Michelle is Smart

Go read her latest entry on common misunderstandings about HAES.

Everyone is limited, physically or mentally, to a certain extent. HAES must work within those limitations. And because humans come in all shades of disease — from Crohn’s, to diabetes, to cancer and chemotherapy, to eating disorders, to fibromyalgia — there is no tool that can be definitively excluded from being used within HAES.

But ANY tool, no matter how innocuous and HAES-friendly it seems, if used to flagellate yourself, becomes instantly outré. Even intuitive eating. Even yoga. Even anything, if done with the slightest shade of self-hatred.

I would rather someone count calories* while truly believing in fat acceptance and HAES, than to practice intuitive eating in the secret hope that they will lose weight, and to beat themselves up when they ‘fail’ at it.

HAES is a paradigm shift, not simply a new diet. Without the beliefs, the behaviours are meaningless.

Michelle’s closed comments on that entry, which I can completely understand. I’m leaving them open here, but I’ll ask that people be even more circumspect than usual about their comments here. This thread is for asking sincere questions about HAES, discussing various definitions of “health,” talking about the difficulties of making that paradigm shift (if you’ve tried to or are interested in trying), talking about why HAES is or is not right for you, and of course, talking about how freakin’ smart and awesome Michelle is. It is not for detailing what you eat or how much you exercise, telling us all why you still think you need to lose weight (try this thread and this thread for that), insulting people who make different choices than you do, accusing people here of trying to separate “good” fatties from “bad” fatties (try this thread), or telling Michelle she is anything other than smart and awesome. Got it? Excellent. Fire away.

*If you didn’t read the whole post, which you really should, she means counting calories because for whatever reason, you need some structure to your eating habits — and because knowing how many calories you consume doesn’t trigger dieting behavior for you. She’s perfectly clear on the point that trying to lose weight is antithetical to HAES.

130 thoughts on “Michelle is Smart

  1. Funnily enough, I had just read this post right before you posted this one. Yay phatosphere pheed.

    I like the way she laid out her thoughts. She is indeed awesome and smart. And I have a feeling I’ll revisit that post from time to time as I’m still feeling out my own approach to HAES.

    Thanks for leaving comments open here. I’m looking forward to reading what Shapelings think of this entry.

  2. I read her posting, and all I could think of was “YES.”.

    When I first heard about HAES, it was a revelation – because all the other diets and methods and whatevers were trying to fit me into THEIR paradigm – and HAES was about fitting what healthy behaviors I could into the realities of MY life. It was something I could get behind because HAES was all about my personal limitations and my individual capabilities and didn’t say “well, those aren’t important because this is what you must do and this is what you must be.”

    With HAES, there was no “must” about it. In fact, comparing myself to others wasn’t just counterproductive but utterly pointless, because who we are are and what we can do even given the exact same set of circumstances (which doesn’t happen) are different. And it doesn’t matter what others can do or are doing or aren’t doing – all that matters is what I do, what I choose to do or not do, and how that affects my mind and body. Just letting go of the competitive mindset was great for my mind!

  3. I completely agree with the above post. HAES is so wonderful because it teaches you to really listen to your body, to become connected to your body in a way that nothing else ever has for me. It has truly changed my life in an amazing way, and taken guilt and flaggelation out of eating.

    I do have one issue with HAES, though, that maybe someone can clear up for me. It has helped me tremendously. However, I am a fairly healthy person. No addictions, no diabetes or other disease that affects the way my body functions or how I eat. I have a friend, however, that is terribly addicted to sugar. He can’t get enough. When it comes to addiction, where does HAES fit in? If you are intuitively listening to what your body is telling you it wants and needs, and it wants and needs sugar because it is addicted (physically, not just emotionally), how can HAES help?

  4. That’s a great post by Michelle. I know that when I first heard about HAES my own food-related baggage colored my interpretation of what it was all about. While I’ve had little involvement in diet culture, over the past couple of decates I did create a kind of mental checklist of “good” foods and “bad” foods, and for me “eating healthy” meant sticking to the “good”. Slowly, I’ve been learning to listen to what my body was saying, rather than follow my (arbitrary) rules – and I’m still learning. It’s not just figuring out what I want to eat, but learning how much I really want ( devouring the world has helped my thinking to that end).

    What I didn’t realize is that it’s an ongoing process. It’s not a matter of memorizing a new set of rules, but learning to listen to the signals from my body, which change day-to-day and week-to-week. At least that’s how I’ve been interpreting HAES.

  5. I am so glad that Michelle shared her smart with Teh Internets! It hadn’t directly occurred to me that behaviors like calorie-counting, which are harmful to me, could be perfectly fine for other people, whom they might assist in living Healthfully at Every Size.

    I know that intuitive eating has been, generally, very good for me; that any kind of note-taking or keeping-track of calories or types of food or whatever feeds into obsessive behavior with me, and I lose my focus on my health and start trying to lose weight again, even though I am generally comfortable with my size.

    I even have to re-frame taking care of my body in other ways, like putting lotion on my preggo belly because it makes my skin feel better, and not with the intention of preventing stretch marks or wanting my skin to be perfectly smooth post-pregnancy (which it wasn’t even pre-pregnancy). The Fantasy of Being Thin incorporates a lot more than just thin with me, so that when I’m under the delusions of that Fantasy, I can’t accept my perfectly human flaws, so that zits become unacceptable, as are stretch marks, dry skin, whatever.

    Understanding HAES as a paradigm shift — a philosophy, rather than more rules to follow — gives me the freedom to choose how to care for myself, and reminds me to let everyone else do the same.

  6. My issue, which has been dealt with before but I still don’t quite get it, is what to do when you think your body is pretty whacked out. I did a lot of binge eating when I was stressed out with kids and grad school, and as a result I really lost the ability to know what I need and when. Then my husband was the cook, so we ate what he made, so I still wasn’t training my body to know what I need. Now that I’m in charge of meals in general, I have no idea what to do. Sometimes what I feel like eating has no relevance to what I have to cook for everyone else. Most of the time I don’t know whether to trust myself, whether I need what I want or if it’s a binge. I don’t know if I have any intuition left for eating intuitively, I guess. Is there some sort of way to “reset” one’s body?

  7. I know the whole point of the post was that you don’t have to eat intuitively to be HAES and FA, I just still really like the sound of it and wonder if I ever could do it. In the meantime, though, it is definitely comforting to think that I can somewhat “program” what I eat and not be outside the movement.

  8. Erin,

    I personally believe that the idea of “addiction” to sugar is a myth that the diet industry has invented. It holds sugar up as a “bad” thing, something to be avoided. Something, like fat, or alcohol or drugs, that the virtuous among us can resist and eliminate from our lives.

    ugar has been wrongly blamed for a multitude of problems. It’s just that things with sugar, like things with fat, TASTE GOOD. And that’s not acceptable in the world of dieting and restriction.

    There’s nothing inherently bad with sugar. Would you call your friend “addicted to water” if he absolutely always had to have a bottle of water with him at all times? Or addicted to protein if he was a big meat eater?

    I mean, if he’s knocking over liquor stores to get his sugar fix, then maybe he’s got a problem. If he just prefers to eat sugary things, where’s the problem?

    I have a horrible sweet tooth. Can’t get enough of it. I could eat candy all day long. But if all I ate was candy and pastries, I wouldn’t get enough protein or vitamins, etc. But, if I need to add a little (or a lot of ) butter and brown sugar to squash in order to enjoy it, where’s the harm? I’m still getting all the nutritional benefits of squash, but in a way that’s palatable to me.

  9. Thanks for the righteously wicked compliment, and for linking me, Kate.

    I’d also like to say that I, myself, really, really like the idea of intuitive eating — and I would never discourage anyone from trying it, as I think it represents a wonderful alternative. In the same breath, though, it just doesn’t work for everyone. And that’s okay, as long as they’re not just left to go hate themselves in a corner for it.

  10. I have a friend, however, that is terribly addicted to sugar. He can’t get enough. When it comes to addiction, where does HAES fit in? If you are intuitively listening to what your body is telling you it wants and needs, and it wants and needs sugar because it is addicted (physically, not just emotionally), how can HAES help?

    In your friend’s case, it would probably be helpful for him if he can determine if he’s having physical cravings for sugar or psychological cravings. Sometimes consuming sugar can mean that your body is trying to make up for a gap in your caloric intake (though I think it can also be a sign of some illnesses, he should see a doctor if he can). If your friend can identify whether or not the non-sugared portion of his diet is meeting his caloric needs, he may be able to give up a lot of the sugar and replace it with more nutritious calorie sources.

    I crave sugar all the time, but that’s largely due to the fact that I rarely peak over 1000 calories a day in intake. Being too poor to buy food means I’ll probably never get to eat intuitively.

  11. The post makes me really happy. My real issue with HAES has been very much related to my own physical limitations. On the one hand, I am fairly successful at not caring about my weight or how much butter and cheese I eat as long as I also eat a respectable amount of Good for You foods: leafy greens, fresh fruit and vegetables, etc. On the other hand, I am battling IBS, which means that many of those foods which are Good for You are not Good for Me. Leafy greens, in particular, which I love, can leave me nonfunctional for days. Sometimes. So sometimes all I can eat is the simplest of simple carbohydrates: white rice, mostly. I find myself full of self-loathing at these times: why am I not eating healthy foods?

    And of course, I am. I’m eating the foods that don’t harm my health.

    … just because I believe in HAES doesn’t mean I’m not as brainwashed by the food fads people as the next girl.

  12. I’m still working on what HAES means for me. I spend so many years dieting and starving myself, that sometimes I don’t know when or why I’m hungry. It helps for me to eat 3 meals a day and a couple of snacks. But when I do eat, I don’t limit myself to “good” or “bad” foods, I just eat food.

  13. It actually is possible to be “addicted” to sugar. I’m insulin resistant, and if I listened to my cravings, I would eat nothing but bread and cake all day long. Sure, it may be what I want, but it’s not *healthy*, and the “health” part of Health At Every Size is important.

    So, does forcing myself to eat vegetables and meat and other healthy things, even though my body is screaming for simple carbs, disqualify me as a practicer of HAES? I hope not. I can’t eat intuitively (I’d end up with type II diabetes), but I can eat intelligently.

  14. RG, that is exactly what I am confused about. If your body screams for UNhealthy foods at an UNhealthy excessive amount because of some kind of internal problem, how does HAES play into your life? My friend is otherwise (seemingly) healthy, but when it comes to cookies or ice cream, he binges. Not just a few cookies every now and then, but the whole entire package. And every single time. And after he finishes, he feels sick but still wants more. The same could be applied to alcoholism, although I don’t know much about that.

    I’m certainly not knocking HAES, it is has been a true blessing in my life, and I recommend it to almost every single person I know. But…

  15. Yes, I agree that limiting yourself to just a few foods, or missing out on other groups completely is not “traditionally” healthy.

    But, in my opinion – HAES – the whole point of it is doing what works for you. And not judging other people’s choices. YOUR best health may be a specific balance of fruits, vegetables, protein, carbs, etc. Mine is likely very different. Mine might even be “unhealthy” for you.

    Sure, if eating too much sugar will cause illness, then, for you, you need to manage your sugar. If your friend is “otherwise healthy”, and is happy eating lots of sugar, that may be the perfect diet that works for him.

    And, also IMO, there’s a big mental health component to HAES. I am unhappy if I can’t much away on some candy a few times a day. It brings me joy. I like it, it’s enjoyable, I feel good when I’m eating it. Maybe I could benefit from eating less sugar (or maybe not), but if I’m not happy, none of that matters.

  16. Also, at least for me, HAES means there are no “unhealthy” foods. Or unhealthy amounts of particular foods – unless they’re causing measurable problems. Like a diabetic going into sugar shock, or someone with Chron’s disease having a major flare because of something they ate. Or eating something you’re allergic to.

    Outside of those cases, I don’t think that we can draw any sort of lines of acceptable intake of a particular nutrient or food.

  17. Godless Heathen, I’m right there with you. Even now that we are getting some help with food stamps, I’m stuck. I used to be a great eater, now it feels more like a chore. Having not had “good” food in the house for a long time (like fresh fruits, which I love), it’s hard to remember how much I love them and that they are more of an option now that they have been for a long, long time. I wish I had some advice for you, but with how expensive food has gotten, it’s next to impossible to eat well all of the time when income is limited, and that sucks beyond words.

  18. Godless Heathen: I was a poor musician for, oh, most of my life! Rarely did I earn more than 5 grand a year, and I lived on that. Like many another musician, I got good at finding the FREE FOOD. I don’t know to what extent these hints could possibly work into your life, but when you are literally GOING HUNGRY for financial reasons, even one of them might be helpful.

    1) Keep on eye on the art openings and other openings (or galas) in your area. No admission, and always a ton of fruit and cheese (usually pretty good stuff too). You don’t even have to have nice clothes to go (most artists don’t!) Be sure you look at the art though.
    2) Mexican restaurants can sometimes have free chips and salsa bars in the waiting area. Get a plate, scarf down a ton of free chips and salsa and skedaddle!
    3) See if you can cop a gig revewing restaurants for any publication in your area. You will get paid for either the writing or the food (sometimes both!) either way it usually works out that the food is free
    4) I hate parties, but when you are hungry it is totally worth hitting a party for an hour to get t he FREE FOOD!
    5) Time permitting, see if you can get a crappy ULTRA part-time job in a cool restaurant (corporate ones won’t do). Restaurant folk don’t like staff to go hungry, so even if you are just chopping vegetables or bussing tables for 4 hours a week, that day you will be fed well! I bussed tables for 37 years, very part-time much of the time (4 hours twice a week) and it was swell. Also restaurants throw a LOT of perfectly good food away (well, fancy ones do!) and you can take it home for free instead!
    5) Cultivate an attitude of being willing to let your better-off friends treat you to a meal. Your company is worth it if your friends think so. You can always repay the favor in ten years!
    6) If there is a food bank in your area, sign up. Every little bit helps!

