From Stephanie Chisolm
Many of us struggle with body image and acceptance. My journey to body acceptance initially started as a way to find peace with my body, which ultimately led me to Health at Every Size (HAES®). Understanding how culture and society has shaped my relationship with food and my body shifted my frame of reference.
What is HAES®?
HAES® is a model developed by the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) that affirms a holistic definition of health. ASDAH outlines that health “exists on a continuum” and is not only determined by joyful movement and eating for well-being, but is also influenced by socioeconomic, political, spiritual, and mental factors. HAES® acknowledges that “pursuing health is neither a moral imperative nor an individual obligation” and as such, someone’s health status should never be used to determine their value as an individual. The HAES® approach honors this by establishing 5 key principles (1):
- Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
HAES® and Body Acceptance
We are constantly inundated with messages that prioritize weight over well-being. Regardless of body size, societal norms surrounding health, weight and eating can permeate into all areas of our lives. No matter what your size, HAES® principles and practices include components that can help with body acceptance. HAES® acknowledges that the world is comprised of diverse bodies. This diversity is something to celebrate. HAES® approach incorporates:
- Respect by celebrating body diversity
- Critical awareness by challenging societal assumptions and by valuing lived experience
- Compassionate self-care by finding movement that is enjoyable and by eating for well-being, while also respecting social conditions that influence an individual’s eating options
How HAES® Impacts My Therapeutic Approach
As a HAES® affirming practitioner, it is crucial that I create a space where individuals in marginalized and diverse bodies feel safe. I believe that you are the expert of your own body.
Despite understanding how society has helped to shape our relationships with our bodies, I acknowledge my thin-privilege (alongside many others). Because of this, I will not pretend that I know what it is like for many clients to love and accept their bodies in a world preoccupied with food and body. However, I am committed to creating a space where you are respected, heard and valued for who you are. As a practicum student at LifeRoots, I am accepting new clients and would be honoured to be a part of your journey towards body acceptance.
- Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison
- Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, by Linda Bacon, PhD
- Body of Truth by Harriet Brown
- Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
- The F*ck it Diet: Eating Should Be Easy by Caroline Dooner