Health at every size. Is that really a thing? I will be the first to admit I was skeptical about HAES because I (like so many women) had a very narrow image of what healthy looked like.
I thought health looked lean, strong, and thin. I thought that being obese was a disease.
And that if you’re overweight you’re also unhealthy.
Moment of truth, I’ve spent most of my life in the overweight borderline obese category.
Not because I’ve been unhealthy, but because I’m short relative to my weight. So why it was so hard for me to grasp the concept of HAES baffles me.
The BMI, which our health seems to be determined by doesn’t take into account your lifestyle choices, your gender, or your lean mass. Both the medical community and the fitness industry seem to have forgotten is that your weight and your height don’t tell you anything else about the person or they lifestyle choices.
The terms overweight and obese used to wreck me. We’re taught that being either of those things is not beautiful, it’s not worthy, it means you’re lazy, and you don’t care about yourself.
The aha moment for me, and the moment those terms seemed to lose their power was when realized they were nothing more than arbitrary numbers.
You can be healthy no matter what the BMI says about you, and you can be healthy even if you don’t look like society’s narrow minded view. Your health isn’t determined by what you look like, but rather the habits, behaviors, and the lifestyle you choose.
Your happiness and fulfillment does not hang on what you look like. It’s time we stop believing it does.
Where many who follow HAES miss the mark..
When I first started researching the health at every size movement, I was shocked to see some of the information out there.
The messaging of some who follow HAES and its closely related Intuitive Eating spew about all discipline and self-control being bad is crazy. In fact, in the book Healthy at Every Size, the author Linda Bacon, PhD never says anything of the sort. She does warn against the dangers of continuing to believe dieting will work for you.
She also emphasized the importance of eating whole foods as much as possible, moving your body in a way that brings joy, and being intentional about the food choices you’re making. Which to some degree will require both self-control and discipline. Especially if you know certain foods don’t nourish you, but you still crave them.
Other harmful messages I’ve seen HAES leading ladies sharing is there are no such things as healthy or unhealthy foods, and essentially all foods are health producing. Again, I did not find this to be the message in the Health at Every Size nor to be true from a true health standpoint as a certified nutrition coach or my years of study in exercise and sport science.
I’ve even seen some supporters of the HAES movement encourage their followers to disregard healthy habits or behaviors. calling them restrictive or diet-y. Huh?
Again, not the message I’ve seen from Linda Bacon or from the creators of the intuitive eating movement.
This is your superpower..
I am not one to believe we will be most happy or at peace if we just give into every whim and go for instant gratification. In fact, it’s been those times in my life where I end up being the least happy or at peace.
Just to be clear, I don’t think you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and however much you want without having to also make peace and accept the consequences of those actions. You wouldn’t act this way in any other area of your life, like your finances or in your marriage. So why would it be ok to act that way towards food?
I do think you are responsible for making mindful and the best choices in the moment when it comes to food. And sometimes it’s mindfully eating a slice of chocolate cake and enjoying it. Other times it might be skipping the cake and going for a walk instead.
Your superpower lies in making mindful and informed decisions. Once you realize this, you can step into the role of expert of your life with confidence.
No doubt, discipline used as punishment or as a measure of your worth is harmful. As is wearing it like a badge of honor or using it to judge yourself or others.
However, discipline and self-control used with compassion, grace, and love is powerful. Learn to harness that power, you will make the best decisions for yourself.
It’s ok to be scared
Of course, leaning into the idea of health at every size is a little scary. If you’re anything like me, you might be wondering if you will be able to love yourself at any size. The decision to reject society’s idea of what your healthy body *should* look like is filled with doubt and anxiety.
The fear of judgement or rejection based on what your body looks like is also a very real fear. Will your friends, family, and co-workers think you’ve ‘let yourself go’ ?
My solution to these fears was to get crystal clear on my own definition of success, and my own healthy body. I believe that solution will work for you too.
We have a tendency to categorize everything as black and white. Good or bad. it seems when it comes to what a healthy lifestyle looks like, it is no different.