  19. I have a friend, however, that is terribly addicted to sugar. He can’t get enough. When it comes to addiction, where does HAES fit in? If you are intuitively listening to what your body is telling you it wants and needs, and it wants and needs sugar because it is addicted (physically, not just emotionally), how can HAES help?

    By recognizing that a craving for a certain kind of food happens for a reason, that it does not mean the cravee is some kind of stupid greedy slob who does not know what to eat and is totally self-destructive. I know that’s not what you’re saying at all, but it could very well be that your friend is having some kind of internal monologue that goes something like that because that’s what society’s wallpaper is constantly pumping out, and a lot of binge eaters and “people who eat nothing but sugar” internalize that and it actually feeds their cravings instead of making them stop. That’s my theory, anyway.

    There are a lot of other reasons people might crave unusually high volumes of sugar or a very high percentage of sugar in the diet. Weight-loss dieting is a big potential reason; so is involuntary food insecurity, as GH pointed out; so is undiagnosed insulin resistance. And no, adjusting your diet for medical reasons like IR does not violate HAES; what violates HAES is thinking that your/somebody else’s weight is the cause of your/their health problems and if you/they were only thinner those problems would all go away.

    Michelle is smart. Go Michelle!

  20. Oh yeah, I left out three other potential reasons for constant sugar cravings: quitting alcohol or drugs, medication usage and transient stress response to pain (including pain from major life stressors). Some medications really do change the gut flora and insulin response. And I’ve certainly known my share of people who wanted nothing but sugar after going into substance-abuse recovery, especially for alcohol, since it’s chemically very similar to sugar.

  21. Is it common to have a lot of missteps in making the paradigm shift to HAES? I’ve been working on it this year, accepting that trying to lose weight is counter-productive and a giant waste of time – I’d rather be living my life now than waiting until I lose weight to do what I want.

    But even so, I find it hard NOT to have the secret hope that I’ll lose weight – I’m ramping up run/walk mileage to run a 10K and do a big hike on vacation in September, and THOSE are my goals, but the “oh, maybe I’ll lose weight too” thoughts keep creeping in, and being disappointed when it doesn’t happen is hard – I’m interested to know how others have gotten through this thinking. (b/c it also seems counter productive to beat myself up for having those thoughts…will they just suddenly stop at some point?)

  22. jadelennox, I so hear you on the IBS thing. People are totally confused when I tell them that my doctor says I really need to lay off the whole grains and leafy greens, and eat more salt. That’s healthy for me, though, because there’s nothing healthy or fun about feeling like your stomach is full of stabby stabby knives.

  23. I’ve come to realize that one difficulty I’ve had with the concept of HAES is that in the last few decades the concept of health itself has changed beyond all recognition, such that I’m no longer at all sure what anyone might mean by it. Where once it was the absence of disease, a state of being, it’s become … a golden ring forever just out of reach, an ineffable and unattainable ideal, a moral quest.

    Now, as it happens, I’m not perfectly healthy and will never be again, but once upon a time when the definition of health had a lot more give to it I could’ve said, ‘Except for the rheumatiz, I’m okay,’ and no-one would have called me on it — it wouldn’t have been perceived as an oxymoron. So I’ve been trying to see if HAES would fit into … Best I Can Do In the Shape I’m In, more or less. But I’m not certain it will, because I don’t know what health is suppose to mean.

    That sure rambles, doesn’t it? Sigh.

  24. Amanda,

    In my experience, it is very common to have those thoughts when beginning the HAES paradigm shift. It’s only natural since that is probably how you’ve been thinking for a long long time. And yes, it is definately counterproductive to beat yourself up for having those thoughts…And, in my experience so far, no they will not just suddenly stop. But they will get fewer and farther between.

    What I do when those thoughts creep up is just kind of say, “oh, haha, there’s another one of those thoughts ,” and move on. If you don’t try to push it away, but recognize that it is just a product of your old habits and not something that is rational or helpful in your present life, it will eventually lose it’s power…

    I’m curious what others say about it, though….

  25. Meowser,

    You make a good point — my friend with the sugar addiction has issues with his body and definately views food as either “good” or “bad,” which probably perpetuates his desire for the sugary foods he binges on. He usually goes on crash diets and exercise binges (lighting massive amounts of weight and drinking nothing but protein shakes to be that “perfect” male body-type), so now that I think about it, it makes sense that he’s got internal monologues from cultural pressures going on as he’s eating those “bad” foods.

  26. Apologies for the long post but this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately!

    To Car:
    I think one thing you could do for your body is just be kind to it. By that I mean if you don’t know what your body wants or you feel it’s “whacked out” due to your past behavior, I would actually speak to your body and just say something like “I’m sorry I don’t really know what you want to eat right now, but that’s OK.” Because it IS OK not to know, at first. Some things I learned from the wonderful “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies” and “Overcoming Overeating” is simply to ask yourself what your stomach might be hungry for. If you can’t figure that out, ask yourself what your mouth might be hungry for. With practice you will be able to start to figure it out, but it takes time. Be gentle with yourself.

    On HAES-
    One thing that I have found with HAES is that it is a process that is NOT linear at all. I probably started this process back in November when I found this blog (so I guess I should say thanks), and at first I was really feeling very positive about myself and my size and not dieting. Following that came some dark days where I felt very “fat” and “ugly”, but I still didn’t return to dieting, and in theory at least I was still definitely on board with size acceptance and fat acceptance. I feel now that I have progressed again recently and, am feeling more accepting of my body and wanting to take care of it, as well as also feeling ANGRY for having spent so long feeling there was something wrong with it.

    As far as the danger of HAES as a diet, I am keenly aware of the temptation to make into HAES as a “lifestyle change”(diet). Yesterday I took a walk down to a sporting goods store near where I live because I’m trying to do the “joyful movement” thing. The walk turned into a 3-hour meander all told (including stop for lunch, stop in another shop, brief period of being lost, stopping at actual goal destination and walk home). I did notice part of me starting to think “OK, if I walk a few hours several times a week, maybe I can drop a dress size…” and suddenly I found myself in a HAES Fantasy of Being Thin. At those times, I find it’s very important to stop and remember this is about loving yourself and your body AS IT IS.

  27. Sorry car, that should read it’s OK not to know – whether it’s just at first or whether you’ve been trying this HAES stuff out for years and years!

  28. I’m thankful that you posted this! I’ve been having some confusing thoughts about HAES because of several reasons, and Michelle just talked about one of them. i’m a college athlete, so I DO have to count calories. I have a weight cap I have to deal with in order to participate in my sport. I have to stay under/around a certain weight. This makes intuitive eating very difficult. I try to give my body food I like and treat it well. I don’t like to think about food as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but counting calories/focusing on eating certain foods for more protein/carbs/vitamins makes me feel like a ‘bad fatty.’

  29. Thank you for sharing this, Kate. I really have wondered where I fit into the whole HAES paradigm – I’m a type II diabetic. I’m not actively trying to lose weight but I can’t just eat whatever I want either. My long term health depends on making sure my blood sugar stays as normal as possible.

    I’ve decided that HAES for me means not going crazy – making reasonable choices for me, indulging every now and again in things that I enjoy and doing my best to maintain my health. I do not diet. I haven’t given anything up.

    I’m sure that every day it isn’t going to be as clear as I am right now, but, that’s where I am today. It’s a pretty good place to be.

  30. Eucritta: So I’ve been trying to see if HAES would fit into … Best I Can Do In the Shape I’m In, more or less.

    Um, isn’t that the definition of HAES right there? Seriously, I’ve always understood it to be doing the best you can with what you have in the circumstances you’re in right now. Which may change from day to day.

  31. I was asking a question the other day here that these two posts answered. The funny thing is, I am a loud exponent if guilt-free parenting. I have utterly embraced the fact that as a parent I will make mistakes, but that feeling guilty about them is not just pointless, but damaging to myself and my kids. I have a structure and philosophy that I strive to follow in kid-raising. I don’t even think of beating myself up when I fail in this.

    So why do I find it so hard to make the mental leap that the same bloody logic applies to eating? I have an eating plan that I know works for me, I know that as long as I am aiming at it, I’ll be fine. So why can’t I drop the guilt like I have with parenting? And what kind of broken personality can forgive herself bad parenting but not bad eating?

  32. Thanks for this link! I’m having a lot of trouble with “intuitive eating” (mostly because of my tendency to overeat based on things like food ads and boredom, and having a hard time listening to my body and figuring out what it actually wants). It’s a good concept, but just really hard for me to implement right now, and it was really good for me to read about other approaches to HAES. Beating myself up over not being able to figure out what my body wants isn’t really an improvement over beating myself up over my food choices! I’m going to work on “not being neurotic about eating” rather than “eating in the ‘right’ way”.

  33. A person might crave sugar for any number of reasons. There’s nothing unhealthy about temporary cravings for particular kinds of food (unless you’re allergic to those foods). If it’s a more or less permanent craving and that means the person is malnourished because they aren’t getting enough other kinds of foods, then the HAES response might be “Something is going on medically to cause this craving, let’s figure out what it is and fix it.” If it’s insulin resistance, for example, there are ways of treating that, and treating it will end the symptom of wanting to eat nothing but sugar.

    But I think it’s not a HAES response to simplistically focus on a single symptom and say “Sugar is bad” or even “For this person, sugar is bad.”

  34. Is it common to have a lot of missteps in making the paradigm shift to HAES?

    The media, advertisements, our friends and family, and even our doctors tell us constantly that being thin should be the top priority of anyone’s life. This has been going on for at least the last 20 years, with special urgency added in the last 10. It would be a miracle if you didn’t have doubts or missteps while undergoing a paradigm shift. If you didn’t, it wouldn’t be much of a paradigm shift, would it?

    Seriously, don’t beat yourself up for not being The Queen of HAES at all times. I think this suggestion is a really good one: What I do when those thoughts creep up is just kind of say, “oh, haha, there’s another one of those thoughts ,” and move on. I would add that what I tell myself is “Oh, there’s the voice of a thousand women magazine’s again” (or whatever seems a likely culprit for you), which helps me realize that that’s a thought I’m ventriloquizing, not something I actually believe.

  35. hlynn, that’s an interesting situation I actually hadn’t thought of when considering the idea of calorie counting.

    Personally, I think weight caps, even for the purpose of sport, are pretty ridiculous and bad for people. YMMV, though, since I am not even remotely athletic. My personal opinion that I don’t agree with them, since they often make people neurotic about food, and even can incite eating disorders (see the female athlete triad.)

    However. It’s your choice to be involved in a sport that involves weight control (even if it’s just weight maintenance), and if it’s that much of a priority in your life, I’d rather you treat it kind of like a physical limitation that precludes you from demand feeding, and do the best you can do within that limitation, rather than chucking the baby with the bathwater and feeling “kicked out” of HAES and/or fat acceptance.

    It’s obviously not an ideal situation for anyone to be in, but if that’s your choice, you can mitigate the potential damage as much as possible by doing what your doing. And not having people jump on your back about it.

    Just one more thing, though: I think we all recognize that some ‘tools’ we use in our health practices might actually be triggering to other people, or otherwise not welcome in fat acceptance conversations. My personal position is that health practices are private matters, and I would be conscious and sensitive about the time and place I chose to talk about them. I wouldn’t come over here and start going into graphic detail about my sex life, though I have no problem with sex, and I’m sure most people here don’t, either. Neither would I talk about the minutiae of my daily food intake anywhere other than my own blog, if I felt it necessary.

    Calorie counting, no matter what your underlying reason for doing it, is definitely going to be one of those things to not throw around in casual (fat-friendly) conversation. Not something to be ashamed of, no, and not something that somehow excludes you from fat acceptance. But something some people can’t tolerate for legitimate reasons, and something to be sensitive about.

  36. Michelle is awesome. I loved the quote: “Health can be redefined as the manner in which we live well despite our inescapable illnesses, disabilities, and trauma.”

    As others have said, HAES is fluid. It isn’t only about what and how you eat. It’s about how you care for yourself. It’s about getting enough sleep, exercising when and how you enjoy it (there are no “shoulds” in HAES), eating in a way that feels good to you, and admiring what you see in the mirror.

    Living well? It’s up to you what it means to live well. hlynn, this means that counting calories because you need to stay a certain weight for a college sport is well within the realm of HAES. If living well includes being able to participate in that sport during college, you do not need to feel like a “bad fatty” for maintaining your weight while you’re on the team. When you finish college and are no longer participating in the sport, you move to a new stage of life, one where you can leave the calorie counting behind. You may gain a few pounds, but you will be fine with that. Notice how you remain active in HAES, but your methods change over time. This is what Michelle means by intentions. You are not using this method to flagellate yourself, but to participate in a sport you love. Don’t beat yourself up about maintaining your sport weight during college. This is a very temporary situation, not a way of life.

    For instance, I know my weight. I even own a scale. What I *do* with the knowledge of that number is far more important than whether I know it. What do I do with it? Well, nothing really. I just look at it and say, big deal. I weigh maybe once a month and it’s kind of a test for me. A “do I care” measurement. If I am happy or sad that my weight has changed, I know I have a little work to do on my attitude. What did I do with it when I weighed myself during my ED days? If I was over xxx pounds, I would skip meals. I would go for a run. I would be proud of a grumbling tummy that felt empty and ill. This “big deal” attitude about my weight is the biggest improvement that HAES has made in my life. For me, HAES is more about the *mental* health at every size that you gain from practicing it.

  37. Personally, I think weight caps, even for the purpose of sport, are pretty ridiculous and bad for people.

    It depends on the sport. In some the cap is mostly there to ensure people of the roughly the same size compete against each other; in some (like rowing) it’s closer to an absolute requirement (getting into a better boat, etc.)

    One problem with intuitive eating is that the average American’s diet (fat or thin) is heavily reliant on processed foods, which tend to be either supersweet or supersalted. Which makes trusting one’s palate as a guide to good nutrition a little bit tricky at first, if one isn’t already a generally healthy eater. (The extension of this problem is that being to eat well without processed foods requires either a surplus of time or a surplus of money.)

  38. Cala: yeah, that part I understand. People competing against each other for certain things need to ensure it’s a fair playing field, and that they’re in the same size class.

