Warmth escapes from under the covers as you reach over to check the clock. 6:07AM. What motivates you for an early morning run or yoga class? Happiness in your body’s capabilities? Love for the early bird yoga class? Or a sense of shame about your muffin top? Health at every size (HAES) movement devotees say – shame gets you nowhere.
It’s been more than three decades since the public health community began tracking obesity in America. While we rely on medical and public health professionals to help us understand the scope and nature of this problem, it can’t remain the singular authority on obesity and what it means for each of us. Thought leaders and social influencers are starting to introduce sociological ways of thinking about obesity. Fat studies are now offered as an academic course of study in many American universities, and reputable academic publishing firms are hosting more fat studies journals and related fields of social science research, similar to how women’s studies came to the fore in the late 1970s.
The HAES movement is a growing response in this vein to the dominant scientific discourse on obesity that has historically equated lower body weights with improved health. This school of thought proposes that fatness does not necessarily cause sickness and that losing weight may not improve overall health. The HAES founder and spokesperson Dr. Linda Bacon urges followers to concentrate on exercising every day, listening to your body for fullness and true hunger cues and to not let weight loss or diet goals overshadow your sense of self-worth.
When you dig deeper into the HAES movement, there’s more than a simple challenge to a traditional view of the obesity epidemic. At its core is an affirmation that doing what you love, being kind to your body and embracing physicality are ingredients for happiness – and health often follows happiness. (This fierce lady in the video with her *serious* dance moves and sex appeal says it all).
I find the positive simplicity of this message hard to refute. For all of us working to shape the public discourse on obesity, this is a perspective to watch play out and listen for in our conversations.