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Health at Every Size: What is it? And why it’s important if you’re struggling with disordered eating

Updated: May 16, 2023

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One of the key challenges in treating eating disorders and disordered eating patterns is the pervasive cultural emphasis on thinness and weight loss. Many healthcare providers, even those with good intentions, are influenced by this cultural bias and may inadvertently promote weight loss, dieting, and even restrictive eating as the primary goal of treatment. This can be harmful to patients who are struggling with disordered eating and who may already be struggling with negative body image and internalized weight stigma.


You might be asking yourself, “Okay, so what kind of provider should I be looking for instead?”


The answer is a Health At Every Size (HAES) aligned clinician. HAES is a treatment approach that emphasizes body positivity, respect for body diversity, and a focus on overall health and well-being rather than weight loss. While this approach is relatively new, there is a growing body of research supporting its effectiveness in treating eating disorders. A 2014 review of the literature found that HAES interventions led to improvements in body image, self-esteem, and disordered eating behaviors.


Now, you might be asking, “So what makes HAES different and why does it matter?”


Unlike interventions that promote weight loss, HAES promotes body positivity and reduces shame. One of the core principles of HAES is that all bodies are worthy of respect and care, regardless of their size or shape. HAES aligned clinicians work to reduce weight stigma and promote body positivity, which can help patients feel more accepting of their bodies and less ashamed of their eating disorder.


Additionally, HAES focuses on overall health and well-being. Rather than prioritizing weight loss, HAES aligned providers focus on helping patients improve their overall health and well-being. This includes addressing any physical health issues related to the eating disorder, as well as promoting mental health and self-care practices.


HAES also takes a holistic approach to treatment. HAES healthcare providers recognize that eating disorders are complex and multifaceted, and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. HAES aligned clinicians work with patients to develop individualized treatment plans that take into account the patient's unique needs, preferences, and values.


If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or are struggling with your relationship with food and body, it can be difficult to find a healthcare provider who is aligned with the HAES approach. Luckily, here at Whole Space Family Therapy, our team of clinicians are all HAES aligned, deeply valuing and prioritizing the dismantling of the oppressive systems that promote weight loss and thinness. Our team is here to help you heal your relationship with food and your body.




References:

Bacon, L. (2010). Health at every size: The surprising truth about your weight. BenBella Books.

Dove, N., & Haeger, J. A. (2018). Health at every size and eating disorders: A review. Journal of Eating Disorders, 6(1), 31.

Vocks, S., Tuschen-Caffier, B., Pietrowsky, R., Rustenbach, S. J., Kersting, A., & Herpertz, S. (2010). Meta-analysis of the effectiveness of psychological and pharmacological treatments of binge eating disorder


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