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How To Get Started With Health At Every Size

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on March 12, 2012

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What will your first step be?

Moving from a diet/weight loss mentality to a Health At Every Size® mentality can feel pretty daunting. 

It’s not necessarily easy to let go of typical beliefs around weight and health when everyone from your doctor to your mom to various media to your office mate are telling you about the wonders of the latest diet/celebrity weight loss/the dangers of fat, etc.  Even if you’ve been reading about HAES® and understand why it makes sense, it can be hard when you actually try to apply it to your own life.

Defining HAES®
Let’s take a step back and define Health At Every Size®.  I like to use Linda Bacon‘s definition.  She says that it encourages:

  • “Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
  • Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
  • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.”

In a nutshell, these three principles are the basis for HAES®.  As Linda notes, “It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control).”  By adopting and internalizing these principles, we practice HAES®.

These principles are, of course, deceptively simple.  If you’ve been a chronic dieter for years and years, it’s likely going to be a difficult transition from dieting and restricting to “eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.”  If you’ve only ever exercised to lose weight and burn calories, it may be hard to find the joy in moving your body.  If you’ve believed heart and soul in the thin beauty ideal all your life, “accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes” likely will be challenging.

Truthfully, this is the bulk of what I do with my clients — supporting them to really make these principles part of their every day lives.  And of course, working with a HAES® counselor is a really wonderful way to get support with living a HAES® lifestyle.

How To Get Started With HAES®
But if you aren’t working with a counselor, where can you start? 

I say, start anywhere

Start with anything that seems fun and/or even a little easy.  For example, if you already have an idea of how you can exercise in a way that makes you feel vital, go for it.  If you feel like you’re already starting to see the beauty in a diversity of bodies, focus your efforts on that.  If you’re intrigued by the idea of really paying attention to your hunger and fullness and eating with that awareness, try that.  Don’t start with the thing that seems really hard or incomprehensible.

One of the beautiful things about HAES® is that each of the 3 main principles interact with one another.  Respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes may lead you to respect your body more, which may lead you to eat and exercise in a more intuitive healing way.  Paying attention to your hunger may allow you to notice what else you’re hungry for in your life, which may lead you down a very healing path of connecting with yourself and your desires.  Moving your body with joy may allow you to see the beauty in a variety of bodies and your own body.

You really don’t know where your HAES® journey may take you, but it’s important to take that first step.  Whatever first step you take is a good one.

What was or will be your first step on your HAES® journey? Let me know in the comments section below.

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Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.


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