Health at any size, or ‘Health at Every Size (HAES)’ as it’s often known, is part of the fat acceptance movement which seeks to the change general opinion that being overweight and obesity are unhealthy. It rejects the idea that inactivity, overweight and poor nutrition are damaging to health and promotes its view that people can be healthy with excess body fat.
Is ‘health at any size’ correct?
There are many other factors that affect health, including:
- quality of diet,
- lack of sleep,
- and many more.
If an overweight or obese person enjoyed other healthy behaviours like low stress, not smoking or drinking much alcohol, if they breathed clean air, ate mainly whole and ‘healthy’ foods and slept well they could be healthier than someone who smoked 20 a day, drank loads, was very stressed, lived amongst pollution or was slim but ate poor quality food.
However, there is plenty of reliable research, and evidence you can see with your own eyes, linking overweight and obesity to poor health outcomes. You can go out right now and see people who are struggling to move because of their size, struggling to breathe comfortably, sleep comfortbaly and yes who are suffering mental health issues because of this discomfort. You only have to look at the massive rise in type 2 diabetes against the similarly massive rise in overweight and obesity to know that, even without a study. Most people intuitively know that carrying excess fat is not the best route to good health but unfortunately there is now a fairly militant backlash against (a) the weight loss industry and (b) idealised body types in the media. There is also a rightful sense of entitlement to be whatever body size one chooses.
What’s fitnat’s view on health at any size? Is obesity healthy? What about ‘thinness’?
We support our clients to listen to natural hunger and fullness. We absolutely do not support the idea that being overweight or obese is healthy but we strongly recognise it’s not the only health factor and that body size is very much personal choice.
We also recognise and uphold people’s desire to achieve a level of body fat that better supports their health, energy and comfort and we don’t make people feel guilty for wanting to lose weight within a healthy range, neither do we mention ‘thin privilege’* which in our view is a discriminatory term. Additionally we acknowledge and appreciate that there is an image and comfort element to size and if someone feels more confident and/or more comfortable at a healthier body fat level, and wants to achieve that, that is to be recognised and absolutely upheld and supported.
We are against discrimination towards any body size. When some of our clients get to a level of body fat that better supports their long term health (whether you support that idea or not) they are regularly called out for being too thin. People say “Don’t lose any more will you?” or look at them pityingly. Yet these people are not underfat by any means but society’s norms have changed, people are judged against the overweight norm now.
*Proponents of HAES often term being slimmer as ‘thin privilege’ and almost make people feel guilty about eating food that’s generally seen as healthy.
Of course being underfat is a huge health issue too, and it kills, it’s sad and it’s probably more common than you think, but its prevalence is nowhere near on the scale of overweight and obesity, which are an epidemic.
We support people who have emotional issues with food, recognising that over or undereating can often be linked to psychological and emotional issues. People are not their body size, they’re people with many amazing qualities. Our aim is to help them have a happier relationship with all foods, if they so desire, and to make gentle lifestyle shifts in order to feel as good, and be as healthy, as they possibly can.
More about intuitive eating
We provide portion guidelines and set out menu options, which is not intuitive eating, but our ultimate aim when someone leaves us is that they learn to eat happily without measuring food or body size and by listening to their bodies’ natural signals.
We provide a plan framework to start that process – to get people feeling nicely hungry for meals, to help reduce emotional ties with overeating (although food can be a comfort sometimes and that’s OK) and to help them to love a very wide range of food to underpin lifelong food happiness. The anti-diet and hardline intuitive eating supporters are very much against a planned approach, but one size never fits all and luckily there are multiple options available to people who want to work on their food relationship. The fitnaturally option is gentle and has worked, and continues to work, for very many people and comes with care and attention, and qualified support.