5 Reasons Our Balanced Dietitians Practice from a “Health at Every Size” Approach By Erin Laverty, RDN, LDN, CSO Here at Balanced Nutrition, our dietitians pride themselves on practicing from a “health at every size” (HAES) approach. As our website says, “Balanced Nutrition is committed to its mission of providing strength-based, non-judgmental, flexible approaches to nutrition and healing”-- for us, that means practicing within the HAES framework. But if you’re new to learning about this philosophy of healthcare, you may be wondering what this all even means.
First of all, what exactly is Health At Every Size? According to ASDAH (Association for Size Diversity And Health) the HAES principles are: • Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes
• Recognizing that health and well-being are multi-dimensional and that they include physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual aspects
• Promoting all aspects of health and well-being for people of all sizes
• Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger, satiety, appetite, and pleasure
• Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss
Essentially, HAES is the evidence based belief that health is completely separate than one’s weight.
So why do we practice from a HAES framework?
1. HAES allows us to look at your full picture of health & pursue behavior related change
As stated earlier, we believe (& evidence shows) that your weight does not equal your health. Weight is also not in so much in your control as they may think (see #3). That said, there are so many facets of health in which you can work to make positive change– like socialization, emotional & mental well-being, energy levels, quality of sleep, managing stress, nourishing your body in balanced, wholesome ways, & finding joyful movement.
Data shows 95% of diets fail after 3-5 years with weight regained, so we don’t feel that focusing on weight loss is a responsible, ethical & empowering way to improve your health. Instead, we encourage you to dig deeper & think about what health really means to you. Maybe it means having more energy to chase after your children, maybe it means managing your stress levels & healing your relationship with food, maybe it means learning nutrition strategies to help you improve your blood sugar levels or digestion. Whatever health means to you, we want to help you work towards that– without dieting!
2. HAES lets us explore the unique roles of all foods
We feel that by viewing food decisions through the lens of attempting to pick good foods over bad foods, trying to eat perfectly, or consume foods solely based on their calories, points or macro content that so many of the other important roles of food are lost. We believe food is so much more than fuel– it is culture, socialization, connection, tradition, memories, enjoyment & pleasure (to name a few!). We of course want to help you find a balance in eating foods that nourish your body adequately, but in a way that embraces everything else food has to offer.
To learn more about this concept check out our blog post on why “food is not just fuel”.
3. HAES recognizes body diversity
We feel that size diversity should be celebrated rather than shamed, especially since your body size, shape & weight is largely determined by factors like genetics, ethnicity, & socioeconomic status. Think about how you could eat the exact same foods & participate in the exact same exercise regimen as your best friend– your bodies would STILL look different. This isn’t because one of you is doing something wrong, or has more willpower than the other, this is simply due to “body diversity”- the understanding that a wide array of body sizes, types, & frames exist.
We feel that when there is a large focus in health to try & turn your body into something it is simply never going to settle at happily, this can lead to discouragement & distract from other health related goals.
4. HAES allows you to rebuild body trust
When the pursuit of health = weight loss or achieving the thin ideal, this often means that certain rules may dictate your eating, rather than your internal biological cues. Calorie counting, utilizing MyFitnessPal, not eating past 7pm– these are all a few examples of how someone may eat due to rules or disordered eating behaviors, rather than based on what their body really needs.
Through practicing body acceptance & health at every size, we can work towards healing your relationship with food & eating in a more enjoyable & intuitive way. We believe firmly that this can be done in conjunction WITH your health goals. This is because there is growing research to support that intuitive eaters have improved self esteem, quality of life, reduced depression and even improved cholesterol levels, blood pressure & cardiorespiratory fitness.
5. HAES reduces barriers to healthcare
We strongly believe in the importance of instilling no harm, therefore reducing barriers to healthcare. So if everytime you receive healthcare you find that the focus is on your weight, we understand that this not only makes it unappealing to have your health issues checked out, but also that they are likely missing pieces of your medical picture. Same thing for nutrition counseling! Not only do we utilize our strong clinical knowledge & nutritional background to investigate your health from all angles, we are also more than happy to connect you with like minded medical professionals.
The Weight-Inclusive vs Weight-Normative Approach to Health: Evaluating the Evidence for Prioritizing Well-Being over Weight https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264987677_The_Weight-Inclusive_versus_Weight-Normative_Approach_to_Health_Evaluating_the_Evidence_for_Prioritizing_Well-Being_over_Weight_Loss/link/618d271061f09877207fe6cb/download
“Poodle Science” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H89QQfXtc-k
Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift
Check Out These Resources Too:
Books: Anti Diet by Chrissy Harrison, RD
Podcast: RD Real Talk Episode 114: An intro to HAES with Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani