The Fat Studies Reader

By Esther Rothblum; Sondra Solovay | Go to book overview

5
What Is “Health at Every Size”?
Deb BurgardOne of the most important inquiries within the new field of fat studies is the examination of the way that health issues have been used to oppress people of size. In a culture where there is at least some self-consciousness about the impoliteness of expressing blatant revulsion about fat, most people are quite willing to support the stereotype of fatness signifying ill health. Moreover, in contrast to other health concerns like cancer or flu epidemics, fat people are blamed for their health problems. The use of health concerns to convey disapproval and censure is a fascinating and disturbing phenomenon in the stigmatization of fat people.It is also fascinating that there is a grassroots movement opposing this oppression among healthcare workers and health researchers, the very people who might be considered the “army” in the “War on Obesity.” These people, in collaboration with activists and consumers, have been evolving an alternative public health model for people of all sizes called Health at Every Size (HAES).The HAES approach differs from a conventional treatment model in its emphasis on self-acceptance and healthy day-to-day practices, regardless of whether a person's weight changes. Letting go of the goal of weight loss has made HAES controversial in a society where the pursuit of thinness is an unquestioned prescription for health and happiness. But many of the clinicians who have evolved the HAES approach have seen the devastating consequences of pursuing weight loss, in either the nearly universal failure of weight loss dieting (Mann et al., 2007), or the pursuit of thinness in individuals with eating disorders (Neumark-Sztainer, 2006). We find it hypocritical to prescribe practices for heavier people that we would diagnose as eating disordered in thin ones.
What Does Health at Every Size Stand For?
1. Enhancing health—attending to emotional, physical and spiritual well-being, without focusing on weight loss or achieving a specific “ideal weight.”
2. Size and self-acceptance—respecting and appreciating the wonderful diversity of body shapes, sizes, and features (including one's own!), rather than pursuing an idealized weight, shape, or physical feature.

-42-

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