What is HAES and why this approach?
When someone says they want to lose weight, they actually mean they want to feel better about how they look. So then why are we told to ignore our feelings in the pursuit of that goal?
We are told to ignore feelings of hunger, shame, guilt, feelings of enjoyment, of pleasure, need I go on? We are told to ignore all that because the premise is, if you “look better” you will feel better.
Sorry to burst your bubble diet and fitness industries, that is not how it works, that is not how I work either.
Ignoring your feelings creates disconnect with your body which damages your body image.
And feeling that you look good is all is do with, well, feelings – right?!
“The basic premise of health at every size, as written in Linda Bacon’s Book, Health at Every Size: The surprising truth about your weight, is that “Health at Every Size” (HAES) acknowledges that well-being and healthy habits are more important than any number on the scale.” NEDA.
HAES does not mean that all people at all body sizes will be healthy, rather, it acknowledges that health is not a one size fits all and that healthy bodies come in lots of different shapes and sizes.
While, as a health professional, I am aware of the research that suggests weight may be a risk factor for the development of some diseases and conditions, I am also aware that correlation does not equal causation, and BMI is an overly simplified and largely unhelpful measure of health status.
HAES highlights that health outcomes are largely impacted by social determinants like access to healthcare, living conditions, education, discrimination and weight stigma, to name but a few.
Most importantly, HAES promotes the idea that people of all sizes are deserving of respectful and evidence-based recommendations to improve their health. Focus on intentional weight loss is not one such recommendation, this is because research does not support the assertion that weight loss interventions can safely and sustainably improve health outcomes in the long term.
Research does show, however, that focusing on other interventions such as joyful movement and improving relationships with food (away from dieting rules) can improve health dramatically, even if weight remains unchanged.
My anti diet approach is due to the above and because improving Body Image is my main goal for you. Body Image has less to do with how you look and more to do with how you perceive the way you look, and the feelings you have about that perception.
Your feelings and beliefs about your body are to do with many factors, including how the media talks about bodies. We internalise these messages from a very young age.
Messages from Diet Culture about body size, self worth and value are very damaging to our body image, contrary to popular belief, which is why, I believe, so many people struggle with their body image.
Diet Culture as explained by Christy Harrison
Diet culture is a system of beliefs that:
- Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”
- Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.
- Demonises certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
- Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of colour, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.
Therefore dieting and weight loss do not help with body image because they are not about changing the mindset, they are only focused on changing the outer shell, usually at all costs.
Dieting also encourages you to ignore your hunger signals which ultimately causes a terrible relationship with food which then creates disconnect with your feelings and therefore your body. It also can lead to anxiety and heightened feelings of body shame and guilt.
I have a Body Image course that deals with all the above and so much more;
Get in touch if you have any questions and if you would like to book 1:1 Coaching and / or Personal Training.