By: Holly Pelton
Holly is a current dietetic intern at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and is currently working towards becoming a Registered Dietitian looking to start her own nutrition counseling business. In her free time she loves being outside hiking, biking, kayaking or creating new recipes in the kitchen!
What is HAES and what does it mean?
HAES stands for Health At Every Size.
The concept was first written about, and trademarked, by Lindo Bacon… who has earned their PhD in physiology as well as graduate degrees in both psychology and exercise metabolism. Dr. Bacon’s view is to support and encourage a culture around body positivity and self acceptance at any stage of life.
This approach to health and wellness looks at health and wellness from a more holistic or whole-body perspective. Instead of focusing on weight, BMI, specific foods and diets, or what you look like, the HAES principles focus on the person’s well-being at any and every stage of their life. This approach helps those interested in implementing the HAES philosophy by helping them find sustainable and lifelong practices that support a sense of well-being, self-worth, and true health. that isn’t related to food, weight, or constant dieting.
There are 5 main principles to the HAES community approach as defined by Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH):
1. Weight Inclusivity: “Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.” (2)
2. Health Enhancement: “Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.” (2)
3. Respectful Care: “Acknowledge 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, and support environments that address these inequities.” (2)
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.” (2)
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.” (2)
What HAES is NOT:
1. Saying you can eat whatever in total disregard of how it makes you feel physically in your body. The HAES approach wants to teach people to listen to their body more and nourish the body from the signals it is giving off. If you are craving a cookie, you should honor that craving, if you really want a smoothie listen to your body and make the smoothie.
2. Encouraging sedentary lifestyles that don’t include movement or activities that are health promoting or help with mobility and strength. The HAES approach looks at movement on a holistic side and wants to incorporate movement that is based on an individual’s needs, goals and what they like to do.
3. It does not say “Healthy” at every size. It is not saying everyone is healthy. It is focusing on health indicators that are separate from body size. No matter what stage of life you are in whether you are under- or overweight, you can take care of your health and mental wellbeing without focusing on diets and numbers.
4. It is not encouraging diets that don’t include nourishing foods or variety. HAES goal is to find a balance of foods without the feeling of guilt, disgust, or shame around any specific foods or food groups.
5. It is not telling people to disregard their mental or spiritual health. In fact, its goal is to do the exact opposite by teaching people how to better listen to their bodies, respect their emotions and embrace where they are right now in their health journey.
What might HAES look like for someone?
If the HAES approach sounds like something you are interested in and want to implement into your own life, seek out a professional trained in this area like the professionals at Not Your Average Nutritionist.
When you work with professionals using the HAES approach you may start figuring out that they won’t be talking about numbers, diets, or losing/gaining specific amounts of weight. They’re going to sit down with you and discuss certain behaviors and beliefs that might be holding you back from achieving your goals. They will provide resources, tips, and encouragement along your health journey to help you work towards finding a balance around food and your relationship with your body.
Setting goals with HAES professionals might look a little different than what you may be used to as they’re not focused on numbers. These goals will be small non-weight related goals such as starting to eat breakfast, or taking an hour each day to do your favorite form of movement or self-care. There is an unlimited amount of goals you can set that have nothing to do with weight and everything to do with betting yourself whatever that may look like for YOU!
Just remember there is no “right” way to do health. All health goals are meant to be realistic, practical and most importantly feel good to the individual pursuing them.
- About Lindo Bacon. Lindo Bacon, PhD, formerly Linda Bacon. (2020, January 3). https://lindobacon.com/about-lindo/.
- HAES Principles. ASDAH: HAES® Principles. https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=152.
- Penney, T. L., & Kirk, S. F. L. (2015, May). The Health at Every Size paradigm and obesity: missing empirical evidence may help push the reframing obesity debate forward. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4386524/.
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