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Not Just a P(HAES) I’m Going Through

August 6, 2012

Trigger warning: General discussion of Deah’s personal history of dieting and eating disorders.

For the most part, I am a live-and-let-live kind of gal. I tend to avoid conflict, and despite my outspokenness in some situations, I prefer the “Can’t we all just get along?” approach to social interaction.

But there are always exceptions.

The Background

It is my purely subjective opinion, that is unsubstantiated by any research whatsoever, that lately there have been more disputes on Linked In sites, Facebook pages, Twitter chats, and TV news (I use the term “news” loosely) programs about the legitimacy and safety of adopting a Health at Every Size® (HAES) approach to wellness.

The energy behind the discourse is palpable and sometimes I imagine I can feel the intensity throbbing through the virtual cloud and onto the screens of my various devices, smart or otherwise. If we remove the groups and individuals who have a financial stake in the $121 billion dieting, pharmaceutical, weight loss, and medical industries, we are left with individuals who are ostensibly trying to figure out the best way to proceed with their lives.

After all, most of us have a great deal of attachment to our points of view about our bodies and our health. And why shouldn’t we? We get one body for this life time. No do-overs. No exchanges. No returns. No credit towards another purchase.

This sets the stage for fierce opinions and difficult choices.  My opinion is that what we choose to do with our bodies is a personal choice that ideally would be exempt from other people’s comments, judgments, or interference. When I blog, I write from my point of view about how I choose to live my life without using coercion to change someone’s mind and without attacking opposing points of view. I believe my writing style is more educational and exploratory, rather than preaching or reforming, and I am rarely phased by even the strongest opinions expressed by others. But, as I mentioned earlier, there are exceptions.

The Trigger

I recently read the following statement on one of my social media group pages:

Health at every size (for some) is just denial and symptomatic of a mental health problem, HAES is a device to protect fragile egos who are unable to address their condition or unwilling to seek help.
Self-acceptance at every size is not the same as being healthy at every size. HAES appears to me is a semantic argument that allows unhealthy individuals to deny their condition.

To the writer’s credit, they did clarify that their opinion was only applicable to “some” and not all HAES enthusiasts, AND if I thought this was a rare opinion voiced by one person questioning HAES as a paradigm for health and wellness, I may have just let it slide. But this point of view seems to be a common talking point and argument used by challengers of HAES.

While I am certain that I will not be able to change the writer’s mind, I felt compelled to write about what their statements churned up in me. Perhaps by sharing this, I can, first and foremost,  motivate others to become active in learning more details about HAES. And secondly, I can help inspire them to become more verbal in their social media forums to discuss their points of view on HAES and, when appropriate, offer a dissenting voice.

My Response

My individual road to embracing HAES, and giving up a lifelong habit of believing that weight loss would make me healthier and happier, was fraught with a long history of physical and emotional ups and downs correlating with the ups and downs of my weight.

At my thinnest, I sustained a career-ending back injury; at my fittest, I was diagnosed with a knee condition as a result of my excessive physical activity; and at my fattest, I was performing eight shows a week in a 90-minute physically-demanding Off-Broadway play with no intermission. At every size, I was judged for my body. I was too fat to be thin, too thin to be a fat, and never able to please everyone’s personal preferences for what body type is sexy and desirable.

For me, HAES marked the end of my denial, and the culmination of all of the help I sought over the years. My ego strength increased as I practiced taking responsibility for my actions related to my body, which included keeping up with current research and literature so I could continue to make informed decisions about my health care. I opted in, instead of out, and chose to not just follow orders or adopt a passive “use as directed” attitude when a medical professional wrote me a prescription for weight loss that I knew was an individual treatment plan doomed to fail.

HAES marked the beginning of an improved state of mental health, one that was less prone to mood fluctuations based on the messages I was receiving from other people about my body. In my experience, and we are all unique, my body hate led to disordered eating and yo-yo dieting, which had negative ramifications on my well-being. I had to accept that while I can not always change how people treat me based on my body size, I am responsible for how I process the constant body-battering messages insisting that the key to success, health, and beauty is tucked away inside a size 2 waistband.

My Choice

Rather than using HAES as an excuse to detach myself from my body and deny my unique needs for physical and mental health and wellness, I realized that I had choices to make; and make them I did.

