What is 'Health at Every Size'?

The Health at Every Size model is another one of the foundational models which underpins Āhei.

It is a public health paradigm which is somewhat set apart from other weight-centric models of physical and psychological health, due to its focus on size diversity. Like many of the other frameworks we use, HAES advocates for the use of holistic health strategies, while still being deeply rooted in empirical evidence and research.

HAES is a weight-neutral approach, meaning that is not inherently against weight-loss, but it is against the single-minded pursuit of weight loss, and instead favours a holistic approach to hauora.

In this model, weight is not central, but rather, there is a focus on cognitive flexibility and a dynamic awareness of the body and what it needs. It fosters physical and psychological wellbeing in the following ways:

  1. Enhancing Health - attending to Te Whare Tapa Wha wellbeing WITHOUT focusing on weightloss.

  2. Size and self-acceptance - respecting and appreciating the diversity of body shapes, sizes and features rather than pursuing idealised (and often unattainable) weight, shapes, and physical features.

  3. The pleasure of eating well - eating based on internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite; individual nutrition needs; and enjoyment, rather than on external food plans or diets.

  4. The joy of movement - encouraging physical activities for people of all sizes, abilities, and interests the associated pleasure and health benefits, rather than following a specific routine of regimented exercise for the primary purpose of calorie deficit and weight loss.

  5. An end to weight bias - recognising that body shape, size and weight are not purely evidential of any particular way of eating, level of physical activity, personality, psychological issue or moral character; and there is beauty and worth in every body.

The strength of weight-neutral approaches such as HAES are in the focus on kindness, self-care and compassion, and the sustainable decisions made to care for and nurture the body over the course of the lifetime. HAES defines health by the process of day-to-day life rather than by weight outcomes, and as a result, is a much broader and more applicable measure of health for most people.

If like us, you’re a bit of a fan of randomised controlled trials and large scale research and would like to read more about the efficacy of HAES as a public health model, drop us a line at hello@ahei.nz and we’d love to point you in the direction of further reading and research.

Michaela Latimer