Wrapping My Head Around the Concept of Health at Every Size

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By: Melena Steffes

Walking into group that day, I didn’t know that I was going to leave it with a whole new concept that would permanently implant itself in my brain. Health at Every Size (HAES) was the complete opposite of what my mind thought it had to believe in. At that time, all I heard playing in my ears every day was BMI, BMI, BMI.

But when the dietitian walked into group that day, she explained something that took me a long time to grasp. She told us about HAES and how it explains that different bodies can be healthy at different weights/different sizes, and that BMI isn’t always an accurate depiction of that health. Health at Every Size focuses on developing healthy eating habits for your overall health, not as a goal for weight loss.

I remember being taught about BMI in so many classes throughout my life. In gym, in health class; it even has come up in a math course in college last year. In my sophomore year of high school, a height/weight chart was passed around the room, and everyone was asked to figure out where they fell on it. The whole class filled with anxiety, people’s around me voices began to crack when they spoke. Everyone’s sentences were cut short. Nobody wanted to talk anymore.

Who could blame them?

After growing up with charts being put in front of me, hearing about one single method that was supposed to tell you if you’re healthy or not, I didn’t even know how to begin to listen to anything else. I brushed it off, rolled my eyes, and just thought it was another thing the dietitians were telling us to make us eat. But after I sat through the class another time, I was ready to open my ears. I first thought that HAES was just preaching about being okay with weight gain. And, while that is okay too, that is not their overarching mission.

Health at Every Size states that they “celebrate body diversity.” They’re not focusing on one specific body type like I first thought. I remember getting the chills after realizing that. I remember, in that moment, realizing that those bodies they’re celebrating and those bodies they’re accepting, that mine is included in those.

After years of being truly invested in BMI, after only ever giving myself permission to exist in that narrow range of numbers, HAES provided me with a big sigh of relief. I felt like I was an animal being let out of its cage at the end of the day; I felt free to just run. And that’s kind of what I did. I ran with that concept; I ran with the belief that my body was also deserving of acceptance. Or at least I tried my hardest to.

There are still days where I find myself getting caught back up in that narrow range of BMI numbers. There are still days where I don’t believe my body will ever be good enough or worthy enough to love. Some days, even when I may not find myself 100% believing in HAES, I still have the concept there in the back of my head. Like I said, Health at Every Size has permanently implanted itself in my brain. And I’m forever grateful that it has.

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