On the one hand you have people who have taken the HAES idea and have gone to the extreme of giving the middle finger to any sort of structure or discipline. While on the other hand you have diet culture supporting the idea that health looks a certain way.
Often we are uncomfortable in our ability to navigate and manage the gray area between the two sides, so we end up swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other.
Surely, it’s easier to just go from hardcore rules and restriction to binge eating on the weekends. It takes more work upfront to figure out how to listen to our bodies, how to care for them inside and out, and how to handle being uncomfortable.
Is health at every size for you?
Like many women, I was doing all the “healthy things” and my body was revolting against me. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why all of a sudden I wasn’t losing weight or getting the results I once had.
Old disordered eating behaviors like food obsession started coming back. Monday through Friday I tried my hardest to be good on my diet, but the weekends were a pass for me. Saturday and Sunday were my days to eat without abandon and just start the diet back up on Monday.
I felt softer and fatter than ever.
Tired of trying so hard without anything to show for it, I knew it was time for a change, whatever that looked like.
You shouldn’t feel defeated because you’re not losing weight.
Almost as if a light bulb went off, it hit me. I’d been dieting again. This time though, it was more subtle and still looked healthy for the most part. This realization sparked questions in my head:
Could you be healthy and not look like it? Is it possible to do the same things (exercise, monitor food choices) and still get different results? Does the diet mindset exist?
I decided to suspend my idea about what healthy looked like for a moment. My focus shifted to effort and the consistency of behaviors over outcomes. Instead of tracking pounds lost, I celebrated the way I felt in my body.
This one mindset shift changed everything. At the end of the day, we can’t control whether our body will lose weight or not. Wee can control our effort, our attitude, and our outlook though. So why not focus on those things instead?
The thing that’s been the most surprising I’ve found is I’m as happy now as I ever was when I was 9% body fat. I may even be happier. It’s easier to be more engaged in life. Meal time is more enjoyable too.
Without the pressure of constantly micro-managing calories eaten and calories burned, I’m able to be more present when we sit down to eat as a family. And choosing what to eat has even become easier.
Living a healthy lifestyle should be easy
Food is not meant to be a sin or punishment. Exercise shouldn’t be a way to purge yourself from an evening of indulgent eating.
As a culture we’ve lost sight of that. We’ve normalized the idea that living a healthy lifestyle is either only for the select few who happen to be disciplined enough to follow a diet or should feel tough all the time.
I believe there is a happy medium, and it’s up to you to find it for yourself. The good news is you won’t have to do that by yourself. I’ve opened up a few spots in my program, and would love to see if it is the right fit for you. Click here to schedule your FREE consult.
I can’t wait to see what you can accomplish when you step into your purpose in the healthy body you’re meant to have.
Have you noticed it seems to be harder to break up with our bad habits than to create the good ones?
When I first started my own fitness journey over 10 years ago, I found it way easier to skip those workouts. Eat the extra serving regardless of if I was hungry or not.
It took time and consistency to create the good habits, and it seemed like I was just hard wired for the bad ones. In some ways this is true because the “bad” habits provide immediate satisfaction. Whereas, we don’t see or even feel the results of eating one salad. At least not at first.
Consistently doing what needs to be done is the only way to get from where you are today to where you want to be six months or six years from now. It can be hard though to start doing something consistently. Especially when for the most part we have either been conditioned for the quick fix mentality in the diet industry.
Success comes from doing the most important (not necessarily the most urgent) things over and over again
I think we’d sort of be lying if we didn’t acknowledge we don’t want the rewards without having to do the work.
We all want the quick fix or magic bullet on some level, even if we know that quick fix won’t last. It’s taken a long time for me to just settle into the journey, and not be so zeroed in on reaching my goals.
I am the type of person who wants to get where we’re going as quickly as possible. Whether that’s on a road trip or from one goal to the next. However, I’ve come to realize most of the excitement around reaching a goal is the anticipation of what that destination will feel like.
Not the actual goal itself. Because, let’s face it, by the time we reach those goals, we’ve likely already started setting new goals for ourselves.
