Health at Every Size is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages:Right? Refreshingly sensible and healthy, therefore completely outside a mainstream that equates thinness with health and therefore makes thinness an end in and of itself.
- Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
- Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
- Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.
I've never been fat, though I was what you might call a chubster during my early teenage years, which was a source of grief, especially because all jeans back then were tapered and impossible to fit. I'm 5'8" and as an adult I've been anywhere from 145 to 170 pounds. I haven't been on a scale in ages, but I'm guessing I'm around 165, which incidentally gently nudges me into "overweight" territory on the useless BMI chart (which health professionals are inexplicably still using). When I weigh 145, on the other hand, I'm veering toward gaunt, with my build. My upper body shrivels and my nice booty disappears. Regardless of my weight, I have always had big old legs--no self hate or body snark here, that's just the plain truth. I've finally accepted that I got what I got, body-wise, and we're in it together for the long haul--but man, I wasted a lot of time as a youngster wishing I had great legs instead of appreciating the ones I have.
Anyway, all this background is to say that I guess you could now call me a fat ally or fat sympathizer, or something. It's a new idea for me, in large part because I've always had the privilege of being able to walk into a store and buy clothes off the rack, and I haven't had to struggle much to be thinner. And I didn't grow up with a bunch of wack messages from family members about how I should look or eat--I can't even imagine what that does to a kid's brain. Not to mention that it's pretty socially acceptable to make a bunch of assumptions about people who are fat, and to blame obesity for all of society's ills. This stuff is so ingrained as to be practically invisible to those of us who aren't fat and don't have to deal with the fat-shaming on a daily basis. I don't see fat as a sign of moral failure, lack of self control, or flat out ill health, and it's clear to me that a lot of what we're told regarding weight, health, and nutrition is straight up bullshit anyway. (For more on these ideas, please read the awesome Kate Harding. The first time I read that post, I bookmarked it, and I keep coming back to it.)
Still, it's tough for even a sensible person like myself to ignore all the messages that are fired at all of us on the daily. As I get older and find that my body actually seems to be happier up at the 165 end of my adult weight range, I vacillate between feeling good and fine and cute, and then thinking I better watch it or even actively work to take some weight off. And while most people I know are not into the self bodysnark, it does occasionally happen among certain groups of my friends. I want to get away from that, and I want to get away from that "better watch it" feeling.
That's why it's so refreshing to read HAES advocates/nutritionists giving very straightforward definitions of normal eating (highly, highly recommended). Normal eating is not going to look the same for every person; people have different needs and desires, and the only rule of nutrition is eat or die. There are still huge problems with access to healthy, whole foods and information about nutrition, so as with any "movement," the movement's no good unless all kinds of people are empowered by it. I suspect that HAES supporters are pretty much middle to upper middle class women right now.
Anyway. If you're still paying attention, you may be wondering what's up with the sugar-eschewing I've been doing lately, and that's a fair question. Bearing in mind that normal eating looks different for everyone, I do know folks who are off sugar completely and permanently not because they are control freaks, but because sugar is such a clear determining factor in their moods and overall sense of well-being. They'd rather not eat foods that cause them to crash and suffer depression and anxiety. So that's sort of where I am, even though I don't know how much sugar really affects my mood and energy level. Mostly I find that once I start eating the sweet stuff, I just keep eating it without necessarily enjoying it, and then afterward, I don't feel physically good at all. So it's easier and better for my brain, I find, just to cut it out. Not entirely, not permanently (you damn right I ate Thanksgiving pie), but mostly. It's pretty weird, actually, to get to a point where I'm trying to buy a baked good to go with my coffee in the morning and instead I walk out of there with Kung Pao tempeh because the muffins don't look good.
So that's what normal eating looks like to me right now. It will probably change, and I'm cool with that.