The basic premise is that healthy behaviors can improve your life regardless of whether they result in weight loss. You abandon diets in favor of "intuitive eating," which means paying close attention to what you crave and how the foods you eat make you feel, as well as gradually learning to distinguish emotional hunger from the physical kind. For exercise, you identify any activity that provides enough fun that you don't need to force yourself to do it regularly. HAES also demands that you love and respect your body just as it is, whatever size it is right now. At its core, HAES is about stripping away rigid ideas about food and fitness.
It's a pretty good story about the HAES movement, but it just made me sad that the idea of "intuitive eating" is newsworthy. Eating when hungry? Not counting calories? Appreciating your perfectly healthy, functional body? What a concept!
I feel like this a lot when I hear women beating up on themselves about food and weight. When I compare myself to other people, it always seems like food and exercise issues come so much more naturally to them. It still shocks me to realize how many people obsess about this stuff. Why should they, if they aren't plagued by eating disorders? Why should they be obsessing about calories just like I do when they can actually eat anything they want? Other people can say yes to the plate of brownies circulating the office or have seconds at dinner without feeling crappy for days - I can't. I'd like to think that if I didn't have an eating disorder, I could do these things too. Without anorexia, I would totally eat intuitively and love my body. Right?
So it kind of makes me sick to think about how many women actually hate their bodies and feel guilty about eating. This worries me because a major appeal of recovery for me is the possibility of someday being able to eat a delicious meal and not berating myself so much that it overshadows everything else in my life. But what if this abuse is actually the norm? What if I become fully recovered and I still feel this way?
In recovery, I think it could be helpful to use HAES as a model - at least in the intuitive, love-your-body approach - and not lose sight of how lucky I actually am to have all my parts in working order. As much as I hate it at times, my body has stuck by me through a lot and I really wish I could appreciate it more for that. And apologize. I wouldn't have done this to you if I'd had a choice, Body. Blame my brain.