Let’s start with defining Health at Every Size (HAES). At the core, HAES is a weight inclusive approach to health based on 5 principles: weight inclusivity, health enhancement, eating for well-being, respectful care, and life-enhancing movement. Per ASDAH, The HAES principles promote health equity, support ending weight discrimination, and improve access to quality healthcare regardless of size. You can read more about HAES and common myths in our blog here.
When you hear the term dietitian, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Unfortunately, the word “dietitian” is surrounded by stereotypes. As a dietitian, people make all kinds of assumptions about what we do. They think we prescribe weight loss, that we label foods as “good” or “bad,” or that we judge and police people’s food choices. At Courage to Nourish, this is far from the truth. Sadly, some dietitians do those things. But you will never experience these things with a HAES dietitian. In fact, research shows that these actions do a lot of harm. Diets don’t work. And restriction is not an ethical treatment for any health condition, which is why it’s important to find a Health at Every Size dietitian. Especially in eating disorder recovery. That leads to another question… What is a HAES dietitian? And what do they do?
A HAES dietitian is someone who practices using a weight inclusive approach. Their philosophies align with the 5 principles of HAES. Along with the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating.
Now that we’ve established what a HAES dietitian is and what they DON’T do. Let’s talk about what they actually do.
Respect body diversity
There is no right or wrong way to have a body. Your body is deserving of respect. Regardless of its shape or size. No questions asked. A HAES dietitian will not try to change your body or recommend weight loss. Although, we can understand why this might be something you still desire. We can process and hold space for these desires with you. Ultimately, we believe that bodies deserve access to appropriate, non-stigmatizing medical care, and can support you in finding a team that holds similar beliefs.
Help you make peace with food, movement, and your body
HAES dietitians do not attach moral value to food. We believe that all foods fit and do not label foods as good or bad. All food has nutrients. They’re simply found in different ratios and amounts. But your body knows exactly what to do with these nutrients.
Food does not need to be earned either. You have unconditional permission to eat all foods. No matter how much you ate the day before or plan to eat the day after. No matter how much you moved your body or didn’t move your body. If movement is a goal of yours, we believe it should be enjoyable. Instead of a means to punish your body. We focus on what feels good to you. Not on weight loss or burning calories. We will focus on foods that help to nourish your body, without judgement or regardless of participation in movement.
Listen to your lived experiences without judgment
No one is more of an expert on you than you, and HAES dietitian will never try to tell you otherwise. We will do our best to make sure you feel heard and validated in your past experiences. We will meet you where you are at and help you reach your goals without our own agenda.
Help you distinguish between health-promoting behaviors and diet culture
Diet culture is still alive and out there, it’s just gotten sneaky. Today, diet culture tries to disguise itself as intuitive eating or as a “lifestyle change,” not a diet. It’s okay if you believed this promise in the past. It’s not your fault. As I said, it can get “sneaky.” But we are here to help make it “unsneaky.” A HAES dietitian can help you identify food rules and challenge them. As well as diet culture beliefs in general. Diet culture focuses on restriction, which can lead to preoccupation with food along with feelings of guilt and shame. Whereas, health-promoting behaviors focus on positive behavior changes. Specifically, adding in behaviors that can enhance your life. While helping to reduce stress and make sure you get enough to eat.
If you’re looking for a Health at Every Size dietitian who can support you in finding peace with food and body, contact us today! We are accepting new clients and would love to work with you along your eating disorder recovery journey. We provide services in College Park and Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Kathryn is a weight-inclusive, anti-diet eating disorder dietitian at Courage to Nourish. She specializes in working with adolescents and families, athletes, and individuals recovering from ARFID. Kathryn sees clients in person at the Columbia, Maryland office and virtually throughout Virginia, Pennsylvania, DC, and Maryland. To schedule a discovery call with Kathryn, click here.