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The new health movement that’s empowering people everywhere

Shutterstock-Iryna Prokofieva

#haes — which stands for “Health at Every Size” — offers a refreshingly common-sense approach to dieting, food, and health.

When I first stumbled across the slogan “#haes” on Instagram, I didn’t know what it stood for, but I knew I liked it. For months the hashtag kept popping up, more and more frequently, on posts about health for the whole person—physical, emotional, social—and listening to your intuition in caring for your body. It seemed to be associated with a refreshingly common-sense approach, one that’s often forgotten in a culture obsessed with diet and aggressive weight-loss practices.

I did a little more digging and discovered the hashtag stood for “Health At Every Size,” which comes from a book and that encourages a peaceful, joyful approach to eating and exercise. It takes as its foundation the biological reality that, even if everyone ate the exact same things and moved their bodies in the exact same ways, we’d all still have different health outcomes because of differences in genetics, lifestyle, and many other factors. If you think about it, this makes complete sense—but how often do diet books and programs acknowledge this reality? I learned from the “Anti-Diet” book that the #haes movement follows the following principles:

  • Provides weight-inclusive care that accepts and respects body diversity and refuses to demonize certain weights or elevate others;
  • Supports health-related policies and practices that help people’s well-being in a truly holistic sense, including their physical, emotional, spiritual, and economic needs;
  • Refuses to blame people for their health outcomes;
  • Acknowledges the biases that health-care providers hold, and works to end discrimination and stigma based on body size or any other form of identity;
  • Provides respectful care that acknowledges the intersecting identities people hold and the ways those identities can interact with weight stigma;
  • Promotes intuitive eating and a pleasurable relationship with food, rather than external “eating plans” designed to shrink the body; and
  • Supports a joyful relationship with movement that allows people of all sizes, shapes, and abilities to determine their own level of engagement in physical activity.

This approach to health is wonderfully consistent with Catholic belief in the dignity of the human person. The size of your body has absolutely nothing to do with your intrinsic worth as a child of God. It’s great to see a movement in the secular culture that acknowledges and celebrates this truth.

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