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The scoop on putting health first in 2012
Emma Stirling APD
Do you have weight loss goals as part of your New Year’s resolutions? Well here’s a new idea to consider. Forget about the idea of dieting altogether. That’s right. Completely put weight loss out of your mind and take a leaf out of the Health At Every Size Approach (HAES) and put healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle first.
Health at every size Championed by Linda Bacon, PhD nutrition researcher at the University of California-Davis and author of Health at Every Size: the surprising truth about your weight, the focus of HAES is on improving health outcomes, not on the “perfect” body. You see for some people, especially those who have been on the dieting roller coaster, the key is a change in mindset to avoid the repeated cycle of yo-yo dieting and lapses, relapses and collapses. Instead of weight loss as the end goal which places an emphasis on body image, you put healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle first. You may actively work on switching to more low GI choices in order to better manage your blood glucose levels, then set up a program to eat more intuitively for better digestion and next set goals to increase your physical activity to boost feelings of vitality. And guess what? Studies have shown that these seemingly small lifestyle steps, add up to huge rewards, and for some people, may in fact be finally the answer to long term weight loss success.
Health At Every Size is supported by an active community who follow these principles:
- Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes
- Recognizing that health and well-being are multi-dimensional and that they include physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual aspects
- Promoting all aspects of health and well-being for people of all sizes
- Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger, satiety, appetite, and pleasure
- Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss
The jury deliberates In scientific circles the HAES approach raises fiery debate. If we focus on health and not body weight, are we admitting that we’ve lost the battle of the bulge? Is this sending a message that overweight and obesity are not harmful to long-term health? By accepting HAES are we simply driving overweight as the norm and “fat acceptance”? Or is this approach the answer for many to break free from years of restrictive and fad diet failures, improve their health and learn to have a healthy relationship with food, once and for all? You can read more about both sides of the HAES debate in this recap of a session at the last American Dietitians Association Food Nutrition Conference and Expo written by dietitian blogger Janet Helm RD.
The scoop? As we continue to battle obesity I believe that we need to explore more individualized options as it is clear that some people respond well to structured weight loss programs, whereas for others, this can be their greatest undoing. I certainly believe that HAES will help us shift our distorted mentality that super skinny, equals super healthy. We know from research that you CAN be fit if you’re fat. You only need to visit my training group and see all the different shapes and sizes working out together. Believe me there are larger people than me who can run faster, lift far heavier weights and still keep chatting as I huff and puff. And I certainly know my fair share of women that have too long a list of personal food rules and go to extremes with eating for shape, not health, that is far from nutritious. So I ask what are you doing for your health and a healthy relationship with food this New Year? I’ve made a suggested list over here on my blog The Scoop on Nutrition.
Emma Stirling is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and health writer with over ten years experience writing for major publications. She is editor of The Scoop on Nutrition – a blog by expert dietitians. Check it out for hot news bites and a healthy serve of what’s in flavour.