Fatness in Fitness: A Primer to Health at Every Size and Activity

You’ve probably heard that fitness is good for your health and that physical activity burns calories (i.e. uses energy), so clearly fit people must be thin or lean or at least have low body fat …. Right?

It turns out that it isn’t quite so simple! One thing is clear, and that is physical activity is definitely health-promoting. The effects of physical activity on weight loss and the effect of weight loss on health, however, are much more dubious. If you haven’t been introduced to Health at Every Size before, you might already be pretty skeptical of these claims, but stick with me! It’s worth it, I promise.

I’m going to be talking about Health at Every Size a lot on the YQ blog, so let’s begin with the basics: What is Health at Every Size? and What does it have to do with YogaQuest?

What is Health at Every Size?

Health at Every Size is a research-backed, but counter-cultural approach to health. The foundation of Health at Every Size are these principles:

Size Diversity - This term reflects the fact that people naturally come in a huge range of sizes and shapes. Diversity within a species is actually a hallmark of its ability to survive for generations, and that includes humans! It might be hard to believe, since 99% of people in the media represent about 1% of actual human sizes.

Weight and BMI are unreliable measures of health - There are a vast number of other metrics that are extremely more reliable measures and predictors of health and of physical fitness.

Diets don’t work - “Diets” (or any type of restriction for the purpose of weight loss) have been proven over and over to fail. Within five years, that vast majority of dieters (75-95%, depending on the study) regain all or more of the weight lost, even when continuing to adhere to the diet.

What does HAES have to do with YogaQuest

There are a lot of facets of Health at Every Size, and one of them in particular intersects with the mission of YogaQuest: physical activity. Similar to the discomfort many geeks face in a traditional gym setting, fat people, too, experience a lot of stigma and even discrimination in fitness settings.

Most teacher trainings don’t include variations for different shapes and sizes of bodies and it takes a conscious effort by studio owners and teachers to integrate this concept into their practice. More studios are embracing a Health At Every Size framework, and I’m proud to say YogaQuest is one at the forefront. Not only does YogaQuest openly welcome people of all sizes to practice with them without assumptions about their fitness level, they also ensure that there are options for a range of abilities to practice yoga.

We’re going to delve deeper into these topics in future posts, but if I’ve piqued your interest, I would recommend checking out the Association for Size Diversity and Health’s primer on size diversity, Poodle Science and the resource page of Dr. Linda Bacon’s website (author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.)

Ani is a fat activist and Health at Every Size promoter. She is currently pursuing a degree in Dietetics and is working towards the creation of a non-profit to support healthy relationships with food. She is also a geek, yogi, knitter, and lives with her partner and two dogs in Minneapolis.