I made the choice to stop dieting.

I made the choice to find pleasurable physical activity that improved my health without hurting my body.

I made the choice to not use my weight as a measurement of success or failure in my fitness, health, or appearance.

I made the choice to love my body the way it is now.

I made the choice to incorporate HAES as a life-long,  life-enhancing approach to self-care, unlike the countless, time-limited diets, weight loss plans, and interventions that I tried throughout my life

And perhaps most importantly, I made the choice to not judge or make assumptions about other people’s physical or mental health based on their BMI, weight, or what they look like.

No, I am not in denial and this is NOT just a pHAES I’m going through.

Thank you for listening.

56 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2012 9:54 am

    You’re personal journey is inspirational to me and I can only hope I can find some peace of mind and self acceptance even at this stage in my life. I thought I had but I guess I’m still on that journey of self awareness and discovery. Thank you for sharing your views and story.

    • August 6, 2012 9:54 am

      I spelled “your” wrong..sorry!

      • August 6, 2012 8:25 pm

        LOL, no worries Janet, we definitely don’t deduct points for grammar! 😉 Thank you for your comments and hopefully you know that you have company on the journey!

  2. August 6, 2012 10:06 am

    Deah, great message. I, too, have changed my outlook on myself. I like “educational and exploratory, rather than preaching or reforming,” as I come from the same thought process. I believe education is the way to open ones eyes to any situtation. But the shame is so many dont want education. I was talking to a woman who has a diet clinic. She said to me that she was afraid that if she read my book, she would learn that everything she knows is wrong. Funny, huh. The sad thing is I fee she already knows that what she believes is wrong or she wouldnt have said that. Dont you think? She may buy my book tomorrow when I see her. Im so glad for people like you who, thanks. Marla

    • August 6, 2012 8:27 pm

      I agree with you Marla, fear is the biggest speed bump on our road to self awareness! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on my post!

  3. Lisa in Boston permalink
    August 6, 2012 10:49 am

    “HAES is a device to protect fragile egos who are unable to address their condition or unwilling to seek help.”…….

    Great post, Deah!

    I just have to comment on this tidbit about HAES helping people be avoidant, because it was exactly the opposite experience for me. It was only after finding and embracing HAES that I was able to re-engage with my body and my health – and try to improve it – because it took the pursuit of weight loss out of the equation for me. And I know that I am not the only one who has had that experience.

    People who think as quoted above must be people who don’t have a lot of experience with HAES “in action”, so to speak.

    • August 6, 2012 8:29 pm

      Thanks so much Lisa! Having just spent the weekend at the NAAFA/HAES conference/summit, I was surrounded by people who also had your experience once HAES was not just a theoretical construct they were indeed re-united with their bodies. I appreciate you taking the time to make such a poignant comment!

  4. August 6, 2012 12:01 pm

    Surely the clue is in the title… HAES… ‘H’ for HEALTH. If it was called STSYA (Stay The Size You Are) or LITP (Let’s Ignore the Problem) then I’d understand some issue with it. But to say it’s a denial or a MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM????? wow that’s harsh!

    I’ve been told to lose weight since I was 12 and all I’ve ever done is gotten bigger! I’m 40 now. Only in the last few years have I grasped the fact that I’ll probably never win the battle. But I could swap it for a different one… for one that just makes sure (as much as is in MY power) that I don’t keel over with a heart attack.

    Anyway, just found your site and loved it. My blog has a few posts on the issue you might be int’d in like this one…

    Thanks 🙂 x

    • August 6, 2012 7:33 pm

      How did you find the site? Just curious. Glad you found us!

      Sent from my iPhone

      • August 7, 2012 7:46 am

        Hiya Dr Deah, you know I’m wracking my brains here trying to remember how I found you. We’re you included in ‘Freshly Pressed’ on wp maybe? I know it wasn’t through Twitter cos I followed you there AFTER reading the post above. You know I cannot remember! Isn’t that terrible…. AGE!!… hahaha

      • August 7, 2012 9:07 am

        Just had a moment of inspiration. I think it may have been via a link to a link to a link that originated with @mysundaediet on Twitter… I think… 😀

        • August 7, 2012 12:00 pm

          Ahhhh, the old link to a link to a link journey! 🙂 Well, awesome!!

