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Health at Every Size

The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) believes in a holistic definition of health, which cannot be characterized as simply the absence of physical or mental illness, limitation, or disease.  The concepts for the Health At Every Size (HAES®) approach comes out of discussions among healthcare workers, consumers, and activists who reject both the use of weight, size, or BMI as proxies for health, and the myth that weight is a choice. The HAES model is an approach to both policy and individual decision-making. It addresses broad forces that support health, such as safe and affordable access. It also helps people find sustainable practices that support individual and community well­being. In wellness counseling, using the HAES approach recognizes the healing power of diversity and attempts to educate individuals about a new definition of health.

The Health At Every Size® Principles are:

  1. Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
  2. Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well­ being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.
  1. Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.
  1. Eating for Well ­Being: Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.
  1. Life Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.

Wellness counseling with a HAES approach is weight neutral.  Instead of traditional measures, such as BMI, waist circumference or BMI, it focuses on individuals’ behaviors, unique sets of abilities, and available resources, and places them in the context of their life as the primary areas of concern and consideration. Each individual will have strengths and vulnerabilities, and will likely respond to stimuli in a unique way. Improving a person’s health is a process that begins by contemplating what it would take to make certain determinants of health available and accessible to different individuals, and not by pathologizing any specific weight.

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