What is the first thought that comes to mind when seeing this image? Are you excited about seeing some body diversity on the cover of a major magazine? Are you confused at seeing this image because you are not used to seeing different bodies? Were you wondering if this was some sort of prank? For those of you who don't know, Cosmopolitan UK pulled a major move, and used different women of different sizes on their February 2021 cover. These women all represent health and what that means to their individual bodies. Radical I know. *Sarcasm*
As a dietitian, whose focus is HAES® aligned, I was extremely excited about this. I was excited about the step in the right direction of not constantly seeing the same images in the media. Especially on a magazine like Cosmopolitan. But there were people of course who WERE NOT thrilled to say the least. Not surprising at all considering all of the concern trolling that occurs when we discuss HAES® and the fact that you can't look at someone and judge their health status on their appearance. And as a side note, even if you could tell, it's no one's business and not a reason to treat someone differently. We're adults and better than that right?
So what is HAES® exactly? There are many misconceptions about this and let me start by explaining that the focus is to get an individual to their version of health, not based on weight. There are 5 variables of HAES®: weight inclusivity, health enhancement, respectful care, eating for well-being, and life-enhancing movement. We are asking for everyone to receive equal treatment in healthcare because they deserve respect as a human. Emphasis on human. There is nothing wrong with having health goals, but focusing on a number (weight, BMI, clothing) will only place emphasis on the "thin ideal". When I counsel, I focus on the individual and their wants and needs. This is why fad diets don't work, I mean how could it? How on earth can everyone be given a basic blueprint with rules and guidelines and expect it to work? Our bodies are different and function differently.
So what are some FAQs that most people have?
1) Health at EVERY size means Health at ANY size. No this is not true. Whenever I post about this, this is the comment that someone always comes back with. So someone who is 5'10 and weighs 85 pounds is healthy? So someone who is 800 pounds and bed ridden is healthy? This is not what we're saying at all. What we're saying is that getting someone to their health goal will be different and individualized. It's about counseling with a narrative of how we pursue health and that means not trying to get someone to an arbitrary number. We still are using evidence-based counseling and recommendations. In summary, this approach shifts the focus to acknowledging and respecting an individual’s circumstances, and works to investigate and support options that are available to help make choices that benefit health and well-being.
2) HAES® is for larger bodied individuals only. No. The name states Health at EVERY size. We are advocating for those in extremely thin bodies, in fat bodies, in muscular bodies, in able bodies, in disabled bodies, etc. It's about inclusivity for everyone.
3) HAES® is anti health. No not true. One of the principles is eating for well-being. This is where the concept on intuitive eating also comes into play. Anti diet does not mean anti health. It simply means that instead of trying to follow a generic way of eating, finding a way that works for you individually. It also means not having the feeling of guilt when eating and allowing food freedom.
I hope that this has cleared up any confusion or maybe just reinstated what you have been thinking this whole time. It's sort of mind blowing in a way that the idea on inclusivity, can be so controversial. Everyone who walks into a doctor's office, should be given the same treatment. It's very simple. The underlying problem with accepting something like HAES® is of course fatphobia and not acknowledging body diversity. The whole concept of most diets, is to look like a version of yourself that society has deemed acceptable. This is why the Cosmopolitan cover was so controversial when it shouldn't have been. We should be as used to seeing images like this as we are used to seeing Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid. All beautiful women (and all genders) who deserve to be seen. Let's try to celebrate the different bodies in society and not shame or discredit the ones we are not used to seeing.
- Shana Minei Spence
The Nutrition Tea in the News:
Just a little poem by Morgan Harper Nichols to make you smile. Highly recommend subscribing to her newsletter (click on link below):
If there are mornings you wake up
with no strength to start the day
and if there are midnights where you feel
no Light will come your way,
take heart, breathe deep.
go to the nearest window,
look to the sky,
and let it remind you.
it is okay
this small and human thing
that does not know
who is learning
to let things go
at a time.