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Is Health at Every Size Possible?

health at every size Jul 11, 2022

You've heard of the Health at Every Size® (HAES®) movement. But what does it mean, exactly? And is it possible to achieve health at every size? The good news is that it's a resounding yes! The bad news is that it's not easy. But luckily, I'm here to help you make it happen.

In this article, you'll find out how you can achieve optimal health and happiness, no matter your size!


What is Health at Every Size (HAES)?

Health at Every Size, or HAES, is a movement that promotes health for people of all sizes. The basic tenants of the HAES approach are that health is multi-dimensional and complex and that weight is not necessarily indicative of someone's health status.

Proponents of HAES encourage folks to focus on wellness rather than weight loss. By focusing on your wellness, you can make peace with food, honor your hunger and satiety cues, and become more physically active in ways you enjoy.

While HAES isn't a weight loss program, many people find that they naturally lose weight when focusing on making lifestyle changes for their health rather than changing their dress size.

By taking a holistic approach to health, HAES aims to create a more inclusive definition of what it means to be healthy. And while HAES is often associated with the plus-size community, it is essential to remember that health comes in all shapes and sizes. So whether you are a size two or a size 22, remember that you can still strive for a healthy life.


The Benefits of HAES

Even though HAES is beneficial to everyone, it has particularly useful for women. When it comes to women's health, the focus is often on weight loss. But shifting the focus to health, HAES has numerous benefits for women.

Benefit #1 - Reduce Weight Stigma

For starters, it can help to reduce the stigma around being in a larger body. Unfortunately, those with larger bodies often face weight stigma in society and healthcare spaces due to a preoccupation with weight.

Even though some might argue that weight stigma is in the name of health, research has shown the opposite. Research shows weight stigma is associated with a negative body image, higher rates of depression, and higher suicidal ideation in adolescents.[1] Therefore, approaching things from a HAES approach benefits our overall health and wellbeing more than a weight loss approach.

Benefit #2 - Stop Weight Obsession

HAES also helps women focus on their health without obsessing over weight. Due to the cultural norm of thinness, weight stigma may shape people's evaluation and interpretations of themselves.[2]

Thus, HAES provides this opportunity to stop seeing thin as the norm and accept that larger bodies are the norm. Studies show that the average dress size for women in the United States is a size 16.[3] So, it's about damn time - as Lizzo would say - that we let go of the idea that we should be in thin bodies.

Benefit #3 - Create Sustainable Change

And finally, HAES can lead to sustainable changes in lifestyle and habits. What sets HAES apart from yo-yo dieting is that it's not about following rigid rules. We all know rules might work temporarily but are often difficult to maintain long-term.

Instead, the HAES principles are about creating behavior changes that are far more sustainable. When you can make sustainable change, you no longer follow a diet with an end date. Instead, HAES is the lifestyle that you can maintain.

If you're looking to focus on your health rather than your weight, HAES is worth exploring. HAES has the potential to transform your relationship with your body as well as your health. That's if you're willing to put what you're learning into practice.


How to Practice HAES

So, you want to practice HAES but are unsure how to do it. Well, I got you! Below are three tips on integrating HAES into your health journey and everyday life.

Tip #1 - Remember It's Not One-Size Fits All

First of all, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellness. Just as every individual is unique, so is their path to optimum health. What works for one person may not work for another, so it's essential to find what works best for you and your body.

You can do this by focusing on the HAES principle of Eating for Wellbeing. Eating for wellbeing means focusing not just on nutrition but on the pleasure of eating foods you love. When you're focused on consuming foods you enjoy, you'll be less concerned about eating more than you intend. And more focused on eating foods that will keep you full and satisfied.

Tip #2 - Focus on How You Feel

Second, focus on how you feel rather than how you look. Concentrating on how you feel means paying attention to physical, mental, and emotional indicators of wellbeing. Rather than fixating on the numbers on the scale, you make decisions about your health and wellbeing. You're much more likely to stick with these habits when you do this from a place of self-compassion.

Having self-compassion for your body aligns with the HAES principle of Weight Inclusivity. By adopting a weight-inclusive approach, you can learn to accept and respect the inherent diversity of your body. Instead of idealizing certain weights, you better understand that weight doesn't define your health or worth.

Tip #3 - Make Movement Enjoyable

Finally, don't forget to have fun when it comes to movement! Physical activity should be an enjoyable experience, not a chore. So you'll need to find activities that make you happy and that you look forward to doing.

The HAES principle of Life-Enhancing Movement illustrates the importance of making movement an enjoyable activity. When genuinely interested in the movement you choose to engage in, it makes it something you want to do. Regardless of your size or ability, finding exercise that works for your goals, body, and lifestyle is key to becoming a habit you can maintain.


FAQs about HAES

Isn't HAES just another term for "obesity?"

HAES is not a synonym for "obesity." Obesity is a medical condition characterized by excessive body fat. While some obese individuals may benefit from weight loss, this is not the focus of the HAES approach.

Isn't being thing thin the only way to be healthy?

No. There is no one "ideal" body you need to achieve to be healthy. However, healthy habits undoubtedly benefit people of all sizes. For example, rather than restricting food intake or engaging in strenuous exercise to lose weight, creating healthy lifestyle habits help people achieve health, regardless of their size.

Why should I focus on my health instead of my weight?

There are several reasons why focusing on health rather than weight can be beneficial. Firstly, pursuing weight loss often leads to yo-yo dieting, which can negatively affect physical and mental health. Secondly, weight is not always an accurate indicator of health – someone may be in a larger body but still healthy, or underweight but unhealthy. Finally, focusing on health rather than weight can help to create a more positive relationship between food and body image.

What are some tips for focusing on my health?

There are several things you can do to focus on your health rather than your weight: Aim to make changes that are sustainable in the long-term, rather than pursuing fad diets or quick fixes.

Focus on enjoying exercise and listening to your body rather than exercising to lose weight. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet that meets your individual needs. By following the above advice, you can start to make HAES an intricate tool in your health and wellness journey.


So, There You Have It

Thus, this article has shown that HAES is possible. However, integrating this approach into your life will take dedication to learn about and practice HAES principles. And it takes support from your community – both online and in-person.

Are you ready to start your journey to Health at Every Size? If so, here are three tips I want to leave you with to get you started:

  1. Educate yourself about HAES principles
  2. Connect with others who share your commitment to HAES
  3. Find an accountability partner or group.

Good luck on your journey! And if you have any questions along the way, don't hesitate to reach out. I'm here for you.



  1. Daníelsdóttira, S., O’Brien, K.S., & Ciaoc, A. (2010). Anti-fat prejudice reduction: A review of published studies. Obesity Facts, 3(1), 47-58. https://doi.org/10.1159/000277067
  2. Elran-Barak, R. and Bar-Anan, Y. (2018). Implicit and explicit anti-fat bias: The role of weight-related attitudes and beliefs. Social Science and Medicine, 204, 117-124.
  3. Christel, D. A., and Dunn, S. C. (2016). Average American women's clothing size: Comparing National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (1988-2010) to ASTM International Misses & Women's Plus Size clothing. International Journal of Fashion, Design, Technology and Education, 10(2), 129-136. https://doi.org/10.1080/17543266.2016.1214291