Lots of people have been talking about Health at Every Size or HAES. While the shift hasn’t happened everywhere yet, it is happening. Maybe you’ve heard about it from family or friends, on social media, at the gym, or maybe even in the doctor’s office, but you’re not really sure what it means.
Let’s break it down together.
Health at Every Size or HAES is a paradigm shift in the way health and fitness practitioners think about and approach health and wellness. It is a set of principles developed by The Association for Size Diversity and Health. Health at Every Size isn’t saying that “every body size is healthy”, but that bodies can be healthy and be many different sizes. Intuitively we all know this. Thin bodies can be unhealthy or healthy, just as larger bodies can be unhealthy or healthy. HAES advocates that just as human bodies have diverse height ranges, eye colors, and skin colors, body size is just as diverse.
Using HAES also helps address the societal and cultural myths and beliefs that contribute to body dissatisfaction, weight stigma, negative body image, and weight bias, and promotes the celebration of body diversity.
"The Health at Every Size® Principles promote safe and equitable access to healthcare for people regardless of size, health status, and health goals first and foremost. The HAES® Principles also provide a framework of care for both providers and individuals to approach health without a focus on weight or weight loss." - The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH)
Even if we all ate the same food and exercised the same, we’d all be different sizes.
Health is individual and Heath at Every Size promotes the idea that health is not determined solely by one's weight or body size, but rather by a variety of factors such as physical activity, chronic conditions, access to healthcare, access to a variety of foods, and mental healthcare. HAES recognizes that weight loss is not a one-size-fits-all solution and that weight cycling (gaining and losing weight repeatedly, which is caused by yo-yo dieting) can actually be more detrimental to one's health than being at a higher weight.
So, instead of focusing on body size and weight loss, the HAES approach encourages individuals to focus on developing health-promoting behaviors such as regular physical activity, nutrition, physicals, and positive self-care practices. All bodies are different and each individual's health journey is unique.
Health at Every Size (HAES) is a truly holistic approach to health and wellness because it put the priority where it belongs - on health-promoting behaviors and positive self-image. It encourages people to reject societal pressure to conform to a certain body type, and instead promotes body diversity!