Health At Every Size® or HAES® is an exciting, new conversation about sustainable, holistic health that is sometimes referred to as “the new peace movement”. This movement promotes the simple truth that all bodies are good bodies.
We’ve been getting asked more and more about how to share this work with others when it’s so counter-cultural. Learning about Body Trust® is like learning to speak a new language, and sometimes when you are fairly new in your own process and understanding of it, it can be especially hard to talk about. So we thought we’d share some of our thoughts with you.
First, some conversation strategies:
Protect it. When starting this work, your roots are shallow because you are learning, so it may be best to protect this new thing for a while, and share it only with people who can hold space. As your roots deepen, it will be easier to hold your ground even when folks push back. You can say something like…
“I’m exploring a radically different way of thinking about food, bodies, weight, and health. It’s kind of blowing my mind, and I’m not sure I have words to talk about it just yet.”
Ask permission. When we ask people if we can share something with them, they are more likely to open up and hear it.
Acknowledge how radical this work is. Saying people bump up against A LOT when they first hear about Health at Every Size®, Body Trust, fat acceptance, or anti-diet approaches to food and eating is an understatement. If we prepare them, it may just help it land.
“I want to acknowledge right up front that this is radically different than what we’ve been socialized to believe about bodies.”
Describe this growing community. Conjure up the community of people shouldering you in this work. You are not the only one. We are in this together. This may help you avoid second-guessing yourself and instead draw from the collective.
“I’m learning from a growing community of health care providers, researchers, academics, and helping professionals who are concerned about the health effects of the “obesity epidemic”, and how the traditional ways we’ve been taught to think about food, weight and health disrupt people’s embodiment and inhibit the ability for attuned self-care.”
Talk about how dieting has impacted your life negatively. Share parts of your body story if and when you feel ready. People are not allowed to argue with your lived experience.
Set boundaries. It’s okay to ask for what you need. People may not be able to hear it, and you can set a boundary.
“You can do whatever you want with your life and your body, and please honor and respect what I want to do with mine. I’d like to ask that we not discuss bodies, food, health or weight when we are with each other. There are plenty of other things we can talk about.”
Share with people who are “reachable, teachable, and ready.” We learned this from Desiree Adaway and Ericka Hines. There are just some folks who are never gonna get it, and will not be willing to even listen without debating and exhausting you. Focus on folks who are reachable, teachable and ready.
NO is a complete sentence.
You may also be wondering what information to share that might have the greatest impact. Here are a few of our go-to talking points:
There’s no evidence-based treatment for high body weight that leads to sustained weight loss 2-5 years out. The most consistent effect of weight loss at two years is weight gain (Tylka et. al. 2014).
The Body Mass Index was never intended to be used as a measure of health. It has racist origins, and was developed by a mathematician in the 19th century to look at the distribution of weight across a population of white people. It is being used to weaponize and pathologize people’s bodies. It is not a vital sign or a measure of health.
There is research to show how weight stigma and other social determinants of health have a far greater impact on our health and well-being than personal lifestyle behaviors.
Emphasize how this work is about healing your relationship with food and body, not perfecting health behaviors. Body Trust helps people develop sustainable ways of caring for one’s self instead of all the yo-yo dieting/fitness and weight cycling diet culture enables.
Here are a few resources to help you learn more about these concepts:
Our Health at Every Size® resource page includes all of these plus links to peer-reviewed research articles.
Lastly, we thought we’d talk a little about why it might be hard to share this work with people. Niva Piran, whose research led to the developmental theory of embodiment, says “Society produces docile, compliant bodies.” Part of reclaiming our body is reclaiming our voice and our agency in the world. Agency is sometimes described as the belief in our ability to contribute, succeed, and make a difference. It’s a key dimension of embodiment.
Those of us assigned female at birth are socialized to lose trust in our own knowing, and ultimately go underground. Over the course of our development, “the “I” who knows shifts to the one who does not know to the one who believes others know better” (Lynn Rosen talks about this here). So speaking up for what we believe in can be challenging, especially when it’s counter-cultural, and it’s been a while since we’ve pushed back and practiced giving voice to our own thoughts and opinions.
We recently heard Glennon Doyle say, “We can practice unleashing this wild voice we have inside of ourselves in hard conversations. When part of you knows “I should say something, I’m bursting to say something” and your tamed self is like “No…can’t make it awkward” “Can’t make people around me uncomfortable so I will swallow this.” There’s a price to pay for swallowing…this is how we slowly abandon ourselves and we end up with no self.”
We’ll leave you with a link to a recording of Dana sharing a poem by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
How to Silence a Person: Retrieving Their Voice. These words are something we return to again, and again, and again.
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The Center for Body Trust embodies values, policies and practices to create access to the resources we offer. Black, Indigenous and People of Color, trans and non-binary folks, queer people, super and inifinifat folks, and people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by barriers to healthcare and wellness services due to systemic and institutionalized systems. We wish to address this impact by offering a three-tiered pricing structure: equity, standard and standard plus.
It was 17 years ago that co-founders Dana Sturtevant and Hilary Kinavey met, not really knowing each other or much about the work they wanted to do beyond a deep craving for new language and a far more real and healing conversation about bodies, eating disorders, fatness and food.