Health at Every Size
Do you ever find yourself thinking that you're too overweight to be healthy? I have. Society drills into our heads that health is a size 2, or that health is a six pack (abs, not beer). After years and years of hearing these messages from television, books, Facebook, family, and even friends, I really believed them. I just thought that as a larger bodied person I could not be healthy, let alone physically fit. I resigned myself to the notion that size mattered when it came to fitness. I fell into the trap of believing that I would either lose weight and get in shape or I'd live on the sidelines as a larger person.
A few years ago I found out about a philosophy called HAES, which stands for Health At Every Size. This movement, pioneered by psychologist, Linda Bacon, PhD, supports the idea that regardless of size, can have good health. In essence, you can be overweight and physically fit or you can be normal weight and completely out of shape. This is, of course, an oversimplification of the ideas behind HAES, but you get the idea. Barring disease and illness, to a large degree you can control the level of health you have. This model gives the individual control over his or her level of fitness and enables them to work toward a healthier state of being without having to focus on weight loss.
I'm still learning how to live by this approach. I believe that when I focus on making my body healthy by eating good wholesome foods in appropriate quantities, getting daily exercise by doing things I enjoy, getting enough sleep each night, and taking care of my mental and spiritual self, all lead to optimal health in the long run. Now, don't get me wrong, I did say I'm “learning” how to do this. It's a work in progress. I'm a work in progress, too. There are days I do great – I eat nourishing foods in moderation and get some form of movement. I try to get a solid seven hours of sleep and I practice mental and spiritual routines that give me strength. On the other hand, I have many more days when I do none of this. I eat junk, wake up way too early to be considered normal or healthy, I binge watch Netflix and I obsess over Facebook. I'd say I'm averaging about fifty/fifty lately. Of course, busy times of the year (ahem, Christmas) really don't help me stay on the good day side of things, but I am learning (see, there it is again – learning) to assess my health frequently and think about what I can change or tweak to get back on track.
Notice that nowhere have I mentioned losing weight or dieting. It's not that I don't want to lose weight, but I will never diet again. Have you ever noticed that the first three letters in diet spell die? Diets work for the short term, but I'm not looking for short term results. I just want to live happy and healthy enough to be able to do the things that I want to do. Make sense?
If any of this resonated with you, I'd love to hear from you. What do you think about Health At Every Size?