Health at Every Size: What to Know About the HAES Movement

The Health at Every Size movement places less emphasis on weight and more on gaining health, well, at every size. But is the HAES approach a healthy approach?

Health at Every Size: What to Know About the HAES Movement

You might've already heard of "health at every size" or HAES, but what does it mean? 

The HAES movement is really bringing discussions linking health and weight to the forefront of the conversation. Taking a closer look at what HAES means as well as the available HAES research can help to determine if this is a fad diet or the real deal. 

Read on for a complete guide to the Health at Every Size® (HAES) philosophy. 

What Is Health at Every Size (HAES)?

Health At Every Size® is an alternative to traditional weight-loss approaches. It is a series of principles that focuses on reframing weight interventions to be more inclusive of differently-sized bodies. 

In other words, the HAES approach challenges mainstream diets by reminding both practitioners and patients that (as the name implies) health can occur in many body sizes. 

For far too long, health has been synonymous with appearing thin. Methods like the HAES approach help to revolutionize the way doctors and dietitians are recommending diet interventions. In the past, fatness and the appearance of excess weight have been cautioned or viewed as fatal. 

In reality, weight gain can happen in different stages of life, such as pregnancy, menopause, or surgery recovery. HAES takes this into account and helps to reframe what a "healthy" weight looks like for the individual.

The HAES approach also helps counteract the common practice of cyclical or yo-yo dieting. 

What Research Says About HAES 

The research tells us the same thing about weight. While higher weight has traditionally been linked to disease, the association is considered a correlation and not a causation. 

A growing body of research suggests eating for well-being, such as increasing fiber or fruit and vegetable intake, can improve disease factors even if they don't have a significant effect on weight. 

For example, increasing fiber, fruits, and vegetables in the diet may lower the risk of diabetes, improve measures of blood pressure, and help stabilize blood sugar or cholesterol without causing a noticeable shift in body weight. 

Pros of Health at Every Size

The biggest win of the HAES approach is that it has the potential to generate positive physical and mental health outcomes. It shows promise with its principles, which push to achieve healthy outcomes without focusing on weight-related measures. 

 

Much of the available research shows that HAES promotes:

• Increased long-term sustainability 
• Decreased harmful health effects
• Enhanced health 

While more long-term research is warranted, this is a promising start. Many people find meaningful experiences with the HAES method because it takes mental health into greater account. 

Cons of Health at Every Size

Combating weight stigma? You're probably wondering if there is anything wrong with this approach. Unfortunately, like any dietary or health approach, the HAES method does come with a word of caution. 

The HAES approach is still in its infancy, and research to support it is still catching up. Weight is still a helpful trend to watch, so practitioners and patients need to be careful not to discount the measure completely. 

How to Truly Achieve Health at Every Size

Research shows that around 95% of people gain back the weight they lost through dieting within 1-5 years. So what makes HAES achievable and sustainable? 

The following tips can help you integrate the principles of Health At Every Size® into your own health plan. 

1. Support Yourself at Every Size

Diet and exercise should not depend on what you feel when you look in the mirror. What we feel about ourselves can change day-to-day, but diet truths can carry us through life's changes. 

Remember, diversity in body sizes and shapes is beautiful, plus size included. It would be boring if you looked the same as everyone else! 

2. Find Inclusive Examples of Health

Not every fitness or wellness influencer is actually "healthy" in "real life." Social media is often a highlight reel that includes the better moments of someone’s day. 

To introduce an element of realism, follow weight-inclusive influencers! These can be people that highlight what fitness, health, and wellness can look like for people of different: 

• Sizes
• Races
• Nationalities
• Sexualities
• Genders
• Disability status

3. Enhance Other Areas Of Your Life, Too

Just changing your diet may not do much. Instead, approaching health as a holistic matter can help you to achieve your wellness goals. 

Look into supporting your diet journey by participating in meaningful movements and exercises, eating for wellbeing, and joining HAES as a social justice movement. This can enrich your life in more than just one area. 

4. Look for an Informed Practitioner

Doctors and dietitians that are HAES practitioners can help you align your entire health philosophy with the HAES approach. 

The HAES registry can help you locate supportive and inclusive professionals in almost every area of interest. This can help you feel supported in everything from your hobbies to your health concerns. 

The Bottom Line On Health At Every Size (HAES)

Health really is achievable at any body size. Besides, how boring would it be if everyone else looked like you? 

Find tips and tactics for making your best health attainable without using the scale to measure weight loss progress. 

References:

Bombak A, Monaghan LF, Rich E. Dietary approaches to weight-loss, Health At Every Size® and beyond: rethinking the war on obesity. Social Theory & Health. 2018;17:89-108.

Byrne C. What is HAES? Why Should I Work With a HAES Dietitian? Christine Byrne Nutrition. Published April 1, 2021. https://christinejbyrne.com/work-with-a-haes-dietitian/

Darragh M. The 'health at every size' approach to health: A critical review. J Home Econ Inst Aust. 2020;26(1):10-16.

Paczosa A. HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE (HAES ®). I Live Well Nutrition. Published September 2, 2020. https://ilivewellnutrition.com/health-at-every-size/

Sharp A. Health at Every Size (HAES) Explained by an Ex-Dieter Dietitian. Abbey's Kitchen. Published November 11, 2021. https://www.abbeyskitchen.com/health-at-every-size-haes/.

Over 150 Doctor-Designed, Chef-Prepared Meals

  • Real Results
  • No Contracts
Your first week as low as
$8.24
per meal

Find the Right
Program for
you

At bistroMD, food + science is the foundation of what we do.

Ready to experience the power of food as medicine yourself? Let's find out which program is right for you.

Take this quiz and we'll match you to a science-backed program that will work best for you.

Take the Quiz

as seen on...

Dr. Phil
NBC
Lifetime Network
The Biggest Loser
The Doctors