HAES, SELF LOVE AND LOOKING AT YOUR HEALTH.
*Disclaimer: The following post is a PERSONAL OPINION PIECE. I understand that many people may not agree with what is said, but please kept tact and freedom of speech in your minds.
I want for you to feel good. I want your face to radiate wellness and self confidence and your skin to shine. I do not, repeat - do not - want you to look any certain way.
When I started this blog, I knew that with the territory of this market, there are just as many people that will dislike me, as appreciate me. In the past couple of years, interest in fitness and wellness has quite literally exploded, just about everyone from ponsonby mums to your next door neighbour and his cat has an opinion on what you should be doing or eating or juicing.
The fact of the matter is, is that the biggest marketing and selling point in the industry is weight loss. Pills, shakes, expensive fitness equipment and accessories are what keeps this world turning, and everybody knows it.
The problem with this is that the industry preys on basic human emotional needs: to be attractive, to feel wanted, to feel accepted. And it takes every little worry in your head and exploits it.
Societies obsession with weight is harmful and destructive - but it doesn't stop on the weight LOSS side of the spectrum. A direct result of the pressure to lose weight comes the fight back, which in most circles is now called HAES. Health at every size.
The basis of HAES is clear - you have the ability to be healthy no matter what size you are.
And for the most part I agree.
This blog is about wanting to improve your fitness and feel healthier and happier, it's not about losing weight. If you weigh 50kg or 120kg and you genuinely feel happy with yourself and you can honestly say that you feel healthy and not at all concerned with your life choices - then that's exactly what I want. I am so happy for you!
But if you can look deep inside yourself and ask :
- Am I happy?
- Do I have existing health problems that bring me down?
- Am I able to do all the things I want to do, or is my health or fitness restricting me?
And if you answered no - that's where I want to help.
HAES has good principles. The issue that arises with a sensitive topic like weight loss is that it gets extreme fairly fast. On a large scale, HAES has turned many people down an unhealthy path. For example I went on tumblr and searches the HAES tag. What I found was interesting and seems to show the problems that I mentioned.
I saw heavily obese people with conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart problems, eczema, arthritis and asthma say to the world : I cannot fix these things, I therefore accept myself like this and do not need to change.
I absolutely do not have an issue with self acceptance, NOR am I fat shaming - what concerned me and frankly, made me upset was the fact that they choose to live with painful conditions rather than ask for help because they think that health = must be skinny. HAES Is not HAES if your weight is causing treatable conditions that can be potentially life threatening if untreated.
A person of any size with untreated diabetes is a huge problem.
What is not okay, is for people to discourage overweight or underweight people with SERIOUS ILLNESSES to not seek help because of vanity reasons. Accepting that you may need help or may need to make a change does not mean that you hate yourself! You can love and respect yourself and your body enough to acknowledge your issues and to work on them in a manageable way.
I'm going to be a little blunt here: Obesity causes a lot of health problems. Heart disease, strokes, breathing problems, sleep apnea, diabetes, joint pain and arthritis for some.
In my part as a health writer I will never honestly tell you that being obese is good for your health. It's not because I am a fat shamer or I prefer to be skinny or anything like that - it's because I genuinely want you to be healthy and happy.
But also: Being underweight is extremely unhealthy as well. Being underweight can cause infertility, hair loss, fragile bones, limited growth, heart problems and anaemia. I will also NEVER tell you to lose an unhealthy amount of weight, and not because I am skinny shaming either.
One in 3 (31%) New Zealand adults (15 and over) are clinically obese. Another 34% is clinically overweight.
This is glaringly obvious to me, and I hope you too, that we as a country have a major problem. I personally think it's our relationship with food that is the issue, rather than not enough exercise, but thats another story for another day. What I want is for us all to take a look at our own personal relationships with food and fitness and see if there is room for growth. I am not saying you need to completely change you life around, but think back to the above questions : Could I be doing anything to make myself feel healthier?
I think it's about time we all stop shaming and blaming each other - skinny, fat, fit , slut.. Anything. If you feel the need to comment on someone else's body, I want you to think for a moment.
- Did they ask for this opinion?
- Is this opinion constructive and welcome?
- Is this opinion hurtful?
- Is it my business?
If you answered NO to any of these questions, keep your thoughts to yourself.
Body positivity is amazing and I so wholly support the movement, but I have to have a realistic mindset in the niche that I am in.
To be healthy you don't have to weigh a certain amount, or eat only raw food or drink a lot of protein shakes.
The thing I love about health and fitness is that it's so personal! It's all about when YOU feel best! That, my lovely readers, is what makes me so happy.
If you take anything away from this essay, take these points:
- Take care of yourself, first and foremost. Nourish your body, keep your brain happy and treat yourself with respect.
- Keep a clear head and try not to fall under societies pressures - on either side of the weight spectrum.
Thank you for reading. XO