A Life Changing Lecture

by Meg on February 19, 2012

Have you ever felt so passionately about something that your mind cannot stop racing with excitement?

Have you ever felt so passionately about something that you wish the whole world could know about it?

Have you ever become so incredibly inspired by something or something that you felt as though your life has changed; perhaps forever?

I have.

At the end of my post on Thursday, I had mentioned that I was going to school to listen in on a presentation with my friend Cheryl.
This presentation is the reason I feel all of the amazing things listed above.

My university offers a “professional success series” of lectures and presentations each year put on by one of the Foods and Nutrition clubs called SHEA (Student Human Ecology Association). The lecture series offers students a wide range of presentations to attend that expand our knowledge on the field of nutrition and dietetics. Nutrition and Dietetics is such a broad field and their is so much that one is able to do with their degree, so the series of lectures are very beneficial in allowing us to broaden our scope and learn that there is many more opportunities awaiting us other than doing an internship and becoming a clinical RD.

To be honest, when I first moved to London to begin school at Brescia, my end goal was to be a clinical RD. I thought I wanted to be working in a hospital and do all of the clinical work that comes along with that, but after being introduced to the amazing program at Brescia and all of the little “extras” that come along with it, like attending these lecture series’, I have so many more ideas as to what my “end goal” may look like now.

Last year, I attended the full series of lectures provided by SHEA and each were worth my while. This year, I have attended two so far. The first one I attended was a lecture on post trauma stress disorder (PTSD). As I said, the field of nutrition and dietetics is very broad, so SHEA brought in a panel of individuals who have suffered or are currently suffering with PTSD because we may come into contact with an individual struggling with this disorder throughout our practice and we need to learn how to approach and deal with it.

I definitely learnt a lot about PTSD and am so happy that I attended the presentation. It was really eye opening to see that, much like when recovering from an eating disorder, the entire family is affected by this disorder. Each panel member said that “we don’t understand” because we have never experienced what they have experienced. I totally agree with them. I will never fully understand what they went through, but I do know that I have felt many of the same feelings that they have because of my past with ED, so it was a very powerful presentation as I could somewhat relate.

The lecture on Thursday; however, was life changing. I never wanted it to end. I just wanted to keep learning and learning.

A Brescia graduate, presented a “newish” health approach to us. This approach is called Healthy At Every Size (HAES). The reason I say that it is a “newish” health approach is because it has been around for 20 years already, which is quite a long time, but, like any new idea or theory, it must be tested and tested and tested… Therefore, after many years of being studied, HAES is finally coming into the spot light.


So what is HAES (other than something that I am completely passionate about)?

Our wonderful (and very inspiring) presenter began explaining the approach HAES takes on health by first defining weight stigma.

Weight stigma is a weight-based discrimination. We all know it occurs, but the presenter illustrated actually how prevalent weight stigma is. Weight stigma is everywhere. Weight stigma is not just present within high school amongst nasty girls back-stabbing their friends; no, weight stigma is even seen in health care! A study was done and health professionals such as nurses, physicians, and dietitians were to describe how they felt when working with individuals who were overweight or obese. The health professionals within the study described their interactions with overweight and obese individuals in very negative terms. The words that were used shocked me and I do not even want to repeat them, but in order for you to understand how awful weight stigma is and that it actually occurs in health care settings, I will give you a few examples:

Some health professionals described overweight and obese individuals to be lazy, unmotivated, unsuccessful, incompliant, and even – disgusting. (More on a study done on weight stigma can be found here).

These words hurt me and I am not even the one who is being affected by weight stigma, so it truly brings tears to my eyes that this actually occurs. Imagine how the people who experience weight stigma feel.

Weight stigma causes depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor body image, suicidal acts and thoughts, and extreme stress. All symptoms are horrific for anyone to experience, but I am going to focus on the physiological aspects that occur when one experiences stress.

When an individual experiences stress, the body triggers the stress response, the fight-or-flight response. This response leads to the secretion of cortisol, adrenaline, and other hormones. When the stress is gone, cortisol and adrenaline levels drop. However, when stress is excessive and constant – as it is in individuals experiencing weight stigma – an individual’s fight-or-flight response is constantly “on”. Therefore, cortisol levels are constantly high and cortisol plays a huge role in the development of obesity.

So, perhaps individuals should recognize that obesity is caused by many other factors than diet and inactivity alone.

Perhaps, weight stigma should stop and we would be able to see a reduction in obesity.

