How to Introduce People to SA/HAES

Reader Sabrina submitted the following question:

I know that you sometimes take questions from readers — I wonder what you think about how to introduce people to Size Acceptance (SA) and Health at Every Size (r) (HAES). There are [some people] who I think could really benefit from reading blogs like yours, and books on the topic. But I don’t know how to do it without being hurtful.

It’s a really good question.  Obviously this can be a sensitive subject and, at least for now, it may be an entirely new concept for the person to whom you are introducing it.  If you read this blog very often, you already know that I’m not into telling people what to do .  My approach (and recommendation) is always to couch it as something that I do, rather than something that someone else should do.  This post talks about how I specifically explain HAES so today I’ll talk more about how you might broach the subject.

Casual Exposure

We live in the age of Facebook and Twitter, and along with 400 comments you don’t care about on the post that you accidentally “liked”, it also allows us to offer our list of followers exposure to a new topic with relatively low risk.  Start posting blogs that you like about SA/HAES, or updates talking about how you are practicing it in your life or the how much you like it etc.

Work it In

When other people are talking about their diets, or participating in a rousing game of body hate, you can bring up your SA/HAES practice.  Remember that your choice is just as valid as anyone else’s choice – telling people what you are doing does not obligate you to seek their approval.  I recommend having a quick definition like”I practice Health at Every Size – so I focus on healthy behaviors rather than a number on a scale.”  You can answer questions if you want but remember that you aren’t required to “defend” your choices.

Bring it Up

You can also bring  it up in conversation. This works especially well if you are setting boundaries/asking for support.  For example “I’ve decided to practice Health at Every Size.  For me that means that I’ll be focusing on what I decide are healthy habits and not on a number on the scale, weight loss, or what other people think I should do with my body.  I would love your support in this but if you aren’t willing to support me then it is important that you respect my choice”.  Obviously you’ll want to modify the words for yourself but that’s the idea.

I really can’t stress enough how much more of a powerful position I’ve found myself in if I simply explain rather than trying to convince, persuade, defend or seek approval.

Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 12:57 am  Comments (12)  

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for bringing up this topic. I’ve been starting to slip HAES into conversation when it feels appropriate, but it’s hard for me to not start anything with “I read this really great book….” even though I DID happen to read a really great book written by Linda Bacon. ;)

    I like your idea of also just stating “I’m focusing more on what I believe are healthy habits.” That way, you aren’t defending anything; it’s just explaining. The best part is, if someone starts in with “Well, you shouldn’t be doing X because X isn’t healthy” you can go right back to “what I believe is healthy”.

    I have a co-worker who has decided that since she has a moral obligation to let everyone in the office know that what they are eating isn’t healthy. It is also said with a self-righteous tone indicating that her eating habits are morally superior. Truth be told, it is hard to be around her. I find her comments triggering, yet I feel uncomfortable saying anything (after all, I still have to work with her and animosity never did an office good). I’ve started thinking about the kinds of things like you have posted here. They sound like good ways of setting boundaries, without inviting confrontation.

    We’ll see how it goes for me!
    ~ManDee
    http://www.chubbygirlcomics.com

    • Hi ManDee,

      Starting with “I read this great book” is another good one that I didn’t think of. Sorry about your office mate, I find it really difficult when you have to decide if you want to put up with one person’s inappropriateness or risk office peace. While animosity doesn’t do an office any good, it seems like grossly inappropriate behavior isn’t doing your psyche any good either. I hope that you’re able to negotiate the situation!

      ~Ragen

    • Hi ManDee,

      At the risk of sounding like a 12 year old…that really sucks about you co-worker. I know how toxic those kinds of environments are. Please let us know how you get along. I was in a really hideous work environment for 2 years until I snapped and left in a Blaze of Glory – which was heaps of fun, but I wouldn’t recommend it! I just wish I had come across the Awesomeness that is Ragen and her fabulous blog earlier.

  2. I’m really glad you mentioned this, Ragen. But you know what I’ve found works really well (and this takes a steady eye, pilgrim…)? It’s when you simply cut across all the Body Hate Venom that gets spewed out in any female conversation (and it happens with thin and thick alike) by saying, “I don’t know, I freakin’ love MY body. It’s healthy, it tells me what it needs and what it doesn’t like, and [my own personal experience] it’s produced children whom I adore completely. Why should I hate something that holds my fantastic brain and my soul??”

