Health at Every Size: Book Review and Giveaway


Health at every size book | Linda Bacon book on HAES philosophyToday, Linda Bacon, PhD, and author of “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” is guest speaking at Green Mountain. In advance of her visit, alum and blogger Jill C offers her take on the book and Dr. Bacon’s philosophies. Leave a question for Dr. Bacon in the comments below, and we’ll pick one at random to receive a signed copy of her book!

I had the good fortune to read “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” by Dr. Linda Bacon. “Health at Every Size” (HAES)  is a research-based philosophy that helps people pursue health, not a number on the scale. HAES allows people to learn how to nurture their bodies through foods that feel good in their bodies, and also through movement, which is joyful and sustainable. We’re talking about the Green Mountain philosophy here!

When I first across the HAES philosophy, I had concerns. For example, HAES has a weight-neutral stance. It doesn’t promote weight loss, nor weight gain. That was a bitter pill to swallow, because at the time, I was pursuing a certain weight. I couldn’t imagine my life not wanting to be thin. After all, I’d spent so much time chasing the thin ideal.

HAES challenged me to think beyond the external and focus on the internal. Yes, I could be thinner through excessive exercise and dieting, but then I would also have to deal with the relentless counting of points or calories, and the negative talk that dieting brings about -OR- I could find my body’s natural weight through eating in an attuned manner and moving my body in way that felt good.

I might be heavier than that thin ideal but I would be able to put the “itty bitty shitty committee” aside.

Do you have an IBS committee? You know, the thoughts in your head that berate you when you can’t stay on a diet, or when the dress you want to buy at Ann Taylor doesn’t fit properly? Dieting and chasing thinness keeps that committee active. Pursuing health, and making peace with food and my body decreases the criticism.

I think we can use health as a mask for wanting to be thinner. HAES shows us that we can be healthy regardless of our size. Dr. Bacon reminds us that no scientific study has ever shown that weight loss prolongs life. I wonder how the lives of people might change, if only physicians would prescribe exercise, instead of pills.

Exercise has been a game-changer for me. I sleep better (albeit not perfectly) and I feel stronger and more confident. In the past, I exercised to lose more weight. The moment I stopped losing weight, I stopped exercising. I had hooked weight loss and exercise together. HAES sees it differently. HAES says that we should exercise as a means of self-care and because it can be enjoyable!

HAES is about respecting your body where it is right now, in this very moment. If we don’t respect our bodies now at our current weight, there is little chance that we will take care of ourselves in the way that we deserve.

Dr. Bacon ends her book with the “Live Well Pledge:”

Today, I will try to feed myself when I am hungry.

Today, I will try to be attentive to how foods taste and make me feel.

Today, I will try to choose foods I like and that make me feel good.

Today, I will try to honor my body’s signals of fullness.

Today, I will try to find an enjoyable way to move my body.

Today, I will try to look kindly at my body and to treat it with love and respect.

If you were at Green Mountain today, what would you want to ask Dr. Bacon? Leave your question in the comments section, and we’ll pick one at random to receive her signed book!

Read more from Jill C…
Twitter: eatingpath2yoga

32 responses to “Health at Every Size: Book Review and Giveaway”

  1. Samantha (@Brownie8727) says:

    This sounds like an amazing book! What is the hardest thing for people to accept when then are trying to change their mindset?

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Sam! You are the winner of Linda Bacon’s book “Health at Every Size.” Congrats!

    • Linda Bacon says:

      Here’s something that’s quite challenging but remarkably rewarding: that you can get exactly what you want from weight loss, without trying to lose weight. In other words, think about what you want from weight loss. Is it better health? Feeling attractive? Go after those directly, rather than trying to use weight as a mediator.

  2. I hope many women take the time to read this life-changing book! Blessings!

  3. When I started to focus on health instead of weight loss, I actually did lose a little weight! But more importantly, what I am most proud of is that my insides (cholesterol, BP, sugar, etc. etc.) are healthier than they’ve ever been and I am not on any prescription medication (I used to be on Lipitor…and my BP was rising and my doc wanted me to go on BP medication).

  4. Rhonda says:

    Question for Dr. Bacon – Just this week another book was released about “eating paleo” – what is your opinion of this eating philosophy and how does it relate to HAES?


    • Linda Bacon says:

      Anything that relies on external rules for eating is doomed for failure. HAES suggests internal direction – pay attention to cues for hunger, fullness, satisfaction, etc. For some people this could result in a paleo eating style. It’s following the rules of what you are “supposed” to eat that will get you into trouble.