During the presentation, the speaker gave us a case study in order to explain to us that WEIGHT DOES NOT NECESSARILY EQUAL HEALTH. She presented us a picture of a girl who was noticeably overweight and gave us some information about her, as well. The information given was her BMI, blood pressure, HDL, LDL, and blood glucose concentrations. It was interesting to see that all of her metabolics were in the “healthy” or “normal” range; however, her BMI was 33. A BMI of 33 is labeled as obese. And often when we think of obese we think “unhealthy”, right?
And that’s where HAES comes in.

We began to analyze this girl who had a BMI of 33 and question why she was overweight and if it should be suggested that she lose weight for her health. Well, it is hard to tell someone to lose weight if their health status is in check, isn’t it? How can you just tell someone to lose weight if there is no reason as to why to do so. Her health is fine, the only factor that raised a red flag was her BMI, right? If her BMI was within the normal range would we be concerned? No. Of course not. If her metabolics were the exact same (all healthy and within the normal range), but her BMI was just lower and in the “normal” or “healthy” range we wouldn’t be concerned at all.
Isn’t that true?

So, this is how HAES introduces the idea that BMI does not equal health. Rather, weight does not determine health.

We were shown a chart to illustrate that even people of a healthy or normal weight still possess health problems.The chart also illustrated that people who are overweight and obese can be healthy, too. (If I can get my hands on this chart I will add it into this post afterward).

So, really, does weight actually determine the status of your health after all?

HAES focuses on a persons health status rather than their weight. Our presenter actually went as far as saying that she will not weigh a patient. If a blood level concentration is out of wack, then she will be concerned. But, the weight of a person will not change her opinion of their health status.

We were presented with another study done showing results of individuals who followed a diet which consisted of a specific meal plan to follow and individuals who followed the HAES approach – intuitive eating. (Again, if I can find the results to this study and the chart that was presented to us I will add it into this post).

The results indicated that individuals who used the HAES approach completed the study with better results than the group that were put on the diet. Another great factor to look at is the individuals who actually stuck with the study all the way through. The drop out rate of people following the HAES approach was 8% whereas the drop out rate for those following the diet was within the 40% range.

The only aspect that the HAES approach didn’t fair as well in as the group following the diet was weight loss. Very little weight loss was experienced in the group following the HAES lifestyle and way of thinking, but, remember(!) their health was better than those who followed the specified diet.

This presentation really hit home for me. When I was going through my ED, I was very unhealthy. My lab results and blood pressure were not good and I was underweight. However, once I started to introduce food back into my life, I was able to regain my health. My health came back a lot quicker than weight gain (gaining weight has always been a challenge for me), but this presentation taught me that that is OK. As long as I am healthy. Of course, I believe that a woman should be of a proper weight in order to have her menstrual cycle, but the intuitive eating and listening to bodily cues as HAES suggests will allow that to happen naturally.

We were told that everyone has a weight that they are naturally supposed to be at. So if someone is healthy, but over or under weight – why tamper with their weight?

Health. That is what we need to remember.

Throw those scales away.

It is your health that it utmost important. Not the number on the scale. Seriously. Throw that scale away!

Have you heard of Healthy At Every Size before?
What are your views on this approach to health?
HAES can be described as a “compassionate” approach to health. I love that Smile
Are you interested in learning more about PTSD? I could definitely do a more in depth post on what I learnt from that presentation if you so wish Smile It was very interesting to hear what those suffering had to go through.

HAES has been questioned a lot. It’s a new way of thinking, so of course there are going to be people who disagree and think that it is bogus. Jackie has told us she has had several people tell her that right to her face! If you want to know more about HAES, I am trying to get into contact with the girl who gave the presentation, so hopefully I will have more links for you to check out soon! It is always important to do your own research and reading on a subject in order to form your own educated opinion on a topic, so I really hope I can provide you all with those resources ASAP Smile

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Love always,


{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Kalie February 19, 2012 at 10:09 PM

Never heard of this but thus sounds very inspiring!


Meg February 20, 2012 at 4:49 PM

Thanks Kalie :) I love the concept


Kelsey@livethefitlife February 19, 2012 at 10:16 PM

I am a big believer in the set point theory – That peoples bodies do gravitate towards a “natural” weight. For some it’s on the higher end, for some on the lower.

There are definitely people who are overweight or even obese by BMI classification that still have healthy lab values & other markers of health. But sadly, I’ve found that that’s rarely the case as you venture from overweight into true obesity. I don’t really think that ANYONES “natural” set point would be at an obese level (overweight though, yes!). There are very serious health consequences associated with obesity, and I don’t think that they should be downplayed at all.

