This article was first featured in the spring edition of Fresh Bites, our quarterly owner newsletter.
As a dietitian, one of my primary goals is to help folks make peace with food and body. I care far less about what you eat than your overall relationship to food. However, this was not always the case.
At the start of my nutrition education, I believed all dietitians should be well versed in weight reduction and the strategies by which one could successfully change their body to fit a perceived healthy size and shape. Taking in fewer calories than were burned was the goal I had been taught and I experienced personal “success” by eating fewer calories for a little while, and therefore felt my noble purpose was to help others along the same path.
It wasn’t until my last semester of college when I was introduced to the Health at Every Size® framework in my Dietetics Counseling class and it pretty much changed everything for me. Health at Every Size®, or HAES® for short, is a move away from the traditional diet advice toward a more holistic view of health and what that means for the individual (this includes not only the physical aspects of health but mental, emotional, social, etc.)
At the center of Heath at Every Size® are three principles: Respect, Critical Awareness and Compassionate Self-Care. In a nutshell, this means celebrating ALL body diversity (size, ability, race, gender, etc.), challenging assumptions about health, valuing one’s lived experiences and body knowledge, and moving and eating in attuned, self-compassionate ways (1).
Health At Every Size® also means putting weight and weight loss on the back burner and focusing instead on health behaviors (remember, weight is not a behavior). For instance, I like to ask myself what additional nutritious foods I can add to my diet or what fun(!) opportunities for movement I could be exploring more. I also like to think about the way certain foods and exercises make my body feel and the intrinsic benefits they have to offer instead of the number of calories I am taking in or burning off (2).
In these ways, using Health at Every Size® as a starting point to my nutrition practice allows me to meet my goal as an RDN. It’s a ceasefire that ends the food fight and supports the health journeys of ALL people.
If you have questions about Health at Every Size® or are curious about how you to apply these principles to your own pursuit of health, feel free to reach out! I would love to talk with you.
Phone: 859-278-1813 ext. 232
- Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD
- Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA
Other resources to check out:
- Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand About Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD and Lucy Aphramor PhD, RD
- The Intuitive Eating Workbook: Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch MS, RD, FAD