I am going to write today about something that has been on my mind recently, the things I have noticed on my own journey through Health At Every Size® (HAES®).
I was first introduced to HAES® three years ago. While I was learning to be a naturopath, I noticed (and experienced) a great deal of worry from everyone in school about what to eat, how to eat, when to eat, etc. Everyone, regardless of size, was concerned about these things…occasionally obsessive. To say that the term Orthorexia was one that fit our campus culture may be an understatement. I was definitely sucked into that mindset. The fact that I not only didn’t get thinner, but I actually gained weight made it very demoralizing to be in school.
A teacher told me about Linda Bacon’s book, Health At Every Size®, and I read it during spring break of my third year. It was then that I decided to not worry about what was “right” or “wrong” to eat. I decided to not beat myself up if I didn’t take my 3-4 mile walks as regularly as I used to take them because I was worn out. I decided to relax and allow myself to do what I could do to care for myself and get through school. Often this involved sleep, laughter, water, and relaxation between bouts of studying. Unexpectedly, to me, I stopped gaining weight. I also stopped feeling guilty. I was able to expand my inner self to be able to handle all of the things that were thrown at me during my last year in school.
Now, as I recover from school, start my business, and improve my health, I definitely am considering how to increase the healthy habits in my life. Part of this is to not allow myself to begin to spend all of my time thinking about what I am eating, how much I am exercising, what supplements I am taking, how much I am sleeping, what my stress levels are…etc. In other words, to not obsess about my health and enjoy life. I certainly think about these things, but I am allowing myself to be human. To have chocolate cake without guilt. To have a spinach salad without feeling sanctimonious.
This journey continually forces me to challenge my assumptions about how individuals can be healthier. I certainly know that there are things that I can do to increase my health, but stressing out about those things seems as though it would reduce the very health that I am working to increase!
The thing is, I also find that I have less judgment about those who are still part of the diet/lifestyle changes to lose weight paradigm. I still sometimes want to shake people to get them to understand. I often felt this way when I started learning how to treat people naturopathically: “Why can’t everyone see how incredible this medicine is? Why can’t they understand the potential it has to improve the quality of our lives?” I relaxed on that when I realized that those very questions were the reason I was in school, to spread the medicine. It is also the reason I was shown to HAES®, to add another layer of improvement to the lives of the people I help. I can’t force anyone to believe I am right, but I can speak the truth that I experience and listen to the truth of others with an open mind.