Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Health At Every Size (HAES) - let go of the dieting mentality
by, Taryn McPherson
I am a Health at Every Size (HAES), Anti-Diet Dietitian. When I state my area of focus I often get a lot of questions and confused looks, so I thought I would take a few minutes to answer the most common questions.
What is Health At Every Size?
Health at Every Size (HAES) is a weight-inclusive approach to healthcare that is a response to the weight and diet centric focus that predominates healthcare.
My favorite way to explain it is that HAES is the belief that patients should be treated for their symptoms and not for their body size. HAES recognizes that people in smaller bodies are treated differently than those in larger bodies. This is true both in and out of a healthcare setting, but HAES focuses on healthcare with the hope of having reverberating effects outside of that setting as well.
For example, if a person in a smaller body came to their doctor with high blood pressure there would likely be a discussion about diet, exercise, stress reduction, proper sleep, and possibly medication. Whereas, if that patient were in a larger body they would be told to lose weight and sent on their way.
This is problematic for many reasons. One of which is that diets and intentional weight loss do not work. On average, 95-98% of people who lose weight intentionally will gain all or more of it back, this is called weight cycling. Weight cycling has been shown to increase the risk of chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. This risk remains increased even when compared to people in larger bodies who have stayed at a high weight. A weight-centric focus also increases weight bias and weight stigma, both of which are also associated with poor health outcomes.
HAES healthcare practices from the understanding that bodies of all sizes have the potential for health and focuses on behavior modification without concern for whether or not weight is lost. As a dietitian, this means I focus on eating for well-being and life-enhancing movement, which brings me to the second question I often get.
How can you be a dietitian that’s anti-diet? Are you just against fad diets?
I am against fad diets, but being anti-diet is about more than just fad diets. I do not promote any form of eating that is nutrient or calorically restrictive, especially those with the goal of intentional weight loss. The reason why I don’t support diets is pretty simple - they don’t work!