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. (For more information about HAES check out my January blog post: What is Health At Every Size?)
The Health at Every Size (HAES) approach doesn’t just promote a more accurate measure of health, but it is also beneficial for individuals in recovery from eating disorders or for those at risk of developing an eating disorder. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), “less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “‘underweight,’” which means you can’t tell who has an eating disorder based on their body size. People in larger bodies also have eating disorders.
Eating disorders often stem from a preoccupation with weight and body shape, and traditional weight loss-focused training approaches can exacerbate these concerns and trigger disordered eating patterns. The HAES approach, on the other hand, shifts the focus away from weight and instead encourages individuals to focus on developing healthy habits and building a positive relationship with food and their bodies.
For individuals in recovery from an eating disorder, the HAES approach can provide a supportive and non-weight-focused environment that can help to break the cycle of disordered eating. This approach can also help to prevent the development of eating disorders by promoting body acceptance and challenging societal pressure to conform to a certain body type.
It's important to note that HAES is not a treatment for an eating disorder and it's not a replacement for professional help, but it can be a valuable tool for individuals in recovery and should be the default approach of health and fitness professionals.
The Health at Every Size (HAES) approach is beneficial for individuals in recovery from eating disorders and prevents others from developing an eating disorder by shifting the focus away from weight and focusing more on health behaviors and promoting body acceptance (which promotes people’s mental health).