What is “HAES”?


I have a few simple questions to ask before I explain what HAES is:

1. How many people have you known who have “gone on a diet” specifically to lose weight?

2. Have you ever known someone who has gone on a diet and who has lost weight and kept it off? I am not talking about the person who took up a sport or quit smoking and adopted a healthier life style. I am talking about someone who followed a specific “diet plan” such as a low carb diet or meal replacement diet or counting calories or points kind of diet.

3. Have scientists discovered the one diet that works to help people lose weight and keep it off? Of course we know researchers have been looking into this, since people have been struggling with trying to lose weight for a long time. The “obesity epidemic”is always in the news. So have they found the one diet that works?

Not sure of your answer for question #1, but for #2, I am guessing the answer is NO, and for question #3, I will tell you the answer is NO. What most of the public does not know (because who would be interested in the research over the years regarding dieting except someone like a dietitian?) is that many researchers have been looking into dieting behavior for decades. In fact, when I went back to graduate school and did my research on “cognitive restraint” back in the ’90’s, I was angry! I could not believe the world did not know that the “experts” already knew many of the reasons dieting did not work! But then I realized, it is about the diet industry combined with desperate people wanting to lose weight.

I was not the only one who was angry. There now exists a split among health professionals working with people with weight issues (actually, the split has been there for many years but only recently gaining attention). Thanks to the more recent research and new groundbreaking books (see below) by Dr. Linda Bacon, the “Health at Every Size” Movement  has now been brought into the public eye and the movement is gaining momentum.. Those of us who believe in promoting health instead of some perfect weight, are no longer alone. Yes, there are still doctors, nurses and dietitians who will put someone on a diet (boy could I tell you some horror stories). So it is important to ask any professional you are working with which side of the fence they are on. Are they familiar with the HAES Approach? If not, they may be a bit behind the times. Or, they may still be influenced by a society who values a certain physical appearance instead of health.

Here is an excerpt taken the HAES website at http://www.haescommunity.org/  :

“Health at Every Size” is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages:

  • Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
  • Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
  • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.

  • and from Dr. Linda Bacon: “Health at Every Size is the new peace movement.”

    “Very simply, it acknowledges that good health can best be realized independent from considerations of size. It supports people of all sizes in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors.”

    If you are tired of dieting and ready to focus on health instead of some magic number on the scale, check out  Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD and her most recently released book, Body Respect (http://thebodypolitic.biz/bodyrespect/), co-authored with Lucy Aphramor

  • And be sure to check out the HAES website at http://www.haescommunity.org/

Warm Weather Dieting Woes


IMG_4090Happy Spring!!

Have  you ever noticed how the start of warmer weather gets people focused on dieting? I have been biting my tongue at work these past few weeks as it seems so many people are talking about the crazy eating plans they are starting. The new buzz seems to be a one or two food diet that is supposed to magically “cleanse” your system in a few weeks (a “kick start” as some people refer to it). I usually keep my mouth shut unless someone notices the dietitian sitting at the computer and dares to ask “what do YOU think?”

I love it.

Today I got asked the question, and I gave my answer. The research has connected dieting (any kind of cognitive restraint where you tune out your body signals) with binge eating. And weight GAIN in the long run. Yes, any trick to make you eat a lot less will of course result in weight loss (that good old “kick start” that is supposed to motivate you). Unfortunately, that short term weight loss ends up frustrating people rather than motivating them. They of course can’t keep up that rate of weight loss (and if they did, the loss would be valuable muscle). They end up feeling bad and usually just go back to their old ways.

Instead, what I shared with my coworkers was that it is smarter to take a non-judgmental look at your lifestyle and eating habits. Do you often eat when not hungry just because food is there? Do you have the habit of watching too much TV or sitting in front of a screen for hours on end? Instead, work on listening to your body. If you are hungry for a snack, and you want a cookie, eat a cookie. It is the non-hunger eating that goes against your body’s needs. Sometimes it is our sedentary lifestyles that prevent us from feeling better about our bodies.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again! Work on being healthier in every way and forget about dieting!!!! In the long run you just might end up being happier AND healthier.

Does 3500 calories equal a pound?

why 3500 calories is not a poundFor all the years that people have been dieting, especially those who count calories, they have followed the golden rule: cut 500 calories a day out of your diet and you will lose a pound a week. That is because 3500 calories is equivalent to one pound of adipose tissue (body fat).

While this is true, it does not follow that if you decrease your intake by that amount of calories over time that you will lose a pound. New research now proves this to be true!  The way your body responds to a calorie deficit is dependent on baseline body composition, age, height, gender, and degree of caloric restriction. The result is a curvilinear pattern of weight loss over time rather than the linear pattern predicted by the 3500 kcal rule.

In other words, no two people are alike. Some have more muscle mass than others, and even at rest, muscle uses more energy (so muscular people, even at the same weight will need more calories). Also, quick weight loss typically results in loss of muscle mass, which then results in your body needing less calories. Finally, your body adjusts to a lower body weight once you do lose weight, so your energy needs change.

If your weight has creeped up higher than your normal weight, instead reflect on any lifestyle changes or eating habit changes that may have occurred over the years. Did you change jobs from a very active one to a sedentary one? Did you start a job at a restaurant where you now get food for free (and so you take it, even when you are not hungry)? Are you going back to school and no longer have time to cook, so eating fast food every day instead? If you focus on ways to shift into a healthier lifestyle, your body will know what weight it wants to be! So stop counting, and start living!

Connecting exercise to what you eat

weights and appleIf I had a dollar for every time I heard someone mention exercise in the context of what they ate I could retire tomorrow. How often have you heard someone say “I can eat this, I went to the gym today”, or “I need to go for a walk, I ate too much pasta”.

What ever happened to being physically active because it made you feel good, and it was fun? It seems to me the people I have known throughout my life who have managed to stay physically fit have never connected what they DO to what they EAT. I have a friend who is in her 60’s who has been doing fun but intensive exercise videos in the morning almost every day. She loves the way it makes her feel, mentioning things like gaining strength and having energy. It is a habit for her and she looks forward to it. She never mentions anything about eating when she talks about how strong she is getting.

I have another friend in her 50’s who loves running. She gets antsy when she can’t get outside because it relaxes her. On these snowy days she does a yoga class or zumba class. She enjoys it and the way it makes her feel.

If you connect exercise with eating, you are making exercise into a punishment. Instead, why not look for something you really enjoy, and then do it for the fun of it? Change it up! Dance in the living room one day, go for a walk the next, practice hula hooping! In the end, you will be healthier and more fit. And that is a goal that makes sense : )