What is Health at Every Size?
If you have followed along here at Renovate Your Plate for a while, you have probably heard us talk about Health at Every Size, otherwise known as HAES. But what does Health at Every Size really mean? Many people misunderstand the concept or manipulate the true meaning behind the framework. In a nutshell, Health At Every Size is a social justice movement, that uses a weight-inclusive approach to interpret health. One of the biggest misconceptions floating around the internet is that Health At Every Size means “healthy” at every size or that every person is healthy, no matter the size of their body. This is grossly incorrect and takes away from the true framework of this movement. Rather, the ideas behind HAES stem from the right to pursue health and receive adequate, compassionate healthcare regardless of body size.
Health At Every Size can be broken down into 5 different principles that encompass the idea that a person’s health is much more than a number. The five principles are weight inclusivity, health enhancement, respectful care, eating for well-being, and lastly, life-enhancing movement. The Association for Size & Diversity first developed HAES in 2003 and more information can also be found on their website.
1. Weight Inclusivity
The main concept of weight inclusivity is to accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes. As a society, we idolize thin, white bodies and believe if a body does not fit within this thin ideal then it is inherently wrong. HAES is working to combat this misconception through encouraging weight-inclusivity in spaces such as healthcare.
2. Health Enhancement
The idea behind health enhancement is to support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and resources for all aspects of health. Like previously stated, health is much more than one number and this principle aims to bring attention to all aspects of health such as economical, emotional, spiritual, and physical.
3. Respectful Care
In my humble opinion, this principle might be the most important for society today. Respectful care acknowledges the biases that we have, while working to end weight discrimination and weight stigma. If weight stigma is unfamiliar to you, please do some research on the effects of weight stigma on a person’s overall health. Many people receive inadequate healthcare leading to misdiagnoses, solely because their healthcare providers misjudge them based on weight.
4. Eating for Well-Being
This principle goes hand in hand with intuitive eating work. Eating for well-being promotes flexible, individualized eating based on listening to your body’s needs, rather than external rules from diet culture. Working towards this principles helps to break away from the rigid diet rules we place on ourselves and move towards trusting our bodies.
5. Life-Enhancing Movement
Lastly, principle five supports activity that allows people of all different sizes, abilities, and interests to enjoy movement without the pressure associated with rigid exercise routines. This can help us realize that we can move our bodies in so many ways that makes us feel good and promotes health.
As you can see from the five principles, HAES is the opposite of throwing in the towel on your health. Health At Every Size uses principles that promote health-promoting behaviors that can positively impact us regardless of weight change. When people find themselves being treated as a person, rather than a number, they start to believe that they are worthy of their version of health. Weight stigma has a detrimental effect on the health of so many, which is why at Renovate Your Plate, we use HAES principles every day to help us practice inclusive, compassionate care.
If these concepts seem overwhelming or unattainable to you, please reach out to a HAES professional to take a deeper dive into these principles and they can help enhance your life. Other great resources include the ASDH website or the book, Body Respect by Linda Bacon.
You are so much more than your weight and you deserve care that reflects that.