Health at every size (HAES) is not a new concept. In fact, it’s been around since the 1960s. I read about health at every size many years ago, thinking the concept was insane. How could we be healthy at any size? What does that mean?
If a person is three hundred pounds or eighty-six pounds, they’re healthy? Let’s deep dive and analyze what this means. If you Yo-Yo diet to get thin or your weight bounces up and down, or you’re bingeing, then starving yourself, regardless of the size, you can be healthy?
I don’t think so.
Perhaps we can be healthy at every size. But that does not mean every size is healthy. It depends on how one reached and maintained a certain size.
A heavier set person doesn’t always mean unhealthy, given this population practices a healthy lifestyle. And the thin population doesn’t mean healthy, especially if restricting food and over exercising or purging calories in a dysfunctional capacity.
The health at every size concept seeks to de-emphasize weight loss as a health goal and reduce stigma towards people who are overweight or obese. This can be a good thing.
How can we be healthy and over weight—or obese? How can we be healthy underweight? Well, perhaps we can be healthy at every size. How you might ask? Constant dieting does not promote overall health. Over eating doesn’t promote overall health.
The answer depends on your total lifestyle. Size is one factor, but that’s not an indicator that you are unhealthy. Observe closer. What are your lifestyle behaviors?
It’s not only about weight as a health marker. There are many other deciding factors. Are you a smoker? Do you abuse alcohol? Survey what you’re eating. Question what you eat. Do you eat whole foods, actual foods?
Are you eating processed foods? What about exercising? Or are you a couch potato, vegging out in front of the television, or numb out with your phone? Society is hyper-focused on our bodies and body weight overlooking the inner workings while obsessing over our size. The attention is on looking skinny, not how you got thin.
And of course obesity is not always healthy. It may lead to diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. In addition, diets or restricting foods do not mean healthier. Restricting can lead to malnutrition, obsessive dieting, and, possibly eating disorders. So health at every size is questionable depending on lifestyle.
How do we live in a healthier body regardless of the size?
We get healthy when we develop a new relationship with our food. Eat a wide variety of foods throughout the day. Food is fuel, but it also can be enjoyment while healing the body. Fruits, vegetables, an excellent source of protein, fat along with quality starchy carbs, are a good starting place towards optimal health.
Eating processed foods and incorporating no exercise, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol in excess leads to a health decline, regardless of size. Eating quality foods while incorporating moderate exercise is a good start to healthy living. Avoid stress and practice functional coping skills, then the thin or thicker person might both be healthy at each size, respectively.
Add to the mix self-love and self care, which is often forgotten. Take a vacation, read a delightful book, catch a nap, go for a massage.
I’m often asked about my website, Weightcontroltherapy.com, questioning if I’m promoting weight loss. No, that’s not the goal of the site. I’m not a fan of diets I’m a promoter of healing the body, mind and spirit. Weight control therapy is about being in control of what you’re doing without the obsessions, regardless of your body weight size.
Can we be healthy at every size? I’m not sure. If at a higher weight you wake up exhausted, can’t breathe, body aches, then yes, perhaps you’re not in the best shape for you.
At 234 pounds, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move without my legs rubbing together, causing blisters. Fatigued, stressed, depressed, and anxious, I was heading towards serious health concerns. Overweight, I did not appear healthy, nor did I sense I was healthy.
Psychologically impaired, along with physical and spiritual deficit, were my norm.
The concept healthy at every size gets murky when it’s mixed with eating disorders. Regardless of extra weight, thin or somewhere in between, if there’s an eating disorder, it’s unhealthy no matter the size.
People with eating disorders harbor dysfunctional eating. Sometimes they’re super skinny and sometimes they’re heavy and sometimes they are normal weight, but they’re doing obsessive dysfunctional behaviors.
A person wearing extra weight may be healthy. Take Betty, a seventy-something-year-old woman that I saw in my practice. Betty looked good; she felt good. She’s not suffering in her mind, yet she’s carrying extra weight. Her medical reports show no signs of distress. Great!
Sally who suffered from asthma, COPD, arthritis, and other major health issues along with an extra fifty pounds, not so healthy. She reduced her weight by eating more healthfully coupled with exercise, and she felt better and the medical test results confirmed this.
And then there’s Stella who is thin, the envy of all her friends, but she’s got a dirty little secret—she throws up her food after a binge. She looks amazing, but she’s not healthy. Doctors warn Stella to change now while she can. Stella has a heart condition, bones are brittle and she’s had major dental work. Stella lost all her teeth, wears dentures. She’s thirty two years old.
Maybe we can’t be healthy at every size? And may we can not. The argument is convincing on both ends of every size. We are in a society that says thin is in regardless of how the thin person got thin or the heavy person got heavy. Critiquing, shaming, blaming all contribute to eating disorders and body shame and insecurities along with obsessive behaviors. I see it at my work every day.
And it’s sad.
Life is short don’t spend it swirling in the worry of weight. Of course, it’s easier said than done. With my background of eating disorder and weight issues and a mom who passed away earlier than she should have because of obesity, I get it. Today, I no longer obsess over my body or my weight. I practice what I teach. And that is my wish for you.
What is the answer? It’s living a healthy lifestyle, eating actual foods, incorporating moderate exercise and let go of the pressure of having to present a certain way for society. Whether you are thin, normal weight, or overweight, you might be all equally healthy. Only you know for sure. Live for you, the healthy you, and perhaps you can be healthy at every size.
What are your thoughts on healthy at every size? Do you believe it’s possible to be overweight and healthy? What about super skinny and healthy?
Thank you for spending time with me and my thoughts throughout these pages. I hope my words lit your excitement to become your best self for you. I look forward to sharing my next book with you on how to release your obsession with money. God bless you… and your journey through this life and all that awaits beyond…
Thank you for being a part of the reading blog forum of this blog. If you have something you’d like to say, I’d love to hear it. YOU are important and your words need to be heard. I’m here for you.
To learn more on recovery from food addiction, eating disorders, weight issues, dieting, and aging, please check out my Release Your Obsession Series.
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Speaker, writer, licensed clinical psychotherapist, PhD in addiction psychology, eating disorder professional, hypnotherapist changing the view about compulsive eating one addict at a time.