Health at Every Size

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I bought this book on impulse after reading a comment on one of Sal’s posts on Already Pretty. You do read this, right? I can’t remember the post or the comment but one reader said that the book was life-changing.

Here is Wikipedia’s info on HAES:

Health at Every Size (HAES) is a belief system that focuses on intuitive eating and pleasurable physical activity rather than dieting and weight loss. It was conceived by Linda Bacon in 2005.[1]

How much do I love that it is written by a woman with the last name Bacon… I digress. I haven’t finished the book yet but my understanding so far is that we (more so as North Americans) either diet restrictively (and feeling deprived) or eat as a free-for-all (and feeling guilty). Either way we are not enjoying our food and eating experience. And we are getting fatter. Young children push their plate away when they are full. Even if there is food on it.

With exercise, we are working out as punishment for eating the chocolate cake or because we feel we “have to”. We aren’t being active because we enjoy it. Young children move because they are playing. We spend hours on a treadmill and wonder why we don’t enjoy exercise.

I love this idea. I am one who is overweight but not dangerously obese. My BMI tells me that I should lose at least 50 lbs. Could I do it? Maybe. Will I have to sacrifice enjoyment and will I gain the weight back? Very likely. So I can struggle to lose weight (feeling disappointed if/when I fail), or I can focus on eating to fuel my body and to celebrate life and, move in ways that bring me joy and get me a good night’s sleep. History tells me that I will likely weight the same (or more) in 10 years whatever path I chose. The difference is that one is filled with self-loathing and shame and the other with joy and contentment.

I ran regularly for about a year, 6 or so years ago. I loved it. I ran a few road races and met some interesting people because I was doing something new. I would come home from work and be DISAPPOINTED if my schedule didn’t allow me to run. Crazy, I know?! I eventually quit because I became dissatisfied with the numbers. Weight loss and race finishes. So stupid! I let the “you aren’t losing that much weight after all that work” attitude get to me. A brand new runner 10 years younger than me “beat” me in a 10K road race. I gave up that joy because I didn’t think I was doing it well enough. If a friend had told me that same thing about herself, I would have told her that she was happy running and she looked great because she was sleeping well and feeling vibrant. I didn’t speak the same way to myself. I called myself a “fat runner”. !?!

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Crossing the finish line at my first (and only) 10K

My commitment to myself now is to learn to eat to fuel my body and to celebrate. My promise to my body now is to move it in ways that bring me joy and allow me to experience things. Yes, I will eat pasta that my husband lovingly prepared with his homemade tomato sauce. Yes, I will put on records at home and dance all by myself. I WILL NOT PUNISH MYSELF WITH FOOD THAT I HATE AND EXERCISE THAT BORES ME BECAUSE I AM “SUPPOSED TO”.

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I recently told a male coworker that I didn’t think that I would be more valuable as a person if I lost 20 lbs. I told him that I just didn’t believe that I would be worth more as an employee, wife, friend or daughter if I was a few lbs lighter. He said it was so refreshing to hear that from a woman. Sometimes (all the time?) women feel that we can’t be content with our weight and looks. I’m not saying that we don’t know that we have a thick waist or large thighs. (I also know that I am impatient and talk too much. We are more than just our bodies.) We just shouldn’t let our weight, big nose, frizzy hair invalidate us as people. Those that lost limbs in the Boston Marathon bombings are not less valuable as people because they aren’t (what society deems) the ideal shape anymore. We as women over the BMI factor for our height are not less valuable. It’s time to treat ourselves with the love and care that we give the valuable things in their lives. The family and friends of those injured in Boston are happy their loved ones survived. No one is counting limbs. Let’s stop counting numbers, on a scale or treadmill, and making them determine our worth or the joy we allow ourselves to experience in life.

To try my best to keep this related to sewing, as this is a sewing blog, I will say that sewing for my true body has made me appreciate it more and, equally, frustrate me more. I wish I could cut a pattern straight out and have it fit. But it just doesn’t work that way. On the other hand, this is my body. I love my shapely legs and tall frame. I wish I had a classic hourglass shape. I also wish my walk to and from work were both downhill. That’s the way it is and we just work with it. My uphill walk home gets my heart pumping. My thick waist lets me learn about pattern grading. Silver lining? Pollyanna? No, just another (better?) perspective.

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I am no Pollyanna

(See my other rant about body image HERE.)

Thank your legs for carrying you around today. Appreciate your arms since they let you hug your kids. Take time to feel your heart beating, bringing oxygen to your muscles and brain. It’s all you and it’s wonderful!

What I’m listening to: Whatever It Is by Ben Lee

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27 thoughts on “Health at Every Size

  1. Awesome post! So agree. πŸ™‚ I’m not wholly sold on purely intuitive eating—I think we’re adapted to like a bit more of some things, especially the salt, refined sugars and starches, and fats, than is really good for us considering how readily available they are now. But I definitely don’t think obsessing over it and feeling guilty is the way to go. And I’m so sad to hear that you stopped running because you felt like you weren’t “good enough” at it! Think you’ll pick it up again?

    • I hope to start again. It felt great.
      I’m hoping to learn more about intuitive eating. Letting go of “good” and “bad” foods. Moderation in everything, including moderation. πŸ™‚

    • Right! You don’t have to tell kids to play (at least when they are young and haven’t found video games, tv).
      I secretly would love to dance but it freaks me out to think of a group class. Any suggestions? I did see a senior’s tap group and I wished they’d take me!

