Hello everyone, welcome to another Wild Workout Wednesday Linkup where Nicole from Fitful Focus, Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama and I bring you workout ideas, motivation, inspiration and recipes to try. Join us each week by reading along, grabbing our button and linking up with a healthy living post of your own.
Health at Every Size (HAES) – have you heard of it? When you hear that phrase, what does it mean to you? I remember when I first heard the term I thought that’s great, it’s true people can be healthy at every size. Not every overweight or obese person has diabetes or high blood pressure and yet we marginalize them like they do. But, I thought, should we really be promoting that every size is acceptable? Aren’t we then accepting obesity and giving up? I am not alone in this thought. Many people are adamantly against HAES and their mission. But as I dove deeper into this world I realized that I was misinterpreting HAES and their mission and if you have similar feelings, you likely are too.
So what is Health At Every Size?
First of all, Health at Every Size and HAES are registered trademarked terms. Often these terms are used incorrectly and that may be the source of some of the confusion around the topic. But directly from the HAES website, it is “a peaceful movement whose principles help us advance social justice, create an inclusive and respectful community, and support people of all sizes in finding compassionate ways to take care of themselves.”
Now tell me, what amongst that statement is there to be against? The goal is not to make people give up on their health but instead accept who they are now, adopt healthy habits and live a happier life.
But the concept is kind of abstract so let’s make it real.
Take a woman who is clinically “overweight”. She has been overweight her entire adult life. And during that time she has hated her body. She has tried multiple diets – Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Whole 30, etc. She has started and quit exercise regimens multiple times. She has lost weight and then regained it over and over again. This woman feels like a failure because she doesn’t have the willpower to stick to a diet even when she’s starving. She feels ashamed of her body because it’s unacceptable by the standards of normal weight and by society.
This woman cringes at the thought of going to a doctors office and might even avoid it because she knows what is coming – a lecture about her weight. Even if she goes in for something completely unrelated like bronchitis or a wart on her foot. Still, she is told she needs to lose weight “for her health”, regardless of the fact that her blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar are all in target range.
This woman spends her life avoiding social events because she hates the way she looks, agonizing over the thought of putting on a bathing suit to go to a beach and hides her eating because of the looks she gets when she enjoys an ice cream in public. She searches for the next diet that will make her skinny. Once she’s thin everything will be okay, she will be happy.
But the cruel cosmic joke is that diets don’t work. We’ve built up a multi billion-dollar industry convincing this woman that it’s her fault. That she doesn’t have the willpower and that others can do it, so why can’t she? Yet less than 5% of the population who go on a diet can maintain the weight loss. Would you get on a plane if they said you had a 5% chance of landing safely? Would you go for an elective surgery if the odds of survival were 5%? Of course not. Yet we buy the next diet book and try another extreme cleanse hoping we will be that 5% and forgetting that in the meantime, our metabolism is slowing down. Our body is working against us losing weight. Our stress levels are raising. We are becoming unhappier. And ultimately our health is deteriorating by doing the one thing the doctor said we needed to do for our health.
So what could be different? How does Health At Every Size change this cycle?
What if this woman in the scenario accepted her body how it was right now? Overweight, with rolls, and cellulite and celebrated it. Realized that she has a strong body that’s capable of many things. Realized that she is deserving of new clothes now not once she reaches her goal weight. Realized that if someone looks at her despairingly in a bathing suit on the beach that’s their problem and not hers because she is enjoying the beach.
This woman could start on the path of intuitive eating. She would stop eating based on food rules and instead listen to her inner signals of hunger, satisfaction and fullness. She would learn to enjoy food again instead of fearing it. She could start moving her body joyfully. Finding an exercise that she likes doing and that makes her feel good and strong, not using exercise as a punishment for eating a bad food or as a method for weight loss.
And as she begins to feel better about herself and begins to treat herself better, she carries herself better. She commands respect from other people. She tells the doctor that she is perfectly healthy at the weight she is at and better than that, she’s happy.
Will she lose weight on this journey? Maybe, but maybe not. It doesn’t matter because a lifetime in an “overweight” yet healthy and happy body is better for her than a lifetime of cycling through starve and binge cycles, self hatred, stress and depression. Wouldn’t you agree?
Have you heard of Health At Every Size? Do you agree with this approach?
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