    But purposely controlling your weight in order to remain in a certain class strikes me as potentially problematic. I think it would be better if the emphasis was on, wherever your weight falls, that’s the class you’re in.

    It’s not a perfect solution, since I’m aware there must be different strategies for different weight classes, but to me, it’s a less risky strategy than purposely restricting your eating for the sake of maintaining a weight your body wants to grow out of.

    People do tend to settle into a consistent weight range if their eating and movement stays roughly the same. I don’t see why they couldn’t, then, stay in the weight class for the sport that is dictated by their body; not the other way around.

  39. And no, adjusting your diet for medical reasons like IR does not violate HAES; what violates HAES is thinking that your/somebody else’s weight is the cause of your/their health problems and if you/they were only thinner those problems would all go away.

    Meowser got it in one, I think.

  40. Oh, and, to address the second part of your comment, which I completely missed, Cala:

    I actually do think that certain processed foods are created in an attempt to ‘trick’ the palate. But people can still eat them for pleasure and enjoyment if they don’t find them problematic for other reasons.

    I would be reluctant, however, to agree that eating well “without processed foods” is expensive. It’s actually not, or doesn’t have to be, and I speak from experience because I am poor.

    It also depends on where you draw the line on ‘processing,’ as processing can mean things that people now consider basic staples of the diet, and which are nourishing and nutritious (like dried pasta, quick-cooking oatmeal, canned fruits and veggies, etc.) We take a lot of processing totally for granted, but without it, we might actually be in nutritional trouble.

    Certain common nutrient deficiencies (iodine, folic acid, and vitamin D, to name only a few) have been essentially eradicated in the population through processing.

    Sandy Szwarc, as always, has some interesting stuff on food additives, and processed foods

  41. I have taken HAES simply to mean “Carry on doing what you do for your own health (either under your own steam or under the advisement of your doctor/shaman/allopathic healer/uncle Joe as you see fit) — but stop beating yourself up for not being BMI under 25 because, contrary to popular belief, that obsession with size is not doing your health any goddamn favors.”

    For me, health might not always mean simple intuitive eating anymore. I needed to go through a period of intuitive eating to put all the Weight And Food obsession down. But then? I stopped caring about food quite so much generally. I like food – am even, sometimes, a foodie – but I’d say these days my food choices are often about the optimal and most healthful feeling fuel for this body to get through the day. Nothing moral about it, nor even particularly interesting.

    So sometimes certain foods are a means to an end – making sure I have a certain number of veggies in my lunch and dinner or protein in the mid-afternoon isn’t always about craving. Fibre! Good for my guts. Protein at 3:00! Means I don’t have a headache and the shakes at 6:00 (Yeah, I think I’m probably getting insulin resistant. Sigh.)

    I want salty snacks the days I work out a whole lot, and often want a sweet after dinner; I let that happen which is more intuitive than I’ve ever been, and I’ve found that because of that lack of panic I’m eating less junk food as a result. This has resulted in a (dum duh DUH!) a net weight GAIN, which seems a little weird. But what-the-hell-ever.

    Food choice is now a bit more on the level of “habit” than “instance” for me, but that works for me and not necessarily for anyone else.

  42. This was a terrific post, and cleared up one thing that has been making me feel uncomfortable about HAES – I’m trying to recover from binge eating, and keeping track of what I eat is really helpful for me. It reassures me that I can eat different things on different days and be okay, helping me avoid my recurring problem of eating the same thing every single day out of fear, then binge eating. I realise this is technically a dieting habit, in that it helps me make sense of what I eat and how I feel about it, but this post is a great help – I’m not trying to lose weight, I’m trying to get rid of unhealthy and painful habits.

  43. I’ve been beating myself up lately about not getting exercise because of my ongoing inability to walk without a crutch. Can you believe that? That’s how programmed I am. I try to convince myself that I don’t need to eat as much because I can’t move around as much, and that’s where the cycle starts. I don’t fall into dieting any more, but I do fall into lots and lots of beating myself up. I wish I could stop, and articles like Peggynature’s really help with getting my paradigm shifted the right way instead of the wrong way.

  44. There’s nothing inherently bad with sugar.

    Sugar is inflammatory; inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Sugar also causes severe spikes in blood sugar, requiring your body to increase insulin levels. Too much sugar can be extremely bad for a person’s health. Taking everything in moderation is not only about getting enough nutrients.

  45. Sugar is inflammatory; inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Sugar also causes severe spikes in blood sugar, requiring your body to increase insulin levels. Too much sugar can be extremely bad for a person’s health. Taking everything in moderation is not only about getting enough nutrients.

    keshmeshi, sugar causes increases in blood sugar because it is *sugar* and blood sugar is made of *sugar*, not because it’s inherently bad for you. You need sugars to survive. Any digestible carbs you eat are broken down into the most basic sugars, and without them your body would have no fuel. Your blood insulin levels are then supposed to increase to metabolise the sugar that was absorbed into your bloodstream during digestion, because that’s what insulin is FOR Some people’s bodies are insulin resistant for one reason or another, and some people are diabetic, and those people have to be careful about timing and quantity of sugar intake. For most people, however, eating sugar and experiencing a release of insulin means our bodies are functioning correctly. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

    For the most part what you hear about about G.I. and the widely publicized idea that eating very many carbs leads immediately to diabetes (and fatness, don’t forget!!) is diet-industry scaremongering. (And I say this as someone that feels weird if I eat too much sugar, and who had to cut out a lot of specific carbs I can’t digest well. MOST PEOPLE DON’T HAVE THIS PROBLEM.)

  46. Wow. This post and discussion are amazing, and really hitting on a lot of questions I’ve been wrestling with about HAES.

    I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease last year, after two years of maintaining a gluten-free diet because I’d been misdiagnosed with celiac disease. So I haven’t been able to eat intuitively for several years now. When I was gluten-free, in order to combat my cravings for pretty much everything I used to eat, I worked really hard to convince myself that foods with gluten were poisonous and would kill me. (This is, in the long run, true if you’re a celiac.) i NEVER cheated, which is why it took so damn long to find out it was a misdiagnosis.

    So now I can eat wheat, but I also have to be really careful to get enough protein, and to monitor my fiber intake based on whether I’m flaring. And here’s the rub: there are very few ‘forbidden’ foods for Crohnies. You have to listen closely to your body to figure out what works and what harms you. It’s like a high-stakes crash course in intuitive eating. I’m slowly starting to discover that I actually prefer fresh, in-season foods and things like fruits and vegetables which I never liked when I was younger. I’ve been active around body image issues and thinking of myself as “the Queen of HAES” (as someone upthread put it).

    So, great. And I’m tracking calories and trying to make it about health, and trying to get exercise. But– last week a friend visited, someone I very much admire and respect, and she told me that I need to lose 40 pounds, and it devastated me in a way I wasn’t prepared for. I had a body-hate meltdown. I felt fatanduglyanddisgusting in that litany we are all familiar with, and the bloating that comes with Crohn’s flareups made it worse. I went back to the gym as planned, but now I’m all confused about my health regimen, and finding myself hoping I’ll lose weight, maybe it’d be okay, maybe I could be HAES and still get thin!

    Which I realize is seriously problematic. And I’m glad this thread is happening because you’re all helping me deal with this feeling. I feel like I’m kind of crazy where food is concerned– but then, in this society, I don’t know what sane even is.

    So, um, thanks, and I’m sorry this comment is SOOOO long. Any thoughts?

  47. (My point is that I think the “sugar is bad” mindset might not be very HAES for most people. For me, with a lot of food intolerances and IBD, certain foods are hard to digest, so I stay away from those and feel great. For someone who is insulin resistant, prediabetic, or diabetic, they need to keep track of carb intake and that makes a lot of sense for them. For most people, avoiding an entire food group doesn’t seem very HAES and seems to be channeling an idea pushed very hard by the diet industry.)

  48. Erin and Sweet Machine,
    Thanks for your responses. It’s easy to fall into the perfectionism trap and freak out when my mind slips back into the old habits, but good to know that it happens to others too, and how you cope with it.

  49. Michelle, that post of yours cleared up about… oh, 85% of the issues I’ve been having with the HAES mindset lately. It’s stuff I’ve kept to myself — and I’m going to continue to keep it to myself, because obviously SP is a) wonderful, and b) not the place to come in with contradictory messages — but I was struggling nontheless, and really… wow. What you wrote cleared up so much of that conflict for me. I finally feel like I fit in, you know? And I feel like I have a much more solid understanding of the stuff I’ve been quibbling about (in my head) as it’s addressed here at SP. Awesome, awesome post. Thanks.

  50. Yes. Michelle is smart.
    Her whole post was smart.
    As a person with type 2 diabetes who tries to practice HAES, I completely agree with the concept of a broad definition of health that includes living with whatever diseases or illnesses or trauma you’ve gotten along your life’s journey.

    I get into trouble when I try to compare myself to others, especially in some sort of hope that I can make myself look good (“see how many vegetables I eat? See how much I can swim?”) because, as I’m finally learning at nearly 40, we are all different.

    This week, I have the fantasy that I will become the healthiest fat woman with type 2 diabetes that the world has ever seen. It will be gone soon, I hope.

  51. sugar causes increases in blood sugar because it is *sugar* and blood sugar is made of *sugar*

    Lynne, despite your serious and important point, this cracked me up.

  52. I had been doing a lot of emotional eating and dieting for a long time, and although I stopped that a few years ago, I am just getting introduced to the HAES concepts. Michelle’s post is really helpful to me as I struggle with letting go of my old mindset and start accepting the fact that I’m really a healthy individual, no matter what the weight and bmi charts say.

    Thanks for the post and all the comments, I’m learning a lot.

  53. What a great post! I still have a lot of issues with HAES and intuitive eating, mostly because I have no idea what that means for me. I don’t know who to trust. If I go to my doctor for advice on eating healthily, I know exactly what I will hear: something that sounds suspiciously like a diet.

    I’ve spent years eating whatever I wanted. That’s the problem. I grew up eating fatty, sugary foods and they taste real good to me. I only eat vegetables because I can tolerate them and I’m “supposed to”(besides fried potatos). I seriously don’t really like them. Most green veggies I don’t like eating at all, but the ones I can tolerate I only eat if someone else is watching. If it were up to me, my diet would consist of proteins and bread, with sweets and fried foods sometimes.

    But I also think that I just don’t know what is out there, and maybe I would like it if I ate it. I eat the same foods I’ve been eating since I was a child and so does most of my family. A lot of these foods don’t make me feel particularly good, and sometimes they don’t even taste all that good. Those are my clues that those foods aren’t good for me. But I don’t know what to eat instead.

  54. Michelle is super smart, thanks for this.

    I was very happy to see her point about whether or not you can do “HAES” if you, in fact, don’t care that much about “health”. Because that is spot on where I am at, and finding FA has only increased my ambivalence.

    That is not to say that I am the picture of perfect health, and therefore don’t have to think about it. I have migraines and some wonky genetic hand tremor thing that will eventually make me shake like Katherine Hepburn, may she rest in peace. And those things have to be managed, sometimes by avoiding certain foods, like my nemesis Splenda. I am sure anything else that I get diagnosed in the future with will have to be managed as well, and I am okay with that.

    Until then, I am not comfortable with anything that increases the amount of brain time I have to spend on feeding myself, and only want to think, “OMG, this has so many calories!!” in an evil, gleeful head voice, preferably while doing an accompanying evil, gleeful dance.

    So, does this fall within the Health At Any Size spectrum? I don’t know.

  55. TropicalChrome said:

    With HAES, there was no “must” about it. In fact, comparing myself to others wasn’t just counterproductive but utterly pointless, because who we are are and what we can do even given the exact same set of circumstances (which doesn’t happen) are different. And it doesn’t matter what others can do or are doing or aren’t doing – all that matters is what I do, what I choose to do or not do, and how that affects my mind and body.

    That’s it, that’s exactly it! The rules of HAES are that there ARE no rules. Seriously. It’s whatever works for you

    I don’t see HAES as only eating ‘good things’ (whatever they are) and exercising virtiously – although I’ve read a few things recently that have made me realise that a lot of people do see it that way. For me, HAES is about emotional and mental health as much as it is physical. And it’s also about listening to your body.

    So yeah, the two packets of chips I had today was totally because my body told me it wanted starch and salt and I obliged, without judgement. And my other food choices today are made by listening to my body tells me it wants (within the realms of availability, of course) without regard to a ‘diet plan’ or even an eye to nutrition.

    Does that sound scary? Why should it? I trust my body to tell me what it wants, how much it wants and when it wants it. Surely it knows best?

    jadelennox,

    On the other hand, I am battling IBS, which means that many of those foods which are Good for You are not Good for Me. Leafy greens, in particular, which I love, can leave me nonfunctional for days. Sometimes. So sometimes all I can eat is the simplest of simple carbohydrates: white rice, mostly. I find myself full of self-loathing at these times: why am I not eating healthy foods?

    You know, eating rice was HAES. Why? Because you were listening to your body’s needs when you chose that food. Rice is a healthy food choice for you. Why beat yourself up?

    Meowser:

    And no, adjusting your diet for medical reasons like IR does not violate HAES; what violates HAES is thinking that your/somebody else’s weight is the cause of your/their health problems and if you/they were only thinner those problems would all go away.

    Exactly.

    My partner is a dialysis patient. Because he does PD not hemo his food choices aren’t quite so restrictive as they could be… but for him (as with anyone) HAES means choosing foods that are good for his body based on what his body tells him. He actually has a pretty good handle on reading his body’s needs; he knows when he can handle a non-kidney-friendly food and his body tells him when he needs to eat more simply. He has been fortunate enough not to have to weight and measure in order to keep his doctors happy with his levels, but I think that in itself is a pretty good reflection on the fact that he is in tune with his body’s needs.

  56. Fatadelic:

    Dialysis and kidney disease is a perfect example of what I mean. If your kidney is not functioning properly, eating a potato or banana or a glass of orange juice could potentially kill you, full-stop.

    But for the average, healthy population? These foods are nourishing, and potassium itself is a crucial mineral/electrolyte to include in the diet.

