Health At Every Size® Part 1: An Introduction

There’s been a lot of talk about Health At Every Size. Have you heard of this new peace movement? It has certainly started conversations with the recent Cosmo cover!

Health at Every Size (HAES®, pronounced haze) is an inclusive movement to support the well-being of people and designed to:

  • acknowledge that weight does not determine our healthand that healthy behaviours are more important than the number on the scale
  • support people of all sizes in adopting healthy behaviors and finding a compassionate way to care for themselves
  • support people by recognizing that our social characteristics, such as our size, race, national origin, sexuality, gender, disability status, and other attributes, are assets, and acknowledges and challenges the structural and systemic forces that impinge on living well 
  • reject the idea that weight, size or BMI predicts health, and the myth that weight is a choice
  • help people recognize that health outcomes are primarily driven by social, economic, and environmental factors
  • challenge our internal and external weight biases   

As said by the ASDAH, the founders of HAES: “Pursuing health is neither a moral imperative nor an individual obligation, and health status should never be used to judge, oppress, or determine the value of an individual.”

There are 5 major principles to HAES:

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

Health at Every Size is not Healthy at Every Size

It is important to acknowledge that healthy at every size is not what the HAES movement is about. Rather, the focus of HAES is that people can be healthy at a variety of sizes just like people can be unhealthy at a variety of sizes. As a result, it is important to acknowledge and respect the person’s individual circumstance rather than assuming someone’s health based on their size.  

The movement also doesn’t support eating whatever you want because it doesn’t matter what size you are. HAES encourages healthy eating behaviours and supports eating based on internal cues such as hunger, fullness, and cravings. When listening to what your body wants, you’ll notice that your body craves a balanced diet and activity. Check out our intuitive eating blog here to learn more.

The Take Away:

The HAES approach is about taking the focus off weight and putting the focus on health. It’s about balanced eating, life-enhancing physical activity, and respect for the diversity of body shapes and sizes. 

If you are interested in learning more about this movement and the research behind it, check out part 2 on Health At Every Size here and visit the resources below.

Disclaimer: A balanced diet is not a replacement for a trained therapist. If you are unable to cope with your symptoms, please seek help with a mental health professional. You can find more information on the Student Wellness Services website here

Further Readings:

Association for Size Diversity and Health

The Health At Every Size Community

Health At Every Size; The Surprising Truth About Your Weight novel by Linda Bacon, PhD 

Intuitive Eating; A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach novel by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Written by Christine Gemmell HBSc, DDEPT(c), Reviewed by Hospitality Services Registered Dietitian.

Christine is with Queen’s Hospitality for 6 weeks as a dietetic intern. She completed her Honors Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition at Brescia University College, and is currently completing her one year intensive practical training program to become a registered dietitian. Christine has a strong passion for sports nutrition and believes in the power of a positive relationship with food. Her dream is to work as an RD to educate, provide tools and help people live the lifestyle that best suites them.

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