All of that said, I do really love the idea of getting rid of scales! People CAN certainly be healthy at a HUGE range of weights. Big, small, whatever. I’m a firm believer that people do need to be more accepting and loving of their own bodies, because the truth is, NOBODY has a perfect body. There is no one mold that we should all fit into! We shouldn’t ever forget about making healthy choices and being active, but we SHOULD forget about being hateful towards ourselves if our ideal isn’t the same as what we are.


Meg February 20, 2012 at 4:52 PM

I really do love the set point theory, too Kels :)

I appreciate your comment! Love hearing your thoughts!


Heidi February 19, 2012 at 10:28 PM

I think HAES is great and a lot of people may say `well, it`s just a scapegoat for people that don`t want to lose weight` but there are already a lot of scapegoats out there and anyone will make anything into a scapegoat if they want to – so the problem wouldn`t be HAES.

The idea that we should look at health from all aspects not just the weight is a very holistic view as well. We should look at whether a persons relationships are thriving, if they are getting enough sleep, if they can hold down a job they want, etc. Sometimes those things are more important than a number!

And besides, BMI is kinda outdated!


Meg February 20, 2012 at 4:54 PM

Heidi! I really appreciate your comment :) Thank you! I definitely agree that we should look at health from different aspects other than just weight :D SO happy you agree!


StoriesAndSweetPotatoes February 19, 2012 at 10:37 PM

HAES is an amazing movement that can enlighten everyone no matter their “size”. I love to hear how you’re learning about it during your education because until we have a whole generation of health professionals who truly understand the concept it’s going to be difficult to be accepted on a mainstream, individual level. I don’t know why people throw such a fit against it..it’s common sense and science! Thanks for posting Meg!


Meg February 20, 2012 at 4:55 PM

I always look forward to your comments :) <3 Thank you darling. I am so so so happy you appreciated this post! I couldn’t wait to share with everyone!


Linz @ Itz Linz February 19, 2012 at 10:46 PM

I haven’t heard of this idea, but love it! I know that someone of all sizes can be healthy… depending on one’s definition of ‘healthy.’ It’s great that you are so passionate about it and are helping to improve the world, the stereotypes, and people’s negative thinking. And for that, you are a great person.


Meg February 20, 2012 at 4:56 PM

Awwww Linz <3 you are just so sweet to me – always! So happy you liked the post :D XO


Janice- The Fitness Cheerleader February 19, 2012 at 10:46 PM

That is exciting! My whole blog focuses on the fact that you can’t SEE healthy! It’s not a size or a number on the scale. In fact, I think it’s counter-productive to define healthy as a size, many people don’t believe they can reach a size/weight so they don’t try. On the flip side bc many believe healthy is a size, they take unhealthy measures to reach that size (I’m guilty of this – I battled an ED in 1st yr University). I have a degree in Kinesiology, and I feel that it’s the responsibility of health professionals and the media (hence why I blog) to spread the definition of what healthy really is: being active, eating 7-8 servings of fruits n veggies, lean protein, adequate water, sleep and mental health.

PS – I’d love for you to share a guest post on this topic on my blog


Meg February 20, 2012 at 4:57 PM

Janice, I just went to your blog and absolutely love it :) What an amazing and inspiring person you are! <3 Seriously. Absolutely inspiring!

I would be honored to do a guest post for you! Email me? dashofmeg@hotmail.com


Julia @ girl with a stethoscope February 19, 2012 at 11:08 PM

I love this. As a nurse, we are taught that health does not only equal physical health, you have to be psychologically healthy as well. Health is such a holistic point of view and it’s different for everyone. Just because someone is at a target weight for their height, does not make them “healthy” because they can be completely mentally unstable.

I also agree on the whole BMI issue because my dad is extremely muscular but on those BMI charts, he is close to being overweight because obviously muscle weighs more than fat. I think health professionals need to look beyond that BMI number when looking at the aspect of health.

What an awesome lecture, I think HAES has some really important points!


Meg February 20, 2012 at 5:03 PM

I love the word “holistic” :D great one Julia! In so many of my courses we take a “holistic” approach to looking at things and that is one of the best things about my program :) Dietetics is definitely not just diet focused like some think ;)

love u girl. Thanks for your comments like always :D


Haley @ Health Freak College Girl February 19, 2012 at 11:12 PM

that’s so exciting that you found something you love :) i’ve heard of HAES and i am a firm believer in it!


Meg February 20, 2012 at 5:04 PM

That is so great you have heard about HAES before :) Where have you heard about it? That is so interesting as I JUST found out about it!


