In the powerful spirit of Weight Stigma Awareness Week (September 23-27), we’re reflecting on the impact that societal attitudes about body weight and size have on us all.  With messages coming at us from all sides about what a “good” or “healthy” weight is for our gender, age, or role, it’s no wonder that we see so many casualties of the diet culture we inhabit.  At Columbus Park, we see the impact of society’s weight stigma and in response, we take any opportunity we can to promote the critical message that respecting the variation within human bodies means putting an end to the idea that skinny is good and fat is bad. We can all be healthy at any size.

Stemming from a social justice framework, the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement inspires us to move from a weight-centric approach to health and well-being (the misguided assertion that you have to be thin to be happy and healthy) to one that celebrates size diversity and promotes behavior that is focused on achieving health without manipulating body weight.  The message is that no matter what size someone is, we can all practice healthy living through eating in a pattern that follows natural appetite, hunger, and other internal cues and by staying active in ways that maintain self-compassion. The focus is placed on the empowerment to take control of health by standards not body weight, as well as a critical awareness to help decipher the messages of weight stigma out in the world.

The HAES approach emerged through discussions amongst healthcare providers, consumers, and activists who wholeheartedly reject the use of weight, size, or BMI calculations as proxies for health.

Below are the guiding principles of Health At Every Size from The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH):

  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.
  3. Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.