We’ve got to train ourselves to take satisfaction in just showing up and doing the thing.
“Success doesn’t come from what we do every once in a while, but what we do consistently.”
Know your priorities
We will make time for what’s truly important to us. That’s the bottom line.
There have been seasons in my life when I thought being super lean or super skinny was important to me. As a result I did whatever it took to look a certain way. A lot of my energy and time went to thinking and obsessing over food. Pinching the bits of fat that still covered my body, and working out like it was my job.
I thought I could only be happy, confident, and sexy if I looked a certain way. There came a point in my own fitness journey, when I started to loathe eating a certain way or working out for 2 hours/ day.
The tricky part, is we’ve been conditioned to believe we should always be looking to improve ourselves in some way physically. My priorities were changing, but I still felt pressure to pursue certain physique related goals. I started to feel stressed out about food and exercise again.
When our goals and priorities aren’t aligned, we will always have a hard time reaching our goals. If you’re pursuing goals that aren’t really that important to you, you will find all the excuses you need.
“Weight loss shouldn’t feel stressful. You shouldn’t feel frustrated by your goals, or like it’s a prison sentence.”
Gain more clarity around your goals, and decide what you’re willing to do (and sometimes give up) in order to reach them.
You can create new habits easier than you think
When you stop trying to make all the changes at once, replacing old habits becomes much easier.
How many times have you started a new diet or workout program? It usually feels like you went from 0 to 100 real quick. Often making all of the changes at once is overwhelming.
Start slow. Pick one habit at a time, and give yourself some space to practice your new habits.
Pick the low hanging fruit first. Get some wins under your belt first. What is one habit you feel you can replace with ease? I like to ask myself “on a scale of 1-10, how confident are you you can do this?” If it’s less than an 8, I’ve got to make it easier.
Diet culture’s quick fixes don’t last, this will.
Creating habits through consistency seems like a waste of time because it goes so slow at first. I totally get it. Before I bought into the idea of focusing on habits and consistency, I was entrenched in the diet mindset (and sadly even mainstream fitness culture). The changes had to be quick, even if it meant unsustainable.
If you just make all of the changes at once, follow the food rules perfectly, and never skip a workout you’ll be smooth sailing. What about the rest of us?
With extreme approaches like this it’s no wonder so many women feel stuck. This start and stop ‘healthy lifestyle’ only breeds disbelief in your ability to actually ever reach your fitness goals long term.
If you’re feeling a little unsure of whether or not you can actually create lasting change, you’re not alone. I’m here to tell you, you can. It just might take a little reworking of your beliefs in yourself and your mindset.
Why do we rely so much on habits anyway?
Have you ever stopped to think about your habits? Essentially our habits are just actions we do over and over, and often without even thinking about it.
This is great as long as our habits support our goals. However, when our actions are not supporting our goals or long term vision of what we want our bodies and our lives to look and feel like, this is a problem.
Our brain uses habits to cut down on the amount of work it has to do. It wants to preserve calories, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to cut down on the number of decisions it has to make. Charles Duhigg wrote an incredible book on the studies of habits. (link to book) I’d encourage you to check it out if you are curious about how habits work on a deeper level.
This is amazing news though, because it means that you can essentially create a healthy lifestyle without it taking over your entire life.
Can you be on autopilot and still be intentional and mindful?
Yes. I believe with my whole heart you can. At anytime during the habit loop you can ‘tune in’ to what you’re doing.
I am always talking to myself (usually it’s inside my head). When I notice I’m just going through the motions, I like to check in and see if that is what I really want to be doing in that moment.
Sometimes the answer is yes, I do want that thing even if I’m not hungry or I know they it isn’t ‘healthy’. And this is ok. The quick pause to check in, allows me to make the choice from a place of awareness and control. Not a frantic feeding frenzy because I’ve been depriving myself all week.
Sometimes, I surprise myself. And the answer is no. Even if they do sound good, even if I know I can have them. This kind of food freedom was really only ever possible by removing the food rules I’d been living under and giving myself the power to choose what to eat–not follow someone else’s idea of what a healthy lifestyle should look like.