    The thing most people don’t seem to get about nutrition is what everyone here in this thread has been saying: good nutrition is different for everyone, and depends on your individual situation. The recommendations that are broadly applied to the population are not only often wrong-headed because of weight bias, but are often not appropriate for someone with other health conditions.

    And vice-versa. A lot of times, dietary recommendations developed for a specific disease — a DISEASE, mind you — like heart disease, diabetes, etc., will be pushed by some weight-loss concern as a diet for a NON-DISEASED population. Either because, by their extraordinarily fucked-up logic “the dietary treatment for X disease will prevent X disease in the population” (bullshit), or because somehow a therapeutic diet, if it’s good for someone who’s sick, is therefore EXTRA GOOD for someone who isn’t. A therapeutic diet is, in some cases, damned close to medicine. And we know that we don’t go around taking medicine willy-nilly for health conditions we don’t have.

    There is NO SINGLE nutrient or food, including water, that is always, without fail, good and not harmful to every single person on the planet. There just isn’t. Nutrient requirements are exquisitely individual. And that’s why HAES has to be, too.

    That said, the average person with no special health conditions* can, without any special guidance whatsoever, eat the diet that is right for them. Pretty much just by eating what they’re hungry for, and what makes them feel good. It’s a ridiculous notion that, as Kate said, for basically normal people, “eating — EATING — is a perilous, potentially deadly endeavor that the average human being can’t be expected to negotiate successfully without professional assistance.”. Otherwise, how would humanity have survived before nutrition as a science was even discovered?

    We wouldn’t. Therapeutic diets were invented for people who need specific nutrition therapy. No one else.

    *And that includes mental issues severe enough to mess up one’s eating and relationship to food.

  57. Also, I went back and reread that comment, and… since when is sugar not a nutrient?? It’s the most basic nutrient!

  58. HAES is so difficult for me. I understand where it’s coming from, and i agree with the principle, but I find it difficult in practice because I need to stay alive while I’m in treatment for my chronic illness, because it contraindicts most antidepression meds, and for it to work I need to be awake and somewhat aware some of the time that I can give feedback on how it makes me feel and alter it to suit me and so on, and I have no internal energy reserves so all I run on is sugar. I’m a cheerful drunk, too, and I would hopefully like to be not-quite-so-suicidal for some part of the years the treatment will take. And to do that takes a choice of: today, am I going to eat sugar and a handful of painkillers? or am I going to eat sugar and alcohol?

    I know that I am probably practising HAES, because this is, after all, what works for me. But it still feels like failure when I reach for yet another biscuit or packet of chips or another bottle or another pill, and I’m having a hard time avoiding thoughts like ‘you shouldn’t eat so much sugar’, ‘do you really need that?’, ‘why are you eating? you won’t be awake to enjoy it anyway’, ‘who wants to see you awake? you’re better off sleeping and leaving them in peace from your fat self’, and so on.

    The prospect of addiction terrifies me. The prospect that I might already be addicted to sugar in some way terrifies me. I need it, but do I really? And then I start doubting myself, and the thoughts start up taunting me like pernicious little baby-flavoured doughnuts baked with demon horns.

    How do you deal with the crap in your head when your physical and mental illnesses interact and egg each other on? How do you do that while practicing HAES?

  59. Michele’s post was awesome and alleviates some of my feelings of hypocrisy about HAES and lurking around blogs like ths one. Some of my intuitive eating practices skate the line of diet-y behavior — and yes, perhaps that’s where they originated, but they’re no longer about the goal of weight loss. I get confused about my own distinctions between “impulse” and “intuition” at times. Eating lots of sugar tastes delicious and makes me feel happy and festive at the time I eat it (see also: alcohol and deep fried anything) but it will also make me physically ill later on, so I will avoid it in face of truly “wanting it” in a lot of situations.

    I also used some calorie and activity tracking software a few years ago just to “check in” with myself. What *do* I eat? How much energy *do* I burn every day? I found it to be really enlightening in a lot of ways. It quickly became very tedious to me and I stopped using it after a few months, but I still thought it was a useful exercise for me. I know it’s a dangerous trigger for some folks, so I wouldn’t go recommending it for everyone, but Michele’s post gave me a bit of validation for having done it.

  60. Gah, I forgot to refresh before I posted, so I guess most of what I was asking was answered while I typed, and now I look silly. Sorry about that.

  61. I am 100% and more addicted to sugar/carbs. I’ve never had an actual insulin response test done and my fasting blood sugar levels are always normal – but I don’t need to drink a dose of sugar water and have blood drawn to know that there would be a huge spike – I experience it physically. Now, the truth is, I found this out about myself when I tried a new ‘diet’ – low-carb – but although at the time I started it 6.5 years ago it was all about losing weight, the only reason I did try ‘dieting’ again after everything else had failed was because of the reading I’d done that seemed to suggest that that form of eating would be good for someone like me (with undiagnosed PCOS but all the symptoms and a family history of it). Everything I read said that PCOS was connected to this thing called ‘insulin resistance’ and that a lower-carb diet was recommended for it. And this wasn’t on ‘how to lose weight fast’ ads but medical journals and websites. And it proved to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because it changed my life for the better immeasurably – nothing to do with whether or not it led to weight loss. I would argue that for those of us who are insulin resistant, low-carb ‘dieting’ is actually HAES.

    I know it may sound counter-intuitive to many who follow HAES, particularly to those who have had EDs and find any kind of restriction to be triggering, but the only way I have a normal relationship with food is by severely curtailing my consumption of carbs.

    Before I started low-carbing I thought I was an emotional eater. I *was* the ‘stereotyped’ fatty who couldn’t stop eating, who ate almost only junk foods or white flour products. I was’t interested in protein or vegetables or fruit, except where they were small additions to my carb meals, which usually consisted of pasta, potato, bread, cereals, etc. I was also always hungry, however much I ate. We’re not talking about restricting calories and being hungry, we’re talking about eating huge meals and snacking constantly and still being hungry. What that meant was not physical growly stomach hunger – I almost never felt that because I was constantly eating – but a constant urge to eat. Again, I thought it must be an emotional thing, a weak thing, a greedy ‘fatty’ thing… imagine my surprise when I started low-carbing and that compulsion to eat just vanished. Now I eat when I’m hungry, and I *can* listen to my body and eat intuitively because the messages aren’t being submerged under the crazy insulin demands of a messed-up system.

    Now, I *don’t* believe that all overweight people have insulin resistance and if they just cut out the carbs they would lose weight and that’s what they should do. I do believe that cutting carbs to varying degrees is healthy for pretty much everyone because our diet focuses on them far too much (and because I’ve done a hell of a lot of reading on the subject), but that doesn’t mean it’s something people should have to do – everyone has their own choices to make.

    But for me, the reason why I’m still eating low-carb six years after I began is because it is the only way I finally feel *free* of food addiction. I never felt good before. And I’m not talking about my feelings about my appearance, I’m talking about my stomach. Can you imagine what it’s like to always have this compulsion to eat? It’s horrible, and it’s unhealthy. Now I eat a range of foods, I eat all kinds of proteins and nuts and legumes and vegetables and the fruits that don’t trigger hunger for me. And every so often, if I want to, I eat carbs – knowing that they will make my insulin surge, knowing they’ll make me hungry – but also knowing that at that particular time – say a wedding, or a party, or an extra-special restaurant, or a festival with specific foods as part of it – then the insulin surge is worth it to me, and it only lasts a short amount of time as long as the carb intake is also within a short amount of time.

    My bloodwork having lived this way for six years is better than it has ever been, and a number of physical issues (irregular period, patches of dark skin) cleared up at the same time that I started limiting carbs (*before* weight loss, mind you – so it was nothing to do with how much I weighed but everything to do with the types of food my body consumed).

    For me, this is HAES. My focus when I began eating this way was certainly losing weight – trying the next thing that might help – but if I’d felt the way I felt every time I tried traditional ‘dieting’ it would never have lasted longer than a few weeks. This made a huge impact on my health and well-being, and being restricted in my food choices has actually freed me. And it’s no longer about weight – I’m still ‘overweight’ and I’m fine with that. It’s about having freed myself from an addiction I didn’t even know I had, and improving my health immeasurably.

    But as so many people have said – that’s MY story, and MY HAES. That doesn’t mean it would be or should be right for everyone.

    (Incidentally, you don’t need to consume sugar for health. The small amounts of glucose you actually need can be synthesized within the body, and as for the rest, protein and fat is very efficiently used for fuel. Carbs are just the *first* source the body turns to for fuel when present ).

  62. On cravings: especially for those who have an illness, cravings can be a sign that you are not getting something you need.

    Example: I stopped my potassium supplement, figuring I would crave bannanas if I needed one. I started craving oranges like crazy. I was eating so many my stomach hurt from the acid. Come to find out, oranges are also high in potassium. Started back on my supplement and the cravings stopped.

    Cravings are our bodies way of telling us they need something. I have learned to listen. Sometimes, it means I need to supplement. Sometimes, it means eat and enjoy.

    And, btw, I crave huge amounts of sugar when I don’t get enough sleep (and I think that’s pretty common). My body is screaming ENERGY!

  63. I am really intrigued by this sugar addiction thing. Now, does it exist or is there really something else going on? I’m curious. I WANT TO KNOW THIS NOW. I mean, I love sugar, but I’m certainly not addicted. I usually have sugar cycles: For two weeks I’ll eat a lot, then I won’t like it at all for the next two weeks. However, I have never experienced anything like a “sugar rush” or whatever you call it, but I know several people who keep mentioning that. Does that exist??

  64. Deborah M, your story is a terrific example of figuring out what works for your body in an unexpected way. But a couple of sentences jumped out at me as skirting the line in terms of imposing norms on other people:

    Can you imagine what it’s like to always have this compulsion to eat? It’s horrible, and it’s unhealthy.

    I think you’re talking about cravings here, but on a basic level, a “compulsion to eat” is called hunger, and it’s part of the human experience.

    Incidentally, you don’t need to consume sugar for health.

    What do you mean by “health” here? Who’s the “you”? According to whom?

    Again, I’m not trying to pick on you and I appreciate you sharing your comment, but these two moments jumped out at me as unconsciously relying on universalizing “health = X, Y, and Z” rhetoric that pathologizes hunger. I think this kind of language is one of the hardest parts of diet culture to let go of.

  65. You know, deep fried food, sugar, and alcohol (say half a bottle of wine – not half a bottle of whisky) don’t make me feel sick or crappy in the slightest, either at meal time or later. I eat “bad food” pretty regularly – though not in huge quantities – and I certainly drink beer and wine regularly. Works for me…

  66. But– last week a friend visited, someone I very much admire and respect, and she told me that I need to lose 40 pounds

    Who the hell ARE these people? Seriously! Strangers, doctors, family — yes, I can see why it happens. But wtf is with FRIENDS pulling this kind of shit?

    Sarah, I know you didn’t ask and normally I don’t give unsolicited advice, but this makes me so mad I’m going to anyway. Instead of beating yourself up about your friend’s extremely rude and invasive opinion, get mad at her for being so rude and invasive. Have you let her know how damaging that statement was for you? Here’s the script for the email/phone conversation I would love to have on your behalf:

    Hey there, Friend Whom I Admire and Respect Very Much, I wanted to talk to you about something that happened on your visit. Probably you’re even more embarrassed about it than I am, since you really put your foot in it. Remember when you told me to lose 40 pounds? You probably realized it the second those words left your mouth, but that was an extremely rude, invasive, and inappropriate thing to say. Why are you trying to dictate what my body looks like? You’re not my doctor, and more importantly, YOU’RE NOT ME. My weight is none of your business, and my body is not yours to control. I’m telling you this now because I care about you and I’d hate to see you make an ass of yourself with someone else in the future by trying to police the intimate details of their lives. By the way, if you think I don’t know I’m fat, that I live with this fat body 24 hours a day and somehow I have just not NOTICED that it’s fat, then you’re kidding yourself. It’s my body. I know it well. And I love it just the way it is.

    Again, I usually don’t script other people’s revenge fantasies but I hate the thought of you beating yourself up when your friend is the one whose unmitigated rudeness goes unpunished.

  67. I liked Michelle’s write up and agree with Arwens addition that HAES includes “stop beating yourself up for not being BMI under 25 because, contrary to popular belief, that obsession with size is not doing your health any favors” and with the idea that mental health must be considered along with physical health.

    In our culture, “healthy living” becomes doing whatever it takes to keep yourself thin, even if it means destroying your energy and making yourself crazy. Which is to say, even if it means destroying your physical and mental health! What HAES says to me is that your personal health matters and that you need to do what works for you.

    It’s that “no cost is too high, no sacrifice too great, in order to achieve thinness” idea that HAES challenges, for me. I don’t care if people calorie count or eliminate a particular food group or don’t exercise or eat junk food if that is what works for them. I ran across a newspaper article a while back that basically argued that if a businessman realizes that his lifestyle is keeping him fat, but he loves being so busy he doesn’t have time to “exercise and eat right” and he really doesn’t want to give up this career he so enjoys, then he shouldn’t be expecteded to.

    The author of that newspaper article didn’t discuss HAES or anything like it best I can recall, but he was totally arguing in favor of HAES. HAES is doing what is right for you, and refusing to let our culture’s obsession with thinness convince you to give up what matters to you. It’s pursuing the best health you can have in your present circumstances, and also recognizing that time and energy and money are limited, and that trying to force others to use their time, energy and money to achieve your goals is a form of theft.

    If someone choses to use their time, energy and money to achieve thinness, if they aren’t being pressured but have their own reasons to go that route, then for them that is HAES. Because HAES encompases the entire person, including their goals. The one definition of health HAES forbids, I think, is trying to force others to follow your ideal health plan.

  68. Michelle is very articulate, and I just wanted to say that all these recent reminders of HAES have gotten me to try some of the zillion exercise videos available on YouTube. Presently, I’ve found that yoga has the least of the “you should do this so you will lose weight” emphasis, but I’ve been dong some Pilates as well. Pilates takes less time (than the full yoga workout I like to do; I found a bunch of cute little 10-minute videos) and my chiropractor recommended it, a long time ago, for my specific health problems (a bum hip).

