Not Just a P(HAES) I’m Going Through
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.
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.
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 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.
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.