HAES: How You Can Promote Wellbeing Whatever Your Weight

Happy Healthy

The founders of Health at Every Size (or HAES) call their idea “the new peace movement.” Promoted by the Association for Size Diversity and Health, the HAES concept is about creating a weight-neutral approach to wellbeing. By reducing the stigma about different body sizes and shapes, HAES can also reduce bullying, shame, and conflict. That’s where the “peace movement” part comes in.

Like any peace movement, HAES may be seen as radical and controversial. It challenges the long-held connection between weight and health. But, it is gaining momentum and soothing spirits. Thanks to this movement, you can promote well-being whatever your weight.

The HAES Basics

The Association for Size Diversity and Health developed the following five principles in 2003 (revised in 2013):

1. Weight Inclusivity

This principle involves acceptance. There are countless body shapes and sizes. No single shape or size should be seen as ideal. No single shape or size should be seen as “wrong.”

2. Health Enhancement

If we’ve learned anything lately, it’s that many, many ideas about health exist. HAES wants to increase access to the best and latest information about human wellbeing. The goal is to match health policy with the most inclusive data.

3. Respectful Care

Conditioning runs deep. Each of us is exposed to a wide range of weight discrimination, stigma, and bias. Running parallel to this conditioning are the innumerable other biases we are led to embrace. These may be related to:

  • Socio-economic status
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age

The aim is to identify and work past such inequities.

4. Eating for Wellbeing

There is no one “right” way to eat. Weight control does not have to be the goal of any eating plan. HAES instead promotes flexibility by factoring in basic elements like:

  • Hunger
  • Nutritional needs
  • Pleasure

5. Life-Enhancing Movement

Side-by-side with all this talk about eating habits and body types is an appreciation for physical movement. This doesn’t have to be organized around sports or anything competitive, for that matter. Regardless of size or ability, find a movement you enjoy and have fun!

What HAES Can Mean For You

Decreased Risk of Disordered Eating

The mainstream perception of dieting and body standards is not good for your mental health. All across pop culture, we are virtually programmed to see health in a black-and-white manner. This can result in eating disorders and/or poor body image. HAES counters this trend with a new and inclusive mindset.

Mindful Eating

Rather than following a strict diet, you can eat intuitively. A mindful approach to eating is not about getting to your “ideal” weight. It’s also not about fitting into a particular article of clothing. Mindful eating is about:

  • Eating when you are hungry
  • Honoring your nutritional needs
  • Enjoying your meals

Freedom to Get Active

Societal norms can feel restrictive. You want to play a sport but you feel ashamed if you’re not good at it. You may feel worse if you don’t “look good” doing it. The same can go for fun activities like cycling, dancing, and different varieties of exercise. The Health at Every Size platform liberates you from these artificial boundaries.

What HAES Is Not

No program or concept gives you a free pass to ignore signs of trouble. If you’re struggling with something like binge eating or body dysmorphia, you must ask for help. The HAES principles can be a valuable supplement but you need to speak with a mental health professional. Working with an experienced therapist is a proven component of healing and lasting recovery.

Does any of the above resonate with you? Cassandra Goar is the HAES specialist at Self Care Impact and she would be happy to talk.  Read more about therapy and how we can set up a free and confidential consultation. Together we can talk about your unique path to feeling good about your body and yourself.