27 December 2023
What is Health at Every Size?
Health at every size, or HAES for short, is an approach to health that recognises the limitations of using weight or BMI as a proxy for health. It promotes acceptance and appreciation of one’s body. It encourages people to shift their focus from weight loss to other healthy habits, such as:
1. Eating healthy foods suited to YOUR preferences to work toward meeting the Australian Dietary Guidelines for optimal health, and
2. incorporating movement to the degree that YOU choose each day.
Health at every size is a tailored and respectful approach, which seeks to downplay weight loss as a health goal and reduce stigma toward people above a healthy weight. Menopausal and post-menopausal women know this struggle only too well. We start carrying weight in places we never have before and find it difficult, if not impossible, to shift it.
However, do we need to? In my opinion, we as a society are currently focusing on the wrong measures to motivate behavioural change. Menopause is associated with adverse metabolic and bone changes which lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. In my experience as a private practice dietitian, these risks are a far greater motivator than weight loss. Health at every size helps us to refocus on what is going on inside.
For example, how do we FEEL? Are we nourishing our body so that it can function optimally and help us meet our mental and physical health goals? A goal can be as simple as having more energy to do the things you enjoy.
Gentle and therefore sustainable changes to your eating habits, such as those used within the Health at every size framework, will not put your body under the stress that restrictive eating does. Restricting your food intake may also lead to disordered eating.
Older readers will be acutely aware of the long-term effects that yo-yo dieting (thank you diet culture of the 80s and 90s) has on one’s metabolism, but did you know that dieting is one of the most important behavioural risks for eating disorders?
Having rules around food is another. The old classic ‘clean your plate, children are starving in Africa’ or ‘you can’t leave the table until your plate is empty’ has had detrimental effects on our, and our children’s relationship with food.
If you lack energy, experience frequent low mood, think you may not have a healthy relationship with food, or have other health goals, nutrition can be a game-changer. Make a list of your goals and make an appointment with us so we can help you meet them. We provide Telehealth options (video or telephone) for those residing outside of the NSW Southern Highlands. Contact us via our website for an obligation-free chat in the new year.
RACGP (2018, May 29). Understanding the Health At Every Size (HAES) paradigm. RACGP – Understanding the ‘health at every size’ paradigm
The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH). (2022). The Health at Every Size® (HAES®) Principles. https://asdah.org/health-at-every-size-haes-approach/
Scientific American. (2019, September 5). Can You Be Healthy at Any Size? https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-you-be-healthy-at-any-size/