Sometimes, people’s medical concerns aren’t taken seriously just because of their size. Many people are told to “just lose weight” to see some unusual occurrences in their bodies vanish, but that isn’t always the solution. The idea behind Health at Every Size is to put the patient first—it urges healthcare professionals to look at each individual’s health rather than at a certain standard.
What is the Health at Every Size movement?
This movement was started by the Association for Size Diversity and Health in 2003. With Health at Every Size (HAES), healthcare professionals are encouraged to look more toward helping people feel better physically with the bodies they’re currently in rather than urging them to reach a lower weight. Through this change, the quality of care for all sizes should improve — no one size would be looked to as the golden standard, as it is done with the body mass index scale.
Regarding food, HAES promotes eating what you like whenever you want to feel satiated. In an experiment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the people who were not given any “forbidden food” to stay away from maintained the same weight as a group that was told to exercise. Having no “forbidden foods” doesn’t mean people only eat processed foods high in sugar — they just have less pressure on themselves to eat healthy all the time and seem to gravitate to more nutritious foods naturally.
HAES is about self-acceptance rather than self-fear. Measuring physical health by how good you feel about yourself is more helpful than measuring it by a number on the scale. People should not have to feel afraid of their bodies to motivate them to change; they would do much better if they simply learn to accept their bodies as-is while also making healthier choices to ensure their physical and mental health improve.
Still, HAES is more about promoting better care for people of all sizes rather than focusing on self-love, as the body positivity movement does. While people should feel good about their bodies, HAES focuses more on the medical aspect of it, ensuring that people don’t feel afraid to go to the doctor because of their weight, knowing that their concerns will be taken seriously. It also encourages people to find an exercise they love — it doesn’t matter how intense or casual it is, as long as you’re getting movement into your routine.
Why it’s important to embrace healthy living
Everyone should have a chance to live a long and healthy life. Healthy living goes beyond what you look like — it can provide benefits like living longer and having fewer health conditions and therefore fewer medical bills. Below, I list a few reasons you should strive to improve your health in general instead of simply trying to lose weight.
1. Prevents chronic illnesses
Becoming healthier helps maintain your physical health and keep illnesses at bay. For instance, when you follow a healthier lifestyle instead of only obsessing about your weight, you may be able to avoid cardiovascular disease. You should strive to understand your body and recognize when something feels off about it. That way, you know just how to incorporate healthy elements into your day without pushing yourself, especially for the wrong reasons.
2. Improved physical and mental health
When you strive to eat healthier meals, you’ll automatically gravitate to less-processed food. Fresh, nutritious foods help you have more energy and feel fuller; they also improve your mental and physical health. The same goes with exercise — it makes you feel more energetic and happier. So a healthier life can leave you with benefits in body and mind.
3. More autonomy over your care
When you search for a healthcare professional who prioritizes HAES, you won’t feel like you have to change physically in order to be taken seriously. You’ll start to feel like you can make healthcare decisions for yourself again, as your doctor won’t write off a concern as being only about your “weight”. You may feel in control of yourself and can take the reins of your own wellbeing.
How to make changes for your physical and mental health
When you commit to healthier living, you should know there will be challenges. It won’t be easy to start eating healthier or moving around more when you’re used to a different lifestyle. While many changes will take time, you can take steps to commit to a healthier life at any size.
1. Get more steps in
When you’re following HAES, any movement is good movement. A simple walk can lessen the pain in your joints and decrease your risk for other dangerous chronic illnesses. If you need help figuring out where to start with adding movement to your day, try going for a short walk.
2. Keep your home clean
If you’ve felt down recently or have felt sick for no reason, your surroundings might be to blame. You have less of a possibility of getting sick when you keep a clean home and your mental health will improve without the additional clutter. Create a chore chart for yourself and try to stick to it as best as you can.
3. Subscribe to a meal kit
In a busy world, you may not have the time or energy to go all out with your cooking. Still, you need the proper nutrients to lead a healthy life. Subscribing to a meal kit can help you get the nutritious meals you need with minimal cooking involved. The kits can motivate you to cook when it doesn’t feel manageable, cutting down on the number of times you eat out each week.
Why Health at Every Size matters
People have spent too long having their concerns diminished because of their size, only to experience detrimental effects due to not receiving proper treatment. You are the only one occupying your body, so you know when something feels off.
Likewise, everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their own body and receive treatment without being told just to lose weight. With HAES, you aim to find a balance that leads to a healthier lifestyle overall.
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