So either on my blog or others, you may have seen the following phrases before: intuitive eating + health at every size. Maybe you read their titles, said “Yeah! I want to be involved with that!” but never fully understood some of the finer details that make up each concept. Today, I’m here to break down the basics of Health at Every Size. I share more about Intuitive Eating in this post, so check it out, too!
What is HAES?
Health at Every Size means just that. There can be health at a variety of shapes + sizes despite what some parts of our culture + media may lead us to believe. Intuitive eating + HAES often go together like a PB+J. This is partially because with intuitive eating, your goal is not to manipulate your body size, and over time, IE can help our bodies settle in to our set point weight range. And that range might not be at a BMI <25 or <30. Does that mean you’re unhealthy? In short, no.
BMI is not an appropriate indicator of health. BMI is simply a ratio of our height + weight. It does not take into account so many other factors such as muscle mass, genetics, bone density, lab values, etc. It is possible to be unhealthy at a “healthy” BMI just as it is possible to be healthy at an “overweight” or “obese” BMI.
So what if we took a whole different approach as HAES suggests? One that ignored trying to shrink our bodies and instead focused on health-promoting behaviors that brought us both joy + health [mentally + physically]? Habits that we actually enjoy + can sustain rather than some insane workout routine that makes us feel like dying every time we try it. If we can find a balance in life between self-care, food, sleep, stress-relief, + movement, our overall health can see major health benefits — even without the scale moving.
What about disease?
Now, this is where you say, “but what about diabetes + heart disease?!”
For starters, other factors correlated with chronic disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, + heart disease include: family history, age, gender, race, inactivity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, other comorbidities, etc. Half of these aren’t even things we can control! We could live our entire life at a “healthy” BMI and still develop a chronic disease.
Maintaining a weight higher than our set point can also be a risk factor for chronic diseases, however, it is a correlation not a causation. Basically, being classified as “overweight or obese” does not automatically = chronic disease. Weight gain can be an outcome of unhealthy behaviors, however, what is the root of the problem? The weight or the behaviors? Well, since manipulating our body size through diets or “lifestyle changes” [aka diets in disguise] isn’t working for us, tackling the unhealthy behaviors seem like a better place to start.
I understand the desire to what to do the best we can to avoid chronic disease. I mean, my goodness, disease prevention is part of the bread + butter of nutrition! But we can absolutely eat + move our bodies in a non-restrictive + joyful way that is health promoting without focusing on trying to lose weight. Can shifting our behaviors also lead to weight loss? Yes, they can. They can also help us to maintain or gain weight if needed. But having weight changes be our driving force does not work long term for most individuals.
Hey y’all! This post was part of week 1 the Abundantly Enough blog post series! Over the course of 6 weeks, Amy Hanneke of Satisfy Nutrition + I will be releasing individual blog posts covering the same topic in order to give multiple perspectives + interpretations to best meet you where you’re at! This series works to cover some of the basics of developing a healthier relationship with food + your body. In addition, we have launched a community over on Facebook where we can continue to connect + answer any questions y’all may have! We hope to see you there! To check out all of the posts in this series, head on over to the AE page here.