Health at Every Size: A School of Thought on Weight and Health

Reviewed Feb 24, 2017

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Summary

  • Focus on health habits rather than weight.
  • Learn normalized eating.
  • Be active for well-being and fun, not for weight loss.

Does your weight matter? Researcher Linda Bacon, PhD, claims that, although what you eat and how active you are do matter, your weight may not. In her book, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, Bacon explains that:

  • Research shows that most people who lose weight eventually regain it. Since constant weight fluctuations may be worse for your health than being overweight, losing weight may not always be the best strategy for health.
  • Many large people eat reasonably, are very active, and are in good health.

The Health at Every Size (HAES) view is that a person’s focus should be on his overall health habits rather than his weight.

Say “no” to dieting

Jon Robison, PhD, health education professor at Michigan State University, urges health professionals to stop recommending dietary restriction to overweight patients. The weight lost by dieting will likely return. Some people call this yo-yo dieting. Robison, co-editor of the journal Health at Every Size, advises health professionals to help overweight patients embrace the HAES focus:

  • Accepting yourself at your current weight: BMI (body mass index) charts are too narrow of a range and do not accurately reflect overall health.
  • Learning to respond to internal cues and practice normalized eating: Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Many of us eat in response to external cues such as time of day, the notion that we must “clean our plates”, advertisements, etc. We can also learn to look closely at how certain foods affect our energy, comfort, and well-being. This can prompt us to choose more nutritious foods.
  • Finding activities that you enjoy: Move for fun, to feel energized, and for your sense of well-being. An active lifestyle is very beneficial for your health. Exercising just to lose weight or to be a certain size, however, often disappoints the person in terms of weight loss and decreases the focus on the pleasure of moving.

The bottom line

The HAES stance: Switch your focus and your goals from weight loss to maximizing your health at your current weight. Focus on appreciating your unique body.

It can be challenging for many of us to lose weight and next to impossible to keep it off. The sense of fear or failure when the pounds won’t go or stay away can be overwhelming. HAES does not discourage weight loss, but rather HAES encourages a switch in focus.

As a result, you might find yourself eating healthier and exercising because you actually want to, not because you feel pressured. The idea is to focus on being healthy no matter your size or weight right now. Enjoy food, enjoy movement, and appreciate yourself. You might come to accept that people come in all shapes and sizes, begin practicing eating that is normal (not restrictive) and find types of movement that you enjoy. You could become healthier and perhaps even lose weight.

HAES research looks promising. Subjects in HAES studies who learned and practiced the HAES suggestions described above had significant improvement in blood cholesterol, blood pressure, vitality, self-esteem, activity levels, and eating habits.

Reconciling views on healthy weight

If you are encouraged by the HAES claims, talk to your doctor about it. If your doctor agrees that nutritious (not restricted) food choices and regular activity are worthy goals, let her track your progress. Without emphasizing weight loss, your doctor can monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and whatever other health conditions might be applicable.

It’s possible, however, that your doctor will still counsel you to lose weight. If you are extremely obese, or if you show signs of heart disease, diabetes, or certain other diseases, she will likely look to the agencies and research she trusts most. These may all recommend weight loss in your case.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association, the National Institutes of Health, and many other organizations continue to review the evidence to determine the way obesity affects our health as well as the best counsel to offer. At this time, these agencies see obesity as a serious health risk and weight loss as a viable strategy for improved health. CDC representatives maintain that losing even a little weight, such as 10 percent of your total weight, can greatly improve your health. Again, HAES is not against weight loss, but advocates for a different mindset about how we approach healthy practices and appreciate ourselves.

No one organization or campaign, including the HAES perspective, has locked in on the absolute answer. You and your doctor can work together to find what works best for you and helps you to improve your overall health.

Resources

Association for Size Diversity and Health
www.sizediversityandhealth.org

Health at Every Size (2nd edition) by Linda Bacon, PhD. BenBella Books, 2010. 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Gaesser, G. (2006). "Fatness, Fitness & Health: A Closer Look At The Evidence". Absolute Advantage 3:18–21; Gibbs, W. (2005). "Obesity: An Overblown Epidemic?" Scientific American 292(6): 70–76; “Health at Every Size: New Hope for Obese Americans?” (2006) Agricultural Research; Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD. BenBella Books, 2008; Robison, J. (2005). "Health at Every Size: Toward a New Paradigm of Weight and Health". Medscape General Medicine.

