Day 1: And … go!
So here I am ready to go embark on this project where I’m going to live a Health at Every Size (HAES) lifestyle for the next 365 days.
Umm….what exactly is a HAES program then?
The book by Linda Bacon, Health At Every Size, kicked off the whole idea. The book is based on a program that Bacon and others ran. Compared with a dieting group and a control group those who followed the HAES program had significant increases in health measures (other than weight) and happiness. The group did not overall lose any weight, but then neither did the weight loss and control groups.
I’ve read some of the book but I’ve never been able to actually find the program. Everything I’ve learnt has pretty much come from reading articles.
Here’s what I do know, and this is only my own interpretation from the limited amount that I have actually read.
HAES is based on a three pronged approach: intuitive eating, mental health and enjoyable movement. See the nifty diagram below.
Intuitive eating is a about allowing your body to eat what it craves and, more importantly from the perspective of the dieter, trusting yourself to stop eating when you’re full.
Ironically eating is something that is seldom allowed to happen as nature, or our bodies dictate. We’re taught from the earliest age to clean our plates. Picture a baby in a high chair clearly saying I don’t want it and yet the loving parental figure insists on just a little more.
The messages we receive about eating are huge. Do eat this, don’t eat that, this is an acceptable amount, this is good, that is bad.
Food is fuel. And food is also a joy. We instinctively know what we want and what we don’t. The key is to listen and trust ourselves.
HAES tells us that intuitive eating is the best way to live. Eat what you desire. Stop when you’re full. Release the need to be forever vigilant about food.
Why don’t we trust ourselves to just eat instinctively?
We receive so many messages about food, but the messages we receive about body shape and size are much, much broader, yet ironically about a much, much narrower ideal.
We’re constantly being told our bodies don’t measure up at the same time we’re told just do this, follow this program, eat this food, do these exercises and you’ll change and then you’ll be worthy. This is the fantasy of being thin. The belief that if you just lose weight then your life will transform. We’re sold this image over and over again and I for one have bought this story hook line and sinker. As a result I’ve spent much of the last 20 years waiting to start my dream life. After I lost weight.
Trouble is, I’m still waiting.
And the real problem is the negative self messages that go along with these beliefs. The ones that consistently note how hideous I am, how much of a failure, blah, blah, blah.
HAES is focused on uncovering those negative thoughts and getting rid of them. Then replacing them with self acceptance, confidence and joy.
When I was a kid I loved to ride horses. It was my absolute favourite thing to do. I used to get out and explore the countryside. It was awesome. I don’t really remember why I gave up, but I did.
I also used to love playing netball. I don’t do that now because I feel fat and ungainly and I have real fear of being hot in sweaty in front of other people.
And yet, when I think about having fun I almost always think of something that I can do. Something that involves physical movement. I imagine myself doing all these amazing things like kayaking, horse-riding, dancing the night away.
Ironically though when I think about exercise I mostly feel guilty. The whole abnormal focus on diet and exercise has sucked all the fun out of it and now it feels like a moral imperative that must be undertaken in order to be an acceptable person.
HAES focuses on putting the fun back into movement. It’s about doing things that you love, that you want to keep doing over and over again because you enjoy it so much. It’s about just living your life with joy and excitement and movement.
So there you have it.
My sum total of knowledge about HAES.
Clearly I’m going to have to find out more about it in order to fully incorporate the ideals into my own life.
Luckily for me I still have 364 days to do that.