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November 25, 2021
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THE HAES (HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE) APPROACH? | By Hubert Cormier
The HAES (health at every size) movement aims to reduce the stigma surrounding weight. Many studies have been conducted over the years to determine whether or not weight is a reflection of health. This approach democratizes weight while promoting self-acceptance and body inclusion. Furthermore, the new Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines are aligning themselves closer with this movement! Let’s take a look.
📏 THE ORIGIN OF THE HAES APPROACH
The movement dates back to the 1960s! Since then, the main tenets have evolved and incorporated the various the scientific studies’ findings on the matter. In addition, the HAES approach was developed with the help of health professionals, activists and many people who have been on diets throughout their lives and have realized that nutrition and physical activity are not the only factors influencing body weight.
The HAES approach is very comprehensive but can easily be summarized in a few key points. Here are the basic principles:
👉 Body inclusiveness
The HAES approach relies on the fact that the number you see on the scale does not represent you. Indeed, just as we don’t judge a book by its cover, we shouldn’t judge people by their weight either. It is important to be aware of the possible biases around body weight that others or we ourselves may have. By becoming aware of these, acceptance will only be easier.
Also, body inclusiveness rejects the idea of an ideal weight that everyone needs to reach in order to be healthy.
👉 Food for well-being
For too long, and sometimes still today, we associate weight with diet and physical exercise. However, a person’s weight is influenced by hundreds of other factors besides food intake (positive or negative energy balance) and exercise. These include genetics, hormones, the environment, your level of knowledge and your biases about excess weight. So. it’s much more complex than just stopping eating large portion sizes and getting moving!
The HAES movement advocates listening to your hunger and satiety signals. In short, you should eat when you are hungry and stop when your body indicates that it is no longer hungry. Rather than following a rigid diet plan where you have to count your calories every day, the HAES approach recommends eating what you feel like and when you feel like it. Club sandwich at 3 p.m.? Why not? Maybe you weren’t hungry at lunch! Eating large meals at set times is not for everyone. It is best to follow your own schedule.
Rather than focusing on weight loss, the HAES approach focuses on self-acceptance. In this way, the feeling of guilt fades away and gives way to physical and mental well-being. Balance is the watchword: there are no good or bad foods. The most important thing is to provide your body with enough energy to live your life to the fullest.
📏 IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH
The HAES approach advocates adopting habits that are accessible to all, adjusted to the individual needs of each person. It is focused on physical, social and emotional needs instead of being based on a preconceived model.
📏 YES, BUT…
Despite the emphasis on body acceptance, there is still scientific evidence that suggests that even modest weight loss improves health by reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome and other conditions associated with obesity. Overweight people are at greater risk of suffering from certain chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, the opposite is also true and people with poor lifestyle habits who are not overweight also have an increased risk.
In conclusion, the HAES (Health at Every Size) approach is based on self-acceptance and healthy lifestyle habits rather than weight loss. In the long term, this approach has shown positive physical and psychological effects. Furthermore, gradual lifestyle changes are generally more beneficial in the long term than rapid weight loss.
- Robison, J. (2005). Health at every size: toward a new paradigm of weight and health. Medscape General Medicine, 7(3), 13.
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