The HAES Acronym Isn’t 'Healthy' At Every Size, Rather Health At Every Size
For those who may be unfamiliar or new to the HAES paradigm, this is an opportunity and invitation to learn! Health At Every Size means that we support ALL HUMANS in ALL BODIES in engaging in health promoting behaviors and that there are countless factors that influence an individual’s well-being. This means we are unable to tell how healthy someone is based on weight and size. Size discrimination often leads to ineffective (and often harmful) interventions rather than health promoting efforts. Additionally, this bias leads to missed diagnoses when a thin person ‘looks healthy’. We also never want to assumes that health is the most important thing that person *should* be pursuing, that health is even attainable for every human, or that a human is morally superior for choosing to pursue health.
You may be wondering, “But aren’t there weights that can indicate a person isn’t in good health? Such as an adult suffering from Anorexia Nervosa who appears emaciated or a person in a larger body who is unable to use the stairs?”
A: In putting the human before the specific weight, we are able to explore all of the factors that are affecting an individual’s well-being. In other words, we are able to see and treat the whole human. When we don’t put the weight first, we are able to investigate further, asking more questions, learning about their individual circumstances and can respect their wishes. This allows us to support people in making choices about their well-being instead of us telling them what to do. We approach care as a collaboration and as if we are wearing special blinders so appearance isn’t a factor. If we are wearing the blinders, we are forced to observe trends in how quickly weight may have been lost or gained, trauma and dieting history, behavior changes, details of their day to day life, their unique abilities, values, and so much more.
So the short answer is that both humans in the question above *could be* suffering from malnutrition, and if we put on our weight bias free blinders and do a thorough job of assessing, we will find out the status of their health and potential interventions from a place of collaboration instead of assumption.