    And, um, I bought a yoga mat, because it was getting painful not to own one. It’s blue. :)

  69. I won’t speak for Sarah, but if I ever need a revenge fantasy scripted, I’m coming to you, Sweet Machine.

    Also props to Michelle for such a great post!

  70. Oops, I just accidentally violated comment rules, I think– I am Sarah above (with the friend who thinks I should lose 40 lbs). My usual info’s stored on this computer. Sorry!

  71. No violation of comment rules, Sarah/therealpotato! It’s nice to stick to a single name, but we don’t require it — as long as you’re not just sockpuppeting to pretend your asshole views are shared by multitudes, which is clearly not the case here. :)

  72. Thank you so much for linking to that post. It helped me make sense of certain aspects of my own experience. It can be hard to distinguish between “dieting” behavior and just doing what works for your body, and it was incredibly reassuring to me. It makes me feel better to know that eating more of some things or less of others *because it makes me feel better* doesn’t break any “rules.” Because while I’m getting used to the idea that my weight will sort itself out on its own and controlling it isn’t the best idea, I dread the thought of going back to the sluggish way I used to feel.

    I do have one question that I’m hoping someone can answer: Michelle stated that while there are situations where intentional weight gain is okay, intentional weight loss never is. This intrigued me, because I never thought about the issue of intentional weight gain before. Why is there this distinction between the two? Is this limited only to people who are at a dangerously low weight, or to anyone who loses weight because of illness?

  73. I want to thank Michelle for her post, and the commentators for their stories and ideas; I need these concrete reminders that people are so different from each other to help me remember that fact or I fall into the laziness of “everyone’s like me”.

    My own little story is that I just went to cub scout camp with my boy, and I was being all (in my own head, how I hope she didn’t notice) disapproving of one Mom who was letting her boy have coffee in the morning. Then the next day that boy commented that maybe my boy was hyperactive, and a little “Aha!” went off in my head. I bet that boy was hyperactive and I’ve read that caffeine is helpful for hyperactives. I was embarrassed for myself in my own head for being so judgemental. I *so* need to work on accepting that people are the best judges of what works for them. I envy the generous spirits who accept people as they are, and strive to emulate them; but I have to make it a concious process and remind myself.

    Erin, I think your friend has to decide if the sugar binges are causing him problems for himself. If he feels lousy afterwards, then he has to decide if the lousiness is worth what the sugar does for him or not. If it is not, then perhaps what he needs is to remember what his body has told him about sugar binges, which is that it really doesn’t like them. Other people here have given lots of reasons for the body to crave sugar, and examining those reasons to see if they fit his personal situation may help him get what his body would really like to have. If he feels that the satisfaction of the sugar cravings is worth the lousy feelings later, then that’s valid too; and he shouldn’t feel guilty or beat himself up about making that choice, those bad feelings are also bad for both his physical and mental health. He is an autonoumous human and has the right to choose whatever is best for him; and perhaps making these choices more conciously will be helpful for him. If he’s resistant to making the choice concious, then he may not be mentally ready to face those choices, and that has to be honored too; which would be the hardest thing for me to do, sitting on my tongue is so hard when I think I know what’s best for someone important to me.

  74. I so agree with Michelle. Of course, you’d have to live under a rock not to be pounded with the GOOD food BAD food debaucle. BUT, it wasn’t until I changed jobs that I realized I needed to be more aware of what was good FOR ME. I went from a very physical job to a sedentary job. Of course, I gained weight. But, I also had money issues and instead of running around like a crazy person and eating whenever I was hungry, I was put on a schedule. SO I had to eat cheap and at my scheduled lunch break time, etc. This messed my system up big time. Then I started watching fat, and calories, the whole 9 yards. I started eating only salads, or things like lean cuisine. Soon I felt like knives were continually puncturing my stomach. My system was a train wreck. Then I decided I couldn’t keep up with it anymore. My money situation got better, and I started eating what I want to eat. I feel SO much better. Sometimes I eat GOOD food, sometimes BAD food…but no more stabby knives. I have more energy, I’m not an emotional mess, I’m my normal self. I’m doing what is right for me, and I don’t care what anyone has to say about it. But, I’m more then happy to tell people about HAES if they press me on the issue.
    PS…just to prove how messed up people are along the lines of superficiality. I got a bad sunburn this weekend. And people keep saying, (my skin is still lobster red, btw) oh you look good! you got some color! OH YES, my skin literally cooking itself is a good thing, because now I’ll have a tan! And look acceptable, not so pasty and pale! Even though it hurts like hell. SIGH.

  75. First up; great post. Seriously, it’s good to be reminded that my approach to HAES is not the only possible approach, and to be reminded of what HAES really means.

    Secondly, to Car…

    I don’t know if this will work for you, but what I find helps is, when I don’t know what I want, I make what my mum used to call a “picking” meal. We’d prepare these a lot for weekend dinners when we couldn’t be asked to cook. Prepare lots of little dishes; a pot of olives, some tapenade, a little side salad, a dish of pickled garlic and sundried tomatoes, some cooked meat, perhaps meatballs, cheeses, fresh bread, fruit, just whatever you have. Stuff that can be put away and eaten later, and won’t go to waste. Lay it out on the table, no plate. and just pick away. I quickly find myself sticking to one thing, or just a couple of things. Once I take a look at the items I’m generally going after out of the selection I can sort of intuit what I’m craving, whether it’s sugar, dairy, protein or roughage. If I find that I’m nomming the lot, then that’s fine too. I was just generic hungry with no particular needs.

    The main problem I have learning the intuitive eating thing is that all of the dieting regimes I used to follow have whacked out my ability to notice hunger, thirst and being full. When I’m at home at the weekends, with out a set schedule by which I have to eat and take breaks, I’ll often forget to eat all day because I don’t notice how hungry I am; then within 2 bites of dinner I’m ravenous. It doesn’t help that the OH has the same problem, and relies on the smell of me cooking to stimulate an appetite. Has anyone here found any workarounds for that sort of issue?

  76. For me, one of the frustrating parts of working on my HAES, is dealing with other people’s ideas about my health and size. I have a lot (no, seriously, a lot) of allergies, many food related, and I’ve found myself in a situation over and over again trapped with someone who thinks the answer to my weight problem (which is clearly their problem, not mine) is eating more fruits, veggies and nuts. Well, I can’t. That lovely salad with the walnut vinaigrette and the apple slices? Poison. The veggie sandwich with sprouts? Poison. The only veggie side is raw carrots? Thanks, I’ll have fries. And no, I don’t have to explain my choices to you, but when you ask and I explain, don’t roll your eyes with a noncommittal uh-huh. I’m bigger than you are.

    At the farmer’s market recently, I had a very nice man from the local raw food restaurant trying very hard to get me to sample his wares and come to his restaurant. I demurred, but he kept talking about how healthy everything was, how good for me it would be, how much my body would appreciate eating more than donuts. Um, what? After we exchanged some words (actually, there was no exchange–I talked, he cowered) I asked him how many dishes they served that were nut free. That’s what I thought. Your health is not my health.

  77. For me, HAES has given me permission to do things I love without meeting some sort of weight allowance first, like hiking.

    I’ve been on three day hikes this summer, hopefully I’ll go on two more next week when I’m in Sunriver. Last summer I would have thought that I needed to lose x-pounds before I tried to go on a hike because obviously a size 14 is WAY TOO FREAKING HUGE to go for a walk in the woods. But hiking is something I love that makes me feel good and healthy, so the nby HAES, I should do it, right? right.

    Anyways I can see how a lifelong dieter can turn HAES or Intuitive eating into another form of self hate, and that’s too bad because it seemse to me what it’s really about is giving yourself a break and letting yourself deal with your body in the way that feels right (if you’re reasonably disease free without any special concerns, like me)

  78. hmmm, don’t know why it signed me in with my real name instead of my nickname, anyways, alexis = lexy

  79. how much my body would appreciate eating more than donuts. Um, what?

    Yah. This guy needs to get a clue. I am not much for fried food as a rule, but sometimes when I am stressed and extremely hungry, raw vegetables make me gag and retch until and unless I have something sweet and fatty first, at which times donuts are precisely what my body most appreciates.

    Hubby bought me a just-made donut twist at a market in Korea once. We’d been busy busy busy for days so I hadn’t been eating much and walking for hours that day to boot. Not only was it really good in terms of taste, it was precisely what my body needed at the time.

  80. Wow, I really appreciate seeing how many different variations in what constitutes health there are even just on one blog. Thank you all — and I feel less confused about HAES now, knowing I *can* interpret the ‘S’ to mean ‘shape and size’ rather than just ‘size.’

    On knowing what to eat, I don’t think this would work for everyone, but that’s one thing I do fairly well — because some twenty years ago, a rheumatologist made me keep a health diary, in which I wrote down twice a day what I’d done and eaten and how I felt, both specific (how well my joints worked, that sort of thing) and in general. It was a royal pain to do and I don’t keep one anymore, but it taught me lots about listening to my body and responding to its needs — I thought then, and until just this thread, whether it was healthy or not. But it is healthy, isn’t it?

    When it comes to diet, I think it’s not just health faddism, I think food snobbery gets into the mix too. I mean, it seems to me that a lot of the things we’re told we’re not supposed to eat are also low-class, while those we’re supposed to load up on can be difficult to find and expensive. Yet, you know, low-class is how my grandmother ate all her life, and she was a month shy of 90 when she died — a very respectable age for someone born with a heart murmur in 1913.

  81. This is a great discussion and I think HAES does boil down to “love yourself”. I believe there are unhealthy ways of eating and when one does it one knows. I have eaten way too many sweets at some point due to stress but I knew it was unhealthy but I couldn’t help it. I binged miserably and then got over it.

    If for some people this continues and feels out of control, it needs to be handled just like any other addiction. There are times when I binge and I love it because I needed it and I don’t worry about it but if I start eating weirdly I pay attention.

    I control my unhealthy cravings and encourage my healthy cravings. When I crave raw veggies, I eat as much as I can. When I crave way too too many sweets, I start modifying my behavior such as drinking sweetened tea or coffee and start cutting down on the solids. This isn’t about weight loss but about feeling good and having control over your body’s well being. It’s not fun feeling sick, ucky, and pukey after eating too much of anything.

    Sometimes my body is wise and guide me and sometimes I need to guide it when things are a little wacky.

  82. Eucritta – I totally think there’s a class element to the good/bad food discussion, too.

    I worked for a guy for a while who was a total foodie. Drank several glasses of wine a day. Ate out every meal at very expensive restaurants and always had several courses. He would constantly go on about how healthy he was. Even though, every night, he was eating a salad full of cheese and oil, followed by a fish course with tons of butter or a sauce, high-fat cuts of meat, with sides and cream sauces, etc., and always a dessert.

    He’d turn up his nose and make an ugly face if I mentioned eating at McDonalds, or making some mac & cheese for lunch.

    Somehow, the fact that his cheeseburger was Kobe beef and cost $100 dollars made it more nutritionally valuable than mine which cost $2.

  83. Car – I would start by eating as wide a variety of meals as I could, and then comparing how I felt after each of them.

    There are a lot of external factors that can affect what your body would like to eat – the season, for instance – so a cheesy lasagne might make you feel sluggish at noon in July, but hits the spot on a cold winter’s night.

    The other hard thing is the need to distinguish between what your tastebuds crave and what your body needs. If I tell myself “no more chips now, or I’ll ruin my appetite for dinner,” that’s not self-hating or negative, any more than saying “I’m not thirsty now, but I’d better carry a bottle of water with me because I’m going to be walking in the sun for quite a while.” The mind can think ahead, and so sometimes has to overrule the body – trust yourself.

    Newbie – as far as intentional weight gain, well, I’m pregnant and have had to gain weight very carefully for that reason.

  84. Tiana you asked about sugar addiction. I have no idea if there are clinically diagnosed cases of physical addiction to sugar; maybe someone else here knows the answer to that one. Psychological addiction I expect has been noted.

    You also mentioned you go through sugar “cycles” – have you tried correlating that with your menstrual cycle? I have wicked salt cravings around the onset of PMS every month that last 1-3 days and then go away.

    As for the sugar rush, I know that I feel a response when I eat something with a high glycemic impact, but I have hypoglycemia. This means in general I am more sensitive than some people to changes in my blood sugar and also after 11 years of living with it, I’m far more attuned to what my body does when it gets a large influx of simple carbs in a meal than most people would be. I can sense a sugar rush (and crash) but just because I sense it doesn’t mean someone else would or that it would really register in my blood sugar levels. The medical profession has had conflicting opinions on whether the sugar rush is for real, although most of the parents I know will tell you that they’ve seen ample evidence. ;)

    DRST

  85. Definitive.dot, I had to respond to your post because I’ve been whizzing around the kitchen lately, excited out of my mind because I’m on a cooking binge! So here are some recipes for you to try re: veggies…

    Try mixing this in with your pasta, but it can also be eaten alone if you feel up to the POW kind of flavor!:

    – 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
    – Coupla fresh cherry/grape tomatoes, whole
    – Coupla peeled garlic cloves, whole
    – 1/2 small spring onion head
    – 2 tsps. (or 3 fresh sprigs) thyme
    – 2 tsps. oregano
    – Coupla baby carrots
    – Salt
    – Olive oil

    OK, so you want to take everything and put it in a bag and swish it all around. Taste a bit of the oil after you add the salt; if it’s salty enough, you’ve got it just about perfect. Dump it all out into a large piece of tinfoil and wrap it up; throw it on the grill (high) for 5-7 minutes each side or in the oven (guessing, 450 F) for 10-12 minutes each side. Take it out. Yums.

    I would put a picture here because it looks so amazing (and OMG! whole roasted garlic cloves!), but alas, I cannot.

    Let me know if you like this recipe, I can be helpful in getting people to like vegetables. :)


  86. RG, on July 13th, 2008 at 8:01 pm Said:

    It actually is possible to be “addicted” to sugar. I’m insulin resistant, and if I listened to my cravings, I would eat nothing but bread and cake all day long. Sure, it may be what I want, but it’s not *healthy*, and the “health” part of Health At Every Size is important.