Summary

  • Focus on health habits rather than weight.
  • Learn normalized eating.
  • Be active for well-being and fun, not for weight loss.

Does your weight matter? Researcher Linda Bacon, PhD, claims that, although what you eat and how active you are do matter, your weight may not. In her book, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, Bacon explains that:

  • Research shows that most people who lose weight eventually regain it. Since constant weight fluctuations may be worse for your health than being overweight, losing weight may not always be the best strategy for health.
  • Many large people eat reasonably, are very active, and are in good health.

The Health at Every Size (HAES) view is that a person’s focus should be on his overall health habits rather than his weight.

Say “no” to dieting

Jon Robison, PhD, health education professor at Michigan State University, urges health professionals to stop recommending dietary restriction to overweight patients. The weight lost by dieting will likely return. Some people call this yo-yo dieting. Robison, co-editor of the journal Health at Every Size, advises health professionals to help overweight patients embrace the HAES focus:

  • Accepting yourself at your current weight: BMI (body mass index) charts are too narrow of a range and do not accurately reflect overall health.
  • Learning to respond to internal cues and practice normalized eating: Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Many of us eat in response to external cues such as time of day, the notion that we must “clean our plates”, advertisements, etc. We can also learn to look closely at how certain foods affect our energy, comfort, and well-being. This can prompt us to choose more nutritious foods.
  • Finding activities that you enjoy: Move for fun, to feel energized, and for your sense of well-being. An active lifestyle is very beneficial for your health. Exercising just to lose weight or to be a certain size, however, often disappoints the person in terms of weight loss and decreases the focus on the pleasure of moving.

The bottom line

The HAES stance: Switch your focus and your goals from weight loss to maximizing your health at your current weight. Focus on appreciating your unique body.

It can be challenging for many of us to lose weight and next to impossible to keep it off. The sense of fear or failure when the pounds won’t go or stay away can be overwhelming. HAES does not discourage weight loss, but rather HAES encourages a switch in focus.

As a result, you might find yourself eating healthier and exercising because you actually want to, not because you feel pressured. The idea is to focus on being healthy no matter your size or weight right now. Enjoy food, enjoy movement, and appreciate yourself. You might come to accept that people come in all shapes and sizes, begin practicing eating that is normal (not restrictive) and find types of movement that you enjoy. You could become healthier and perhaps even lose weight.

HAES research looks promising. Subjects in HAES studies who learned and practiced the HAES suggestions described above had significant improvement in blood cholesterol, blood pressure, vitality, self-esteem, activity levels, and eating habits.

Reconciling views on healthy weight

If you are encouraged by the HAES claims, talk to your doctor about it. If your doctor agrees that nutritious (not restricted) food choices and regular activity are worthy goals, let her track your progress. Without emphasizing weight loss, your doctor can monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and whatever other health conditions might be applicable.

It’s possible, however, that your doctor will still counsel you to lose weight. If you are extremely obese, or if you show signs of heart disease, diabetes, or certain other diseases, she will likely look to the agencies and research she trusts most. These may all recommend weight loss in your case.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association, the National Institutes of Health, and many other organizations continue to review the evidence to determine the way obesity affects our health as well as the best counsel to offer. At this time, these agencies see obesity as a serious health risk and weight loss as a viable strategy for improved health. CDC representatives maintain that losing even a little weight, such as 10 percent of your total weight, can greatly improve your health. Again, HAES is not against weight loss, but advocates for a different mindset about how we approach healthy practices and appreciate ourselves.

No one organization or campaign, including the HAES perspective, has locked in on the absolute answer. You and your doctor can work together to find what works best for you and helps you to improve your overall health.

Resources

Association for Size Diversity and Health
www.sizediversityandhealth.org

Health at Every Size (2nd edition) by Linda Bacon, PhD. BenBella Books, 2010. 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Gaesser, G. (2006). "Fatness, Fitness & Health: A Closer Look At The Evidence". Absolute Advantage 3:18–21; Gibbs, W. (2005). "Obesity: An Overblown Epidemic?" Scientific American 292(6): 70–76; “Health at Every Size: New Hope for Obese Americans?” (2006) Agricultural Research; Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD. BenBella Books, 2008; Robison, J. (2005). "Health at Every Size: Toward a New Paradigm of Weight and Health". Medscape General Medicine.

