asking Nalla!

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2 thoughts on “How Far Does Health at Every Size Go?

  1. I just want to point out that ‘health’ is a relative that includes physical, mental and emotional well-being, and that it means different things to different people.

    I need to manage my depression. Another friend of mine is recovering from hip surgery. Still another friend of mine has a stressful situation at work. These are all aspects of health that require different tactics. If we all did the same thing, my friend’s physical therapy for her hip wouldn’t do me much good. Likewise, my friend’s work stress won’t be solved by my anti-depression medication, although it might make it easier to cope with. She still needs to find a job that’s a better fit.

    Anyway, health isn’t one-size-fits-all anymore than body size/shape is.

  2. My interpretation of this is that health is health and size is size, and size doesn’t really determine health, anyway, so it’s rather irrelevant, if your focus is actually on health.

    Behaviors that affect size, on the other hand, can certainly impact health.

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