Every few weeks, I will receive an email, comment, or if I’m lucky, a message from a blocked sender, that accuses LBEB of being a brand that promotes the acceptance of “Health At Every Size”, or HAES. HAES, as the name suggests, is a newer movement that aims to promote the idea that health and wellness can be achieved at any size, and the HAES movement is one that promotes acceptance of all body sizes, with the aim of discouraging discrimination, based on size. Here is what HAES is, in their own words:
Let’s face facts. We’ve lost the war on obesity. Fighting fat hasn’t made the fat go away. And being thinner, even if we knew how to successfully accomplish it, will not necessarily make us healthier or happier. The war on obesity has taken its toll. Extensive “collateral damage” has resulted: Food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, discrimination, poor health… Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat.
Very simply, it acknowledges that good health can best be realized independent from considerations of size. It supports people of all sizes in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors.
Now, before we get into what I think about the HAES movement and its relation to LBEB, I will first say that I love the idea of promoting happiness with your body, and happiness with your own body image. I also love the idea of discouraging discrimination when it comes to bodies.
However, having said that, I want to make it clear that LBEB does NOT promote the idea of Health At Every Size, simply because it is a lie. Now, this isn’t to say that I think being lean and ripped promotes happiness either. For proof of this, look at all your lifter friends who are married to other lifters, and tell me how many of them are divorced? How many of them are bitter, cynical folks who think that if you aren’t sleeping with a barbell under your pillow, you should probably just kill yourself?
Let me tell you right now that being a healthy weight will not automatically promote health and wellness. I don’t think I have ever seen so many people with body image issues as those who claim to “love their lean bodies.” I think obsessing over low body fat is just about as mentally healthy as thinking that being obese is healthy.
Getting back to HAES, I almost find it laughable that the movement claims that the war on obesity is lost, and instead, we should accept our bodies as they are, whatever they are, and just be happy with them. Losing weight, or just making huge lifestyle changes in general, are very difficult when you just start out. The idea of telling obese people to just “eat less and move more” is about as useful as my old math teachers telling me to “just focus on the problem” when I have had dyscalculia my whole life. If you have been obese your whole life, you probably can’t even picture yourself as being anything but obese, and the idea of completely changing who you are can be scary enough to keep you from ever trying.
This is where I will see a lot of alpha macho lifting sites start rolling out the Planet Fitness memes and talking about the strain on the health care system,tax dollars, etc. Basically, whatever excuse they can think of to discriminate against someone that doesn’t “just lose weight.” Tell me, how many times in your life has constantly being ridiculed made you a healthier person, both in body and mind? Sure, you may have made some changes because you were made fun of, but that doesn’t mean it made you healthier. In fact, you probably carry that resentment your whole life, constantly feeling like you need to prove yourself to someone.
As I said before, I do not think that the HAES movement is a good movement because it promotes the idea that we need to just accept our bodies, whatever they currently are. That is silly to me. One of the remarkable things about obesity is that for the most part, you don’t need surgeries, tests, medical procedures, etc, to make the changes. The changes can be made all by yourself, and it is a deadly condition that can be reversed completely by the individual. You cannot make a logically sound argument that being 35, 45 or even 50%+ body fat is healthy. It isn’t. The strain on the body from carrying all that extra weight is overwhelming, and it WILL negatively affect your future life.
Luckily, changes can be made to improve your health and wellness, both inside and out. I think it’s important to remember that we were all lowly gym plebs at one point in our lives, and to remember that constantly discouraging or discriminating against obese individuals will probably do nothing to make their lives better, and may even contribute to their own feelings of depression, if they are depressed. Not all obese individuals are walking around, constantly looking at lean folks and wishing they could be lean too. No, some are legitimately happy, and wish to stay that way. For those that DO wish to change though, we need to help them get there. If they fall down, help them up. If they stray from their training or eating plans, help them get back on track.
If you TRULY want less of a strain on the country’s health care problems, and you truly want them to lose weight, then act like it. Offer assistance instead of derision. Our community is a fringe community, and by you acting like an asshole to others who you deem beneath you, you are making sure that it stays a fringe community.