  5. neverdietagainuk permalink
    August 6, 2012 1:57 pm

    What she said.

    Your experience mirrors my own exactly. It frustrates me that critics believe HAES is a certificate of health guaranteeing that all fat people are healthy just as they are. We all know that not all fat people are healthy. Anyone with any sense also knows that not all thin people are healthy. And both would benefit from a HAES approach to IMPROVING their health, whatever their size. Maybe we should have called it IHAES.

    • August 6, 2012 8:33 pm

      @Auntyamo and neverdietagainuk It seems so logical when you both write your thoughts down…clear, logical, linear…so when there is so much resistance to something that seems so matter of fact…there is something else at play, wouldn’t you say? Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post, it means a great deal to know people are “listening.”

  6. August 6, 2012 2:01 pm

    What she said. 🙂

  7. violetyoshi permalink
    August 6, 2012 2:38 pm

    There’s also a good community of fat positive people on Tumblr. We keep running into some bizzare trolls, who attack HAES and accepting yourself being fat. Outside of that it’s really fun, and we manage to take trolls down too.

    • August 6, 2012 8:41 pm

      Violetyoshi, thanks for letting me know about Tumblr. I’m just getting the Twitter thing under my belt, perhaps Tumblr is next? Fun is GOOD!! 🙂

  8. August 6, 2012 3:38 pm

    Outside of the HAES community, there are two viewpoints:

    1) sounds like a good idea, but if I tried HAES, I’d eat myself into my grave OR
    2) the attitude you describe in your post, in other words, HAES is just a good excuse for fat pigs to keep on stuffing their faces (excuse my language: they say it, not me).

    I used to try and politely refute such claims but I find that HAES is truly one of the hardest common-sense notions to convince anyone of (pardon the dangling participle). I’ve given up and just try to use HAES principles in my own life. Not always easy, but a lot more sensible.

    • August 6, 2012 8:39 pm

      Hi New Me! As I said to Janet, no demerits for grammar! And I should have read your comment before responding to auntyamo and neverdietagainuk, because I could have just quoted YOU! Absolutely true about a hard common sense notion to convince people of. I just came from the HAES/NAAFA Summit and one of things that was discussed was that underlying people’s accusations is the mis-belief that everyone who is fat has the choice not to be fat and hence we are just looking for excuses to keep eating. That logic is so near-sighted and assumes that everyone who believes in HAES is just self-serving…or is it just the fat people who believe in HAES who are self-serving? Thin HAES supporters just get called naive I suppose? Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and fighting the good fight whether it be internally or externally, it’s important!

  9. August 6, 2012 5:54 pm

    I hear this kind of argument often too. To me, it’s just another thinly veiled fat-attack. It’s like the HAES-concept can apply to people as long as it doesn’t go too far on the FAT side – it’s just incomprehensible at that point, which is sad and limiting to what HAES is even about.

    I love your response by the way. Very well thought out.

  10. LittleBigGirl permalink
    August 6, 2012 5:59 pm

    It is very tiring dealing with people who can’t wrap their brains around fat and health not being mutually exclusive. It is also frustrating that we can’t get past the whole issue of “my body/health = my business.”

    I think the difficulty comes from the fluid definitions and somewhat limited understanding by many of what are really 3 separate movements or schools of thought – Self Acceptance, Fat Acceptance (or Fat Activism), and HAES. While there is quite and bit of overlap and many people who are part of one group eventually find themselves in the other two as well, each is it’s own circle in the Venn diagram.

    Depending on the situation, one may find themselves in different places of acceptance or different circles of the movement. My own anecdote: I used Self Acceptance with a dash of Fat Acceptance to stop torturing myself over my love of sugar and tendency to binge on sweet things. Now I am trying to cut back on sugar, not to lose weight but because I notice I have been having “crashes” that I don’t like and I think for me it is an addiction that I need to break. I think (or at least I hope) that cutting back on sugar will improve my health and well-being, but I am not going to go on an anti-sugar “diet” or blame my weight on sugar. I don’t expect to lose weight if I reduce my sugar intake, and that isn’t my goal – my goal is to feel more healthy, regardless of my weight.