    So, does forcing myself to eat vegetables and meat and other healthy things, even though my body is screaming for simple carbs, disqualify me as a practicer of HAES? I hope not. I can’t eat intuitively (I’d end up with type II diabetes), but I can eat intelligently.

    This is something I’ve dealt with as a result of PCOS and insulin resistance, outside of any self-talk or societal talk about “good” or “bad” cravings. It *is* possible to eat intuitively with a sugar problem — you just have to pay close attention to how you feel AFTER you eat something, and then internalize that. If cookies or pretzels = sick, shaky, cranky twenty minutes later, that’s worth noting. If cookies eaten after a protein- and fat-rich meal don’t have the same effect, that is also worth noting. :) It’s that same old paradigm shift of really listening to your body — both before and after you eat — and knowing what works to keep your body happy and on an even blood-sugar keel.

  87. Thanks everyone for the advice. I probably should start keeping a journal of what I eat and how it makes me feel – I need the hard evidence! Bringing up the allergies, I sometimes get really mucosy after a meal (I have to clear my throat constantly for a half hour or so), and someone suggested that might be some kind of low-level allergy. I never got organized enough to figure out when that was, though. I’m liking the idea of a journal.

    I asked him how many dishes they served that were nut free. That’s what I thought.

    Oh, no kidding. I have an allergic-to-nuts son, and it is so damned frustrating when people bring all kinds of nut stuff to gatherings. There was one picnic where he couldn’t eat any of the side dishes at all, because every one of them had nuts of some sort. I love my Moosewood cookbooks, but a lot of those recipes are just out due to nuts.

  88. I sometimes get really mucosy after a meal (I have to clear my throat constantly for a half hour or so), and someone suggested that might be some kind of low-level allergy

    More free medical advice from a totally unqualified source: acid reflux can sometimes be mistaken for phlegminess.

  89. Michelle is indeed smart!

    Personally, I’ve kept a food journal a few times. Once with weight watchers, which I’m *not* going back to! It was a useful education for me, though, in lots of ways. I’d never actually dieted before, so all the diet tricks and tips were new to me – and the fakeness and sadness of most of them, too. The mentality was rather disturbing, all that ra-ra primary school patronising stuff. Ew. But I did learn some actually good stuff about portion control, too.

    The other time was much more healthy – it was also in context of a sorta-kinda diet, but the sanest one I’ve ever seen. Quite close to HAES, except with the added extra notion that you will lose weight to a natural setpoint if you follow the principles. Anyway, you are supposed to record how hungry you are when you eat, how full you are after you eat, and be cautious to avoid non-hungry eating. I found this very useful in learning to recognise my hunger signals, and also to reduce over-eating. I was giving myself heartburn by eating too large volumes of stuff too quickly, so eating less really did help me to feel better.

    So for me, tracking tools can be useful in helping to get back in touch with your body. I used to be out of touch with both hunger and satiety signals, and also with the loginess of not exercising.

    Satiety is the one not so much discussed in the FA circles, but I think it’s worth noting now and then. You won’t have the fear of eating the whole world if you know that you know when to stop…

  90. I’ve been thinking all day about how to respond to this. I suppose my comment is directed more to the idea of HAES that has evolved through the comments. Based on what I’ve read, this might not be popular and I hesitate to challenge anything on this site, but I think it does qualify as thoughtful.

    Basically, I completely disagree. If “health” can mean anything you want, then it doesn’t mean anything at all. Thus, HAES means nothing. I don’t think health is simply a measure of weight, size, or BMI. And I agree that health should include the mental and emotional aspects. But physical health is important too and I’m really not hearing about that in this idea of HAES. There are other measurements that have nothing to do with weight, size, or BMI – things like blood sugar and cholesterol (which don’t discriminate based on size). My mom lived for years on water, Diet Pepsi, and high carb food. She would skip breakfast, eat a high carb, high fat lunch, she might eat dinner, but usually it was just some dessert-type food. The ups and downs of her blood sugar led to type 2 diabetes. There are patterns involving certain foods that do more harm than good.

    Other factors to consider are stamina and the ability to carry out the live one’s life in physical comfort and safety. If your car broke down or you ran out of gas and had no cell phone signal, could you make it to help? In case of a fire, could you make it up/down the stairs fast enough or could you climb out of a second story window? If you were attacked by an unarmed individual, could you put up a fight? (I say unarmed because fighting an armed individual is a poor decision.) If a heavy object fell on your child, are you strong enough to pick it up or at least remove some of the pressure? (And I’m aware that people with certain disabilities or of a certain age face different challenges.)

    And I’m not saying anyone should obsess about foods or exercise, but Health at Every Size does imply attention to health. I’m a hot 5′ 7″, 275 lbs, size 20-22 and I demand respect from everyone around me, but I demand the same from myself and I’m committed to put in the work every day. When I discovered HAES, I was inspired to start swimming laps because I needed to address my waning endurance. On one hand, I feel mislead. On the other hand, I feel inspired to start my own brand of FA.

  91. I think Michelle is smart, too, and very articulate.

    Part of the problem that I ran into when I decided not to stay on the hamster wheel of dieting was that I hadn’t realized just how much of western female life is encoded by this message of self-deprivation and scarcity and control. It even sinks into sex and relationship to others and to God!

    Part of HAES for me is not only this attempt to learn, within the confines of poverty and chronic pain and food allergies, what I want to eat, but an attempt to apply a healthy lifestyle overall to my life and relationships.

    And just as I don’t eat oranges because they make me feel crappy later, I don’t play certain mind-games in relationships. To me, it’s a continuum.

  92. Say Rah, I don’t think anyone is saying health means anything you want. Did you read Michelle’s post? She discusses the definition of health.

    I guess part of the problem is how uncertain even the medical community is about how to define health. Nutritionists don’t at all agree on what is a “healthy” way of eating. (Lots of carbs, food pyramid style! Oh wait, no carbs! No no okay, some carbs, but only certain ones, or only certain fats, and lots of chocolate, but no chocolate because it’s junk, ahhhhhh!!) As to your examples – things like cholesterol don’t seem to be easy for many people to control by diet (your blood cholesterol levels don’t necessarily have much to do with how much cholesterol you ingest). And clearly some people consider carbohydrates to be so harmful that they are “addictive” (and I’m a little uncomfortable with the use of that word to describe food – an inability to metabolise a nutrient properly isn’t an “addiction,” though I understand why people started calling it that), but for others carbs do not pose a serious problem at all. Really truly. Many people can handle eating a lot of carbs and don’t suffer significantly for it.

    I think HAES is a way to find a middle ground. It is okay to eat intuitively because nutrition science offers no hard answers – most bodies are functioning pretty well when people feel good. And if your body is such that intuitive eating is harmful for you, in that case HAES lets you figure out what *does* work for you: what keeps your organs functioning correctly and your energy levels up and stable and your head clear, as much as you can control those things. HAES also stipulates that it’s important to try to do that without obsessing over it in a highly disordered way. That seems to be the goal. I don’t think it’s contrary to this to have routine bloodwork and other routine tests done by a doctor, for instance, to find and deal with health problems as early as possible (and adjust diet if necessary).

    The point is to pursue healthfulness without flagellation. I’m not sure why you completely disagree with that.

  93. Say Rah – I’m with you, in terms of my own health, but I think the main thing here is deciding that the individual is responsible for sussing out what is most healthful for him or her.

    I have a friend whose incredibly young child has a sensory issue that means she doesn’t like to eat. While I was growing up, my mom pretty much made sure there was nutritious food and I would eat it or not as I saw fit: this is classic body respect and feeding on demand. With my friend’s child, it would lead to starvation. They daily drink melted ice cream with rewards for completion.

    In no universe does melted ice cream as a daily breakfast drink make sense to MY health, nor perhaps to the health of your mom’s. However, our bodies are individual, and our needs are individual. To throw one size fits all down easily leads to:
    patronizing,
    then scolding,
    and finally “you’re sick because you owned a body incorrectly”.

    Part of health is deciding to give information to people and respecting their choices as to what to do with that information. What person — and especially what fat person – hasn’t heard “exercise, water, veggies, fruits, lean protein, whole grains” as the health package? For many of the people here who own bodies and drive them around every day, this may be true — with perhaps additional fats than the anti-fat folks would have you believe — but it won’t be true for ALL of our bodies, and we have to respect the people here to make their own health based choices.

    Are we ignorant fatties? Or able, with information and listening to our bodies, able to make decisions for ourselves?

    Health at Every Size to me means that ~
    -> those of us with more mainstream approaches to health can work for our health without obsessing over the scientifically spurious weight connection and
    -> those of us with different, personalized approaches to their physical and mental health should be listened to for their experience, because just as fatties have been ignored, mocked, and patronized, so have all sorts of other people.

    Maybe all of us can helped to healthier habits with people they ask for help, and all of us can use the scientific information on health that’s out there in our own lives. But being judged by strangers who have no investment is UNHEALTHY, and provably so; and the science is true for populations, not individuals, so it WON’T necessarily work for everyone. My friend’s child needs to drink melted ice cream.

    Health at Every Size for me is exercise and almost classical food pyramid nutrition. But I’m not everyone. The way I examine HAES for any one other person is practically the same for me as being pro-choice — I shut up, listen, and support where I can, because fundamentally who are any of us to decide for someone else?

  94. I think one of the things that I would most like to see in the public discussion of HAES is an inclusion of *mental* health in the H part.

    And, I would also like to see HAES address, head on, the cultural illness of dieting. It’s by far the most damaging thing the human race has invented for itself, and nobody — I mean NOBODY — is untouched by it.

    Minerva

  95. I think one of the things that I would most like to see in the public discussion of HAES is an inclusion of *mental* health in the H part.

    Well, I did just make a triangle and write a series of blog posts (just scroll down a little – it’s the five posts below the current one) on it last week, if anyone’s interested.

  96. Hi Sweet Machine,

    Sorry I took so long to reply – different time zone to most of the rest of you :-)

    You said:

    “But a couple of sentences jumped out at me as skirting the line in terms of imposing norms on other people:

    Can you imagine what it’s like to always have this compulsion to eat? It’s horrible, and it’s unhealthy.

    I think you’re talking about cravings here, but on a basic level, a “compulsion to eat” is called hunger, and it’s part of the human experience.”

    Let me rephrase, then. The compulsion I felt *wasn’t* hunger, because I was never hungry in the traditional sense – I ate too much and too often for that. I suppose the best way to put it would be that I was never satiated. Food is supposed to satisfy us, right? One of the pleasures of eating is to feel the need to eat – hunger – then create/buy/order something we find tasty to fulfill that hunger – a meal – and then feel satisfied and filled by that meal, until x hours later, when the hunger comes back. I never felt that. I would eat until I was stuffed full, until it was physically uncomfortable to keep eating, and yet I still felt the urge to keep eating, and it was a constant *discomfort* that I couldn’t ignore until I ate more – despite how uncomfortable that might be for me since I already had a full stomach.

    That is what I would say is unequivocally un ‘healthy’. It’s a manifestation of a body out-of-whack, it’s not a ‘normal’ hunger sign – which I didn’t really discover for myself until the carbs were no longer overloading my system.

    As others have said, and I heartily agree, not everyone is addicted to carbs, and most people can handle them much better than I can. And yes, it does also depend on when you eat them. So for example, I’ll only eat fruit if I’ve already eaten some form of fat and protein, because then I know the fruit won’t cause a rush/make me feel hollow/empty/hungry/cravey. And likewise if I go out for a meal to a nice restaurant, I might take a couple of bites of dessert from my husband’s plate, because I know a couple of bites are fine for me. Or sometimes I’ll eat the whole dessert if I feel like it! It’s just a lot rarer for me than for others. And I’ll eat some things that don’t bother me but would bother other people who have it even *worse* than I do when it comes to carbs. So I’ll eat yoghurt, and humus, for example, whereas others wouldn’t. And I eat 70% cocoa dark chocolate, even though it has sugar in it, because it is relatively low in sugar and doesn’t start the cycle for me. Sweet potatoes don’t cause problems for me like regular potatoes do, so I eat them in small quantities, again, as long as it’s with plenty of fat and protein to balance their effect.

    It really is a very individual thing, and even for those of us with carb/sugar ‘addiction’ (and if one calls nicotine and therefore smoking an addiction then i don’t see why one shouldn’t call sugar an addiction if you have a screwed up physical response to it) the ‘level’ varies.

    You also said:

    “Incidentally, you don’t need to consume sugar for health.

    What do you mean by “health” here? Who’s the “you”? According to whom?”

    That was just said in response to a comment about needing sugar for our bodies, and without going into the science, I just meant that entirely from a physiological standpoint – the body can function well without actual sugar. I can’t talk for people with hyper or hypoglycaemia, I don’t know enough about that, I just know that there is a common misconception that we ‘have’ to eat carbs for our health and to give us energy, and I was just saying that scientifically that’s not true in ‘general’. I don’t want to go and find the scientific facts to quote here because I’ll have to search, and I haven’t got the time right now – I gotta get back to work!

    But I would highly recommend Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories for the most in-depth exploration of nutrition and the way our bodies process different types of food that I think exists in print today. It is eye-opening and mind-blowing.

    I don’t feel in the least picked on, don’t worry, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to clarify what I said.

    Like I have said before, whether or not I said it in my original post on this topic, I do firmly believe that HAES includes components of mental health, and even if you *are* as ‘addicted’ to sugar as I am, that doesn’t mean I think that you therefore ‘must’ act as I have done. I think mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health and everyone has different needs.

    My husband, who is skinny and borderline underweight for his height, has taken on a low-sugar diet – not as extreme as me at all, but he eats only whole grains/brown rice rather than white flour/pasta/rice, has stopped worrying about fat intake, and minimizes the amount of sugar he eats – because of what I’ve read about the health benefits of that way of eating. Obviously it’s nothing to do with his weight!

    Hope this clarifies.

