I know people are worried they've not done enough during lock down. I've had many, many conversations trying to reassure people about 'eating too much, eating the 'wrong' things and not exercising enough'.
They feel bad for doing exactly the opposite of what is 'recommended'.
And therein lies the problem. You know that saying.... 'just eat less and move more'?... that implies your health is primarily determined by what you eat and how much you exercise. In other words your weight is the be all and end all?
This is NOT true! This is diet culture
So this is the perfect time to bring in the HAES movement. Health At Every Size. Because everyone deserves an environment and culture that supports their health, regardless of their size.
HAES does not support labeling people based on their weight and assuming they are 'sick' because they are 'obese'
HAES is about helping people engage in health-promoting behaviors without pursuing weight loss. It is also challenging societal norms to reduce weight stigma and other forms of social injustice that harm people's health.
The model is based on three components:
It celebrates diversity in all our human attributes; not just size, gender or age but also race, sexual orientation, ability / disability, religion and social class.
It values the individual and their lived experience. It will challenge cultural assumptions and those made by science.
It promotes body trust, flexible and attuned eating, respecting and honoring your body and finding joy in moving it. If you are aware of Intuitive Eating, these may be ringing a bell.
This is not a new approach by any means. It's origins can be traced back to the 1960's but it gained widespread attention thanks to the work of Linda (now Lindo) Bacon, Ph.D, an internationally-recognised authority on weight science and author of “Health at Every Size” (2008).
The HAES movement IS evidence based and supports the idea that health is achievable at any weight. I actually think of Health for All Sizes when I think of the aims of HAES.
I am a member of the HAES Registry which means I will not prescribe weight loss as an intervention. It is unethical for me to do so because there is no known way for people to lose weight and keep it off.
So I'm never going to say 'sure, I'll help you drop a dress size or lose X stone'. Ever.
This does not mean I am anti-weight loss (or anti-dieter for that matter) but HAES approaches have been shown to have better health outcomes than the traditional weight-focused approach.
We are seeing is gold standard research methods showing statistically and clinically relevant improvements in blood pressure, blood fats, eating and activity habits, dietary quality, self-esteem and body image. Surely these lead pave the way to living a better life?
I want to add that HAES is not about promoting obesity. Personally, I prefer not to use the word obesity but I frequently see HAES being criticised for 'glorifying' fatness, particularly (and it's most often women) if they show body acceptance or positivity.
The term 'obesity' automatically assigns disease and flaw to anyone who fits within the arbitrary BMI category (that's another story for another day)
The point is, instead of worrying about glorifying certain body sizes, we should be worried about how unfairly people in larger bodies are often depicted and treated in the media and in society. Reinforcing weight stigma is what harms our health.
Today is International No Diet Day. If you take anything from reading this, know that you don't have to lose weight to be healthy. You don't have to eat 'clean' and never let a burger pass your lips. All foods nourish. All foods have a place. You are enough as you are. Today.
p.s If you'd like to read more of the evidence around HAES and Intuitive Eating, you might find these interesting: