Health at Every Size is not just a book by PhD and author, Linda Bacon. It’s a medical and dietary movement across America. With three major components, Self-Acceptance, Normalized Eating, and Physical Activity, it encourages a healthy lifestyle with less emphasis on body shape and size. Behind the movement is Linda Bacon, who authored the book, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight (review coming soon!).
Linda Bacon earned her doctorate in physiology, specializing in weight regulation, from the University of California, Davis. She also holds graduate degrees in psychology, specializing in eating disorders and body image, and kinesiology, specializing in exercise metabolism, and has professional experience as a professor, researcher, psychotherapist, exercise physiologist, and consultant.
Bacon is a nutrition professor in the Biology Department at City College of San Francisco and serves as an associate nutritionist at the University of California, Davis. She’s also an active private consultant, advising health care professionals and institutions on strategies for implementing Health at Every Size.
If you want to read more about the HAES movement, check out the science in this journal article: Weight Science: Examining the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift. If you’re less of an academic, look into the HAES Manifesto. And of course, there’s always Health at Every Size. In the meantime, you can read about her book and her views on nutrition, below:
Bold Magazine: First thing’s first: What is Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight about?
Linda Bacon: Health at Every Size (Bold Note: Health at Every Size is often noted as HAES) is about accepting yourself and your desires – and making choices that make you feel good – as a pathway to supporting good health. It’s very different from the old school thought which supports people in pursuing weight loss or weight management to try to support or improve health. Instead, HAES honors our bodies, regardless of what they weigh, and trusts that if you truly check in with your body and what makes you feel good, your body will support you in developing good health habits, and settling into a weight that is best for you.
BM: What is the goal of the book?
LB: The goal of the book is to help people make that transition to self-acceptance and nourishing themselves. And to arm them with the information about why this is an effective and valuable path. It also clarifies why the pursuit of weight loss is so counterproductive to its goal.
BM: We’ve noticed a HAES movement has begun. Was that your doing?
LB: Yes, the HAES movement is certainly rocking right now. Check out the HAES Community Resources if you want some evidence. The HAES movement has a long history which pre-dates me.
BM: So, how did it come about?
LB: I suppose it came about because many people, like me, grew tired of diets, tired of feeling like failures, tired of being told there was something wrong with them, and tired of being scared of food. Starting from the positive – self-love and self-acceptance and that my body is inherently good – made so much more sense. And it matched my experience. I had tried hard as a dieter, yet my success was only temporary, time and again. It really was quite freeing to recognize that it wasn’t my fault – the diet was the problem, not me. And I could get what I wanted by giving up the fight. So HAES proved to be quite a lifeline, for me, as it continues to be for others.
One of the best ways to see the strength of the HAES movement right now is to check out the HAES professionals’ organization, the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH). It’s particularly exciting to see the passion among members.
BM: There must be lots of feedback at all levels, both positive and negative. What has the trend been, lately?
LB: Certainly HAES runs counter to what most people are taught. But I’ve found that when people are willing to listen, there is actually is a lot of openness. HAES just makes sense – and it matches people’s experience. Also, the evidence-base is strong, if people are willing to examine it. The trend is clearly moving towards HAES these days, though there are many with their heads firmly stuck in the sand. I get positive feedback from those who actually listen; the negative comes from those with firmly held beliefs, who aren’t open to examining the cracks in their belief system. But I’m happy to report, having been on the frontlines delivering this message, that I’ve been getting fantastic reception, among lay audiences as well as health professionals. The time is ripe. People are recognizing that the old paradigm isn’t working, and are relieved to hear about Health at Every Size and the strong evidence base.
BM: Do you have plans to write another book? Would the premise be the same?
LB: I’ve got two books in progress. I’ve finished a rough draft of one, co-authored by dietitian Dr. Michelle Morris, called Eat Well: For your Self, For the World, which examines nutrition, from the perspective of both Health at Every Size and agricultural sustainable, and gives readers tools to make more enjoyable, sustainability and nutritious food choices. The second, co-authored by publicist Mandy Katz, is called Find Your Voice! How to Challenge Resistance and Talk Persuasively About Size Acceptance. If readers want to hear updates on the progress of these books, they can join my mailing list or follow me on social media (Twitter; Facebook).
BM: What inspired you to write HAES? Was it personal? Professional? Just filling a need?
LB: I started this journey to save myself; food and body concerns were so painful for me. I’m happy to report that I can enjoy both now. As part of this path, I got three graduate degrees, looking at weight issues from different academic perspectives, and eventually examined this topic as a researcher. The book grew out of a research study I conducted to test the efficacy of HAES. Every week I would write up notes for the participants, helping them to understand the science behind HAES and how to implement it into their lives. And after each session, I would fill in my notes with personal stories of the research participants’ reactions to the materials, and the changes they were making. When the research showed such phenomenal results, it was clear that the information would be helpful for a much larger audience, so I turned it into a book. I am very proud to see how well received the book has been, and to hear so many reports that the book has been transformative for readers.
BM: Are you still currently teaching? Or has HAES taken over your career, for now?
LB: Yes, I teach nutrition for college students and incorporate HAES into my teaching. I also write and speak on the topic outside of my teaching job.
BM: Lastly, Linda, show us your “BOLD!”
LB: My boldness comes out in speaking truth to power. For example, it isn’t easy to challenge Michelle Obama, who gets so much support for her childhood obesity prevention efforts, and others working for food justice concerns. Yet, while Obama and others do have many phenomenal ideas and programs, they are being implemented at a painful cost, by instilling more bias against larger people. I’m committed to changing the national discourse to tackling disease and arguing for “good food” on their own merits, as opposed to getting rid of “the obese.”
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