Intellectually, I’m down with both. Played out in real life, it’s a bit of a different story. I should probably define HAES. “Healthy At Every Size” is a phrase coined by Dr. Linda Bacon, a researcher and nutritionist out of UC Davis (I think? Maybe someone else came up with it before and her book brought it to the mainstream, I don’t know). She wrote “Healthy at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.” Some of the main HAES points can be found here in the HAES manifesto; it focuses on debunking the myriad myths out there (fat people die sooner than non-fat people, being fat makes you more susceptible to various health problems, etc). I haven’t read the book (it’s on the way to my apartment right now, yay!), but from what I can gather, HAES is a philosophy/way of life (cringe, i don’t like that. makes it sounds new age-y and self help-y, but there you go. Dr. Bacon may not define it as such.) that encourages us to listen more to our bodies, to honor them, and to focus on eating things that we love (not to label foods as “good” or “bad”) and finding joy in movement. Bottom line is, according to HAES, most health indicators can be changed through changing health behaviors, regardless of whether weight is lost. Not too shabby, right?
However, as i’ve said earlier, eating has become something of a political statement for me. but it’s getting bigger than that. It’s almost like NOT working out has also become a political statement; being fat in and of itself is a political statement. Losing weight is not a goal of HAES, being healthy is (and keep in mind that fat doesn’t equal unhealthy). However, I feel such a charge around even the word “healthy,” for it has been used to mask fat-hating and fat-bashing in my life. “I’m just concerned about your health.” “It doesn’t matter that she works out, she can’t be healthy and weigh that much.” “Fat people are X times more likely to get diabetes, die of a heart attack, [insert other medical issues here.]”
Sometimes I feel that if I embrace HAES wholeheartedly, I will somehow become a traitor to my activist self. I guess that presupposes that living a HAES lifestyle will cause me to lose weight? And that I can’t both love myself now and work on FA and lose weight? It’s definitely a matter of taking the word “healthy” back. Yes, I can be fat and healthy. And in fact, I’ve been fat and healthy my entire life. It’s more than that. I don’t FEEL healthy right now, and THAT scares the shit out of me because I’ve always been healthy. Well, feeling healthy and being healthy can be two different things, however. And I am technically healthy (insofar as regular health indicators are concerned, blood pressure, glucose level, etc). It just doesn’t feel like it. I feel slower and have less energy. And some would say that carrying extra weight is the cause. I’m not sure I agree. Or maybe I don’t want to agree? I know what I don’t want – I don’t want my weight to be the readily-available scapegoat for anything that’s wrong. Can’t sleep well? Lose weight. Knee hurts? Lose weight, fatty! Lack of sleep could be due to stress. Or loud neighbors. My knee was hurting when i first moved, and I didn’t go to the doctor because I was fairly certain I would be told to be less of a fattie and then magically my knee would get better. Want to know what i did instead? Got a memory foam pad for my bed and the knee pain went away! It’s true, I didn’t actually go to the doctor and hear her tell me that my weight is the reason my knee was hurting, so it’s a little unfair to assume that would be the case. But only a little unfair. (i’m brewing a post on being fat and going to the doctor, stay tuned)
Separating FA and HAES is important as well. I can remain true to my FA self and demand that I be treated with the respect and dignity that everyone deserves, regardless of their body size, AND I can work on being healthier. It also feels like it could be triggering around my food issues. Is the word “healthy” just replacing “good” foods? If I eat something “unhealthy” is that a failure. This smacks of diet talk to me, and diets do not work. I’ve gained and lost I don’t even know how many pounds in my life (hundreds?), and I refuse to go back to that “good” v “bad” food place (more on food policing later, but fabulous blog posts on that topic found here and here).