Health at Every Size (HAES) by Linda Bacon is one of my most referred books to clients who are struggling with food, weight and body image concerns. Check out the HAES Manifesto in its entirety below:
We’re losing the war on obesity. Fighting fat has not made the fat go away. However, extensive “collateral damage” has resulted: Food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, weight cycling, weight discrimination, poor health. . . . Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat. It’s time to withdraw the troops. There is a compassionate alternative to the war—Health at Every Size—which has proven to be much more successful at health improvement—and without the unwanted side effects. (1, 2) The scientific research consistently shows that common assumptions underlying the war on obesity just don’t stand up to the evidence.
False! Almost all epidemiologic studies indicate people in the overweight or moderately obese categories live at least as long— or longer—than people in the normal weight category. The most comprehensive review of the research pooled data from 26 studies and found overweight to be associated with greater longevity than normal weight. (3) Analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys I, II, and III, which followed the largest nationally representative cohort of U.S. adults, also determined that the “ideal” weight for longevity was in the “overweight” category. (4. 274)
False! Epidemiological studies rarely acknowledge factors like fitness, activity, nutrient intake, weight cycling, or socioeconomic status when considering connections between weight and disease. Yet all play a role. When studies do control for these factors, increased risk of disease disappears or is significantly reduced. (5) What’s likely going on here is that these other factors increase disease risk at the same time they increase the risk of weight gain.
False! The vast majority of people who try to lose weight regain it, regardless of whether they maintain their diet or exercise program.(6, 7)This occurs in all studies, no matter how many calories or what proportions of fat, protein or carbohydrates are used in the diet, or what types of exercise programs are pursued. Many studies also show that dieting is a strong predictor of future weight gain. (8-14)
False! No one has ever shown that losing weight prolongs life. Some studies actually indicate that intentional weight loss increases the risk of dying early from certain diseases. (15-20)
False! Most health indicators can be improved through changing health behaviors, regardless of whether weight is lost. (5) For example, lifestyle changes can reduce blood pressure, largely or completely independent of changes in body weight. (1, 21, 22) The same can be said for blood lipids. (1, 23, 24) Improvements in insulin sensitivity and blood lipids as a result of aerobic exercise training have been documented even in persons who actually gained body fat while participating in the intervention. (24, 25)
False! While it’s true that we’re moderately fatter than we used to be, life expectancy has increased dramatically during the same time period in which our weight rose (from 70.8 years in 1970 to 77.8 years in 2005).26 That’s right, government statistics predict that the average kid can now expect to live almost eight years longer than his or her parents! Not only are we living longer than ever before, but we’re healthier than ever and chronic disease is appearing much later in life. (26) Death rates attributed to heart disease have steadily declined throughout the entire spike in obesity. (27 ) Both the World Health Organization and the Social Security Administration project life expectancy to continue to rise in coming decades. (28, 29) We are simply not seeing the catastrophic consequences predicted to result from the “obesity epidemic.”
Why do these faulty assumptions continue to proliferate and why isn’t the reality more widely known? There can only be one explanation when science so blatantly contradicts popular thought: economics. There is a huge industry that benefits from widening the boundaries of what is considered a problematic weight, including weight loss centers, supplement makers, drug companies, physicians, and purveyors of diet books, foods and programs. Even scientists benefit by getting research grants and serving as consultants, or by running weight loss centers at universities. Convincing us of a crisis can also aid government agencies in obtaining congressional funding. And expert panels that create public policy and determine research funding are populated by individuals with financial conflicts of interests.
That said, I do not believe that those engaging in this damaging paradigm are part of a widespread conspiracy. We are all raised with the assumption that fat is bad and permanent weight loss can be achieved through dietary change and exercise. These assumptions are so strongly a part of our cultural landscape that they are regarded as self-evident, and few even consider questioning them. As a result, many well-intentioned, caring people unknowingly collude and transmit this cultural bias. Also, there is little reward for questioning these assumptions, other than peace of mind. Indeed, for a professional to challenge these ideas is tantamount to career suicide; this is in stark contrast to the large financial/status incentive for supporting the old paradigm.
Refuse to fight in an unjust war. Join the new peace movement:
“Health at Every Size” (HAES). HAES acknowledges that well-being and healthy habits are more important than any number on the scale. Participating is simple:
Excerpt from Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight © 2010 by Linda Bacon.
May be freely distributed, provided that it remains in its entirety and this copyright message appears. More info at www.HAESbook.com.
Sydney soul-centred psychotherapist, therapeutic counsellor, eating psychology and transformational life-coach, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Jodie is the Disordered Eating Consultant for Nungkari Treatment Centre, former Assistant Clinical Director at a Sydney Eating Disorder Outpatient Treatment Centre, an approved service provider for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy and helping women to find value, meaning and purpose out of their suffering.
In our size 0 and diet obsessed culture, feeling shame about our body is no longer only the domain of those suffering with an eating disorder. Increasingly it has become the norm for both women and men to be over identified with their body and uncomfortable in their own skin.
Join me every day this week as I share my favourite quotes, images, blogs and organisations in support of The Butterfly Foundation and their Body Image Awareness Week.
Body Image Awareness Week aims to raise awareness about disordered eating and provides an opportunity to celebrate our bodies – unique, diverse, strong and beautiful! (The Butterfly Foundation).
Head on over to ‘Join The Revolution and make positive body image your focus – spread the word far and wide! Join together with others to challenge how we should look, feel and think about our bodies!’ (The Butterfly Foundation).
Loving my body is a radical step towards health in a sick society.
‘We are dominated by everything with which our self becomes identified. We can direct and utilize everything from which we dis-identify ourselves.’ (Roberto Assagioli, 1969).
