(YES, Today… as in, NOT “when you lose the weight first”)
First, Let’s talk about weight stigma
Let me start by saying that I have experienced weight stigma first-hand my entire life, as a child, teenager, young adult and now as a working health professional.
Talking about weight, diets and body size can be a vulnerable subject to open up about. I wholeheartedly support you and want you to know that you are not alone (in the slightest).
If anything, you should know that MOST people are struggling… I know this from counselling clients of all sizes, in all areas of life, of all ages…
At any given point, ending stigma of any kind in our society, or how we start that process, rather, is to not shy away from sharing our truth, no matter how scary that may be. So, let’s tackle this one together; no judgement, no fear!
Media and society have constructed an image of what a “healthy” individual should “look” like. This is problematic in many ways, affecting how we view ourselves, how we treat one another, and misinforming the core definition of health. It can lead people to think health is defined by the space we occupy (i.e. body size), as opposed to thinking about the bigger picture for our overall wellbeing.
Perpetuating weight and body size stigma even becomes a “moral” issue – where food and weight defines one’s worth and value.
Let me tell you this: You are NOT a number, or a size.
Although it may be hard to believe at first (and that’s okay!), your health is so much more than just what you look like. Your body is powerful. Becoming your healthiest self begins with radically accepting yourself and your body, not focusing on what size it is, but what it can do in the smallest and greatest sense possible….regardless of your physical abilities or capabilities. Improving health should be a more compassionate process, focusing more on what you want to gain out of life, rather than what you want to lose.
Health At Every Size ® (HAES) is an inclusive movement that puts an emphasis on self-acceptance and healthy day-to-day behaviours, not weight loss. HAES is built upon the pillars of:
- Respect — celebrating diversity in size, age, race, ethnicity, gender, dis/ability, sexual orientation, religion, and class
- Critical awareness — challenging both the information that’s out there and cultural determinants of health, and valuing your own knowledge of your body
- Compassionate self-care — moving and nourishing your body in ways that bring you joy, and listening to your internal hunger and satiety cues
HAES principles have been misinterpreted as “you can eat whatever you want” since weight doesn’t matter, but this isn’t necessarily the case. The goal is to shift one’s behaviours from being weight-centric to being more focused on actually taking care of yourself. This approach may or may not result in weight changes, however, that needs to be independent from actual healthful behaviors and habits. Your weight will fluctuate in life, and that’s absolutely normal.
Health promoting behaviours and habits under this approach include eating a healthful, unrestricted diet, eating intuitively, physical activity, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress.
If you’re struggling with how you feel about your body size or need help navigating the challenges of bias against your weight or size, here are some tips to get you started: