I think recently I’ve had a breakthrough with my thinking and reading about HAES (Health at Every Size). Because we live in a world obsessed with ‘size-zero’ and ‘obesity’, at least in the UK and in the US (possibly in Europe too, I reckon), it has been so difficult to extract myself from this way of thinking. Not least because I have PCOS and have been advised by my doctor to lose weight, as all women with PCOS are advised to do (even though weight is just a symptom and not the cause – it will not go away if I am smaller). PCOS is such a huge collection of various ‘symptoms’ that doctors don’t know what causes it or even what makes it go away. The main advice is to ‘lose weight’, pretty much. Women who are not considered ‘overweight’ by narrow standards also get PCOS!
I have tried before to lose weight on a diet called ‘The South Beach Diet’ (about 4 years ago) which was horrendous – and the food was AWFUL. Imagine having to eat celery with soft cheese down the middle for a snack instead of something more fulfilling! It advocated eating bacon and stuff, and generally I don’t regularly eat bacon – so it was a struggle. I gave up after about 4 weeks of eating horrible food on a crash diet that was obviously not good for me. The diet industry is so easy to get sucked into – it is worth so much money, and is so misleading that I despair of all the lies ever being busted.
Most people go on crash diets and then gain the weight back a few weeks after they stop the diet. In some of the HAES information I have read, the idea is that our bodies compensate for all this dieting by retaining weight because our bodies think we are entering a starvation process. So, crash diets, any unhealthy diets like that, are not going to help you lose weight in the long run. They are NOT healthy, and will end up making you very ill. Our bodies need good food and fun exercise (the type you want to do, not the type that is a struggle, that you hate doing but do it out of ‘duty’).
I am heartily sick of thinking of having to ‘lose’ weight (which seems like such a difficult goal) instead of the language of health instead. Instead of “losing weight” it should be “eating well, keeping fit” – regardless of what size you are. And that is what HAES is. I know people who are really fit and healthy and are a size 18-20 (UK). I know people who are size 8-10 (UK) and are really unhealthy and unfit. Size is not an indication that someone is ill or unhealthy. What is an indication of unhealthiness is our obsession with the way people look.
Constantly counting the calories and weighing ourselves and feeling guilty if anything deemed ‘unhealthy’ ever passes our lips. I speak from experience here – I am a self confessed chocoholic, and love every minute of chocolate that passes my lips. I used to feel SO guilty and sometimes still do. But life is too short, and if you want some chocolate, why not? HAES is about intuitive eating – you listen to your body and what it is telling you it needs – a sugar lift? energy? a drink of water? carbs? protein?
Most of all, HAES is very much a common-sense way of looking after yourself – eat well, move well, and forget about weighing yourself on the scales. It is about how healthy you FEEL. Love yourself and your body. Don’t hate your body because society says ‘it’s too big for our narrow defined views!’ or ‘it’s too small for our narrow defined views!’. With this, I am determined to start looking after myself and ignoring the pressure I feel to go on a ‘diet’ and instead go for regular walks in our park (the weather is beautiful today) and eat well, not denying my body the fuel it needs to live.
It can be discouraging when you are bombarded with rubbish about an ‘obesity epidemic’ and crap from people who think all big people are unhealthy. Even worse is what this is going to do to children being bullied because of their size. I have no doubt that this sort of thing will get worse because our government, nhs and media are stirring up the ‘moral panic’.
I’m looking forward to buying Lara Frater’s ‘Fat Chicks Rule! How to Survive in a Thin-Centric World’ and Dr Linda Bacon’s book ‘Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight’ when I next get paid! I’m looking forward to reading something that cuts through the bullshit we get all the time from the media.