What is Health at Every Size, and What is a Health at Every Size Therapist?
If you have been searching for an eating disorder therapist, chances are you have come across the term “Health at Every Size.” Health at Every Size, also known as HAES, is a framework and set of principles that challenges the belief that the size of your body is indicative of your physical and mental health. The five principles of HAES may give you a better understanding of this framework.
Principle #1: Weight Inclusivity
The HAES framework acknowledges that bodies naturally come in all different shapes and sizes. HAES encourages body acceptance and respect of all people no matter their weight.
Principle #2: Health Enhancement
Health is impacted by several factors and is not limited to genetics and behavior. HAES supports expanding access to services that impact one’s health. HAES also recognizes that health is not only physical, but also mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Principle #3: Eating for Well-Being
Eating for well-being is in opposition to dieting, or eating to lose weight. Instead, HAES encourages us to eat based on hunger and fullness cues, nutritional needs, and for enjoyment. HAES promotes flexibility rather than the various food rules that diet culture places upon us.
Principle #4: Respectful Care
In a culture that values thinness and equates thinness with health, it is not surprising that our healthcare system holds bias against people in larger bodies. Many people in large bodies go to their doctor with valid health concerns, only to be told to lose weight rather than receive proper care. Not only does this promote internalized shame in fat people, it also sacrifices the patient’s health and can even be a matter of life or death. HAES acknowledges how other factors such as socio-economic status, gender, race, age, etc impact weight stigma.
Principle #5: Life-Enhancing Movement
HAES promotes movement that improves quality of life. In our culture we are encouraged to use movement and exercise as a punishment for consuming food. HAES encourages people to engage in movement in a way that brings joy and in a way that is accessible to the individual.
This information was retrieved from the Association for Size Diversity and Health; click to read more.
How is HAES related to eating disorders and eating disorder treatment?
Eating disorders affect people of all shapes and sizes. Furthermore, you cannot infer whether someone struggles with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating based solely on their appearance. There are many people with larger bodies who restrict their food intake and their eating disorder goes undiagnosed. Some doctors prescribe appetite suppressants with the intention of helping the client lose weight, when in reality the client is already severely restricting their food intake. Furthermore a significant factor of eating disorder treatment is treating the client’s fear of weight gain.
The mainstream view of high weight leading to decreased quality of life keeps us from treating the whole person, whether that is in a medical or clinical setting.
By decentering weight from our understanding of health, we encourage eating and movement practices that are appropriate to the individual regardless of their weight.
If you are living in a larger body, it is important to work with a therapist who endorses a HAES perspective. Reach out here for more information about HAES-informed therapy.
Katie Zweig LGPC is a HAES-aligned therapist at Monarch Wellness & Psychotherapy. She focuses on helping people to establish a healthier and more compassionate relationship with food and their bodies.