What do we mean by HEALTH??
The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) offers a simple definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. This is just one of many definitions. We live in a day and age where the concept of health, healthy, unhealthy has become very distorted and often influenced by various interest groups such as the diet industry. Many diets and exercise regimes are promoted as healthy, even though they are detrimental. The pursuit of success and achievement that is glorified in our society is often at the cost of the individuals’ well-being. In general, the idea of health has become distorted and it is important to re-evaluate for ourselves what health means to us as individuals. Health also needs to be individualized and we need to explore each individual’s intent behind their health motive.
We want to be able to work day to day towards optimal well-being. This is a process and it is cumulative. One action cannot make us healthy or unhealthy, it is about working towards balance in our life that supports our overall health and well-being and this is going to look different for each of us. Although there are general guidelines that we can find that recommend behaviors that support health, we each need to explore what this looks like for us.
The eating disorder also influences what it sees as healthy. The eating disorder also creates health implications. It often engages in all or none thinking around activity, creates food rules, interrupts sleep patterns, focuses on rigidity, shoulds and imbalance. The eating disorders motive behind ‘what is healthy’ is very strategic in it’s maintenance of the disorder. Choosing behaviors that support optimal functioning during recovery is a process that evolves and your therapist and dietitian can collaboratively help you in choosing these behaviors that promote recovery and not the eating disorder.
As dietitians and therapists in the field of eating disorder recovery, we choose to utilize the HAES model to provide a guide to health. The Health At Every Size model acknowledges size acceptance and diversity; pursues an aware/intuitive approach to eating; engages in individualized and enjoyable physical activity; and recognizes/appreciates health as being multi-faceted.
The Health At Every Size® Principles are:
Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.
Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.
Eating for Well-being: Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.
Life-Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.
Regardless of the size of our body and the health state of our body (meaning it may not be functioning optimally), we can still choose behavioral based actions that support overall health and well-being. Working towards choosing these actions also supports recovery and helps one to move away from disordered behaviors to behaviors that represent recovery.