I talk about a lot on this blog about Size Acceptance (a civil rights movement), and Health at Every Size (an optional health practice where the focus is put on healthy habits and not body size). How these things are or aren’t interrelated can get really confusing sometimes, especially for people new to the concepts. I’ve had a couple of e-mails and a comment recently asking for clarification. I replied to the comment and I thought I would go ahead and make it a post for future reference, of course this is just my perspective- there are certainly others. Here we go:
I believe that Health at Every Size and Size Acceptance are two different things. I wrote a blog post explaining my perspective on the difference between the two here: http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/are-health-at-every-size-and-size-acceptance-the-same/
It includes the passage “I don’t think that we should use HAES as a platform to do size acceptance activism because I think that we should avoid even the intimation that some level of health or healthy habits is required for access to basic human respect and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is absolutely NO health requirement to demand your civil rights. You don’t owe anybody “health” or “healthy habits” (especially not by their definition, and not by any definition at all.) You do deserve, and have the right to demand, respect and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body you have right this minute – whatever your size, health and dis/ability.”
This is a sentiment that I express so frequently that I often get complaints that I say it too much. I get the same complaints about how often I say that health is multi-dimensional, not entirely within our control and not a barometer for worthiness etc.. If you’re wondering why I say them almost every day, it’s because of people’s tendency to become confused about this, and the fact that someone reading my blog may very well be reading it for the first time and it’s important to me to avoid this confusion.
Now, the fact that civil rights are not contingent on anything does not mean that I think we shouldn’t discuss health, healthcare, science etc at all. I explain my views on that in this blog http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/why-talk-about-health-at-all/ which includes the passage
“Health is multi-dimensional and includes things within and outside of our control including genetics, environment, access, and behaviors. Health is not an obligation, nor is it a barometer of worthiness. Nobody owes anybody else “health” or “healthy behavior,” and those who aren’t interested in health are not better or worse people than those who are interested in health. Prioritization of health and the path that someone chooses to get there are intensely personal and not anybody else’s business. The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not health or healthy habit dependent. People who have health issues should be given options for care and accommodation as they wish, not judged or asked to prove that their health issues are not their fault.”
While I do often point out the lack of evidence showing the long-term efficacy of weight loss methods, I try to be very clear that I don’t believe you need anything but a pulse to claim your civil rights.
I talk about the evidence around health, weight, and dieting because it’s not getting covered in the media (in fact the media is telling us the opposite,) people believe that the evidence supporting dieting does exist, and doctors prescribe weight loss despite the fact that it does not meet the requirements of evidence-based medicine. I also discuss it because diet companies make a ton of money taking credit for the short term weight loss that almost everyone experiences and blaming clients for the long term weight regain that almost everyone experiences and therefore many, many people who have failed to lose weight long term blame themselves which is affecting their self-esteem and causing them to go on diet after diet not understanding the likelihood of success based on evidence.
Just to clarify – my discussion of Size Acceptance is a demand for my civil rights which are inalienable – not contingent. My discussion of Health at Every Size is articulation of an option that people can choose for their path to health and wellness including discussions of the evidence on which it is based.
Some other posts about this if you’re interested:
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The Dance Class DVDs: Buy the Dance Class DVDs for Every Body Dance Now! Click here for the details
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