The Health at Every Size Movement has been around for a while. I always thought it meant that it didn’t matter what your body size was, you could go out and be active. You don’t have to be thin and fit to show up at the gym. Like this video that I love.
Apparently, though, HAES has morphed into something very different. HAES (or at least a very vocal subset of it) seems to now say that your size doesn’t matter, and what you eat doesn’t matter. If you don’t have weight related illnesses (diabetes, etc), you don’t have to exercise and you can eat what you want. Your body will find its proper “set point” for weight and that’s what you will weigh. And if a doctor tells you to lose weight, get a new doctor.
This is crazy. (Well, okay, if you go to your doctor for a complaint and your doctor ignores you in favor of telling you to lose weight, then yes, find a new doctor. But if your doctor says “Here are some physical therapy exercises you can do to strengthen your knees, and losing weight will also help,” you should probably listen.) People need movement for their health. I believe the common wisdom right now is 30 minutes of activity (such as walking) for health, 60 for weight loss. Even people who have mobility issues are encouraged to do some form of activity for their general health.
Now, don’t get me wrong. While a lot of people I know got into running and triathlon with the hope of losing weight, plenty of people are out there and not worried about losing weight. That’s allowed, because you know what? You’re active, and that’s good for your heart and your lungs and your bones and that’s awesome.
What I’m seeing a lot of lately, and what I hate, are young girls, frequently teenagers, who are tired of feeling bad about their weight. Instead of making a positive change, they discover HAES and start spewing what is known as fatlogic. For example, all the stuff you hear about Marilyn Monroe wearing a size 12 or 14 or 16 dress. She was beautiful and a bigger woman, so we need to change our mindset, obviously.
First off, anyone who has sewn anything knows that pattern sizes are nothing like store sizes. Secondly, sizes have changed significantly since Marilyn’s days. Third, I don’t know about anyone else, but I have clothes in a wide variety of sizes in my closet that all fit me. Finally, we have seen photos of Marilyn Monroe. She was a real person. We know that she was 5’5″, weighed around 120 pounds and her measurements were 35-23-35. (Source) (For reference, I just measured my thigh and it is, in fact, larger than her waist was. That’s depressing.) Marilyn Monroe was decidedly not fat. Curvy, yes, but certainly not fat.
I’m guilty of falling into the fatlogic trap myself from time to time. We all have days where we are down on ourselves for one reason or another, and it’s too easy to blame a slow metabolism or tell myself that I deserve that cupcake. Or I just remind myself that muscle weighs more than fat (which isn’t actually true – a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, it just takes up less space). But those are all just excuses that I’m using.
I’m not saying that we should be down on our bodies. We should be proud of our bodies for what they can do! They may not look like the body you see in the magazines, but that’s okay.
But we also need to take care of our bodies. We need to move. Sitting at a desk all day and then coming home and eating a too-big dinner while sitting on the couch watching tv and then going to bed and repeating this day after day is not good for you. Now, it’s not an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to go from couch potato to Ironman. (In fact, I would recommend against that particular plan.) But hey, maybe get up and move a bit more. Add some veggies to your plate at dinner. Drop one soda a day for a glass of water. Put good things into your body and you will feel better.
Personally, I need to be better about the “I just did X, so now I deserve Y.” I’ve gotten good at not treating food as a treat or as a comfort after a bad week, but after a hard workout, I sometimes think I have earned a high calorie meal. Except that one meal becomes two and then I’ve eaten way more calories than I burned. Better than being sedentary, I suppose, but I can do better.
It’s tough, because the last thing I want to do is make a young girl feel like she’s a lesser person because of her size. But at the same time, I want to see her succeed and not worry about her size. And I want her to be healthy. So many of us have found something great in fitness, be it running or triathlon or yoga or so many other sports. Maybe that’s what we should be encouraging instead of simply encouraging acceptance.
People are beautiful at any size, but we have to be careful to not be too accepting of weight and weight gain. I have fought my weight forever, but that doesn’t mean I should just give up and stop fighting it. I don’t know about you, but I want to live a long, healthy life. And what I do now will play a big role in how that life plays out.