Haley @ Health Freak College Girl February 22, 2012 at 5:58 PM

i heard about it on pinterest!


Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie February 19, 2012 at 11:23 PM

Thank you so much for sharing this! Its such a refreshing way of thinking and one that hopefully more people will adapt!


Meg February 20, 2012 at 5:04 PM

Thanks Erin :) I am so happy you agree :)


Megan February 19, 2012 at 11:37 PM

Awesome post hun! Thanks for sharing. I haven’t heard of HAES but what you’ve described makes a lot of sense.

Just because you’re ‘skinny’ doesn’t mean you’re healthy! Hello, skinny fat!


Meg February 20, 2012 at 5:04 PM

Haha, so true Megan!

I am glad you enjoyed :) xo


Tara @ Sweat like a Pig February 19, 2012 at 11:59 PM

I’ve never been a fan of using weight to gauge health. It’s equally important to note that just because someone is skinny, does not mean they are healthy. I know so many people who have terrible health, but are within a healthy BMI. I think there can be overweight people that are really healthy, but only to a certain extent.

A few months ago I read an interview with one of the biggest promoters of HAES. I cannot for the life of me remember where or what her name was, but the point was that she was severely obese. I don’t care how healthy you think you are, if you are clinically obese then something has gone wrong. The interview was actually how she had abandoned the HAES movement after years, because she was finally accepting she needed help.


Meg February 20, 2012 at 5:05 PM

Wow! That’s so interesting. Thanks for sharing Tara. Why am I not surprised that you have heard of HAES before? :) haha.


Alexandra February 20, 2012 at 12:02 AM

Awesome! I’ve never heard of HAES before, but it sounds beyond fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing this Meg!! :)


Meg February 20, 2012 at 5:06 PM

I am glad you liked it girl ;) I thought you would ;)


Cheryl @ eatplayluvblog February 20, 2012 at 12:35 AM

THIS was a great summary meg. The HAES stuff sums up my ideas!! :) Love. I had an omg/aha/this is where i belong moment with you during that lecture.


Meg February 20, 2012 at 5:20 PM

HAHA! ME TOO :D So happy we were together for this babe xo


Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile February 20, 2012 at 12:48 AM

I have never heard of HAES but it definitely seems amazing and very very interesting! I believe that health is what matters, not what size you are! Great post girl.


Meg February 20, 2012 at 6:39 PM

Thanks Brittany :) Glad you agree :D


HAEScoach February 20, 2012 at 1:06 AM

Thanks for sharing this. I’m a bit older than 20 but also studying nutrition and dietetics (masters) and what I love about your post is that you are like many of the others students in my class and it gives me great hope that they too may realise the benefit of adopting or at least considering a HAES framework when working with clients. Yay. Good luck with the studies


Meg February 20, 2012 at 6:39 PM

Thank you! I appreciate your comment as well :D


Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin February 20, 2012 at 2:47 AM

I know I’ve already said this, but man I wish I went to that lecture! I completely agree with the HAES movement. I remember watching a video in 1st year nutrition about weight stigma and it seriously opened my eyes to how overweight people are treated, especially in healthcare! It’s really disturbing. :(


Meg February 20, 2012 at 6:40 PM

I know! It really struck me


Hera February 20, 2012 at 2:57 AM

So wonderful that you have found HAES! I am one of those “severely obese” people some commenters have expressed their concern about. HAES has literally saved my health. From a lifetime of being told by various “experts” that I must make losing weight my health priority, and actually having poor physical and mental health because of that – every weight loss attempt, no matter what method from VLCDs to “sensible lifestyle changes” simply resulted in an eventual increase in weight. I resent the assumption that something “must have gone very wrong” with my body to become so fat. What is wrong is, as described above, the relentless weight stigma and assumption that my adipose tissue must be a sign of poor health. I have photographs of my ancestors 120 years ago, who ate nothing but farm fresh food and worked the land all day – and they are all fat! It is obviously in my genes to be a large person.

The focus on my weight let the real markers of health be neglected. Now, three years after discovering HAES, I am the same size, but my blood pressure, cholesterol, etc are all excellent. I had mild insulin resistance, this has now completely disappeared. I get regular exercise, because it’s fun, not to burn calories. I eat a lovely fresh food diet, for the joy of eating delicious nutritious food that makes me feel great, rather than feeling obliged to eat things that are low fat/carb/calorie and feeling enormous guilt for eating a single piece of chocolate.