Sometimes it’s good to rebel
Everything you know or think you know about health, fitness, and weight loss may be the exact thing that is keeping you stuck on the diet hamster wheel. Going against the flow isn’t always a bad thing. Not convinced? Click the video below to see why it might be time to start questioning the ‘normal’ way to reach our fitness goals.
For most of us, we don’t feel like we have enough time in the day as it is, because we are so busy putting out fires and reacting to life. If you want to make lasting changes to your health or your fitness, you’ve got to change this mindset.
While there aren’t many things in life you can truly control, your mindset happens to be one of them. When you don’t plan ahead, you spend all your time reacting to things that just seem to pop up.
Constantly reacting to life is exhausting, and it can really screw with our ability to make gains on our fitness goals.
One way you can feel confident and ready to tackle your goals is by setting yourself up to win with systems. One of those systems is all about managing your time.
Time blocking: how this apply to the ‘everyday’ woman.
About a year ago I started using a system for setting up my schedule known as time blocking. Essentially when you implement time blocking you’re putting ‘like’ activities together. It might seem like a silly way to organize your day, but it works–both in my coaching business and in my personal life.
By sticking ‘like’ activities together I’m not constantly switching from one type of task to another. This saves my brain so much time and energy. I feel less stressed, and I’m getting way more done in a day than I’d ever imagine.
For example: I like to cluster my meal planning and grocery shopping back to back. Or I will usually get my workout in for the day, and have a super smoothie shortly after. Maybe I’ll put all of my home responsibilities into a pocket of time on a Saturday.
One thing to keep in mind though, is you really only need to aim to get three key things done in a day to drive you closer to your fitness goals (or any other goal for that matter).
If you try to do too much at one time, you will only be setting yourself up for overwhelm and burn out. And the diet cycle starts over again.
If you’re not quite sure how to go about establishing your priorities, we talked about setting your priorities and scheduling those things first a couple weeks ago. (link to other blog/video)
Set yourself up to win
I wish I would have been a bit more organized when I started my fitness journey over a decade ago. Honestly, I just kind of started and figured things out along the way. This worked ok, but I could have saved so much time and energy if I would have had certain systems in place then like I do now.
It’s no secret, we wear lots of hats as women, and sometimes it can be hard to transition from one role to the next. This is especially true if we don’t have any clear rhythms or boundaries to our days.
Pick just one to focus on at a time. And give your energy to that one thing until it starts to feel more automatic and like a seamless part to your day. For me, moving my body has become as natural as brushing my teeth, but it’s taken time to get to this place.
We often underestimate what we can accomplish in a year, and way overestimate what we can do in a day.
With a renewed and refreshed mindset toward your goals. Take the long, slow journey. This is definitely the road less traveled, but it is a sure fire way to create a healthy and fit lifestyle that is uniquely yours.
We’re rarely motivated by punishment. If checking in with a coach or your fitness friend is like having a babysitter, then you’ll likely not be stoked to check in. It will be entirely too easy to flake out and blow it off all together.
Accountability is not punishment.
I get it, I used to have an extremely negative perception of accountability. In my mind accountability was another way I thought people were trying to control me. Being held accountable to my actions seemed like one more way for others to judge me because I didn’t measure up.
With spiritual maturity came the realization that being held to my word was not punishment. In fact, having to own my choices and their subsequent consequences has been such an act of love.
Ultimately if we choose not to show up and do the work that’s our choice entirely. And we will essentially reap what we sow.
Trying to figure it out by yourself.
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you were created for community. We thrive in situations where we feel supported, loved, and understood. Part of being in a community with other women working on their own fitness goals is not having to know all the answers or figure it out by yourself.
When you have your tribe, you can use them as a resource and a cheering squad. One of the biggest mistakes I made when first navigating my fitness journey was trying to do it alone. YOu can learn so much from others, but in order to do so, you have to be willing to let them in.
