First, you have to decide your goal:
- Do you simply want share what you do?
- Do you want to present it as an option for someone else?
- Are you trying to win a debate by saying that it’s better than something else.
- Are you trying to convince someone to practice HAES?
I’m not a big fan of 3 or 4 personally, but it’s all up to you.
When I want to explain HAES I usually have four goals:
- Explain it as a respectable path to health
- Present it as an option in case people don’t know about it
- Throw in a couple of resources
- Let people decide what they want to do and respect their choices
One of the things that still surprises me are the number of people who do not know that there is an option to be healthy that does not include trying to lose weight. That is, of course, the whole point of this blog and my activism work. I want to create the largest possible platform from which to tell people about this option. I’m not invested in them choosing it or not, I’m not trying to persuade, I just want them to know that it’s out there.
I used to just say “I listen to my body and give it what it asks for”. But I found the reaction to that was generally incredulous at best. I realized that I wasn’t explaining HAES with the same gravitas with which other people describe their path to health. As a society, at least in the States, we have fallen in love with diet programs, and our culture loves the idea of restricting and sacrificing to be thin. So when someone says I’m on [Jenny Craig, Atkins, Weight Watchers etc.] people typically recognize the diet and respond in the affirmative. Even if they disagree with the diet choice, they understand it as a path to health and a discipline and they respect that. When I say I practice HAES, I often get an eye-roll before I can explain what it is because people see it as an “easy way out” or justifying my fatness (although for my money it has taken me much more discipline to opt out of the diet culture than it did to be part of it, even as a failure.)
So I choose to very specifically talk about HAES as a practice – a path to health – that is just a respectable as any other life choice. When the subject comes up I say some or all of the following:
I practice a version of Health at Every Size: I believe that my best path to health is to concentrate on healthy behaviors rather than on having a smaller body. I used to really focus on dieting and losing weight and I was terribly unhealthy and still fat. Now that I practice HAES I’m the same weight I always was, but I’m very healthy and I’m much happier. I originally heard of the idea through Linda Bacon. She literally wrote the book on HAES and she has an awesome website with a more technical definition and lots of resources. You can also check out my blog and the blogs I link to for more perspectives.
I take my time, I don’t rush, I take great care not to accidentally appear as if I’m seeking their approval. If they ask follow up questions I’m happy to answer but the important thing to me is that I presented my version of HAES as a serious health practice, and I stuck to my own experience (notice I didn’t add “so you should try it!”) I present the option, demand respect for my choices, and respect other people’s choices. Throw in the understanding that some people don’t want to understand or respect others people’s choices – they just want to tell you that they are right and you are wrong – and you’re all set to ‘splain.
On another topic, I’m sorry that I’m so behind on replying to comments and e-mails and such, but I do read and appreciate every one – even if it’s taking me a little while to reply. Also, I have seen comments lately on other blogs talking about how awesome the comments here are. Of course I’m not surprised because I already know that you are the most awesome readers ever, but I wanted to make sure that you all know that news of your ass kickery has traveled far and wide!