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Over the weekend, I had the immense pleasure of attending a free, 3-hour training on Health At Every Size ® at Opal: Food and Body Wisdom in Seattle, WA. The training was led by Julie Church, RDN, CD, CEDRD, co-founder of Opal.
Wow guys, talk about major #ladyboss and girl crushin’ happening over here. First of all, I was absolutely blown away by Opal’s office space (also known as the ‘urban jungle’). It was calming, beautiful, modern, and intimate. Their vision also aligns perfectly with the vibe I hope to emit from this little space…so, I was basically geeking out the entire time.
Your interest in learning more about Health At Every Size ® makes me incredibly happy. To set the tone for the rest of the post, I want to share a quote that resonated with me by Linda Bacon, author of the bestselling book Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight:
Many of us have a disturbing preoccupation with food and an intense fear of being fat. Instead of eating for enjoyment and fuel, we regard food as our enemy, as a test of our resolve and willpower – and even of our moral superiority. Instead of moving for the sheer joy of feeling our bodies and our power, we view exercise as a workout, our penance for eating or weighing too much. Instead of putting our energy into thinking about how we can improve the world, we obsess about how we can change our bodies.
What is Health At Every Size (HAES) ®?
HAES supports people in adopting health habits for health and general well-being, rather than weight. It originated through conversations between interdisciplinary healthcare workers who rejected using weight and BMI as proxies of good health.
The use of a person’s ‘BMI’ as a health indicator was adopted by insurance companies in the 1940’s. The Metropolitan Insurance Company published a series of tables that included the average BMI of more than 4 million adults, mostly men, and used the data to classify individuals as underweight or overweight. An individual’s classification was then used to determine their insurance premiums. While the goal of this post isn’t to debate the use of BMI as a health indicator, I will say that its use is controversial. (I can do a follow-up post entirely on BMI if there is interest!)
If you’re a visual learner, this is a great HAES introductory video:
There are 5 basic principles of HAES:
1. Weight Inclusivity
Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes. Reject the idealizing of specific weights. Weight is not the central focus on one’s healthcare.
2. Health Enhancement
Supports health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.
3. Respectful Care
Acknowledging 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
I want you to take a moment to think your personal health goals. How do you measure your success?
I’m guessing that many of us associate ‘success’ with weight loss. But what if weight loss doesn’t happen? Then we get discouraged. We give up. Because the lack of ‘results’ makes us feel like we are failing. There are multiple reasons why a person may or may not lose weight when making changes to their lifestyle, and it’s wildly unfair to compare changes in weight between two people following similar exercise and eating patterns. We are all physiologically unique.
Discover who you are as the whole person. Don’t evaluate your health by your weight.
What Health At Every Size (HAES) ® is NOT
This was one of my favorite slides because it really clarifies Health At Every Size ®. It’s:
- NOT saying all people are healthy
- NOT saying that nutrition and exercise have no impact on health
- NOT anti-weight loss
- NOT saying that weight never has an impact on health
- NOT a means to ‘have an excuse’ or ‘give up’
- NOT just about intuitive eating (there is a place for meal planning)
- NOT only for those in larger bodies and/or binge eating disorder
Yes, weight can have health consequences, and there is a place for concerns over someone’s weight. However, HAES wants to move away from using weight as the only way to take care of one’s health.
Ponder this for a while. Let it all sink in.
And start to think about your own personal journey towards better health.
I’ll pick up on this post in the next few weeks (I threw a lot at you already!) that highlights some of the published research that supports HAES. If you’re interested in learning more about HAES, please refer to the resources below:
- Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, Linda Bacon
- Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor
- The Body Positive
- Be Nourished
I want to extend a giant thank you to Julie for giving me permission to share some of the information she included in her training with all of you. Thanks, Julie!
Question? Comments? Clarifications? Talk to me below!