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Why language is important: Exploring Health at Every Size vs “Healthy” at Every Size

Written by a wonderful friend of the blog Eliza Khinsoe.

One of the most common misconceptions about Health at Every Size (HAES) is the mischaracterisation as “Healthy” at every size. It’s an easy enough mistake to make and might not seem like a big deal, but in my eyes it’s important to distinguish the difference between the implications of the two concepts.

Before we get into it, I will note that Health At Every Size is a registered trademarks of ASDAH. So by mis-naming the concept, it only goes to show ignorance of the framework in and of itself. HAES is a structured, evidence based framework with a number of principles that inform a clinician’s approach.

but to dig a little deeper, let’s look objectively at the words themselves.

Health by definition is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. (WHO)

It’s a noun and describes a broad concept of well-being, which is inclusive of physical, mental, and social state. It’s quite an abstract concept, but in my eyes, this is a good thing, as it leaves room for interpretation and allows for space and understanding of individualised and inclusive needs.

Healthy is an adjective and means “Indicating or promoting good health”. In the context of HAES, it would mean to describe an individual that has good health at every size. But what actually is “good health”? And if there is good health, then there must be bad health too, and how do we measure that?

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