Health At Every Size
By: Jaclyn Kotora, Contributing Writer
People tend to associate health with a specific shape of one’s body or a certain weight when in reality, health exists in all shapes and sizes and varies based on the circumstances for each individual. The concept of Health At Every Size, also referred to as HAES, rejects weight, size, and BMI as representatives of health. Not only are these measurements not an accurate reflection of one’s health, but they often cause harmful interventions, rather than encourage overall health and wellness. This approach has expanded to transfer these ideas to everyday living in society, suggesting that health is not an outcome or objective of living, nor an individual obsession or obligation. HAES promotes intuitive and balanced eating and physical activity and the respect and support of body diversity while finding the joy and pleasure in life.
Five main principles guide the HAES approach. The following was developed and revised by The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH):
Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.
Eating For Well-Being
Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.
Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma and support environments that address these inequities.
Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.
Along with these principles, it is necessary to note that weight is not a choice. Genetics and certain conditions dictate what weight is right for one’s body. Although it is hard to understand, it is essential to trust that the body will know what the proper weight is to function, as long as it is receiving adequate nourishment and treatment. Manipulating the body through harmful behaviors to obtain a certain weight risks physical and mental well-being because it disrupts the regular dynamics and functions of the body.
A common misconception that comes from this approach is that everyone, in every size, is healthy, when really approach encourages that health is attainable regardless of weight and size. HAES signifies any individual’s right to pursue their health in a personal, meaningful way that doesn’t rely on one’s weight and shape. Another misconception is that HAES is anti-weight loss, but in reality, this movement is just trying to oppose the cultural obsession with weight and shape defining one’s worth and health. The increased stigmatization and pressure for people to obtain a certain size to be deemed valuable is proven to cause significant harm, depression, and dissatisfaction within people of all ages.
The Health At Every Size objective is to nullify the cultivated obligation to manipulate the body to achieve what society deems as ‘healthy’ by promoting the idea that health exists at any size. Our culture has taught us that our worth is decided by how we look or how much we weigh. Not only is it not true, but the pressure to meet an ever-expanding beauty standard can be extremely depriving ad stressful. We can overcome these stigmas by acknowledging that our true worth lies outside of our appearance. Of course, such concepts are not easy to embody, especially when society is constantly reminding us of the opposite--but things won’t change unless we start making that change.
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