Healthy at Every Size: A Different Approach to Weight Loss

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | April 20, 2016

Our society is obsessed with talking about weight. We know the importance of maintaining a healthy weight since being overweight has been linked to increased risks of illness like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Weight loss efforts can lead to frustrating yo-yo dieting, poor self-esteem, loss of motivation, and even the development of eating disorders. However, by making healthy lifestyle changes for the sake of being healthy, rather than just losing weight, people can take better care of their bodies and improve their wellbeing.

Health at Every Size (HAES) is an alternative, non-diet approach to wellness that acknowledges that wellbeing and healthy habits are more important than any number on the scale. This HAES approach highlights four main beliefs:

  • There is and will always be diversity in body size and shape.
  • Dieting for weight loss is often ineffective and may lead to unhealthy eating habits.
  • When, why, and how much a person eats should be in response to his or her body’s internal cues.
  • Health should be holistic and encompass social, emotional, spiritual, and physical factors.

Achieving a lower weight and body mass index (BMI) is not always associated with lower risk of morbidity and mortality. Some research shows that good health is more strongly correlated with healthy habits, which includes eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.

HAES Approach

The HAES approach focuses on promoting body acceptance, adopting healthy eating behaviors, and overcoming barriers to physical activities. Research found that participants stayed with this approach longer compared to those on traditional dieting programs. Some participants also exhibited improved symptoms of disordered eating behaviors and healthier psychological wellbeing.

So what exactly do you do while on HAES? That's the secret – there's no meal plan, no schedules, no fitness routine. The plan outlines important rules that help keep you healthy – love yourself, eat good food that you enjoy and stop when you're full, and exercise because it makes you a happier, healthier person. Once you've got a full grasp on these concepts, your healthy lifestyle has begun!

Who Can Benefit?

This approach can help anyone who struggled with traditional weight loss methods. Because it's an approach aimed at educating and motivating individuals, and not a clearly outlined program, it’s most effective for people who are stress eaters or emotional eaters or those who don’t enjoy physical exercise yet. Healthy weight loss is achieved through improved fitness, mindful dietary choices, and healthy psychological wellbeing. This helps provide people with the tools and drive to take control of their weight and their health for many years to come.

If you're struggling with weight loss, talk to your doctor about incorporating these guidelines into your lifestyle and how to best reach your healthy living goals.


profile image

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

More blog posts.