Linda Bacon, Ph.D., has long been a supporter of the “Health at Every Size” (HAES) movement, an approach to health that encourages people to adopt better habits and takes the focus off of weight loss. In the January edition of Nutrition Journal, Bacon and co-author Lucy Aphramor present new evidence to support this radical shift away from weight management in health care.
Bacon and Aphramor argue that the health care industry places too much emphasis on weight management, and that diets may in fact lead to negative effects on physical and emotional health. “The weight-focused approach does not, in the long run, produce thinner, healthier bodies,” says Bacon in a press release. She is also the author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.
“The unintended negative consequences are very debilitating,” says Aphramor. “The shame, anxiety, and preoccupation it generates around food and body shape; the sheer misery. It simply isn’t the case that each failed diet is just an experiment that didn’t work. There are real health risks associated with weight fluctuation and adverse effects of reduced self esteem, eating distress and weight discrimination.”
The Health at Every Size movement discards the idea of dieting, and instead promotes the concept of intuitive eating and self-acceptance. In her book, Bacon argues that one should reconnect with physiological triggers, leading one to eat in response to hunger. In their paper, “Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift,” Aphramor and Bacon present research that shows how weight-neutral techniques can improve measures of health measures such as blood pressure and blood lipids. Another important area that sees improvement among Health at Every Size followers is self-esteem and body image.
Bacon offers courses that promote the HAES movement, and says that fighting the cultural ideal of thinness is by far the movement’s greatest challenge.