  5. Shannon says:

    How do you address strong food cravings? IE always seems to teach eating what your body asks for but I have daily sugar cravings! I know there is some emotional connection but how can I best address this?

    • Linda Bacon says:

      I give lots of ideas/support around this in my book. Hate to reduce a complicated question to a soundbyte here. But try this, which is a challenging step: next time you get that intense craving, put a delay in. Sit and write stream of consciousness. See what comes up. Know that you can give in to the craving but just try to put it off for a while and see if there are some emotions you are having trouble sitting with. You may be surprised to learn what comes out as you write. Perhaps you realize that it’s the argument that you just had with your friend that is unsettling you. Then you realize that talking to your friend may be what you really need to do.

  6. Julie Trevor says:

    My question follows the history:

    I’m 55 years old. I was born ‘hungry’ per my Mom & they fed me cereal from neonate stage. By 7th grade I weighed 220lbs. By 45 I weighed over 300. I’ve gained and lost about 5 people and you would think I’d have a pretty good idea of where to start. If you could name one cue of what to look for in your body’s response to food, exercise, or whatever that I might make a note of & seek to repeat what brought that on, what would that cue be?

    • Linda Bacon says:

      Born hungry? I’m curious what that hunger is? Physiologic hunger? Emotional hunger? A combo? Not enough info in what you wrote for me to go on. There are plenty of strategies to address emotional hunger to explore. Physiologic hunger is best addressed by eating – which should make it go away. If there’s ongoing weight gain that results from feeding physiologic hunger, that’s a great issue to discuss with your physician. But I’m resistant to naming a body cue – we’re all pretty different. What about just a feeling of satisfaction, contentment?

  7. […] I am guest posting over at “A Weight Lifted.” I talked a little about Health at Every Size, and the impact it has had on my […]

  8. Lisa says:

    Thank you, everyone! Keep ’em coming! We’ll ask Dr. Bacon what we can…

  9. As I am trying to lose the last 10 lbs to get to my weight loss goal, I continue to wonder if that number is sustainable, and want to focus on my health and my body fat percentage more than the number on the scale. I would love to not count a thing, but the problem is I could eat all day long, and I am scared to not count points or calories. I am scared I will slide back. How does one break that mindset?

  10. Erika says:

    I’ve been trying “intuitive eating” (I think based on HAES) for a couple of years now, with some successes. The thing I’ve had trouble with is treating HAES-like principals like another diet! Getting mad at myself when I eat to overfullness or eat without being hungry first. What do you suggest for letting go of this diet mentality?

    • Linda Bacon says:

      This was a “warning” I wrote in my book: “WARNING!

      If you’re accustomed to a diet mentality, you may be tempted to morph this into another diet—one in which you follow a “must be physically hungry” rule. Resist the temptation. Use the information in this chapter to help you identify your body’s needs and what else you might be hungry for.
      There’s no reason to be rigid. Occasionally eating for reasons other than hunger is a normal and healthy aspect of being human. That your choices are conscious is more important.”

  11. Jamie says:

    I zone out when I eat, tuning into fullness is next to impossible. I hear about mindful eating but something happens when I take that first bite and it isn’t until after I’ve made myself miserable that I even check back in . Any suggestions?

    • Linda Bacon says:

      The larger issue that underlies this drive to eat is related to caretaking. If you can get your emotional needs met in appropriate ways, your drive to eat for emotional hunger disappears. So rather than addressing it as an eating issue and fighting it there, I think its more important for you to focus on learning what you can do to truly “nourish” and take care of yourself.

  12. Lindsey says:

    Along the lines of Rhonda ‘s question, where do all these alternative eating styles fit in? I know there are plenty of vegeterian and vegan HAES faithfuls. I get the impression HAES doesn’t define “good” food and “bad” food. It’s not a diet plan so why would it. Do some people’s body’s just respond better to a plant based diet? Personally, I’m evil and feel awful if I don’t have a little animal protein in my diet. I think it stands to reason that just like we are all shapes and sizes, we aren’t all suited to eating the same things in the same ways.

    • Linda Bacon says:

      Humans can survive and thrive through many different eating styles. That’s exciting: there’s a lot of room to find something that suits your tastes and values. And that’s what I think is best to strive for. There’s no physiologic reason you need animal protein if you are choosing well eating vegetarian. I imagine that evil/awful feeling is malleable. Do you feel a need to be a vegetarian (some people do for many reasons, including animal welfare issues, environmental stewardship, etc.) and want to look at why you feel awful without meat and address that? Or can you make peace with your desire for meat?