    So in my personal journey, I went from SA (“I like my fat self”) to FA (“I am going to defend my fat self”) to HAES (“I am going to take care of my fat self”). I think a lot of people cycle between the three as they apply to their lives.

    I’ve read a lot of SA/FA/HAES blogs and books over the past year, and nothing I’ve read so far has shown anything within the three philosophies that is contradictory. Maybe you could believe in SA/FA without officially practicing HAES, but I think the basic beliefs may bring people there subconsciously. I think many people who practice SA and are in favor of FA, when given the ‘tenants’ of HAES, probably say “Oh that makes sense.” or “Yeah that’s what I’ve been thinking too, but you said it much better Ms. Bacon.”

    The accusation that HAES is a crutch for the lazy, denial-riddled gluttonous fatty is just a symptom of the stigma and ignorance that the keepers of the status quo defend with when pushed. The people who think HAES is an “excuse” for fat people miss one of the underlying principles of HAES, SA and FA: NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO DEFEND WHO THEY ARE, OR HOW THEY CHOOSE TO LIVE.

    • LittleBigGirl permalink
      August 6, 2012 6:10 pm

      I know I just said the 3 beliefs don’t contradict each other, but I just realized there is a small, sad mutation/contradiction within the “Self Acceptance” group. I would call them technically “Self Love” instead of acceptance because their message is “I love myself…and my self-love lead me to a revelation about my diet so I started eating right and exercising and I was rewarded with weight loss!” *sigh*
      I recently read a disappointing book (whose name I can’t be buggered to look up) by a plus-size model whose message of self-acceptance was fed through the strainer of idealized and culturally biased beauty. She wanted to encourage self-confidence and loving yourself, but she still gave health and beauty advice that showed she hadn’t quite learned how to break the habit of looking to outside sources for approval and validation. I think the message “Love yourself…as long as you are dressed properly and your makeup is acceptable, etc.” is pretty self-defeating.

      • August 6, 2012 6:12 pm

        “I love myself…and my self-love lead me to a revelation about my diet so I started eating right and exercising and I was rewarded with weight loss!”

        Yes yes.

        Was the book Crystal Renn’s book about her eating disorder recovery within the plus size model world? If not, it has a similar twist that rubbed me the wrong way.

    • August 6, 2012 8:53 pm

      I am so glad this aspect of the conversation was brought up LBG and Jen. As long as weight loss is the ultimate goal of any behavior instead of health it reinforces the belief that our fat makes us bad, wrong, unhealthy, not o.k. If the reward was feeling more in sync with ones body, ones hunger, ones appetite, ones satiety, isn’t that reward enough? After all, that reward can last forever, while the weight loss is probably, for most people, a passing phase. I saw a post on Facebook recently by a plus sized model who was angry that she was labeled a plus sized model. She said something like, why can’t we all be models? I’m a model. Period. They don’t call her a skinny sized model. She is a model. I agree with that stance. I also feel that as long as there is an over emphasis in our society on beauty as a prerequisite for success and approval and inclusion that even healthy people who are fat will be tempted to engage in unhealthy behaviors in order to look a certain way. This clearly places appearance over health and paradoxically results in worse health in what may be a thinner body.

    • August 14, 2012 2:47 pm

      Linda Bacon herself said that FA is a huge part of HAES.

  11. Mulberry permalink
    August 6, 2012 6:21 pm

    I’ve seen those stupid anti-HAES arguments so many times… pop psychology is clearly alive and well. Here are some possible replies:

    “Health at every size (for some) is just denial and symptomatic of a mental health problem” – Of course I’m in denial! I make it a point to deny lies and I’m quite proud of doing so. Also – if eating well and exercising to maximize one’s health is a mental health problem, we should send our entire Olympics team to psychiatrists.
    “HAES is a device to protect fragile egos who are unable to address their condition or unwilling to seek help” Yes, fat-haters have really fragile egos, don’t they? They protect those egos by criticizing HAES.
    “HAES appears to me is a semantic argument that allows unhealthy individuals to deny their condition.” You conflate healthy with unhealthy and then accuse others of being in denial. What does that say about you?

