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How to Talk About Health At Every Size with Your Clients

mind & body Jan 03, 2022

Health at Every Size® (HAES®) is a movement that is gaining traction in the health community. Proponents of HAES believe that everyone, regardless of their size, deserves to feel good about themselves and have access to quality healthcare. If you're not familiar with HAES, don't worry, you're not alone! In this article, I'll discuss what HAES is and how you can talk about it with your patients or clients.

What Is Health at Every Size®?

Health at Every Size® or HAES® is a weight-inclusive movement that focuses on promoting size acceptance, ending weight discrimination, and lessening the cultural obsession with thinness. [1] HAES has emerged as a response to the weight-centered paradigm that has caused far more harm than good. Even though a person's weight has often been seen as a proxy for health, social determinants have shown us that this can’t be further from the truth.

Social determinants of health refer to the individual circumstances, such as healthcare, socioeconomic status, education, and the environment, that can impact a person’s health and wellbeing. [2] For instance, a person living with health insurance is unlikely to have access to a primary care physician which means the likelihood of disease and higher healthcare costs increases. Although there are certainly exceptions, being mindful of social determinants of health is essential for us to ensure that we’re taking into account the many factors that can impact a person’s health that have nothing to do with their weight.

While it’s critical that you as a health professional adopt a HAES approach, it’s even more critical that your patients and clients do as well. Despite the intense focus on weight management, we know from the literature that adopting a HAES approach is associated with improvements in physiological measures, health behaviors, and psychosocial outcomes. [3] For example, adopting the principles of HAES can help your clients make healthier lifestyle choices which can lead to improvements in their mental and physical health.

Now that you know about HAES, you might be wondering what are some ways you can talk about HAES? If so, here are some practical tips to help you get started.

 

1. Emphasize Taking Care of Our Bodies As a Whole

Whether they’re trying to manage an autoimmune condition or improve their general health, it's important to emphasize that your patients and clients take care of their bodies as a whole. They can achieve that by focusing on healthy behaviors rather than weight loss. For instance, they can plan their meals ahead or go on a morning walk with their dog. It might seem simple, but over time engaging in health-promoting behaviors makes a huge difference.

What we know from the literature is that engaging in health-promoting behaviors is best for long-term success. Not only has HAES been shown to decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, but it can improve self-esteem and lead to less body dissatisfaction. [4] Therefore, your patients and clients can achieve their desired results by engaging in behaviors that give their bodies what it needs. In this way, they are engaging in habits that are getting them closer rather than further away from their goals.

 

2. Reinforce Eating More Intuitively

It's no secret that eating without restriction can be difficult for those who have followed overly restrictive diets, which is why intuitively eating is so important for our patients and clients. Intuitive eating is about learning to trust your body and its natural hunger signals. [5] Thus, intuitive eating can help your patients and clients improve their health by helping them understand what they need at certain periods in time as well. It can also help encourage self-care practices like taking better care of themselves or getting adequate sleep.

With intuitive eating, your patients and client begin to see that they don't need another strict diet. Instead of them feeling tied to an arbitrary meal plan they learn to engage in different behaviors. For example, intuitive eating can help them become more mindful about their food choices, embrace the pleasure that comes with eating, and stop eating when they’re hungry. By doing so, they’re able to enjoy food again while ditching the guilt that sometimes comes with eating.

 

3. Foster a Healthy Relationship with Exercise

For some of us exercise is about having a good time, but if your patients and clients have a love/hate relationship with exercise it’s important to help them foster one. Too often, our patients and clients might find themselves engaging in exercise because they feel society says they should. Or, they might even feel pressure from their friends or family to lose weight. Whatever the reason, research shows that choosing enjoyable movement rather than exercising for weight loss increases the likelihood that a person will maintain a new exercise regime and be successful in achieving the results they want. [6]

For that reason, it’s essential that we encourage our patients and clients to find a form of movement that they can enjoy. Whether it’s running, Zumba, or bowling, it’s important for them to find something that they can stick to. Depending on the season they might need to switch things up like playing Basketball on an indoor court during the winter and an outdoor court during the summer. Whatever option they choose, through adopting a HAES approach they’ll be able to experience the joy of movement without the expectation of weight loss.

 

It's time to support your patients and clients in embracing the power of HAES. If they want to make a change in their personal health, they need to know that it may be worth considering this movement. In Part II, I'll give you tips on how to encourage your patients and clients to focus on their health rather than their weight. 

Are there any tips you’re looking forward to trying? Let me know below.

 

Source

1. Association for Size Diversity and Health. (n.d.). The Health at Every Size® (HAES®) Approach. https://asdah.org/health-at-every-size-haes-approach/

2. Arquilla, E. (2021, April 28). What are social determinants of health? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/social-determinants-of-health

3. Bacon, L., & Aphramor, L. (2011). Weight science: Evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutrition Journal, 10, 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-10-9

4. Ulian, M.D., Aburad, L., da Silva Oliveira, M.S., Poppe, A.C.M., Sabatini, F., Perez, I., Gualano, B., Benatti, F.B., Pinto, A.J., Roble, O.J., Vessoni, A., de Morais Sato, P., Unsain, R.F., Baeza Scagliusi, F. (2018). Effects of health at every size interventions on health-related outcomes of people with overweight and obesity: A systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 19(12),1659-1666. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12749

5. Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary anti-diet approach. St. Martin’s Essentials.

6. Logel, C., Stinson, D. A., & Brochu, P. M. (2015). Weight loss is not the answer: A well-being solution to the “obesity problem.” Social & Personality Psychology Compass, 9(12), 678– 695. https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12223 

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