I had the good fortune to read “Health at Every Size” (HAES) by Dr. Linda Bacon. What is “Health at Every Size”? It is a research-based philosophy that helps people pursue health, and not a number on the scale. HAES allows people to learn how to nurture their bodies through foods that feel good in their bodies, and also through movement, which is joyful and sustainable.
When I first across the HAES philosophy, I had a lot of concerns. For examples, HAES has a weight-neutral stance, meaning it doesn’t promote weight loss, nor weight gain. That was a bit of a bitter pill to swallow, because at the time, I was not pursuing health, but rather a number on the scale. I couldn’t imagine my life not wanting to be thin. After all, I’d spent so much time chasing the thin ideal. HAES challenged me to think beyond the external and focus on the internal. Yes, I could be thinner through excessive exercise and dieting. But, then I would also have to deal with the relentless counting of points or calories, and the negative talk that dieting brings about. –OR- I could find my body’s natural weight through eating in an attuned manner and moving my body in way that felt good. I might be heavier than that thin ideal, but I would be able to put the “itty bitty shitty committee” aside.
Do you have an IBS committee? You know, the thoughts in your head that berate you when you can’t stay on a diet, or when the dress you want to buy at Ann Taylor doesn’t fit properly? Dieting and chasing thinness keeps that committee active. Pursuing health, and making peace with food and my body decreases the criticism.
I think we can use health as a mask for wanting to be thinner. HAES shows us that we can be healthy regardless of our size. Dr. Bacon reminds us that no scientific study has ever shown that weight loss prolongs life. In addition, obese people who exercise live longer than normal-weight people that do not. I wonder how the lives of people might change, if only physicians would prescribe exercise, rather than or in addition to pills.
Exercise has definitely been a game-changer for me. I sleep better (albeit not perfectly), and I feel stronger and more confident. In the past, I exercised to lose more weight. The moment I stopped losing weight, I stopped exercising. I had hooked weight loss and exercise together. HAES sees it differently. HAES says that we should exercise has a means of self-care and because it can be enjoyable!
HAES is about respecting your body where it is right now, in this very moment. If we don’t respect our bodies now at our current weight, there is little chance that we will take care of ourselves in the way that we deserve.
Dr. Bacon ends her book with the “Live Well Pledge”:
Today, I will try to feed myself when I am hungry.
Today, I will try to be attentive to how foods taste and make me feel.
Today, I will try to choose foods I like and that make me feel good.
Today, I will try to honor my body’s signals of fullness.
Today, I will try to find an enjoyable way to move my body.
Today, I will try to look kindly at my body and to treat it with love and respect.
What parts of the “Live Well Pledge” are you working on?