  13. lAUREN says:

    I want to be healthy by eating and moving towards that goal. It is unrealistic, however, for me to never eat fried chicken or apple pie again even though they are both filled with fats and calories. What is considered the right amount of unhealthy foods when mixed in with healthy foods? How do you learn to LOVE or to eat carrot or celery sticks when all I want is potato chips? My point is there is no such thing as perfection. So what ‘s the good ratio to being healthy? 80/20?? 90/10? or what? I realize I have asked 2 questions here but either would be great to know about if answered.

  14. […] At Every Size Enter at: A Weight Lifted Posted Aug 9, no end date […]

  15. Rebecca says:

    HAES has the potential to transform not only individuals who struggle with weight and stress about it but can and should reframe the public health discourse around obesity. And it seems like the latter will have a wider impact on the former…so how can we train medical professionals, dietitians and public health officials to embrace and market the HAES message despite the media’s obsession with thinness?

  16. Monica says:

    How do you cope with societal pressures and expectations such as being surrounded by diet books, friends on diets, etc.?

  17. Holli says:

    I have struggled with severe fatigue and sleep issues for many years. My problems seemed to start around the time I crossed from being merely “overweight” (per BMI standards) to “obese”. I’ve tried millions of times to lose the weight through dieting and always end up putting it back on. At this point I’m actively working on mindful eating and, although I have not lost weight, am also not obsessing over food. A new doctor has recommended to me trying a gluten-free diet for 4-6 weeks to see if it helps with the fatigue/sleep problem, but I worry about being overcome by a “diet” mentality. Do you think eating gluten-free is possible with a HAES approach?

  18. anca says:

    Dilemma re: Intuitive Eating. I am a happy and satisfied legumes/ all-color veggies/ tons of fruits/ whole grains eater. I can go on for months without being drawn to sweets. I can see people eat my favorite sweets in my presence and feel no deprivation. When I am intuitively eating, I self-regulate, and true hunger/ satiety and overall satisfaction takes over and I feel great. However, I cannot handle eating any sweets: once I have one bite, it opens the path to building supplies at home of various sweets (ice-cream, chocolates, brownies, cookies) –which I do not feel happy eating in “small” servings! The only thing that pushes me into sweets are social gatherings/ friends. I do not want to appear as a freak who would never have sweets. However, I can live so happily without any, because I simply love fruit for desert, even if I sometimes indulge in large snacks of fresh or dried fruits (which are extremely sweet, however so satisfying, unlike ice-cream or cake) and I stay in my zone of satisfaction. Any ice-cream/ chocolate pushes me into the dissatisfied zone, where my brain turns into the addict brain. Analogy: I have lived happily without smoking for 12 years. After my first year of quitting, a social occasion brought me back to smoking (And the addict brain kicked in), so after another 10 months of smoking, I quit again, and haven’t touched tobacco for 12 years, and feel no desire/ interest. However, there is no pressure from the environment to smoke, quite on the contrary. When it comes to sweets though, you don’t want to say “no” and get labeled as “on a diet” –I am not on any diet, I simply don’t crave sweets for months, until I have one, “to be polite”, in social occasions. How does what I describe (sorry so long) relate to the intuitive eating philosophy? (my question does not come from the place of “struggle”, as more of curiosity as to the neurochemistry behind, as well as the social pressure aspect of “are you on a diet? then, have some cake” -why do we need to have cake to show we are healthy; if a person refuses alcohol or tobacco, it is acceptable, but food, you can never refuse–may be cultural in my case, I come from a culture where politeness imposes you never turn down food –how does intuitive eating see this?)

  19. Ashley s says:

    I would ask if its really truly possible to LOVE ourselves.

  20. jules- big girl bombshell says:

    I am in the last part of the book. It was recommended by my doctor to help with my issues. i still do not have a consistent exercise plan but have felt a TON happier practicing mindfulness not just with food but with everything.

    What I would like to ask Dr. Bacon is honestly how do you find the median point of no deprivation, pay attention and yes achieving health at any size when the size is still in the obese category. I have been binge free for over 6 months, eat healthy, some days I eat more, some days less….and find my body still goes within the same ten pound margin but I *feel* unhealthy. I am not looking for the THIN category but know this weight is not healthy….that is when the *diet* thoughts start popping up again. How do you maintain the HAES attitude but strive to the *knowing* the weight should be less?

  21. […] the risk for gaining more weight, independent of genetics.  Instead, if the focus was achieving Health at Every Size, it would be of better service to public health. The recent global scientific review on physical […]

  22. […] August 9, 2012: Profile and author interview on […]

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