    Deborah

  97. @ Lynn

    That seems to be the overarching theme of the comments. I did read Michelle’s full post and as I stated in my original post, “My comment is directed more to the idea of HAES that has evolved through the comments.” Your post suggests that the medical and nutrition community has disagreements over what is healthy and, therefore, no one is right. Well, I disagree that HAES should mean an individual can decide what they want in a vacuum and still claim “health.” But I don’t think my challenge nullifies the concept.

    I see the majority of comments here are defensive and, based on the history of the diet industry and popular culture, I understand. But legitimate qualitative and quantitative research deserves attention. One’s own intuition is a great thing, but I don’t think it trumps all else. Exercise sucks for the first couple of weeks, but after that, it makes me feel amazing. If I had listened to my body at the beginning, I wouldn’t know that I could feel better. You only know from what you have experienced and if you’re not forcing yourself to try new things, you’ll never know how different you can feel.

    @ Arwen

    I’m not suggesting one size fits all. I see a lot of defensiveness in HAES, based on what I’ve read on this blog. And I believe there is good basis for that given pop culture standards and the messages of the diet industry. But I don’t see that as a reason to rebel against the entire medical community. You said, “The science is true for populations, not individuals, so it WON’T necessarily work for everyone.” No, it won’t work for everyone, but it will work for most people. As much as we all want to be the exception, it’s just not possible.

    In an earlier comment, viv said, “This is a great discussion and I think HAES does boil down to ‘love yourself.'” That’s great and I agree! But, I won’t love myself to death.

    @ Deborah M

    I really appreciate your comments regarding sugar.

  98. Your post suggests that the medical and nutrition community has disagreements over what is healthy and, therefore, no one is right. Well, I disagree that HAES should mean an individual can decide what they want in a vacuum and still claim “health.”

    Say Rah, I don’t think Lynne suggested that no one is right. She suggested that the lack of consensus means, quite obviously, that we don’t know who’s right. Deborah M., right above you, just posted about the science that supports a high-protein, low-carb diet, for instance. There is plenty of research pointing in that direction. (I’ve read Taubes’s book, too.) But there’s also plenty of research pointing in the other direction, suggesting that low-carb diets can be harmful. Who’s right?

    One of the great points Taubes makes in GC, BC is that public health messages often go out before there’s actual scientific consensus. Hence the scare over saccharine, one example he uses. We all heard that saccharine is carcinogenic over and over, until it became common knowledge. Then, once everyone “knew” that saccharine causes cancer, came the science proving it does not. That was twenty years ago, and no one in the scientific community thinks saccharine is carcinogenic anymore — but most people in the general population still do.

    Think of eggs, red wine, coffee — all things that have undergone at least one reversal in terms of their supposed health risks or benefits in my lifetime. Think of cholesterol — as Lynne says, there’s not a proven connection between cholesterol consumed and blood cholesterol levels. But because there was some inconclusive evidence that suggested there might be back in the ’80s, the public health message went out — only to be quietly overturned after the public was fully convinced that eating high-cholesterol food = high blood cholesterol.

    Look at how the dieting wisdom has changed. In my lifetime, first it was too many calories, then it was too much dietary fat, then it was too many calories again, then it was too many carbs, and now I’d say the prevailing “wisdom” is back to calories. Who’s right? (Answer: no one, since there has yet to be a study proving that any of those things cause permanent weight loss.)

    Nobody decides what to eat “in a vacuum.” We make those decisions while constantly being bombarded with contradictory information on nutrition from “experts,” not to mention the opinions of friends and acquaintances who have their own theories about “good” foods and “bad” foods. I had a skirmish the other day with a commenter who believes HFCS is getting a bad rap. She might be right — it might be saccharine all over again. (Not to say that HFCS is supposedly carcinogenic, just supposedly harmful to health.) But right now, personally, I try to avoid HFCS, because there’s some evidence that there might be a problem there. Same deal with trans fats. Personally, I’m impressed by the evidence I’ve seen that they’re harmful to health, and I’m perfectly happy to see them being banned lots of places. But I am not naive enough to think that today’s information on trans fats is the be-all and end-all — again, this could be saccharine redux. Right now, I think the safer bet is to avoid trans fats, but the fact is, I don’t know.

    As any Atkins devotee or Taubes reader will tell you, there’s a substantial body of evidence suggesting that saturated fat has gotten a bad rap — yet most people still believe saturated fat = heart attack, because of a gung-ho campaign in the ’80s to make us all believe that. Does saturated fat cause heart disease? I don’t know. There’s too much conflicting evidence. All I can do is take my best guess, given the evidence I’ve seen, and right now, my best guess happens to be no guess — I’m not even leaning one way or another. I eat a steak when I feel like it, and I make sure to eat lots of other kinds of foods as well. Really, eating a varied diet is the only way to make sure you’re eating some “good” foods and not overdoing it on “bad” foods, because there is no fucking consensus on what the ideal diet for the majority of the population would look like.

    I happened to read GC, BC and Pollan’s In Defense of Food at around the same time last year, which was really fucking instructive on this point. Both books are thoroughly researched and present compelling arguments. Both are absolutely written in good faith. But Pollan’s conclusion is “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” and Taubes’s conclusion is that a lot of plant-based food is harmful, while a lot of animal-based food is safer than we’ve been led to believe. Who’s right?

    I trust I don’t need to go on, but I could. If we’re “defensive” it’s because people so often assume we’re completely ignorant about nutrition and/or deliberately ignoring “the evidence.” You talk about rebelling “against the entire medical community,” but the point is, there is no monolithic medical or nutrition community that’s in complete agreement about what and how people should eat. What the government puts out there about our “ideal” diets is informed by a whole lot of variables: biased scientists, corporate lobbyists, a noble desire to get potentially important public health info out there even if there’s no firm consensus yet, a not-so-noble desire to avoid undermining their own authority by completely contradicting previous directives — you can read either Pollan or Taubes for an eye-opening explanation of how that works, despite their different conclusions.

    So maybe lay off on assuming that those of us trying to nourish ourselves by listening to our own bodies are wantonly flouting the consensus of the medical community, huh? That consensus does not exist, and we’re all just doing the best we can to achieve our own health goals.

  99. And wasn’t there a study recently that showed that people absorbed more nutrients from food they enjoyed eating? That’s a scientific argument for intuitive eating if I’ve ever heard one.

  100. And wasn’t there a study recently that showed that people absorbed more nutrients from food they enjoyed eating? That’s a scientific argument for intuitive eating if I’ve ever heard one.

    Good point, LilahMorgan! I’m not sure how recent it is, but yep, that study exists — you can get the deets on the first page of Barry Glassner’s The Gospel of Food.

  101. Quite close to HAES, except with the added extra notion that you will lose weight to a natural setpoint if you follow the principles.

    Jean Antonello? I find her books very helpful, except that I’ll get so down on myself for going hungry. She tries to keep the focus on health, not weight (particularly in the second book), but for me just the fact that weight is an issue is a problem.

    I tend to over-focus, so I will go for hours without considering whether I’m hungry or not, then when I finish what I’m over-focusing on or otherwise break concentration, I realize I’m famished (and thirsty, and need the bathroom, NOW). And I will crave food that are high in sugar and fat at those times, although I’m not that interested in them when I am eating more regularly.

    I think Antonello is right and this pattern often leads to weight retention (I gained the weight in the first place by consciously dieting), but I’m not sure I can ever get to a place where I can eat to appetite regularly enough to lose weight, and I don’t know that this is a big deal. I come from a long line of people who function this way, and they’ve all lived to be at least eighty (the guys) or ninety (the ladies), in good health, so I’m not really convinced I need to lose the weight. My BP is ideal, never showed a sign of gestational diabetes, etc. – from a health perspective, my weight does not seem to be a problem, and in the long run I get more done working with the tendency to obsess than I do when I try the slow-and-steady approach.

    Exercise sucks for the first couple of weeks, but after that, it makes me feel amazing. If I had listened to my body at the beginning, I wouldn’t know that I could feel better.

    It’s never worked for me this way, though. Forcing myself to exercise has always backfired, usually leading to injury. I would question the advice to push yourself to exercise if you hate it for that reason. In my experience, if I’m hating it, I’m overdoing it. In your experience, pushing yourself leads to feeling good, but that doesn’t mean that’s everyone’s experience.

    If you truly love yourself, you’ll do what is most healthy, but that doesn’t mean any two people will pursue health in the same way, nor does it mean they should pursue health in the same way. It doesn’t even mean that one person is at their best health following the same program for a lifetime – our bodies change, and some bodies change more than others. There is no one-size-fits-all program for optimum health.

    I agree that many people are reacting against that one-size-fits-all standard, but I think a lot of people have good reason to react against it, because for them it doesn’t work! I haven’t seen anyone arguing that no one should exercise, but I’ve seen a number of people explaining why exercise isn’t the best for them. I haven’t seen anyone argue that the ideal diet is donuts and chocolate shakes, but I have seen people argue that a donut or a shake can be a healthy and appropriate choice for a specific situation.

    I’ve had a nutritionist encourage me to feed my child candy bars, chocolate shakes, and any other form of decadence I cared to, in order to get her to eat more calories (daughter had been burned and was healing). I gave that a shot for a few days but, as I expected, daughter didn’t hike her calories on the decadence diet (she ate less to compensate), so we went back to her usual diet, but this child has never been a fussy eater. With my youngest daughter, who is a picky and reluctant eater at the best of times, the decadent diet probably would have gotten more calories into her and would have been the healthier diet for her at that time.

    Your argument that, “it won’t work for everyone, but it will work for most people. As much as we all want to be the exception, it’s just not possible” comes across to me as “everyone should follow the health program I think best, unless they have a reason I approve of to abandon it”, which sounds pretty one-size-fits-all to me. Most people recognize that one-size-fits-all doesn’t work for a tiny minority; people here are arguing the minority isn’t so tiny when it comes to the common healthy eating and exercise recommendations, and you’re arguing it is, or at least that’s what I’m hearing.

  102. But I don’t see that as a reason to rebel against the entire medical community.

    Right. So you won’t, and I won’t, and that’s optimal for us. But the moment we decide we are able to best decide for individuals, we’re probably wrong — since we’re people on the internet rather than that individual person or their chosen doctor or therapist.

    Even if most of us in the world are best served by moving when we can and eating the food pyramid (jury’s out on that last bit), it could be that the ones moved to comment here have confounding factors — like Crohn’s, or allergies, or eating disorders — that change their health picture. Self-selecting subgroups, right?

    I think it’d be great if you chimed in that you feel more healthy with traditional approaches – because one of the things that fat people are told is they can’t be traditionally healthy. That’s different than judging other individual expressions of health with a self-selecting already differentiated subgroup based on demographic statistics.

    And demographic statistics are a funny mistress. I live in Canada, which last I checked “gives” me an extra “3” years compared to Americans … So y’all would be healthier if you moved up here. Muah! … It doesn’t really work like that, right?

    And as I said in a previous thread, it’s pharmacology, nutrition, surgery, and sterility in the operating theatre that really makes a difference to our life spans compared to other chimpanzees called humans. It’s living after the Industrial Revolution and medical discoveries of that time that gives us 30 years.

    So, seriously. Strip health recommendations based on statistical mortality to what really matters and it’d go like this:

    Be born after the advent of vaccines and antibiotics and sterile practices. Be born in the first world in the twentieth century.

    For epidemiology:
    Wear condoms/make sure your partner wears condoms. Get Vaccinated / Get your children vaccinated. (That one will likely be controversial). Don’t drink and drive. See a doctor before it gets bad, whatever it is. Stand up for yourself.

    For mental/physical health I’d say.
    Listen to your body, be skeptical, and read what’s out there. Really think it through, and experiment with what feels best. Ask questions. Enjoy yourself while you’re here. Be gentle with yourself and to other people.

    I’m pretty sure everyone’s pretty clear on — “Exercise. Eat food, not too much, mainly plants” — yeah? If that works for people, it’s out there.

  103. I’m pretty sure everyone’s pretty clear on — “Exercise. Eat food, not too much, mainly plants” — yeah?

    Well, except Gary Taubes, as I mentioned above. :)

  104. I am a long time lurker, first time poster. It is odd, I was going to figure out how and where to talk about intuitive eating and HAES somewhere on Shapely Prose and didn’t know where. I am exercising quite a bit and training for my 3rd marathon. My boyfriend is doing the same and we are both skewing to the lighter side of eating. And this weekend I was away with my extended family for the first time in 20 years. And at the lunch table, my cousins and aunt all talked about being “good” and eating low point food (WW strikes everyone). And then I looked over at my mom who is dying of cancer and she is eating fish and chips because it tastes good and its what she wanted. And they were talking about being thin while my mother wastes away in front of us (part of the cancer fun-ness). It took me awhile to get mad. And so I realized that my exercise obsession is because it makes me feel good in my skin. And I can no longer eat carefully because that makes me thinner or “better” but because it is summer and it goes with my running plan. I was so proud. Then yesterday I ate too much cake and threw up. On purpose. And I never had an eating disorder before.

    I wanted to share with people who might understand the connection of food and stress and who would hopefully hear the good parts of the story. I am going to eat what I want when I want it so I don’t eat until sick and I don’t feel guilty or sad about food. And I will rely on regular exercise and movement to feel good in my skin. And I will eat fish and chips with my mom as much as I can.
    Hope this makes some sense.

  105. I think this is an incredible post – especially in connection with GuestBlogger Heidi’s. And it made me feel better – as a Type I diabetic, I need to know how many carbs are in what I’m eating, and I was ashamed to admit that for a long time when talking about HAES, because I felt it might somehow disqualify me. So, thanks personally, as well as politically!

  106. Thanks, Kate, that said it much more clearly than I did, but it was exactly what I was driving at!

  107. First, I agree completely with Michelle’s summation of HAES. She put into words exactly and succinctly the image I had of HAES.

    Second, I want to address the posts re: sugar. And here’s my disclaimer noting that of course, not everything is the same for everyone, what works for one person will not work for another, and each human body has its own unique experience. Having said that..