    Feel free to use any of these replies. Put the haters on the defensive for a change.

    • August 6, 2012 8:55 pm

      Brava Mulberry! I see flashcards in our future! One of the speakers at the NAAFA conference on Saturday talked about how it is time for us to be on offense instead of always playing defense. I agreed with him and I agree with you! Thanks so much!

  12. August 7, 2012 1:17 am

    That anti-HAES argument is really not so surprising, although it sucks. I have been fat, and really body positive my whole life, but I will admit that when I first encountered HAES and the size acceptance movement, I thought the exact same thing. Until I read just about everything on the subject, my natural instinct was to think that HAES was an excuse to eat whatever you want and not worry about the consequences. Of course I quickly learned that I misinterpreted it, but I have been fat my whole life, and I know that I am healthy. Imagine how difficult it is to challenge a stereotype when you’ve never had a reason to think otherwise. It’s really frustrating because so many people’s struggles mirror your own, and the attitude of fat=bad is so pervasive that you don’t even notice you are prejudiced!

    • August 7, 2012 12:03 pm

      So true. We talked about this at the NAAFA/HAES conference yesterday and people expressed how sometimes fat people can be the most fat phobic and most resistant and critical of HAES than anyone. But that makes sense, if you’ve been given the same message over and over and over, it really is a challenge to believe that a message that is so prevalent may have been wrong. And it’s scary for some who think that HAES may just be another fad weight loss approach…Using HAES to LOSE Weight…YUP those people are out there proclaiming that!

  13. August 7, 2012 7:04 am

    oh goodness the amount of time spent thinking about why HAES is so bad, wrong and downright justifying fat could be spent actually exploring the ideas and the research. And also maybe trust the people who have jumped the die-t ship for this new paradigm. From where I sit this new paradigm agrees with eating healthy, being physically active, taking care of our mental health but just happens to leave the whole weight thing out of it. So, either they don’t think the other stuff matters or they actually have no friggin idea what HAES actually is?
    I came across HAES when I was researching, oddly enough, obesity for an undergrad assignment and immediately it was like a light bulb moment as I realised this was the missing link. In promoting health (supposedly) we were doing it all wrong and I was so excited to share this revelation. Sadly my enthusiasm and conviction wasn’t well recieved and I got criticism and lots of opposition. I am now enrolled in a masters program for dietetics and low and behold I am finding the majority of the opposition is now coming from the young 20 somethings who fit the thin ideal and are very literal and judgemental. However the contrast and highlight is seeing experienced dietitians being open and interested in HAES and who do recognise the focus on health is there and that by removing the limitation of size we encourage all people to join in and enjoy the experience of health from where they are right now. It creates possibility not deprivation.
    So I will continue to promote health from a HAES perspective.

    • August 7, 2012 12:06 pm

      Research??? Fact Check??? Really??? Wow Kerry, and I thought I was the radical! 🙂 It would be grand if people did take the time to do the reading and questioning. But we are used to sexy sound bites and it is the exception for people to stop and consider that there may be more to an anti-HAES statement than meets the eye. Thanks a bunch for your input!

  14. Fab@54 permalink
    August 7, 2012 7:43 am

    Kerry said: “… by removing the limitation of size we encourage all people to join in and enjoy the experience of health from where they are right now. It creates possibility not deprivation.”
    I really really like that! Thank You!

    • August 7, 2012 12:07 pm

      ME TOO!!! Inclusion is a great thing! Building community just feels good, at least to me.

  15. Amy Herskowitz permalink
    August 7, 2012 8:35 am

    The sense of entitlement that these critics seem to espouse: that thin/lean people are automatically conferred the label of “healthy” regardless of their actual state of health based on how they look is ludicrous. The “H” in HAES(R) is not for “Health-y” but for “Health”. No one is saying that one can be healthy at any or every size because there is no such thing as perfect health. From a point-prevalence perspective, we may hopefully, all know what it means and feels like to experience “good health” — hopefully, at many points throughout our lives. But no one, fat or thin or in between, is guaranteed good health or “perfect health” (whatever that is. Is ‘perfect’ health supposed to mean: someone who never suffers from the common cold? Never has allergies or intolerances to medicine or foods or environmental triggers? Never develops any form of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurological illness or immunological llness because there are absolutely zero hereditary factors from their genetic line to worry about?).

