What is Health at Every Size (HAES)
Health means something different to everyone – it’s not as simple as “the absence of illness”. Health encompasses many factors, from mental health to physical. Thankfully, society is moving away from the misconception that weight and health go hand-in-hand. The Health at Every Size (HAES) principles exist to end weight discrimination in healthcare because everyone should have access to care regardless of their size. Read on to learn what Health at Every Size is and the five main principles in the HAES framework.
1. Weight Inclusivity
Understanding that weight and health are not inversely correlated. Everyone has different body types and shapes; it doesn’t mean that a certain weight is inherently unhealthy. This is especially critical for healthcare providers to understand as there is discrimination against people who weigh more. Everyone deserves to be taken seriously by a healthcare provider and treated equally.
2. Health Enhancement
Supporting policies that improve access to care and information. Allow for a more holistic approach to health, understanding that multiple factors are involved – financial health, mental, spiritual, physical, social, etc. Physical health is only part of the equation.
3. Eating for Wellbeing
Limiting the breadth of nutrition to the number of calories and weight loss is doing everyone a disservice. The HAES framework supports eating for wellbeing, meaning eating when hungry and until satisfied, eating to enjoy the experience and taste. There are plans to remove this as a principle in the future and instead use it as a tool to support the HAES values.
4. Respectful Care
Rather than having a negative stigma towards weight in healthcare, let’s provide information on the factors that influence and fuel that stigma further. These factors include socioeconomic status, family environment, age, sex, etc. When treating a patient, ensure you give them all the information they need (and that you have all the information you need) to make an informed decision before recommending weight loss.
5. Life-Enhancing Movement
The final principle will also likely become a tool in the future. Another method for inclusive healthcare, the life-enhancing movement supports exercise that is available and accessible for everyone, regardless of age, size, ability, or weight.