We all have the same insecurities
We have this misconception that when we finally reach our goal weight or have the body/ life of our dreams we will no longer feel insecure or like we don’t measure up. The reality is even when we do have those things, there will still be times when you don’t feel like you’re good enough. I certainly felt that way when I was at my unhealthiest–not taking care of myself and at my leanest and meanest. When I was eating clean and lifting weights 5-6 days week or when I was eating fast food and living that couch potato life.
To this day I still have moments when I pull up to my kids’ school, see other moms, and feel like somehow I’m not as good of a mom as they are. Truth be told the reasons I feel insecure are so silly. But that is how those little lies work. The lies take the truth and distort it, or blows it way out of proportion.
Allow others to see the real you
There are many reasons women don’t seek out accountability in their fitness journey. One of them being they feel they have to reach a certain level of fitness before they can start. It is no secret, there is a stigma around being in a larger body. Even if that body is healthy in every way, but just doesn’t fit the mold.
Sometimes we don’t create accountability for ourselves because we don’t feel worthy or good enough. We can use our insecurities as a reason we don’t pursue accountability because we don’t feel we measure up.
I want to encourage you to explore the source of your insecurity. Dig into the thoughts that promote the feelings of inadequacy. This process can feel a bit messy. You might even be wondering how your thoughts relate to you reaching the fitness goals you’ve set for yourself this year.
The reality is, your thoughts are everything. Imagine for a moment you were already living in your dream body. If you still thought you were unattractive or bigger than you actually were, would you be satisfied? The good news is you don’t have to wait to be in your dream body. You can start to cultivate those thoughts and feelings right now.
Don’t pick just anyone to be your accountability buddy
Find a coach or trainer who doesn’t emphasize weight loss and fat loss as the primary goal EVEN if those are your main fitness goals. Look for someone with a similar story to you so they can relate to you.
If you hire a coach or trainer who has never shared the same experiences as you it may be hard to really show up and be honest. You also want to look for someone who is willing to be vulnerable and honest with you.
Even if they are your coach or trainer they owe you accountability too. They are not the expert. Your coach’s job is to be a support, and to be someone who makes you feel confident and let’s you know you’re not in this alone.
Make time for accountability
We all have the same 24 hours in a day and only 7 days to get it all done. That is more than enough time as long as we are diligent about our priorities, and are intetnional about where and with whom we spend our time.
You have to make time for accountability. It won’t just happen. Much like everything in life you either make time for it or it doesn’t happen. I suggest setting up a weekly time to meet with your coach or your accountability squad. Aim for the same time each week. And if you absolutely cannot do every week, then aim for biweekly check ins.
Be sure to schedule your meetings ahead of time as well. This will ensure you don’t skip your meetings or go too long without touching base. You’ve got to advocate for your fitness goals because nobody else will, so be as proactive as you can.
The process of finding the right accountability system can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Avoiding some of the mistakes I shared today will help you create an accountability system that will work for you, your goals, and your lifestyle.
Cheers to creating food freedom, finding joy in movement, and making peace with your body!
PS. Be sure to catch up on this series by reading the other articles on accountability.
PPS. Fill out the form if you want a weekly dose of inspiration sent right to your inbox 😉
If we are honest with ourselves, we are all a hot mess from time to time. Sometimes those seasons feel a bit longer than we’d like. But there’s literally no reason for you to feel embarrassed or ashamed if you haven’t been able to reach your fitness goals…yet.
I failed time and time again. Starting a new workout program promising a bikini body in 6 weeks or less, or a new diet it seemed every other week. Each only lasting for a few days consistently at best before I’d quit on myself.
One of the biggest problems with *most* of the fitness information out there is the promise you can totally and radically change your life in a short period of time.
The reality is, change is hard. Change takes time. And change is a practice. We are sold the lie we should be able to completely overhaul our nutrition and movement routines with the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, that is not how behaviors are changed or habits created.
Change is about learning new skills, creating a support system, and changing your habits. All of that takes a lot of time, patience, and practice.
You won’t get it right all the time, and you won’t get it right at first. Ditch the guilt and the shame you might be carrying around. Simply decide to practice. Each and every day practice becoming the woman you want to be deep down just a little bit more.