    The biggest risk factor for morbidity and mortality isn’t fat; it’s life.

    THe HAES principles teach us that, regardless of what we look like, what we weigh or what our size is, we can practice health-giving behaviours that benefit and nourish our unique, individual bodies. Getting off the weight-loss-is-a-good-thing track is too earth-shattering, threatening and radical an idea for so many who have lived their entire lives believing in the religion of the weight-centred paradigm. Going against that is akin to heresy.

    Great post, Deah 🙂

    • August 7, 2012 12:11 pm

      Thanks Amy and you are, as always, spot on! The biggest risk for morbidity and mortality is life…I LOVE that! There was a heart breaking true story shared at the conference yesterday about a doctor who told a patient (and I’m paraphrasing) as she was recovering from surgery that was NOT fat related, that he was questioning why he did the surgery because she would probably be dead in two years anyway from the fat. Seriously, I almost puked. Needless to say, this woman is still alive and living her life on her terms. How dare he discount the importance of her life, of any life, fat, thin, sick, healthy…That’s like saying, well, you probably shouldn’t bother going to medical school because what if you get hit by truck the day you graduate? The whole thing would be a waste. Sheesh!

  16. August 7, 2012 11:31 am

    Fantastic post, and great comments. I found HAES only recently, and am so glad I did. I try every day to educate someone about the truth that thin does not automatically equate to good health, just like fat does not automatically equate to a death sentence. People look at me and see the size of my hips and thighs – and then gape as I power walk past them en route to my next half-marathon medal. Thanks for being an important part of a very important conversation!

  17. August 7, 2012 12:20 pm

    And thank YOU. So glad you found HAES! I am assuming, since you mentioned your involvement in marathons and walking that you may be following the Olympics coverage? There was an article about the bicyclists today saying that women steer away from this form of athleticism because it gives them thunder thighs and it’s so unattractive. Once again, we are forced to look at the priorities/choices that women are faced with. Skinny thighs or pursuing a healthy passionate pleasurable pastime! (OOOOPs forgive the alliteration!) 🙂

    • August 7, 2012 12:24 pm

      I have been following the Olympics. I love that Olympians come in all shapes and sizes! It’s sad, though, that we tend to idolize the ones who look ‘sexy’ and have the approved-by-society-and-media body types, while other athletes are pushed aside. What they look like should not matter. They are Olympians! How many of us can say that?

      Very sad that some women tend to shy away from bicycling because of what it *might* do to their bodies. That’s still somehow a reason why a lot of women shy away from strength training/weight lifting.

      The Olympics is a perfect example of HAES. Now we just need to get everyone to realize it!

  18. August 7, 2012 12:32 pm

    This reminds me of the quote “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission”. You aren’t letting ANYONE do that!!! WHOO YOU GO!!!

    • August 7, 2012 4:35 pm

      Good one Rebecca! Thanks for adding that to the discussion!

  19. August 7, 2012 1:00 pm

    My biggest issue is that weight/size is so closely equated with beauty/desirability/sexuality. It is assumed that if you are thin, you are healthy and thus that makes you beautiful, desirable and sexy. But when I look in the mirror I see those things anyway, most of the time (like anyone of any size I can be too critical of things that others don’t notice – like the shape of my nose, it’s weird but true). I have never understood why fat is so ugly. But I also am honest enough to admit to falling into that trap myself, where I won’t date a fat guy (not that I get asked out a lot, in fact the last time was…uh….18 years ago)….but I think I’m resistant to that because any time my “friends” have set me up on dates, they always pick a fat guy. And when I get to meet/know him a little, it turns out we have nothing in common except we are fat. And I think to myself, do my “friends” actually know me? Obviously not. But back on topic, didn’t it used to be that the bigger your body size, the healthier you were because it meant you weren’t starving to death? I seem to remember something in history/sociology about that. This resistance to accepting all people of all sizes (among other differences) is so tiring to me. It truly makes me tired. Can’t the naysayers just get over it? Sorry, if my opinion offends anyone.

