by Lize Stander  

What the health is that all about?
So sorry, I couldn’t resist a bit of cheese at the start of a blog.
You may have come across the term, health at every size or HAES online as the body positivity movement is finally gaining a bit of momentum. This term may be quite a challenging one as it is quite contrary to a lot you may have read or been taught about health thus far. I know it certainly was for me when I was first introduced to it a couple of years ago.
HAES has 3 basic components: There is a lot more to every point, but in the interest of brevity I will keep it short.
Respect: this encourages the celebration of body diversity and honours differences in age, ethnicity, race, gender, ability and more.
To me, this means also that we cannot see health. Two people who eat exactly the same amount of calories and food types and moves equally may have vastly differently sized and/or shaped bodies. Body size is a lot more complex than the sum of energy in and energy out.
This also means that all bodies deserve dignity- even if you dislike your body, it still deserves care.
Critical awareness: this encourages looking at the messages of diet culture critically. Dieting has been proven by science to fail 95% of the time. It is actually a risk factor for weight gain over time as well as being a risk factor in the development of eating disorders. Read Kelly’s post on why diets don’t work here. What is the motive of a lot of the information we are fed- is someone making money from your food beliefs/ body dissatisfaction?
Compassionate Self-care: This involves taking care of your body from a place of compassion, not punishment. Moving in a joyful way and not moving to make up for what you ate.
It also means eating foods that you enjoy and find satisfying. Intuitive eating practices are also valued such as honouring your hunger and fullness.
What is HAES not.
It does not promote obesity. What is says is that focussing on weight as a treatment outcome of conditions causes shame amongst people in larger bodies and have been proven to make these individuals seek medical care less often due to fear of judgment. Focussing on weight loss can also make us more food obsessed, hungry and therefore moody, binge prone and therefore are more likely to have trouble with self esteem. Eating more vegetables, sleeping enough, moving often, managing stress- these are all wonderful health goals to have and would be recommended to people in all bodies.
If you are interested to learn more, feel free to click on a few of these links: