Health At Every Size (HAES): The Jess Weiner Controversy
That is the headline splashed across an article in September's Glamour magazine and online site. Weiner, a well-known author and speaker, has stressed for years that women of all weights and sizes can live happy and fulfilling lives right now. She lived her words, and created a successful career and life while being a size 18. That alone sounds radical in today's society that worships thinness and works hard to make women feel unsuccessful and unworthy if we dare to take up more space than a will-o'-wisp.
Then Weiner went to her physician, and that is all it took to take her down the familiar weight loss path of dieting and excessive exercise.
Health At Every Size (HAES) promotes the idea that a person's health is not necessarily determined by his or her weight and promotes weight acceptance and the end to weight discrimination. HAES believes health can be achieved through honoring your body and adopting healthy habits for health, not weight control. Obviously, I have barely touched upon HAES and its ideas and I would urge readers learn more by visiting the HAES blog and community website.
Wiener has been a strong advocate of both HAES and body acceptance for years.
Or has she?
Body Acceptance Includes Taking Care of Your Body
Weiner admitted that she hadn't been to a doctor in sixteen years. She did not know what she weighed. She had no idea what her cholesterol or blood sugar levels were. She was a woman in her mid-30s who had not practiced basic preventative health care. It doesn't sound like loving her body almost killed her — it sounds like ignoring her body was the problem.
Weiner finally went to the doctor after being challenged by a woman during one of her talks. She didn't like the numbers she was given. Her weight was 250, her LDL cholesterol level was borderline high, and her HDL cholesterol was about ten points too low. She also was told she was "pre prediabetic." Her blood pressure was fine.
I understand that she was concerned. I understand that she felt she needed to make some lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier and exercising, to bring these numbers down. But it is important to note that Weiner is recovered from an eating disorder, and there always is the danger of a relapse if the right triggers come along.
I am sure we all know what happened next. Weiner started out eating healthy and exercising. Then she began to exercise even when "exhausted." She was disappointed when she returned to her doctor eighteen months later and found out she only lost twenty-five pounds, and has vowed to lose thirty more pounds. Even though all her numbers were corrected, and her doctor even told her it was about health and not weight.
Many people within the eating disorders activist community are concerned about what message Weiner is sending out with this new focus on weight loss and perceived rejection of her body as it is. I'm concerned about seeing another person who had recovered from an eating disorder beginning to spiral downward.
What HAES Means To Those Recovered From EDs
I asked several of my Facebook friends about HAES and the idea of being healthy and overweight. I would like to share what it means to one young lady who has struggled with bulimia for years, and is now in recovery. HAES has basically helped her accept and love her body after years of fighting against it.
"I have been in favor of HAES for a long time. Studies show that few people (5% or less) can lose significant weight AND keep it off, and in fact dieting often causes even higher weights as people yo-yo back when they (inevitably) cannot stick to the diet. I do believe some people are genetically inclined to be heavier (as well as smaller) than others. For me, my BMI is slightly in the overweight range, but I'm light years healthier than when I was using ED behaviors to obtain lower weights. And also, I don't think 'body acceptance' makes anyone sick - poor eating habits, be it over or undereating, may make people sick, but body acceptance has nothing to do with it."
I just hope that Weiner's words, now in print and online, doesn't take away from the real hope and acceptance that HAES has given people like my friend.
Note: I previously wrote that I would be taking this week off for surgery. My surgery has been rescheduled, and I will be taking Friday, August 26, 2011, off from blogging. I plan to return the next week.
Gambrel, A. (2011, August 12). Health At Every Size (HAES): The Jess Weiner Controversy, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, January 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2011/08/health-at-every-size-haes-the-jess-weiner-controversy
Author: Angela E. Gambrel
Dear Ms. Lackey, I really appreciate this post, especially after watching Ms Weiner's response video on her website. Your clarity and objective tone were enlightening and informative. Good luck with surgery, btw.
Warmly, Dr. Deah Schwartz/leftoverstogo