    It really floors people, particularly if a fat chick says it. Usually you get a goggle-eyed stare in return, like, “But you’re FAT! You should be hating yourself and agreeing with me! Because…well, you’re FAT!”

    No one ever defaults to the idea that someone can love their body. It’s not the same as loving how you look, in my opinion…that’s a separate love. Self-hatred seems to be the first thing anyone does, and it’s heart-breaking.

    I have a friend here who’s a triathlete, and she’s like a highly conditioned greyhound. But she obsesses about weight (she’s also really underweight because of personal problems right now), always talking about how she needs to gain, etc. I can tell she just doesn’t love herself as much as she should. Personally I think she looks really good, although too thin, and have said as much. But what really blew my mind was when she saw me in a bathing suit one day and couldn’t stop staring at my chest. Turns out she’s seriously envious of my rack! My DDs?? The things that have caused me shoulder aches and have been a source of embarrassment for most of my life?? Seriously??

    You just never know…!

    • I love my body, too. It’s survived polio and was still able to ride, hike, and swim for several decades after. It can still walk and drive, and take me to work, over 50 years later. It’s survived two major abdominal surgeries. It gives me good sex. It can see, and hear, and smell. And mine, too, tells me what it needs and what it doesn’t like. It just never occurred to me to say that in the way that you do in the middle of one of those ghastly body-hating conversations. I love it!

  3. I can’t tell you how timely this is. When a friend is wanting to start a diet (as one announced just yesterday) I feel like they’re going off a cliff and I have to scream and yank them back from the brink.

    I’ve totally got to stop that.

  4. This is a good topic. I’m a fan of dropping in it when it applies to a conversation because I don’t want to push agendas either. Although if even there was an agenda acceptable to push it should be NOT hating your body. Anyhow, every time I mention HAES I consistently get very confused reactions. Hopefully one day this will become more common vocabulary.

  5. Ragen, thanks again for another great discussion and it’s been interesting what others have said too. I don’t know if I feel confident enough on this topic to discuss it or comment to other women, but it’s good to know what lines to take and some guidelines. I go on a weekly “health walk” and as it’s in the morning in the middle of the week, it’s nearly all retired/semi-retired older women. I am probably the youngest at age 50, yet even there you will hear some talk of not eating certain things/being “good” in relation to food(I hate that phrase in relation to that)and wanting to lose weight or not put any more on. We go for coffee after it as it’s quite social and you can see some watching the others who do something crazy like, buy a cake or biscuit with the coffee! So women, even at that age still going on about food, and of course they mostly look “normal” or fine to me. I think the really important you said was not to feel like you had to convince others or defend yourself, just state your personal view.

    Marion, UK

  6. Hey Ragen,
    great post! I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but haven’t commented til now. I think you are an amazingly strong and brave and gorgeous woman, and I take inspiration from your journey.
    I’m currently working with Michelle, the Fat Nutritionist on HAES and it’s hard work, but I’ve found one of the harder things to be sharing what I’m doing with others…

    I know a bunch of people on FB who I won’t share links with about this stuff anymore, cos I had a few really bad experiences where they basically did your typical troll OMGDEATHFAT thing and I hadn’t expected it… and so i kinda retreated, jst sharing a few bits and pieces with people I could trust would at least respect my right to be interested, even if they thought it was loopy ;)

    but now, doing this HAES group, i’m sharing a bit more with the people in my life and it’s *hard*, so thanks for your tips. I have been using some of your strategies already (e.g. this is *my* journey, I respect your choices) cos it’s hard not to do the defensive thing and jst snark on people still dieting etc.

    Anyway.. not sure I’ve made any point here, but thanks :)

    Laurin

  7. Thanks for bringing this up! I’ve dropped HAES into a couple of conversations with yoga teachers recently–I used to be a marketing professional and they wanted some ideas about new people to reach out to, so I mentioned teaching fat people without pushing the goal of weight loss. I definitely got puzzled looks, but it felt good to put the idea out there as an option, and an economically viable one at that.

  8. I have not had time to really check out this site, but looks promising. Imagine–fitness taking into account that people might have physical limitations! I work with 1)people with multiple sclerosis and 2)people on kidney dialysis. Part of my job is to encourage “rehabilitation” but really it just makes me sad to see people moving less and less (myself included) for lack of appropriate programs. More at: http://www.ncpad.org/14weeks/

  9. My method is to live it. When people see someone who is happy, confident and robust, they want to be like that too. Eventually they ask, or at least take note of what you’re reading!


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