For those who are active in the eating disorder community, you may be familiar with the movement, Health at Every Size® (also commonly referred to by its acronym HAES®) which has gained momentum over the last couple of years. Perhaps you have read some or all of the book “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” by Linda Bacon Ph.D. or have heard HAES® mentioned in the context of discussions about weight stigma and body positivity. In the eating disorder world, a growing number of professionals are working from a HAES® framework including therapists, registered dietitians and even medical professionals.
So what IS Health at Every Size®, exactly? For something that is talked about so much, there seems to still be quite a bit of confusion surrounding the topic. Whether or not one subscribes to the Health at Every Size® ideology, it is important to have a clear understanding of what its core philosophy and principles are. Simply put, HAES® represents a paradigm shift away from a weight-centric approach to health and health care to one that highlights body diversity and behavior change to attain desired health outcomes as opposed to focusing on manipulating weight and shape. In her book, Dr. Bacon discusses the “extensive collateral damage” that has come as a result of the war on obesity. These acts of “war” can include food and body preoccupation, eating disorders, self-hatred and discrimination.
According to Bacon, very few people are at peace with their bodies, whether it is because they are fat or fear becoming so. For this reason, Bacon refers to HAES® as “the new peace movement” stating that it “is an inclusive movement, recognizing that our social characteristics, such as our size, race, national origin, sexuality, gender, disability status, and other attributes, are assets.