Health At Every Size (HAES) 101

This is written by my awesome intern here is a quick intro:

Hi, Everyone! My name is Brianna and I am a student at Miami University studying to become a registered dietitian I still have about a year and half left until I graduate but I am beyond excited to be learning from Elizabeth!

Similar to Elizabeth, and probably most of you, there was a time when I was stuck in a pattern of restriction and bingeing and always feeling like my worth was in my food decisions. Through intuitive eating I was able shift my perspective and find joy in the food I am eating along with confidence in my food decisions. Finding food freedom has been so liberating for me and I want to empower others to do the same. In fact, upon graduating, I would love to open my very own private practice! ❤️

HAES

Developed in 2003, health at every size (HAES), aims to lessen the cultural obsession with weight loss and thinness and is quickly becoming a new model in the science of weight management. HAES is a movement characterized by its efforts to promote healthy habits, rather than simply weight loss. The HAES movement also believes that everyone, regardless of size, has the right to pursue good health and well-being (news flash: they 100% do!)

FIVE PRINCIPLES OF HAES

These principles are the foundation of the HAES movement, taken from the official website of the Association for Size Diversity and Health,

  • Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights. 
  • Health Enhancement: 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.
  • Respectful Care: 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.
  • 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.
  • Life Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.

MYTHS ASSOCIATED WITH HAES

For so long, we have been taught that health depends on weight, so it makes perfect sense that the HEAS movement would attract a lot of controversy and confusion. Let’s address a few of the myths associated with the HAES movement. 

Myth #1: Everyone is healthy at every size

HAES emphasizes the ability of anyone to pursue health, not necessarily a commentary on personal health status. 

Myth #2: The HAES movement is anti-weight loss

HAES takes the emphasis off of weight and focuses on healthy behaviors. HAES is a weight neutral movement meaning that its sees weight loss as neither good or bad. 

Myth #3: The HAES movement promotes obesity 

HAES advocates for weight inclusivity, meaning that it promotes the diversity of all body shapes and sizes, without idealizing certain weights. 

HAES AND INTUITIVE EATING

If you’re familiar with intuitive eating, it probably won’t come as a surprise that HAES and intuitive eating are closely related. 

From intuitive eating principles, we know that “yo-yo dieting” or losing weight just to gain it back is often worse for a persons health than the fat itself. Intuitive eating teaches that eating and exercising in a sustainable manner, such as practices that are flexible and enjoyable and honors a person’s internal cues, matters more than a persons weight. Additionally, both intuitive eating and HAES promote finding joy in keeping our bodies healthy. 

Health is about more than weight. Weight is just one of many metrics of health and no one weight is good for everyone. Body shapes and sizes can and should be diverse. Intuitive eating uses the concept of “natural healthy weight”. This is the weight that a person’s body will maintain with normal eating and movement. If a person is happy and feels good with their current eating and exercise patterns, then they’ve probably found their natural healthy weight, regardless of what it may look like. 

LET’S PRACTICE! 

If one has a poor relationship with food, it’s likely the cycle of dieting and a degrading view of their bodies that led them to that spot. We don’t have to wait until we have “the perfect body” in order to start treating it with respect. In fact, HAES and intuitive eating teaches that we first have to respect our bodies before considering weight loss as an option. In order to respect our bodies, we have to stop bashing them and fixating on the imperfect parts. 

Instead of noticing and fixating on a part of your body that you don’t like, find one part of your body that you do like or at least tolerate. Every time you catch yourself saying something degrading to your body, replace it with a kind statement. 

For example, replace “I have really let myself go, I feel so out of shape” with “my body has supported me in every endeavor and I am grateful for it”.

Replace “I have too much fat on my arms” with “ I am grateful to have arms that are capable of showing love to others through hugging.” 


I hope that this was helpful in clearing up some of the confusion and questions around HAES. This is a how I practice and what my own practice stands for and stands by!

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