Summary

  • Focus on health habits rather than weight.
  • Learn normalized eating.
  • Be active for well-being and fun, not for weight loss.

Does your weight matter? Researcher Linda Bacon, PhD, claims that, although what you eat and how active you are do matter, your weight may not. In her book, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, Bacon explains that:

  • Research shows that most people who lose weight eventually regain it. Since constant weight fluctuations may be worse for your health than being overweight, losing weight may not always be the best strategy for health.
  • Many large people eat reasonably, are very active, and are in good health.

The Health at Every Size (HAES) view is that a person’s focus should be on his overall health habits rather than his weight.

Say “no” to dieting

Jon Robison, PhD, health education professor at Michigan State University, urges health professionals to stop recommending dietary restriction to overweight patients. The weight lost by dieting will likely return. Some people call this yo-yo dieting. Robison, co-editor of the journal Health at Every Size, advises health professionals to help overweight patients embrace the HAES focus:

  • Accepting yourself at your current weight: BMI (body mass index) charts are too narrow of a range and do not accurately reflect overall health.
  • Learning to respond to internal cues and practice normalized eating: Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Many of us eat in response to external cues such as time of day, the notion that we must “clean our plates”, advertisements, etc. We can also learn to look closely at how certain foods affect our energy, comfort, and well-being. This can prompt us to choose more nutritious foods.
  • Finding activities that you enjoy: Move for fun, to feel energized, and for your sense of well-being. An active lifestyle is very beneficial for your health. Exercising just to lose weight or to be a certain size, however, often disappoints the person in terms of weight loss and decreases the focus on the pleasure of moving.

The bottom line

The HAES stance: Switch your focus and your goals from weight loss to maximizing your health at your current weight. Focus on appreciating your unique body.

It can be challenging for many of us to lose weight and next to impossible to keep it off. The sense of fear or failure when the pounds won’t go or stay away can be overwhelming. HAES does not discourage weight loss, but rather HAES encourages a switch in focus.

As a result, you might find yourself eating healthier and exercising because you actually want to, not because you feel pressured. The idea is to focus on being healthy no matter your size or weight right now. Enjoy food, enjoy movement, and appreciate yourself. You might come to accept that people come in all shapes and sizes, begin practicing eating that is normal (not restrictive) and find types of movement that you enjoy. You could become healthier and perhaps even lose weight.

HAES research looks promising. Subjects in HAES studies who learned and practiced the HAES suggestions described above had significant improvement in blood cholesterol, blood pressure, vitality, self-esteem, activity levels, and eating habits.

Reconciling views on healthy weight

If you are encouraged by the HAES claims, talk to your doctor about it. If your doctor agrees that nutritious (not restricted) food choices and regular activity are worthy goals, let her track your progress. Without emphasizing weight loss, your doctor can monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and whatever other health conditions might be applicable.

It’s possible, however, that your doctor will still counsel you to lose weight. If you are extremely obese, or if you show signs of heart disease, diabetes, or certain other diseases, she will likely look to the agencies and research she trusts most. These may all recommend weight loss in your case.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association, the National Institutes of Health, and many other organizations continue to review the evidence to determine the way obesity affects our health as well as the best counsel to offer. At this time, these agencies see obesity as a serious health risk and weight loss as a viable strategy for improved health. CDC representatives maintain that losing even a little weight, such as 10 percent of your total weight, can greatly improve your health. Again, HAES is not against weight loss, but advocates for a different mindset about how we approach healthy practices and appreciate ourselves.

No one organization or campaign, including the HAES perspective, has locked in on the absolute answer. You and your doctor can work together to find what works best for you and helps you to improve your overall health.

Resources

Association for Size Diversity and Health
www.sizediversityandhealth.org

Health at Every Size (2nd edition) by Linda Bacon, PhD. BenBella Books, 2010. 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Gaesser, G. (2006). "Fatness, Fitness & Health: A Closer Look At The Evidence". Absolute Advantage 3:18–21; Gibbs, W. (2005). "Obesity: An Overblown Epidemic?" Scientific American 292(6): 70–76; “Health at Every Size: New Hope for Obese Americans?” (2006) Agricultural Research; Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD. BenBella Books, 2008; Robison, J. (2005). "Health at Every Size: Toward a New Paradigm of Weight and Health". Medscape General Medicine.

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