    Sugar and carb addiction undoubtedly exist; not just as a craving but as a full-on bodily addiction as much as any drug or alcohol. Here is an interview with Wynonna Judd re: her detox from carb addiction. I talked about this with people at the time, who snickered at such a crazy idea as carb addiction in the “just put down the twinkie” way, while I knew there was something to it due to my own physical problems. (It is my observation that the same types of people do the same snickering over the idea of FA.) Unfortunately, at the time, I was yet a year away from learning how I could fix my own lifelong problems with carb consumption. My experience matches Deborah M’s exactly and I agree with her posts. I didn’t feel *hungry* and eat, I never got to the point of feeling hunger. I just felt a compulsion to eat, usually brought on by signs of physical illness. I had the classic signs of hypoglycemia, and in my fog, I knew as I had known my whole life, when this happens as long as I can find some bread and eat it, or better yet a piece of candy, it will go away again. For a while. It was a miserable, painful, reduce-me-to-tears on a regular basis experience, to be at the mercy of an absolute physical (rather than mental) compulsion to eat so I could have a chance to feel normal for a few hours, hopefully.

    It wasn’t until I discovered low-carb dieting that I finally gained control of my eating and could actually wait until I was hungry. And then I later discovered FA and HAES, and I quit worrying about the fact that my BMI said I was “morbidly obese” and just concentrated on the fact that I felt better than I ever had in my life.

    Sweet Machine, regarding the question of not needing sugar for health, what that means is you can cut carbs *completely*, as in never consume another bit of veg or grain product, and still live a completely healthy and strong life. The human body can’t function without some fat intake and some protein intake (the amounts and percentages, of course, being up to you and what works best for you), but it is capable of functioning just fine without ever consuming another gram of carbs. I wouldn’t try such a thing, and certainly it’s not good for the earth at large for humans to switch to mostly-animal-consumption en masse; but I’ve read enough, especially of indigenous peoples who consume an all-animal-product diet, to know this to be true. A significant amount of the information available on the Weston A. Price Foundation’s site is dedicated to this information, and I found this article informative: Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s “Adventures in Diet” about his dietary experience living with Eskimos, published in Harper’s Monthly November 1935.

    (What was it they say about fat people knowing more nutritive information off the top of their head? Heh heh.)

  108. I wouldn’t try such a thing, and certainly it’s not good for the earth at large for humans to switch to mostly-animal-consumption en masse; but I’ve read enough, especially of indigenous peoples who consume an all-animal-product diet, to know this to be true.

    I dunno – I’ve read feminist anthropologists who say some of the groups that claim to live an all-animal-product diet actually eat a fair bit of vegetation, it’s just that culturally the product of hunting (male work) is more valued than the stuff the women gather.

    OTOH, my theory is that different people may have fairly different dietary needs, to the point that it may be true some people would do fine on an all-animal-product diet. I think part of the reason they get such contradictory results from dietary studies is that different people have different needs so a diet that is good for one is bad for another. So one group will do better on a particular diet than another.

    Different people have different emotional needs and tolerances, different people have different social needs and tolerances – why do we assume that everyone has the same nutritional needs? About all we can say for sure about another person in terms of emotional needs is that they need love, unconditional love – how that love is best expressed to them, how much social interaction they need with those who love in order to feel happy, all those kind of details vary from person to person. Maybe all we can say about someone’s nutritional needs is that they need sufficient calories; what food groups those calories come from, in what combination and at what times during the day are optimal most likely vary from person to person.

  109. car: I sometimes get really mucosy after a meal (I have to clear my throat constantly for a half hour or so), and someone suggested that might be some kind of low-level allergy

    kateharding: More free medical advice from a totally unqualified source: acid reflux can sometimes be mistaken for phlegminess.

    As someone who has the same problem on occasion, I paid special attention to my throat-clearing reaction to this evening’s meal. It’s definitely mucous, in my case. I’ve had acid reflux action, too, so I can tell the difference. The only thing that seems to connect these episodes, if they can be called that, is that I was hungry at the time and ate quickly, while not overeating. Shortly thereafter, it starts.

    shiloh: I dunno – I’ve read feminist anthropologists who say some of the groups that claim to live an all-animal-product diet actually eat a fair bit of vegetation, it’s just that culturally the product of hunting (male work) is more valued than the stuff the women gather.

    That’s certainly possible, shiloh. I’m just going on direct, first-person observation – for instance, in the case of Stefansson’s experience, linked above:

    In the morning, about seven o’clock, winter-caught fish, frozen so hard that they would break like glass, were brought in to lie on the floor till they began to soften a little. One of the women would pinch them every now and then until, when she found her finger indented them slightly, she would begin preparations for breakfast. First she cut off the head and put them aside to be boiled for the children in the afternoon (Eskimos are fond of children, and heads are considered the best part of the fish). Next best are the tails, which are cut off and saved for the children also. The woman would then slit the skin along the back and also along the belly and getting hold with her teeth, would strip the fish somewhat as we peel a banana, only sideways where we peel bananas, endways.

    Thus prepared, the fish were put on dishes and passed around. Each of us took one and gnawed it about as an American does corn on the cob. An American leaves the cob; similarly we ate the flesh from the outside of the fish, not touching the entrails. When we had eaten as much as we chose, we put the rest on a tray for dog feed.

    After breakfast all the men and about half the women would go fishing, the rest of the women staying at home to keep house. About eleven o’clock we came back for a second meal of frozen fish just like the breakfast. At about four in the afternoon the working day was over and we came home to a meal of hot boiled fish.

    In this instance, the women were staying home and attending to house duties, preparing the fish for meals, as well as out fishing – but there was no vegetation. (As an aside, there’s been much written about the detrimental effects to the indigenous Inuit when exposed to typical Western fare.)

    In another instance, preparing animal-derived products and tending to the decomposition or fermentation thereof among Native Americans was probably more the women’s work, just as gathering nuts, berries, grains, and even insects for consumption may have been (this description may turn some readers off, so don’t read before eating!):

    The Coahuiltecans, living in the inland brush country of south Texas set fish aside for eight days “until larvae and other insects had developed in the rotting flesh. They were then consumed as an epicure’s delight, along with the rotten fish.” Samuel Hearne describes a fermented dish consumed by the Chippewaya and Cree: “The most remarkable dish among them. . . is blood mixed with the half-digested food which is found in the caribou’s stomach, and boiled up with a sufficient quantity of water to make it of the consistence of pease-pottage. Some fat and scraps of tender flesh are also shred small and boiled with it. To render this dish more palatable, they have a method of mixing the blood with the contents of the stomach in the paunch itself, and hanging it up in the heat and smoke of the fire for several days; which puts the whole mass into a state of fermentation, which gives it such an agreeable acid taste, that were it not for prejudice, it might be eaten by those who have the nicest palates.”

  110. Thanks, Kate, that said it much more clearly than I did, but it was exactly what I was driving at!

    Oh, I know, Lynne! I thought you said everything very well, but sometimes, it takes a couple times to sink in. :)

  111. Victoria C – Aren’t the symptoms of low blood sugar a type of hunger? I get that way, usually in the mid-afternoon when I haven’t eaten a large enough lunch. I would usually interpret it as an indication that I should eat a snack – and eating a snack cures it. How is that a sign of carb addition and not hunger?

  112. “That consensus does not exist”

    Damn right, it doesn’t exist. As I’ve said in the past, when the experts were coming up with the Dietary Reference Intakes (the new, improved, official RDAs for the US and Canada), they couldn’t even come to consensus about certain things like calcium. They came up with a “rough guesstimate” instead, called the AI (adequate intake.)

    Nutrition is, if nothing else, an extremely young science, so unfortunately, we’re all going to be very privy to its growing pains.

    It really doesn’t do a lot of good to harshly judge people who are just doing the best they can to wade through it and do what seems right for themselves.

  113. Oh, another point that I have to make again and again:

    most nutrient requirements are normally distributed

    Which means different people require different amounts, at various points along the bell curve, of every single nutrient. Which means that, on a macro-scale, an entire diet that is good for one person, or even a population of people living in a certain place and time, is going to look very different from an entire diet that is good for another person or population. Our bodies sometimes deal with things in idiosyncratic ways — nothing unscientific about that. It’s just biology, and biology is effing complicated.

    I really doubt there will ever be consensus about one diet that is optimal for every single person in the world, honestly. There may be levels at which nutrient deficiencies develop in most people, but an entire diet comprises so many variables, it’s unlikely all those variables will ever be found to optimally align the same way for each individual on the planet.

    I’m not trying to be all RELATIVISM FTW here, and I really do believe in science. But diet and nutrition is really, really complex, and people’s bodies are really, really complex too. It’s just not as simple as figuring out which diet is Right for everyone.

  114. Dee, I can’t speak for Victoria, but I experience hypoglycemic problems as well. I know, in my experience, that my blood sugar cycles slower or faster depending on the types of food I’ve been eating. If I eat pancakes for breakfast or fettucine alfredo for dinner (for example) the abundance of carbs will mean that my blood sugar may crash again very soon, sometimes even while my stomach is still full from the meal. My body needs more fuel, yes, but I don’t feel “hungry” in the traditional sense. I imagine that if a person is in the habit of feeding themselves almost exclusively with carb-rich food, hypoglycemic symptoms could create a cycle of always needing more fuel, even when you still feel “full.” My mom was hypoglycemic as well, so I learned very young how to balance carbs and proteins based on my energy levels, so I haven’t had much experience with that sort of self-perpetuating cycle, but I can easily see how it could happen if someone doesn’t understand the way their body handles food.

  115. Dee: Victoria C – Aren’t the symptoms of low blood sugar a type of hunger? I get that way, usually in the mid-afternoon when I haven’t eaten a large enough lunch. I would usually interpret it as an indication that I should eat a snack – and eating a snack cures it. How is that a sign of carb addition and not hunger?

    Disclaimer: I’m no expert, I’ve only done a ton of reading regarding the effects of carbs on the body in effort to figure out my own body. Everyone’s experience will differ.

    First, I want to say carb addiction, or any type of addiction, is not a term I use lightly. Addiction implies an unsafe physical or mental demand to frequently consume something; a craving, or a desire, is something that can usually be satisfied and it goes away again for a good while, it’s not something that goes away again for an extremely short time until the effects of consumption are depleted and then the demand is there again.

    Second, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, the mid-afternoon blood sugar low is the most common form of blood sugar drop experience for the population. Remember the “Stay Sharp” commercials from Emerald Nuts? “Around three p.m. when your blood sugar and energy are low, some say that Robert Goulet appears and messes with your stuff.” They were making light of how many people experience symptoms of hypoglycemia including mental fog, stumbling, and falling asleep. So, it isn’t exactly hunger, but rather a desire for sugar or something that can easily be turned into sugar by the body – unfortunately, the easier it is for the body to turn it into glucose, the faster a hypoglycemic’s blood sugar will rise, followed by another drop. Raw or roasted nuts, for those who can have them, are then a good idea.

    At times, hunger and low blood sugar seem to overlap, though – since the digestive system can run out of fuel to process around the same time the blood becomes low in sugar. You say it’s when you eat a smaller lunch. Actual hunger could very well be involved, but if there’s fogginess or other symptoms of hypoglycemia involved, I’m willing to bet it at least also involves your body asking for a sugar boost in its own way. Everyone truly is different, though: I’ve only met one person who I also knew to be hypoglycemic – because it’s usually not the first thing you talk about when introduced to people, of course, even for those who are aware they have it. She would experience blackouts and fainting in response to her blood sugar becoming low, which is dangerous of course, but less physically painful than the agonized shakes and tremors, heat flashes, and dizziness I would experience. There was a social element, as well – once in a while I’d be around people when my blood sugar became low, and suddenly I was making no sense, nor could I impart what the problem was.

    missa is right on, I had no idea about hypo when I was young. I wanted to eat healthy, so I followed what the government told me was healthy – the food pyramid. I ate many servings of whole-grain breads and cereals – and other starchy things, like potatoes – as compared to meat or dairy. The older I got, the more I noticed I “felt a little funny” in the hours after eating these things at times, but it took me well into adult life before I found out the full connection and what was really going on and was able to fix it, sadly.

  116. Listen to your body, be skeptical, and read what’s out there. Really think it through, and experiment with what feels best. Ask questions. Enjoy yourself while you’re here. Be gentle with yourself and to other people.
    I’m pretty sure everyone’s pretty clear on — “Exercise. Eat food, not too much, mainly plants” — yeah?

    This is a picture-perfect example of how much the one-size-fits-all model fails. Exercise makes me very ill, and if I listened to my body all the time, it would be very, very bad for my mental health (instead, I briefly check in with it several times a day).

  117. I just wanted to say that misspenny’s comment made me want to cry, and I think the experience she described really brings home how complicated a “simple” thing like HAES can be. misspenny, I hope you get to enjoy many more meals of fish and chips, salad, cake, or whatever else she and you might like, with your mom.

    I too really appreciated Michelle’s post. It brought some things into focus for me.

  118. I’m pretty sure everyone’s pretty clear on — “Exercise. Eat food, not too much, mainly plants” — yeah? If that works for people, it’s out there….

    This is a picture-perfect example of how much the one-size-fits-all model fails.

    I just want to be clear (if I was confusing here), that I totally agree and didn’t mean that “exercise…etc”. was proscriptive for the definition HAES. I was just suggesting that we all have heard that, and that if it’s possible or plausible for us to pursue health that way individually we’d likely know it one way or the other by now. And that indeed, health for some of us doesn’t contain exercise. For people with Crohn’s, not too many plants.

    Anyway, I laughed at KH’s Gary Taubes joke, but wondered if I’d been opaque even then. Even Taubes is AWARE of that proscription, even if he doesn’t agree. That’s all I meant – we’re all aware of that culture enough that it is likely if we’re doing something alternative we’ve had to confront the main culture head on to make the choice. It’s making the choices for your optimal health – whatever that looks like for you – that I personally see as HAES.

  119. For people with Crohn’s, not too many plants.

    … what? I have IBD but I’ve never heard this before. Maybe you mean some people can’t tolerate much plant fiber? I imagine that might be true for some patients.

    Anyway, I guess it still comes down to whatever works for individual people!

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