And whatever you do, don’t try to do it alone.
If you’ve failed at this whole fitness thing, you’re in good company
One of the biggest lies we believe is you’re the only woman who struggles to implement radical changes to your lifestyle. But you’re not. We are all struggling at different times and with different things. Learn to embrace and even welcome the struggle.
Fitness really is a lifestyle change. And it’s not just the discipline to change your body, but it’s also the discipline to change your mind. The fitness industry has done a great job of teaching us that being ‘fit’ looks one way. This can often feel we are fighting an uphill battle if we’re either not able to achieve that fit ideal or we’re miserable once we do. Begin defining what fitness is for yourself, and you’ll learn you cannot fail.
Accountability is the key to consistency
For a long time, I struggled with consistency in working out and eating ‘right’. After enough time and practice, it’s become a part of my daily routine. In the beginning though, I needed accountability. Having others who knew the goals I’d set for myself and who were committed to helping me succeed was a game changer. I truly believe it was their support and their belief in me that kept me going on the days I couldn’t see the progress I’d made.
If you’re trying to make lifestyle changes, you are going to need to have as much support as you can. This also means changing your environment, changing your routine, and possibly even changing who you spend your time with. You want to set yourself up for as much success as you can, yet realizing you cannot control everything.
When ‘good enough’ is enough
There are days when I follow my workout plan and there are days when I don’t. But every single day I try to move my body, even if it’s just a leisure walk with my pup. And without feeling guilty or ashamed because I wasn’t perfect.
As a recovering perfectionist this mindset is not one that comes easily to me. Much of my pride and confidence used to come from trying to do things perfectly. When I could, it was great, and I felt so much pride in myself. The times when I couldn’t do it perfectly devastated me.
Own your struggles and use them as fuel. Don’t try to hide from them or sweep them under the rug. If you want to make true lifestyle change it’s not enough to try to add in new healthier habits. You’ve got to understand and acknowledge the behaviors that aren’t serving you. Don’t see your struggles as weakness. Use them to drive you forward towards your goals, and do it by bringing other women along with you.
When we try to keep all of our guilt and shame hidden it festers. And eventually you won’t be able to hide it anymore. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Whether that’s with your coach or a group of friends. Let others in on the struggles you have with food, exercise, and your body. Simply bringing those things into the open brings healing. It empowers you to face them head on.
Created for community
As women, we need community. It’s hard-wired in our DNA. What better community to have around you than one who is just as committed to your success as they are to their own?
In creating a healthier lifestyle it’s important to realize this encompasses all areas of your life. Being fit really isn’t just about what your body looks like despite what social media tells you.
Leave the toxic relationships behind. Maybe this will be just for a season, and maybe it will be for longer. When you’ve decided you’re ready to make positive change, there isn’t much room for people and/ or circumstances that don’t support you.
Replace the toxic relationships with healthier ones. Think about the women in your life that energize you and inspire you to be a better version of yourself. How can you spend more time with them?
You have everything you need
Allow yourself to be seen just as you are. One of the biggest mistakes I made in my fitness journey was thinking I had to learn how to do healthy living perfectly. The only thing that did was remind me of how inadequate I was, because I couldn’t do it perfectly.
Trust that you’ve already got what it takes to reach your goals. You don’t need to look for the next diet or the next fitness fad. You know more than you think. Now it’s time to implement.
Tap into the pain, shame, and guilt you might be experiencing because of past failures. Instead of hiding from it or trying to conceal it, use it as fuel for your fitness journey. You can learn so much from mistakes and failures. Don’t let it go to waste, and remember it’s all of those experiences (and the successes) that make you who you are.
I want you to see and believe the very things you believe disqualifies you from reaching your fitness goals are exactly what you can use to move forward with confidence.
You’ve got this, and I’m here to help. Fill out the form below to receive weekly tips and pep talks right to your inbox.
Cheers to creating food freedom, finding joy in movement, and making peace with your body long before you reach your goals!