What is Health at Every Size?

IMG_7756My biggest passion in medicine is definitely being an advocate for Health at Every Size® (HAES®), and generally looking at
health in a weight neutral way. I am so passionate about it this because I have observed that using weight loss as a goal actually creates a lower state of health and, ironically, more weight gain!

The reality is that using weight loss as the only goal enters people into an unhealthy cycle of weight loss and weight regain. This cycle can lead to poorer health in general, which, in turn, is blamed on the fatness, lack of willpower, or laziness.

I often hear:

“The idea of Health at Every Size® is great! Except if someone is very fat or very thin. Then, that person definitely needs to change their weight significantly to be healthy.”

Or:

“Health at Every Size® is great…except for me, because I need to lose a lot of weight to feel good in my body.”

I also hear:

 “I know this fat/skinny person who is really unhealthy…so HAES® doesn’t work.”

Here’s the thing about Health at Every Size®: it does not mean that everyone of every size IS healthy. It simply means that healthy habits can lead to good health, regardless of body size.

I’d like to share the basic tenets of HAES. Maybe this will help debunk some of these myths I so frequently hear. They are:

  • Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
  • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.
  • Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.

Generally, healthy habits include what many people would consider lifestyle changes. These include moderate exercise, eating a variety of foods that include plenty of fruits and vegetables, staying well hydrated, reducing stress, getting sufficient sleep, and engaging in supportive, healthy relationships.

These are just a few things that have been shown to support health, regardless of weight change. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, people who focus on healthy habits (as opposed to mere weight loss) continue those habits over the long term and, thus, have improved health outcomes. Those who focused more purely on weight loss may stop their habits when weight loss slows, stops or reverses.

To be clear, the decision to pursue, or not pursue, weight loss , or even health, is an individual decision.

That said, it does help to know as many of the facts as possible to make the most educated health decisions, regardless of your current weight. I hope to share more about HAES on the blog, as well as in events at Watershed. If you’re interested in learning more about those events, you can join us on Facebook, or check our Schedulicity class calendar (just log in as if you are making an appointment, and you can browse available events).

Always feel free to reach out to me by email!

Written by DeAun Nelson


My philosophy is that we are all in this together. If you have compassion and care for yourself, that compassion and care will extend to those around you. Naturopathic medicine is all about treating the whole person. In my mind, this means treating not just individuals, but communities. We all have incredible bodies that do incredible things, even when we are suffering. We live, breath, laugh, and love. You are an important being who deserves respect and judgement-free care.