Healthy Weight Loss: Should It Be A Goal?


I’ve lately had an ongoing email conversation with someone from another blog, on which there was some question as to what Green Mountain at Fox Run was all about.  Primarily, they were concerned that we profess to be a HAES (Health at Every Size) program, yet we talk about weight loss all over our site.

What the heck is Health at Every Size?

For those who don’t know, HAES is a movement that is all about being the best you can be, whatever your size.  It’s not about weight loss, but about being healthy, and letting your body find its natural healthy weight. It has nothing to do with BMI or ‘ideal’ weight charts, etc. It’s very individual, and as many of us have finally realized, that’s what we are. Just because the media, and society in general, idealizes slim bodies, it doesn’t mean that’s what we’re all meant to be, nor that we’re unhealthy if we’re not. But I digress.

I really want to talk about the idea of weight loss as a goal.  When women come to our website, they learn that we can help them achieve healthy weight loss as part of our healthy weight loss program. We talk about that a fair amount on our site because for the most part, that’s what women think they’re looking for.

So on the website we talk their language, and the vast majority of women who come to us discover that indeed by beginning to live healthfully, taking care of themselves, their body weight begins to shift to a healthier place. That’s downward for most women who come to us because they have dieted their way to higher weights.

When they begin eating normally, and get active, their bodies naturally move to what’s right for them.  What’s often even more dramatic, though, is the change in body size independent of weight.  Dress sizes drop as bodies become leaner and stronger, a result of eating well and enjoyable physical activity.

The big difference in our program and a typical weight loss spa is that we don’t promote weight loss as a goal.  In fact, we very strongly recommend against it.  Instead, we see weight loss occur for many people as an outcome of changing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors to foster long-term well-being.  A recent study in the April 2006 issue of the Journal of The American Dietetic Association (unfortunately I think you need to subscribe to access it) confirmed this view that weight loss as a goal is counterproductive. It defined dieting as a means of losing weight, and showed that dieting increases the risk of weight gain and weight-related problems.

Giving up the goal of weight loss is hard for many of us, especially those of us who have been in search of it since we were children.   But imagine the difference in and productiveness of our days when we stop obsessing about our weight and just start living well, happily and healthfully going through life.  Now that’s a goal.

3 responses to “Healthy Weight Loss: Should It Be A Goal?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the entry and the clarification. I’ve been trying to understand what you’re really about for some time now!

  2. Dee says:

    Hi. I’m the person from BFB who saw your site on a google search for HAES and found the mixed message confusing. Thanks for the clarification.

    HAES is not about weight loss, but the similarities can confuse people who associate good nutrition and exercise with dieting. The whole point of HAES is to disengage weight concerns from health habits. HAES is about eating a variety of foods and being active. It doesn’t involve counting calories eaten or burned, “cutting out” foods, or weighing yourself.

    I’ve used a HAES-like approach to my health for about 12 years now, and although my size varies a little depending on how active I am and what my eating habits are like, I’m still in the same 3-size range that I’ve been in for 25 years, since I was 11 (that would be 14W-18W). HAES didn’t change my weight very much, but it did change how I felt, how I looked, and what I could do.

    I can see where weight loss talk could help with your marketing. Obviously, a lot of people are going to be interested in an experience that’s more fat camp than HAES. Unfortunately, people tend to approach health from the perspective of weight, even though the two are not directly related. And, let’s face it. Most people want to lose weight for reasons of vanity, social advantage, and the like.

    It’s wonderful that you’re introducing people to HAES. But, I also think it’s important to define it correctly, and to make sure that people know what in your program and literature reflects the HAES philosophy and what doesn’t.

  3. Marsha says:

    Hi Dee and whoever posted before,

    I appreciate your feedback. I agree wholeheartedly with you, Dee, about HAES and the need to help people understand it correctly. It can get pretty muddy when people are very committed to weight loss for the sake of weight loss, and when they confuse the search for health with the search for weight loss. We try our best to make sure we always present our program in a way that very clearly distinguishes between these two things, although I imagine at times we make mistakes. Likewise on our website. It’s a very delicate balance we’re trying to strike when talking to people who don’t understand HAES yet who we know would benefit from it soooooo much (who wouldn’t?). And again, I’m sure we make mistakes. But I hope the ‘good’ we do outweighs the mistakes by far. Just talking to the women who come to us after they are with us for a few days makes us feel like we are going in the right direction.

    We appreciate the discussion we’ve had with BFB (at least through one of your members) and hope you understand us a bit better even if you don’t agree with everything we do. At least to know that our intentions are honorable!

About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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