      • Me too! But I have NO rhythm, so I usually feel intimidated to dance in a group. πŸ™‚ I did take a class at the gym called Nia that was dance based. (it’s kind of a yoga/martial art/dance class with great music – hard to explain!) My sister recently started adult ballet classes, think she just found a dance studio that offered it. Is your husband interested in it at all? I know there are places where I live that have salsa or swing dancing for couples.

      • Yes! We did take Latin ballroom years ago! It was great.
        Actually they gave us a DVD…I should dig that out.
        Ballet would be amazing. Maybe I should look for videos for that too…

  2. Thank you for this post – it’s inspiring. And go for the running. It’s awesome when you find the activity you love. I’m still looking for mine but its fun trying things out!

    • I once saw a 30 day challenge where they tried different activities all month. That’s not realistic for most but 1 a week is doable.
      Maybe your joy is found in multiple activities! As long as you are moving and having fun.

  3. What a great post! I am glad you will be running again. Exercise for the joy of it is one of the good things in life, as well as loving your body for the vehicle it is. I think sewing helps us all to get to that place mentally. It sounds like you are a natural runner. I can cycle ten k as a warm up, but I can’t run ten k in one go to save my life …

    • I was in my 30’s when I started running. Can’t believe how much I enjoyed it until the “number’s demon” reared its head.
      Hope to find the joy again!

  4. Get out of my head! I totally agree, every single point. I’m freaking short. I don’t think I could maintain a weight under 128lbs (BMI of 25 for my height) and be happy. I would end up fussing over every single ounce of food and as you say, spend a lifetime not enjoying anything. I am not where I want to be at right now, but my goal is just back to my comfortable weight. It’s enough.
    And even people with a “normal wieght” usually have to make some pattern adjustment.

    • Didn’t you know we are twins separated at birth? My mom told me. πŸ™‚
      I hate the joke about women who order the salad and then eat all the husband’s French fries (chips, since I’m in England!). I’d rather order the sweet potato wedges and enjoy them than deny myself because “women order salad”. (I prefer sweet potatoes to regular potatoes. Bonus that they are healthier.)
      Obviously sweet potato fries every day are not good. Neither are eggs or tuna. Variety and balance. Trying to get there…

  5. Great post! πŸ™‚ I agree with Tanit-Isis that there are definitely learned habits we can afford to break, (portion sizes, affinity for overprocessed foods or constant couch surfing LOL) but as with everything in life, I believe it should be in balance. It’s a conundrum; society/media has taught us we deserve to feel good at all costs and indulge in unhealthy habits, but simultaneously corrupted our perception of “healthy” so badly that people who truly do live healthy lives and have healthy habits are conditioned to feel guilty or “not good enough”, when in fact they are just being human.

    I think it’s important to try and make decisions for the good of our health – mental, physical, and spiritual, to maintain a balance, while not settling for being any less than we can be, but also to remember that no matter what we do, there will always be someone better than us…. don’t stop doing the things you love because of that, or think it makes you any less wonderful, valuable or beautiful.

    • Maybe the switch is see treating ourselves with good food that fuels us. Not seeing drive thru as a “treat”.
      My fave meal is grilled salmon (with a little mayo, mustard and chilli powder) served on a spring mix salad. I’m going to start viewing that as indulgence since it makes me so happy.
      The exercise thing I have to work harder on.
      Balance is key once you’ve cleared out the cobwebs (emotional eating, feeling silly in workout gear). You can’t be in balance when your thinking is off.

      • You know, as I just recently finished a pretty strict diet, I was looking forward to eating all the foods that I thought of as indulgences before. Theoretically, one should be able to eat these things now and again without feeling bad. But you know what? They don’t taste good to me anymore. So I have a taste if i’m curious, and leave it at that. I don’t worry about what “they” say is good or bad for me, I simply eat whole, unprocessed foods, and I eat when i’m hungry. I think when you stop telling yourself you “can’t” have something, it loses its power, and you simply don’t need it anymore, That and processed food tastes like cardboard when you eat a lot of whole foods, so it just ain’t that attractive πŸ˜‰

  6. Oh wow, I’ve never heard of this book, but it is my philosophy exactly! I always encourage giving in to your ‘cravings’ and ‘hunger’ as your body usually craves what it needs! (Cravings do have to be separated out from addictions, though, different subject). And, I also believe that doing pleasurable outdoor activities beats driving to the gym and working out on that equipment that questionable people have sweat all over for years on end, EVERY time. πŸ™‚ Must look into this book.

    • Food as fuel. You don’t put cheap gas in your racing car! (Or cheap thread in your sewing machine?)
      If you eat things that do not fuel you but make you sluggish that’s not really making you happy either.
      On the other hand to turn down a slice of cake at a celebration is a shame.
      Interesting discussion…

  7. I am sure you know how great I think this is. So much of this goes beyond weight, and just into general happiness. I love the idea of doing what makes you HAPPY and allowing that to be a natural source of self-regulation. Seems pretty logical, really, and hard to believe that we as humans aren’t better at it. Every time you post about body image it gives me the greatest sense of relief, that someone thinks that way. I have the utmost respect for your strength and honesty.

    • As long as you make choices that are for long-term happiness and not just short-term comfort. Emotional eating may feel good in the moment but doesn’t lead to long-term happiness.
      Thanks for your thoughts. Spread the message!

  8. Pingback: Your Body Is Not Your Masterpiece | Falling Through Your Clothes

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