What Is Health at Every Size® and Why It Matters To Me

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):

  1. Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.

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.

HAES® Resources

Books:

Podcasts:

 

1 Association for Size Diversity and Health. (2020). The Health at Every Size Approach (HAES®). https://asdah.org/health-at-every-size-haes-approach/

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