If anyone thinks that my body is still a sign that something has gone so terribly wrong, then given that the scientific evidence says that weight loss attempts, no matter what kind, fail in the long term at least 90% of the time, what, exactly, do they propose I do in addition to continuing my happy healthy lifestyle which has had great results? I have no medical conditions which are known to cause weight gain, like hypothyroidism. Weight loss surgery? That causes more health problems than it solves, and I don’t have any health problems to solve anyway.

Sorry to have gone on for so long, Meg, but I always feel so frustrated at the ingrained idea that a fat person MUST be unhealthy somehow. Freeing myself from the scales was the best health decision I ever made. I strongly encourage you to read as much as you can about HAES, Linda Bacon’s book is excellent and so is the HAES blog. It’s not about giving up. Quite the opposite!


Meg February 20, 2012 at 6:43 PM

DO NOT APOLOGIZE :D I am so very thankful for your comment! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I hope other readers read your comment :) I think a lot of people forget how BIG of a role genetics play!!!!!!!

Again, thank you for commenting!!!!!!!

I am so proud of you for living a healthy life :)


Ali Mc February 20, 2012 at 3:24 AM

this post was amazing Meg! I have never heard of HAES before but I completely agree. I love that you are learning all of this stuff in school. I was diagnosed with PTSD when I was young. There is a history of mental illness, depression and anxiety in my family thankfully most of us have been able to move through it due to cognative therapy and heathy lifestyle changes :) sometimes I wonder if I still suffer from PTSD but who’s to say?!


Meg February 20, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Thank you Ali :) Your comment is so sweet. I am also very happy that you shared about being diagnosed with PTSD! Have you ever shared this on your blog? I really appreciate you telling me <3 And now I feel even happier to know you and EVEN happier that I went to that presentation on it :D


amy @ lovetotrain February 20, 2012 at 3:20 PM

i just wrote a psychiatry exam and ptsd was one of the topics. HAES is a great concept… scales are RIDICULOUS. they need to be thrown AWAY! especially as skinny people aren’t necesarily healthy.. you know the ones that eat all the junk they want and never put on weight?? well i would HATE to know what goes on INSIDE their organs etc…


Meg February 20, 2012 at 6:44 PM

HAHA! I totally know what you mean Amy! Thanks for commenting xo


Kelly @ Foodie Fiasco February 20, 2012 at 4:28 PM

Isn’t feeling so inspired such a wonderful feeling? I’m glad you got to experience that here. ;)

Thank you so much for sharing this with us! It truly is a WONDERFUL concept, and I hope that the world takes it on, asap. The pressure to have the “perfect body” just so absurd.


Meg February 20, 2012 at 6:46 PM

Thank you Kelly :) And yes, striving for perfection is so unrealistic. There are so many factors that affect how we look, such as genetics, and we just need to start accepting them already :D


Kris | iheartwellness.com February 20, 2012 at 4:41 PM

Great post girl! I agree, I don’t weight myself, I know how my clothes fit and how I feel ;) I know what my body likes to eat and not and I never choose junk….

I get more irritated when being overweight is ok, there is no reason to be over weight if we didn’t have the crappy foods that are so addicting on the shelves. I guess with me promoting a product that helps in weight loss I see a lot of upset people who just want to feel good but are so addicted to what the government keeps on the shelves!

Never heard of HAES before, but its super interesting, thanks girl!!



Meg February 20, 2012 at 6:48 PM

Thanks for commenting sweetheart :) You KNOW I always always love your comments :)

I go by how my clothes fit, too :) Scales just play with me. Even though I know number does not matter, I just rather go by HOW I FEEL :)


Kat February 20, 2012 at 4:46 PM

Amen to all of this lady. It has taken me SO stinkin long, but I am finally realizing that the number on the scale does NOT define my health. Just because does not mean I am healthy OR happy for that matter!! Health is such a wide range of things for me involving not just my diet and exercise, but also my mind, spirit and emotions. When all those things are in balance, that is when I feel I am at my most healthy. This whole scale thing has GOT to go! Now if we could just get all the doctors to stop using BMI as a source of “healthy”


Meg February 20, 2012 at 6:49 PM

Haha, very true. I think people are getting the point about BMI, though. Slowly but surely people will get the concept that BMI does not measure health :)

So happy you liked the post, love!

I love ya!


Miranda @ Miranda's Munchies February 20, 2012 at 6:57 PM

Your program sounds so interesting! It’s great that they offer these lectures! I really enjoyed this post. This is a topic which is actually quite interdisciplinary, I know some PhD students in philosophy who study this. I think it’s really important to talk about this and I’m glad you wrote a post about it :)
AND I would be interested in reading a post on PTSD


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