I consider myself a weight-neutral dietitian. A dietitian who focuses on behavior change rather than weight loss to improve overall health and wellbeing. It is something that I actually started practicing on my own before I had ever heard of Health At Every Size (HAES). It was something that I learned from experience by working with patients who would do “all the right things” and still not lose weight. Because I also practiced with a biblical worldview, focusing on weight loss felt icky to me. I knew that the Bible didn’t give us any instruction on body size, and therefore, it didn’t matter.
A couple of years ago, I was introduced to Health At Every Size (HAES) through Instagram. It was really encouraging to see other dietitians practicing from this approach. I also found out that there was a book with science – really good science – to back it up. I read the book and the research, and I jumped headfirst into HAES. These were my people. This is where I belonged.
However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the HAES movement was much more than an approach to health. It was a social justice movement. A social justice movement that was out to tear down diet culture, destroy the patriarchy, and promote body liberation. With the rise of the racial issues from this summer, many in the HAES community also adopted the idea that in order to be part of this movement, that you have to accept intersectionality and critical race theory too. The messaging from many of its followers could be described as “angry feminism”. And this was the side of HAES that I could not relate to, nor be a part of.
You see, I am not a feminist or a racist. I am also not a social justice warrior. I do the work that I do because I feel called to help women take their focus off the scale and put it onto Jesus. Jesus – the only one who can save them. Jesus – the one who not only cared for the poor and oppressed, but also loved them enough to call out their sin at the same time. Jesus. Not themselves. Not feminism. Not social justice. Just Jesus.
I would consider calling myself a HAES dietitian if HAES was just HAES. I believe in the science that shows that diets do not work, but can actually lead to weight gain. I believe in the science that shows how taking your focus off your body can improve your body image and wellbeing. But, I also believe in the Bible and what it says about sin and injustice, so I will not ascribe to a movement that has even a hint of unbiblical ideology, nor will I recommend it to others. My accountability is to God, and God alone.
I don’t know if there are others who feel this way about HAES, but there is an obvious growing division between HAES and non-HAES dietitians. Like everything, it has become politicized and divisive, which has stooped to the level of name calling and public shaming on social media. I understand that not all dietitians will practice the same way. We all have passions, experiences, and worldviews that impact how we practice, and we should respect those differences. If “tearing down diet culture” includes publicly shaming professional colleagues, then I want nothing to do with it. We are better than that.
I began writing this post four months ago. I know that it is a sensitive subject, and I will probably receive some backlash for it. But as someone who claims to follow Jesus, I need to be honest about my convictions. I don’t want people who follow me on social media to think that I align with the HAES community, because I feel like it would be damaging to my witness. It is possible to practice from a weight-neutral perspective without being a HAES practitioner. If you currently identify with HAES, and this post resonated with you. You can remove yourself from it. It can be done, and I am here to support you.