There’s a growing social body-positive movement that promotes non-judgement and self-acceptance, particularly of overweight individuals, that has emerged over the past decade. It can be seen under the hashtags #HAES (Health At Every Size) #antidiet #bodypositivity #selflove, etc. Plus-size artist Lizzo was named Time’s Entertainer of the Year in 2019, and her body-positive advocacy is intrinsic in this recognition. But is it healthy? What about things like type 2 diabetes, cholesterol and hypertension? And how do we move forward from this.

With the slow shift towards being more mindful and practising intuitive eating, a weight is immediately lifted from having to be perfect and removing the anxiety/ tension that is often associated with eating. The spotlight being on eating healthy because you love yourself and your body, rather than in an attempt to start loving your body.

But is Health At Every Size/ Body-Acceptance really healthy?

Diet culture has indoctrinated us to believe that you cannot love your body if it doesn’t resemble the models we see on the runway or magazine covers and for a very long time the focus has been on working out and dieting in an effort to achieve such a figure. This attitude is flawed because:

  • Those models and celebrities literally have hour-long gym sessions in comparison to the recommended 150 minutes a week.
  • They have photoshop and airbrushing to perfect the photos to be magazine ready. Not even the models and celebrities look like they do on magazine covers.
  • That image isn’t necessarily the poster for health – often they eat at such a calorie deficit that some lose their menses (very harmful for long-term health) and men can severely dehydrate themselves in order to improve muscle definition.

Exercise was (and sometimes still is) seen as punishment for eating ‘bad’ foods and not for a celebration of what your body is capable of achieving.

Only when we start treating and loving ourselves and our bodies as we deserve to be treated and loved will the anxiety, compulsion and stress fall away.

That ties in so perfectly with the body-positive movement – body-acceptance and self-love with the focus being on health rather than on weight. Remember the extremely thin 90s models? Yikes!

What about things like type 2 diabetes, cholesterol and hypertension?

Numerous very thin individuals fall within the healthy ranges according to the body mass index (BMI) but suffer from non-communicable diseases (chronic diseases) such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, etc. Conversely, individuals who are considered overweight according to their BMI could be in extremely good health with no other diseases but are just very muscular and identified as obese due to their high muscle mass.

Therefore, weight does not necessarily indicate health. Health can be at every size!

How do we move forward from this?

It is your responsibility to practice healthy behaviours, regardless of your weight, and ensure that you screen those health markers regularly.

We all know that one person that can eat just what they want and not gain weight – however, we don’t know what their health markers indicate behind the scenes. They might be prediabetic, hypertensive and on the brink of collapse – when we can only see that they are thin.

The purpose of healthy eating isn’t just to control weight – it is to prevent disease, increase energy, improve mood, enhance concentration and improve overall wellbeing.