Check out the full version of Roberto Assagioli’s Body Feelings Mind Mindfulness Meditation.
Check out Anita Johnston’s Light of the Moon Café online retreat
Let’s shift the focus from weight to health at every size!
We’re losing the war on obesity. Fighting fat has not made the fat go away. However, extensive “collateral damage” has resulted: Food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, weight cycling, weight discrimination, poor health. . . . Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat. It’s time to withdraw the troops. There is a compassionate alternative to the war—Health at Every Size—which has proven to be much more successful at health improvement—and without the unwanted side effects. 1, 2 The scientific research consistently shows that common assumptions underlying the war on obesity just don’t stand up to the evidence.” Linda Bacon (HAES).
1.Bacon, L., et al., Size acceptance and intuitive eating improve health for obese, female chronic dieters. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2005. 105: p. 929-36.
2. Provencher, V., et al., Health-at-every-size and eating behaviors: 1- year follow-up results of a size acceptance intervention. J Am Diet Assoc, 2009. 109(11): p. 1854-61.
If only they knew they had such sweet bodies.
We are beautiful image via Pinterest.
Loving my body image via Balancing States of Mind.
Linda Bacon. Health at Every Size: The New Peace Movement.
If only they know they had such sweet bodies image via Pinterest
Sydney counsellor, life-coach & psychotherapist Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, (you can read an excerpt here), post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat.
81% of 10 year old girls fear being fat.
10 million women in the US are suffering with anorexia and bulimia. This is more than with breast cancer.
1 in 3 Australian females cite body image as their major concern (Mission Australia Youth Survey, 2010).
I remember the first time I fat talked – I was 5. For the school photo, I stood next to the ‘fat’ boy so that no-one would notice how fat I was. The next fat talk etched in my memory was at 8 when I put a t-shirt on to go swimming in our backyard pool – I didn’t want anyone to see my fat body. I wasn’t even fat. On both occasions, I was a normal weighted young girl. 20 years of food issues, yo-yo dieting and body/self-hatred followed.
I was fortunate enough at 27 to find a psychotherapist who specialised in disordered eating and body image issues. Over time, I worked through my chronic low self-worth and self-loathing. It was a long journey back to health and well-being. It was also the start of my journey to become a psychotherapist and what Jung called, a ‘wounded healer’. Through my own experience, I now help women transform the way they feel and think about body and self.
Nowadays, I practise being compassionate and kind to myself. I no longer excessively exercise to burn calories as I did for most of my 20s and 30s. Rather, I swim regularly because I enjoy being held by the water. I have redirected my focus from a torturous longing to be skinny to being healthy and accepting of every size.
Recently I went Christmas shopping online for a doll for my 3 year old daughter. I felt overwhelmed with fear as I searched for one that did not have insect sized legs and a size 0 waist. Although I don’t subscribe to measuring BMIs, from a medical perspective – if Barbie were a human being, her BMI would be 16.24 and would therefore fit the weight criteria for medically diagnosed anorexia.
Internalized images from children’s dolls and the media are in no way solely responsible for society’s eating and body image issues. But…they do make up part of our critical inner voice. What hope do women and girls have when the majority of dolls on the market and the images we are bombarded with, mirror such distorted and unhealthy body sizes. Fat talk reinforces these unrealistic beauty ideals.
Fat talking to ourselves and with friends and family doesn’t just affect women and girls suffering with eating disorders. Unfortunately, fat talk has become a part of our everyday lives. Due to the widespread use of technology, even third world countries are no longer immune.
If we are stuck in fat talk, it frequently starts on waking as we look in the mirror and get ready for the day. The mirror and/or the scales become a harsh critic that determines what kind of day we will have. A single pound can start a tirade of punitive, self-abuse that can torment us until the next weigh in when hopefully we have lost it again.
The crazy thing is, ‘I am fat’ cannot even be; Roberto Assagioli suggests that this is psychologically, grammatically incorrect. ‘I’ (self) cannot be fat! The ‘I’ is the essence of who we are. At the core – we are whole, unbroken, beauty, love and ultimately, a spark of the Divine (or nature, goodness, oneness if that fits better for you!). Our work is to realise this.
If you are willing, close your eyes and imagine yourself standing with a young child, perhaps 7 or 8 years old. Now say to her in your best fat talk tone,
‘You are fat’
‘You are disgusting’
‘You can’t wear that’
‘No you can’t go to the party because you look too fat’
How do you feel when you talk to the child in this way? You wouldn’t dare say this to a child. Yet…every time you fat talk to yourself, you are being self-critical and hard on yourself. Often what follows is a binge, a starvation diet or excessive exercise to soothe or punish yourself even further.
Now try this version in a loving and compassionate tone,
‘I love and accept you just as you are’
‘You have so many wonderful qualities’
‘Your body is sacred and you keep it in balance’
‘What does your body need right now – sleep, food, to dance, a swim?’
Now how do you feel? Can you feel the difference? If not, keep practising, it takes some time to shift a strong inner critical voice.
Fat talk free week was conceived by Tri Delta. Check out their 2012 youtube clip about Fat Talk Free Week.
Following are some suggestions to help you on your journey. Start with small steps…
Stop Dieting & Weighing
Since writing this article yesterday, I have just seen this article via the Butterfly Foundation’s FB page about realistic dolls for children
‘MOVE over Barbie, a new range of fashion dolls has been launched in Australia to address growing concerns about the impact on young girls of negative body image issues associated with dolls such as Barbie, Bratz and Monster High.
Unlike her now 53-year-old counterpart Barbie, the new Lottie doll has a childlike form, modelled on the average nine-year-old girl’s body shape and has practical clothes, realistic hair and healthy outdoor hobbies.’
Read more: http://bit.ly/Vff4UM
Jodie is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction, Eating and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.