If you haven’t already heard of the "Health at Every Size" movement, it was started by Linda Bacon who wrote the book Health At Every Size which is has now essentially become “a website and a social movement whose purpose is to encourage bodily acceptance and self confidence with one's body, often by the rejection of dieting. Proponents aim to improve the standard of living for people who are overweight or obese by promoting healthy lifestyles and anti-discrimination efforts. Generally, these efforts do not include weight loss as a direct goal.” (Wikipedia) A lot of people are probably thrown off by this title and think, "Well, what about the millions of Americans and people worldwide who are obese? And what about people at the other extreme? They certainly aren't healthy at their size."
And you might be correct, depending on the individual circumstances.
But the point of Health at Every Size is that health shouldn't be limited to weight or an appearance of health, but rather the feeling of health and the existence of health...even if it isn't visible. A thin body may be diseased and an larger body may be in top-notch health, but sadly our society makes associations and assumptions that are often scientifically incorrect, equating body type with the presence or absence of health. Health is so much more complex than weight and calories and nutrients...it's about the little things that you are doing each day to take care of yourself and make sure your needs are met: nourishing your body, moving your body, engaging your mind, connecting with loved ones, savoring the things that bring you joy, getting enough sleep, and taking breaks when you need them. If all of these are habits that make a person healthy...then why are our assumptions about health determined, judgmentally, by how much space we take up?
Of course unhealthy lifestyle habits lead to lifestyle diseases...but these diseases can occur in any sized body. Until current and future health care providers start looking past the number on the scale and looking toward patients’ self-care practices, it seems that society will always be waging a war against weight.
That being said, I don't expect every health care provider to drop what they're doing and switch to a HAES approach. My hope is that even if all health care providers can't adopt HAES, they can at least learn from it, and see why America's obsession with weight is anything but healthy. And for all of you future dietitians, nurses, doctors, psychologists/psychiatrists, counselors, and other health care personnel, I hope that HAES might open up your mind a little more to the ways in which we can create a culture that embraces bodies of all shapes and sizes and acknowledges the ways that they can be healthy, happy, and nourished.
Here is Dr. Bacon's book. Take a look if you are interested in learning more about Health at Every Size:
Freshman. SDSU. Foods and Nutrition.