HAES stands for health at every size, and is a movement that’s growing in popularity. The idea is to stop focusing on weight loss, as this allegedly brings on damage to self-esteem, lots of frustration, confusion, etc.
But once an obese or overweight person embraces their unique body, and accepts the idea that people come in all sizes, he or she will be much happier. As a fitness and weight loss professional, I find the HAES tenets to be quite conducive to weight gain. I have to wonder how many people have gained weight after taking the HAES pledge.
The first HAES tenet is “Eat when you are hungry.” What if a person is overweight because they’re frequently hungry? Instead of taking a pledge, why not find out why you’re always hungry? There can be a medical reason for this (e.g., hypoglycemia).
Heavily processed foods and artificial sweeteners are well-known hunger spikers. My mother has said, “You should always be a little hungry.” There is some wisdom to this. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were probably hungry much of the time, yet were lean, fit and fast.
Their life expectancy was much lower because the infant mortality rate gets thrown into the average, and they didn’t have medical technology or sterile environments, plus, they died easily from microbial infections and injuries that today, a person with basic first aid knowledge can correct.
The next HAES tenet is to stop eating when satisfied, rather than full, to eat slowly and mind physical cues of satiation. Go to 80 percent full. This seems reasonable, and actually makes a lot of sense-for some, maybe most, people.
But what if 80 percent full to someone equates to two Big Macs and a large fries? What if satisfaction isn’t attained until 1,200 calories at one sitting have been devoured, even slowly? This problem goes back to the issues of the first tenet.
Eating the wrong foods, for instance, can make it difficult to achieve satisfaction until after a large volume of food has been eaten. Who here hasn’t still been freaking hungry after eating one frozen pasta dinner, even with a salad alongside it? I’ve eaten three of these damn things in one sitting and still been left with hunger, which is why years ago, I ditched these highly processed products.
The third HAES tenet is “Enjoy your food.” The problem here is that for many people, this approach would eliminate fresh vegetables (or fruits or whole grains). HAES says to avoid eating while driving, walking or watching TV, which is good, but “Enjoy your food” implies eat only the foods you love.
People will make all sorts of excuses to get out of wisely interpreting a tenet when it comes to eating, and will end up taking a suggestion too literally. “Enjoy your food” for some will mean eat mostly junk food.
The last HAES tenet that relates to eating is “Don’t stuff your feelings with food.” I agree. No criticism here.
HAES preaches intuitive eating. But that’s the problem! Eating intuitively has led to a lot of excess body fat and/or medical problems like heart disease and high blood pressure.
If I ate based on intuition and enjoyment, I’d be eating nothing but chocolate cake, brownies with ice cream, pizza, white bread, butter flake biscuits and sloppy joes. What about you?