We believe that eating disorder recovery must include education about Health at Every Size (HAES). HAES is based on the primary assumption that a person can achieve a healthy state for their individual body and abilities at any size. The goal of the HAES movement, which is being driven by nutritionists, therapists, and activists, is to counteract the dangerous messages currently dominating our society that limit health to people who are thin and able-bodied. The principles of HAES include:
Bodies are diverse
The human body is complex and comes in diverse sizes, shapes, abilities, and colors, When we promote a single view of “health,” we limit the opportunity for people in all bodies to feel good about themselves. This is discrimination and must be stopped just as urgently as all other forms of discrimination.
Weight is a poor measurement of health
Human health cannot be established through weight measurements alone. Healthcare providers must stop focusing on weight as an indication of health and instead understand the physical and emotional elements involved in true health. Providers, educators, and parents must understand that the dangers of fat have been vastly overstated to the detriment of all people, and that weight stigma, even when perpetrated with the best intentions, is far more dangerous than weight itself.
Bodies should not be controlled
The belief that bodies can and should be controlled for size and weight causes more harm than good. In 95% of cases, when a person intentionally loses weight, they regain lost weight and decrease their health due to added stress. Weight loss practices are promoted as health-promoting, but they are actually bad for our health.
Health includes body and mind
True health is achieved when we approach the body with respect and kindness. This includes eating food that tastes good, is nourishing, and in quantities that meet our body’s needs. It also includes joyful movement without the intention of weight loss. Finally, it includes supporting emotional metabolism in which feelings are processed and managed in healthy ways.
HAES and Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are more complex than a simple obsession with body size and weight, however, an obsession with body weight is a critical symptom of an eating disorder, and until a person fully accepts their body at any size it will be difficult to be fully recovered from eating disorder behaviors and thought patterns.
We support a HAES approach to eating disorder treatment for all types of eating disorders. For the person who has Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, or Binge Eating Disorder, HAES can help them lose their fear of weight gain and reassure them that they can achieve health, wellness, and goodness at any size.