Updated: May 14, 2022
I talk about HAES-aligned fitness as a service I provide, but in a conversation with someone who had been looking at my site, they asked, "What is H-A-E-S?" So first, the simple answers! HAES (usually pronounced like haze) stands for Health At Every Size. Please note, it is HEALTH at every size, not healthy at every size. It is an important distinction!
HAES comes from the book "Health at Every Size" by Lindo (Linda) Bacon. (Update 05/14/2022: this is an error, the concept of HAES was NOT created by Lindo Bacon. Please see this post for more detail). In the book, Dr Bacon summarizes a variety of research to build a case that body weight is less culpable for health issues than has been previously believed. HAES is based on the following principles:
Weight inclusivity - Respect that bodies are meant to be different sizes and shapes without pathologizing or idealizing certain bodies.
Respectful care - Work to end anti-fat bias, especially in healthcare, and address other social determinants of health.
Health enhancement - Improve access to healthcare, as well as increasing access to services that improve health at the individual level.
Eating for well-being - Eat in a flexible way that is responsive to hunger & satiety cues, nutritional needs, culture and pleasure.
Life-enhancing movement - Engage in physical activity that enhances your life.
In their book, Dr. Bacon describes research they conducted that supports this approach over weight focused approaches to improve overall health, including specific biometric markers of health. The recommendations that come from HAES are simple, common-sense, and sustainable behavioral changes, and also address some of the systemic issues that clearly impact health.
So what does it mean to be a HAES-aligned personal trainer? As a personal trainer, my goal is to help my clients get into a sustainable movement routine. So let's break that down a bit: I want you moving your body in a way that you can continue to do for a long time. I don't want to kick your ass for a month or two, have you get injured and then drop off. That isn't particularly helpful for your long-term health or wellbeing. I want you to have a movement routine. You get the most benefit from moving your body on a regular basis. Working out to the point of puking once a month isn't going to have that much impact on your long-term health. What is better is to engage in some type of movement a couple of times a week, and find something you can stick with.
As a HAES-aligned fitness provider, I don't weigh my clients. I don't do before-and-after pics. I don't have you measure your body. Of course, it is your body, and you can do whatever you want with it, but I'm not going to suggest that you do any of those things. My focus isn't on making there be less of you! My focus is on a sustainable fitness program that helps you feel stronger, more energetic, and improves your overall health.
If you want to learn more, I definitely recommend checking out the book, "Health at Every Size." If you've read it already, leave me a comment and tell me what you thought about it!