What is Health at Every Size?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Health at Every Size (HAES) is a philosophy which takes the immense variation of the human form into account, stating that it is possible for people of a range of sizes and shapes to be healthy. Many people associate the HAES concept specifically with the fat acceptance movement, but it is in fact open to people of all sizes, and people from a wide range of communities support the idea. This philosophy is designed to approach health from a weight-neutral approach, encouraging people to be happy, fit, and healthy no matter how large they are.

Health at Every Size believes people can be healthy no matter what their weight.
Health at Every Size believes people can be healthy no matter what their weight.

The root concept behind Health at Every Size is not that everyone is automatically healthy, no matter how large they are. Proponents of Health at Every Size merely believe that it is possible for people of all sizes to be healthy, if they want to invest time and energy in developing a healthy diet and exercise plan. Rather than considering size as a diagnostic criterion for health, people who believe in Health at Any Size think that size is not in fact relevant to someone's health.

Health at Every Size promotes a healthy, active lifestyle.
Health at Every Size promotes a healthy, active lifestyle.

Most supporters of Health at Every Size agree that there are two fundamental approaches to getting and remaining healthy: diet and exercise. “Diet” under the HAES paradigm does not refer to excessive calorie restriction to reach a desired goal weight, but rather to the consumption of a diet which is balanced, nutritious, healthy, and enjoyable. Since human bodies are dramatically different, the details of a healthy diet may vary from person to person, and members of the Health at Every Size movement encourage people to work with nutritionists to develop the ideal diet, creating a system of intuitive eating which is satisfying and good for you.

Exercise is also an extremely important component to good health, as numerous studies conducted around the world have shown. Supporters of the concept of Health at Any Size argue that it is possible to be skinny and unhealthy if one does not exercise, and to be fat and healthy if one exercises. Exercise can also take a wide variety of forms, including things like walking, cycling, swimming, and even belly dancing along with mountain climbing, competitive sports, and a range of other activities which are designed to keep bodies fit, healthy, and happy by getting them moving.

HAES is not meant to promote being fat, skinny, or any size in between, but rather it encourages people to find weights at which they are healthy and happy. Proponents hope that by advancing the idea that it is possible to be healthy in a wide range of sizes, people at extremes of the size scale may face less discrimination and social commentary.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I'm very pleased by the way the Health at Every Size movement is presented here and the notions and relevance of intuitive eating.

As for the study milagros is pointing out, that point is well taken. What must be considered is that the actual act of losing weight, generally anything more than 5-10 percent of one's body weight or 15 pounds (whichever is less), is a very damaging act health-wise. It strips heart muscle, increases risk of hypertension and so much more. That is to say, dieting is dangerous.

Thus, regardless of size or associated risk factors, one is better off never undergoing the bodily stress of dieting but rather learning to be healthy and happy at one's size.



The risk factors cited in that study have now been shown not to be relevant risk factors at all. So the study is basically null and void.

If "overweight" women or men are indeed "at risk" for developing certain diseases, a new study will have to come up with relevant risk factors and test for them. Thus far, this has not been done.


Isn't it a no-brainer if you are happier about yourself that you are likely to live better longer and a healthier life than if you are constantly fostering a belief that you don't measure up and will never be quite good enough? Good mental health begins with a positive self-esteem, does it not?


A new study shows that exercising is beneficial, but being overweight or obese, still carries a much higher risk of developing heart disease. Data show that risk of developing heart disease was 54% higher in active overweight women, and 87% higher in active obese women, as compared to active normal weight women.

The study was conducted with 39,000 women, and they were followed for eleven years.

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