In Case You Missed It: My Top Ten Takeaways From the HAES® Master Class

Last week, fifteen amazing speakers joined me for the Health At Every Size® (HAES®) Master Class.

Collage of portraits of the 16 speakers from the HAES Master ClassWe talked about everything from the connections between HAES® and yoga, to HAES® as a social justice practice, to the ways that HAES® can help people heal from eating disorders.

So much great stuff came out of this two day event that I just had to share with you my top 10 highlights from these calls. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list. It’s just the tip of the iceberg of pure awesomeness that was the HAES® Master Class. :)

My Top 10 Takeaways From The HAES® Master Class

1. It’s Okay To Eat What Looks Like An Unbalanced Diet When Transitioning From Dieting

 You might go through food phases, and that’s okay. You may be really into something for like a month and then go off of it and onto something else and that’s fine. Eating an unbalanced diet or what looks like an unbalanced diet can actually work out just fine. In the long run, the mix of the foods you eat is more important than what you eat today.
– Michelle Allison, Getting Good At Eating

2. Yoga and HAES® Philosophies Are Connected

Yoga has a very prominent piece of philosophy within it that is called ahimsa. . . Ahimsa means non-violence, or non-killing or non-harming. . . Ahimsa also means acting with kindness towards ourselves. . . And I see this as a huge correlation with HAES® as well. I really feel that the diet culture that is out there and the weight loss culture that is out there can be extremely harmful as I’m sure most of us who have experienced it know. . . . Whereas HAES® is much more in line with yoga philosophy in terms of being about not harming. Let’s do everything we can to create a healthy body in a gentle and tender and loving and compassionate way.
– Tiina Veer, HAES® Meets Ahimsa: Applying Yoga Philosophy To Your HAES® Practice And Vice Versa

3. Research Shows That The Pursuit Of Weight Loss Is Physically And Emotionally Harmful

What we found is that you don’t need to lose weight to get healthier. We also have a lot of research that shows that the pursuit of weight loss just is harmful. What we see is that it starts people up with this preoccupation with food and weight (this preoccupation could get serious and turn into clinical eating disorders) that people feel like they’re failures, they blame themselves for not being able to get the weight loss that they want, it affects their self esteem, it results in discrimination and stigmatization, we also see that a lot of people end up weight cycling and that there’s a lot of health damage that happens from it, and it distracts people from doing what’s really important.
– Linda Bacon, The Gift of Food and Weight Preoccupation

4. What We Know About Fat & Health Is More Rhetoric Than Research

We have to be aware of the way persuasion is being used to frame our views on fat. . . Making fat about health was an absolutely brilliant rhetorical move. . . Calling obesity a disease, calling fat a disease, made a huge difference in the way people looked at things. It makes it abnormal. It says it must be fixed. It says that we must lose weight at all costs because disease equals death in our minds.
 Lonie McMichael, Fat Chat: Why The Way We Talk About Fat And Health Matters

5. How To Respond To The “Fatness Is A Tax & Healthcare Burden” Meme

Our taxes pay for lots of things that we don’t agree with, and that’s how it goes. . . People cost all kinds of money to society for all kinds of reasons. And people…are allowed to do things that don’t prioritize their health, which is why people get to take vacations where they jump out of helicopters wearing skis”¦ In our society if you’re thin, typically you can be completely sedentary and eat only fast food and nobody is concerned about you or your cost on society.
– Ragen Chastain, But But But”¦ Answering HAES® Critics And Questions

6. Stigmatization Of Fatness Is Dangerous To Our Health

[Research shows that] stigma causes all sorts of problems with health. It increases systemic inflammation . . . and this has been strongly associated with hypertension, heart disease, type II diabetes, hypercholesterolemia — all the things that we normally associate with obesity are caused by stress which can be caused by stigma.
– Angela Meadows, Omgdeathfat!!! Or Not. Debunking Obesity “Science” And What Everyone Knows About Weight And Health

7. Never Say Never When You’re Dealing With Food Sensitivities

You can honor the reality that certain foods may cause a response in your body that is less than desirable, but to say you should never ever eat that food is completely unrealistic and totally life limiting. . . There will be times that having a specific food will be worth the physical consequence.
– Amy McIntosh, How HAES® Can Help You Live with Food Sensitivities

8. Healing From An Eating Disorder Is Not About Stopping A Behavior

The biggest and most harmful myth about disordered eating is that it’s about food. ‘Just go on a diet, just eat right, just exercise, just stop overeating, just lose weight, just stop throwing up.’ Just stop this or do that is the type of advice that you may have been given… So to really heal from disordered eating is to realize that it isn’t about food.
– Anne Cuthbert, Debunking The Myths About Practicing HAES® When You Have An Eating Disorder

9. To Increase Mobility, Lessen Frailty Rather Than Fat

Frailty, which is the reason that mobility issues occur, is the fact that your muscles can no longer carry the weight of your body, and that’s true whether you’re 95 years old and weigh 80 pounds and have muscle atrophy, or it’s true if you weigh 400 pounds and can’t lift your 400-pound body”¦But you would never tell the 80 pound person to lose weight… What you would do is give them exercise and help them develop muscles that would carry their weight better. And what a lot of people don’t realize is that that’s the better treatment for mobility issues even when you’re talking about very large people.
Pattie Thomas, Practicing HAES® When You’re Living With Disabilities

10. HAES® Can Have Major Community And Societal Impact

[Research shows that] if you are treated as a second-class citizen in society your health will suffer for it… Being a full social participant [in society] is essential for equal health… If we limit Health At Every Size® to just changing health behaviors, I think we do it a great disservice, because I think HAES® activism extends far beyond that… With HAES®, because we can bring in social determinants of health, we can encourage people to think critically about our understandings of health.
Lucy Aphramor, From Healthcare To Social Justice

By the way, if you’re reading this now and wish you could have been there, it’s not too late! Just click here to get all of 16 recordings!

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.

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