Frequently Asked Questions
HAES® the evidence and research
Why doesn't HAES pursue weight loss?
HAES is about the pursuit of health via healthy behaviours (weight loss is not a behaviour) rather than viewing weight as a proxy for health. The evidence shows that health markers like blood pressure and cholesterol can be improved by the implementation of healthy behaviours irrespective of weight, so it is these behaviours that we focus on.
Is it really possible to be fat and healthy?
While it's important to acknowledge that health is multifaceted (physical, mental, social etc), when the research about fatness and health controls for fitness, nutrition, socioeconomic status
Is there any evidence that HAES works?
You can find a review of randomised control trials here
Is choosing HAES about giving up on your health?
Quite the opposite. Choosing HAES means choosing to adopt and maintain healthy behaviours which have a meaningful impact on your physical, mental and social health.
Is HAES really a good idea for the morbidly obese, shouldn't they lose weight first?
Engaging in healthy behaviours as promoted by HAES improves health outcomes in people of all weights, whereas the evidence shows that not only is intentional weight loss rarely sustained over the long term (>5 years), some weight loss methods and attempts can have negative health effects in and of themselves. Instead, HAES principles encourage people of all weights to treat their bodies with respect and care as they are right now and make their health decisions from that place.
How can HAES ignore the links between body weight and illness, it seems irresponsible?
HAES is often misconstrued as meaning that every person is automatically healthy at every weight. Rather, it is about the ability of people of all sizes to engage in healthful behaviours which improve health outcomes irrespective of weight.
Additional questions for using a HAES® approach
What HAES resources are available?
The Association for Size Diversity and Health has a large resource list, and we are happy to assist in finding resources for specific topics upon request. Please don't hesitate to contact us!
My doctor says I need to lose weight, what do I do?
Ragen Chastain has covered this topic beautifully here, including providing print-outs! - https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/what-to-say-at-the-doctors-office/
I need to follow a special diet, can I still do HAES?
Absolutely! HAES is all about finding a suitable set of behaviours that help you take best care of yourself, at any one point in your life, not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Can I really eat whatever I want, including junk food?
HAES principles encourage people to make food choices from a place of flexibility, taking into account hunger, satiety, nutritional requirements and pleasure. With the exception of food allergies, intolerances and medical contraindications, all food is "on the table" so to speak. By removing the restriction and moralisation of food and food groups (good/bad, clean/junk), people are able to make intuitive and informed decisions about their dietary choices and move towards balance.
How does HAES differ from intuitive and mindful eating?
Intuitive and mindful eating can make up part of the healthy behaviours practiced through HAES.
I don't really like exercise, do I really need do it?
While the evidence shows that exercise has myriad health benefits, there's no moral imperative to engage in it. HAES principles encourage people to explore enjoyable movement and life enhancing physical activities to the degree that they choose, which will look different for everyone based on their unique abilities and interests. This means that there are plenty of options besides joining a gym - walking, dancing, kayaking, stretching, acrobatics, yoga, martial arts etc - and that they don't need to be done in a formal capacity.
If I can't exercise for medical reasons is HAES still for me?
Absolutely. A HAES professional will be able to personalise the principles to meet your particular needs, which may change over time. HAES is all about finding a suitable set of behaviours that help you take best care of yourself, at any one point in your life, not a one-size-fits-all approach..
Why is body and size acceptance a part of HAES?
Weight stigma has a well-documented negative affect on both physical and mental health, whereas from a place of acceptance and respect for our bodies and the natural diversity of bodies in general, we are able to make positive and healthful choices to improve health outcomes for ourselves and others.
Can I still diet?
Dieting is not consistent with HAES principles, which promote eating in an individualised and flexible manner, taking into account your own internal hunger and fullness cues, nutritional needs and enjoyment of food.
Will I lose weight?
You might or might not. As you continue to practice healthy behaviours such as engaging in joyful movement and eating with respect to your internal hunger and fullness signals, nutritional needs and pleasure, your weight will likely stabilise over time. This may be at a weight which is the same as, higher or lower than your current weight, and will be affected by factors such as your unique body, health issues, history, age etc.
The HAES approach is not about the pursuit of weight loss, but about the pursuit of health.
Can I do HAES if I'm having or have had weight loss surgery?
Many people who follow the HAES principles have pursued weight loss in the past, and it is never to late to begin using the HAES principles to take care of your health. Talk to a HAES clinician to see if it's right for you.
Can I do HAES if have diabetes?
Absolutely, a HAES practitioner can help you personalise the HAES principles to help you manage your diabetes. HAES is all about finding a suitable set of behaviours that help you take best care of yourself, at any one point in your life, not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Can I do HAES if I'm pregnant?
Yes! As with any life stage, a HAES practitioner can help you personalise the HAES principles to support you to take care of yourself through pregnancy. This might mean finding new ways of moving that are safe for you and your baby yet still enjoyable and life-enhancing, for example.
Is HAES helpful with eating disorders?
For eating disorder practitioners, the HAES principles make up a weight-neutral framework which is a compassionate and inclusive approach to treating eating disorders, while removing weight stigma.
For people with eating disorders, a HAES approach to eating and movement may not be appropriate immediately, but can be an excellent goal to work on moving towards through treatment.