Food skills programming is a very natural place for dieting talk and body image concerns to arise. We sought out training on the Health at Every Size™ (HAES) approach in order to help us deal with those complicated topics in a way that was supportive of our participants’ health and well-being.
Health at Every Size is a philosophy that emphasizes health and wellness for all bodies. The framing for a HAES approach comes out of discussions among healthcare workers, consumers, and activists who reject both the use of weight, size, or BMI as an indicator of health, and the myth that weight is a choice.
- Dieting has been shown to be ineffective, and even harmful in the long run. 95% of dieters will regain weight lost and more. This weight gain and loss cycle have been associated with high blood pressure and other conditions. Dieting can also lead to anxiety and dissatisfaction, as well as to disordered eating.
- People with larger bodies often face discrimination. Weight stigma from healthcare professionals can lead people to avoid going to the doctor and engaging in other health-promoting behaviours, contributing to lower health outcomes in the long run.
- The perception that obesity is a health issue and that it is within an individual’s control can have a negative impact on the acceptability of foods that an individual consumes and lead to the decreased agency in the choices they make related to food. Acceptability and agency are two of the five elements of food security that FMM is focused on addressing.
- We are constantly reminded in our work that food holds so much meaning for each individual;
food is love, food is medicine, food is pleasure, fuel, culture, community, family…
the list goes on. The Health at Every Size approach promotes eating for holistic wellbeing rather than focusing only on nutrition.
- Just like we believe good food means so much more than good nutrition, Health at Every Size argues that health is about more than physical well-being. HAES calls for a definition of health that includes economic, social, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing as well.
Major thanks to the Women’s Health Clinic for teaching us about the Health at Every Size approach and supporting us as we seek to incorporate it into our work.
To learn more about the Health at Every Size™ approach, check out the Association for Size Diversity and Health
Written by: Anna Levin, Program Coordinator