By: Griseida Ruiz, DTR, CSUN Dietetic Intern
In a world where we are obsessed with our weight, how we look and slim-figured celebrities it is nice to see movements such as Health at Every Size (HAES) arise. Social media, filters, and Photoshop have greatly contributed and influenced this obsession, and have caused many of us to focus all of our attention on weight rather than health. Thin people are labeled as having the ultimate body with many people assuming they are disciplined eaters, while their overweight and obese counterparts are assumed to be binging at every meal. HAES is an inclusive movement popularized by Dr. Linda Bacon’s book Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight that supports people of all shapes and sizes by promoting respect, critical awareness and compassionate self-care.1
A study by Lacey Mccormack and Brooke Noble found that while both a traditional weight loss intervention and the Health at Every Size approach resulted in weight loss, the HAES approach was more sustainable and resulted in improved health over time.2 Restrictive diets may lower weight for a short period of time, but at what expense? Not only are we fixated on consuming the least amount of calories that are low in carbohydrates, fat, and sugar, but also tend to consume foods that are low in essential nutrients. We take part in this detrimental cycle where we restrict ourselves from all of the foods that we love to eat only to fail at obtaining our weight loss goals, eating everything in sight and starting all over again. We are creating a preoccupation to food and developing a negative body image, which results in reduced self-esteem, eating disorders, weight stigmatization and discrimination.3 Dr. Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD, evaluated scientific evidence and rationale that justified a shift in the healthcare paradigm.3 They found a lot of benefits to making this paradigm shift and getting involved in transforming our world!
How Adapting HAES Principles Into Your Lifestyle Will Benefit You
- It will promote weight inclusivity and allow you to accept and respect diversity of body shapes and reject the idealization of specific weights.4 You will see an overall increase in your happiness by not worrying so much on being a specific weight or size to feel healthy.
- It will enhance your health by supporting health policies that increase access to information and resources.4
- It will contribute to an end in weight stigma and discrimination by providing respectful care to those of different socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities.4 It will help create an environment where fat shaming is not permitted.
- It will enhance the experience of eating by increasing intuitive dining patterns based on satiety and hunger cues, instead of a regulated eating regimen focused on weight control.4 No longer will you feel deprived and guilty about enjoying certain foods.
- It will help in creating an enjoyable movement regime that supports physical activity for people of all shapes and sizes.4 Those who are of larger size will not feel judged in their environment.
What HAES Is Not
Critics of this movement fear that it encourages people to eat “whatever they want” and will increase obesity rates.5 Despite its controversy, this has been shown to be untrue. Randomized controlled HAES studies have not resulted in weight gain. Many have reported improvements or maintenance in the quality of foods being eaten by the participants, unlike the very restrictive patterns dieting creates followed by periods of indulgences.3 HAES is NOT encouraging people to gain weight nor promoting high calorie, high fat diets. It is providing acceptance of every body and affirming that being “healthy” does not fit one body size. Both traditional and HAES approaches recommend that we make dietary improvements and partake in physical activity, but differ in their definitions of “success.”5 Starving yourself to lose weight does not necessarily make you any healthier and therefore under the HAES style, losing weight that way would not necessarily be considered successful. Research has shown that changing health behaviors can positively affect most health indicators regardless of weight loss, such as a reduction in blood pressure. Insulin sensitivity and blood lipids have also been shown to improve with aerobic exercise even when an increase in body fat was observed during the intervention.3
Take the Pledge
It is time that we make this shift to obtain healthier outcomes. Obsessing over restrictive diets and depriving ourselves has not worked for us thus far and fat shaming has resulted in more and more people having a negative self-image and low self-esteem. Dr. Andrea Bombak explains that dieting is an ineffective method to produce weight loss over a long period of time. Those who do maintain weight loss must continue participating in extremely restrictive diets, regular physical activity and endure high levels of self-monitoring. A research study found that 26.9% of participants who reported weight loss maintenance also reported high rates of stress, depression, and dissatisfaction.6 Dr. Linda Bacon was able to find relief from her own painful preoccupation and now enjoys her own body. She has found that food and exercise are sources of enjoyment and nourishment, not a cause for stress and discrimination.7 Society changes when enough people join together for a cause because they find something needs to be done. HAES is the movement that will enable us to heal our culture and ourselves. Click the following link to sign the HAES pledge!
Get Involved on Campus
Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating (JADE) is a peer education program through the University Counseling Services (UCS) at CSUN that can help you get started on your journey towards promoting a body-positive culture. It provides awareness and prevention of eating disorders throughout campus. Programs like JADE help us encourage positive body image and acceptance through events such as Love Your Body Day in October and National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in the spring.8 Follow JADE on Instagram.
- Bacon L. HAES Connections. https://haescommunity.com/ Updated 2018. Accessed September 1, 2018.
- Mccormack L, Noble B. The impact of health at every size versus a weight loss intervention on diet. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2016;48(7): S110-S111.
- Bacon L, Aphramor L. Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10:9. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-9
- HAES Principles. https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=152. Updated 2018. Accessed September 1, 2018.
- Brown LB. Teaching the health at every size paradigm benefits future fitness and health professionals. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2009;41(2): 144-145.
- Bombak A. Obesity, health at every size, and public health policy. American Journal of Public Health. 2014;104(2): e60-e67.
- Bacon L. Linda Bacon, PhD. https://lindabacon.org/ Updated 2018. Accessed September 1, 2018.
- University Counseling Services. JADE. https://www.csun.edu/counseling/jade. Accessed September 1, 2018.