    • August 7, 2012 4:42 pm

      It is so limiting to make choices about relationships based solely on appearance but most people do have preferences for attraction for a wide variety of reasons. I think some of what you are saying, is that the assumptions people make based on size alone are so limiting and so intrusive. And I empathize with the Fatigue Factor!! Atchka and I talked about that once…that if anyone had told me back in the late 1970’s that I would still be fighting the Size Acceptance fight in 2012 I would have thought they were crazy. It is a long time to be trying to change something that seems so simple in a way, and so complex in other ways. But finding supportive communities like ASDAH, NAAFA, the Fatosphere, etc. can be so rejuvenating!

  20. August 7, 2012 5:02 pm

    I so appreciated this post as it mirrors what I have been hearing at my own place of work, “Well, if we don’t focus on people’s weight, what reason will they have to make lifestyle changes?” The notion that one shame and self-hatred will motivate people to take steps to better their health is such an odd one, when you think of it!

    • August 7, 2012 7:47 pm

      Yes it is Shivaun! And it seems to me that thin people make lifestyle changes all the time that are health focused and not weight focused. And I agree that there is no evidence that shame and self-hatred is efficacious as a motivator or as an agent for change that is sustained for the long run. Thanks so much for writing and it was great meeting you at the conference!

  21. August 7, 2012 6:45 pm

    I just read a blog about a former fat guy who has the weirdest philosophy I’ve ever seen….is there a place where we can post these things? It pertains to this topic but I don’t want to post something negative!

  22. August 9, 2012 10:17 am

    I’m so tired of people ignoring the fact that HAES says EAT HEALTHY AND EXERCISE because it also says DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR WEIGHT. People seriously believe that if you promote healthy behaviors without the assumed benefit of weight loss that it’s a terrible message.

    It’s as if society promoted smoking cessation programs as a way to whiten your teeth, which then improves your health, and get mad when people say you should quit smoking for health, regardless of whether your teeth remain yellow.

    Great post, Deah.


    • August 9, 2012 12:10 pm

      True Shannon. And it isn’t as if this is some obscurely hidden HAES disclaimer written in fine print!

      Sent from my iPhone

  23. DeAun permalink
    September 5, 2012 9:17 pm

    During my years in med school, I gained a lot of weight. Part of it was not being as on top of caring for myself, no doubt, but most of it, I think was stress. It seemed that this trend would continue, which was depressing for me. I found HAES a year and a half ago and one of the main things I did was to stop stressing about how unhealthy I felt. I would exercise when I could, and eat whatever I felt like (sometimes wonderful, fresh, whole foods, sometimes wonderful, processed, not whole foods). I also gave myself permission to do things like sleep and breathe and not worry if I wasn’t walking enough or eating the “right” things or living up to an impossible ideal.

    Now, my health is moving toward the upswing (as are most of my former classmates, we are all in recovery mode), but my weight leveled out when I decided to relax. I am able to spend some of my time doing things that support my health now that I am not overwhelmed. I also do not feel guilty about doing things that support my sanity, even if they aren’t considered perfect for my body. Things like enjoying a grilled cheese from a food cart in the evening breeze as I laugh with friends, or skipping an early morning walk to sleep in and cuddle with my
    partner. Giving myself permission to do what I need to do to be sane and happy, also leads me to do things that allow me to be healthier, like taking on my first 5k. 🙂

    We all have our challenges and no one can really judge our decisions until they become us and vice versa.

    • Amy Herskowitz permalink
      September 5, 2012 9:29 pm

      I love your reply, DeAun – preserving sanity and maintaining some semblance of balance in one’s life FOR THE WIN! Awesome about your first 5k – rock on!

  24. September 5, 2012 9:56 pm

    Ditto to what Amy said!! Warmly and big woo hoos! Dr. Deah

    • September 6, 2012 5:15 pm

      The thing people forget is that during the years of 18 and around 25 a person changes from a kid to an adult. The body grows and gains weight. So people who gain during that time of their lives think something is wrong. NO, it is right. We are not ment to have the body of a 17 yr old kid. We are not ment to fit into our high school clothes. So maybe it had nothing to do with stress and just you were becoming an adult. Hope this helps.


  1. this weekends failure at ending life « Daily Life and My Avoidance

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