Health at Every Size
(HAES) is an approach to health that focuses on intuitive eating
and joyful physical activity
rather than dieting
and weight loss
The major components of HAES, as described by Jon Robison, are:
- Self-Acceptance: Affirmation and reinforcement of human beauty and worth irrespective of differences in weight, physical size and shape.
- Physical Activity: Support for increasing social, pleasure-based movement for enjoyment and enhanced quality of life.
- Normalized Eating: Support for discarding externally-imposed rules and regimens for eating and attaining a more peaceful relationship with food by relearning to eat in response to physiological hunger and fullness cues.
HAES advocates generally do not believe that the same narrow weight range (or BMI range) is maximally healthy for every individual. Rather, the HAES approach is that as individuals include physical activity in their lives, and eat in response to physical cues rather than emotional cues, they will settle towards their own, personal ideal weights. These weights, however, can be higher or lower than those described by standard medical guidelines.
The reasoning of Health at Every Size proponents is based on research data suggesting that explicitly trying to achieve a weight in the standard recommended weight (or BMI
) range, generally through dieting, is not a desirable goal for individuals wishing to improve their health. Such research provides supporting evidence for the use of lifestyle changes to achieve health improvements:
- A study conducted at the University of California, Davis found that obese, female chronic dieters had substantially better health outcomes after two years following HAES as compared to a control group that followed a standard weight loss program.
- Several studies show that exercise can improve health indicators for people of all sizes. Exercise does not necessarily result in major weight loss for obese people.
Health at Every Size is also influenced by evidence suggesting that many people have difficulty achieving and maintaining weights in standard recommended weight ranges.
Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that some weight loss treatments have detrimental effects on physical health (such as diet pills in the stimulant class, and gastric bypass surgery), and that the pursuit of weight loss is damaging to mental health.
HAES and the Fat Acceptance Movement
HAES is widely promoted within the fat acceptance movement
as an alternative to weight-loss dieting.
- Bacon, Linda (2008). Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, Inc..
- Campos, Paul, Abigail Saguy, Paul Ernsberger, Eric Oliver, and Glen Gaesser. 2006. “The Epidemiology of Overweight and Obesity: Public Health Crisis or Moral Panic?” International Journal of Epidemiology. 35:1. pp. 55-60.
- Saguy, Abigail C. and Kevin W. Riley. 2005. “Weighing Both Sides: Morality, Mortality and Framing Contests over Obesity.” Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law. 30:5, pp. 869-921.