By Erin Laverty, RDN, HAES Dietitian w/ ENW
So you’ve decided to say goodbye to chronic dieting & counting calories, you’ve deleted MyFitnessPal off your phone & are excited to finally make peace with food. A HAES (health at every size) dietitian can be an amazing asset in your journey towards food freedom- but it’s often normal for this realization to come with feeling constantly worried about gaining weight. You may be wondering if working with a HAES dietitian & starting to practice intuitive eating will lead to becoming “out of control” around food or gaining weight.
When working with a HAES dietitian, weight loss is not the goal. A HAES dietitian knows that everyone’s body is different and wants to work with you to find your way towards the healthiest weight for YOU– which may be higher, lower, or the same as your current weight. While body changes are possibility when working with a HAES dietitian, it’s also important to keep in mind all the other benefits there are from healing your relationship with food, like: the number on the scale no longer controlling your mood, shopping for clothes based on what fits & feels good rather than size, & enjoying ice cream on a summer night without guilt.
While worries surrounding weight are completely normal, here are 5 reasons NOT to fear weight gain when working with a HAES dietitian:
Many factors affect your body size & weight such as genetics, sleep, stress & even socioeconomic status. This is what leads to beautiful and unique body variations! Just think, you could eat exactly the same foods + do exactly the same exercise routines as your best friend, but your bodies would STILL look different. The weight that is healthiest for YOUR body is known as your setpoint weight, which is different for everyone. This weight is your body’s happy place– where you have more energy, will be more in tune with your body’s hunger/fullness cues & can trust that you are feeding yourself adequately, enjoyably & WITHOUT obsession or guilt. A HAES dietitian will help you find this natural weight in which your body functions best.
Diet culture pushes us to believe that being “overweight” or “obese” is the #1 cause of many health conditions and diseases, but there is little evidence to support this. A person’s weight does not give you the full picture. Just like there are many factors that affect a person’s setpoint weight, there are also an abundance of factors that contribute to a person’s overall health and disease risk such as: genetics, ethnicity, physical activity, socioeconomic status, nutrient intake and access to healthcare. That said, there is growing evidence to support that practicing intuitive eating is associated with improved self esteem, quality of life, reduced depression and even improved cholesterol levels, blood pressure & cardiorespiratory fitness. Interested in learning more about the HAES movement? Check out some of our favorite resources under body image.
A HAES dietitian will work with you to focus on health behaviors you can more directly control like: adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains & healthy fats into your diet; incorporating joyful movement; and managing your stress and sleep.
Despite popular belief, there is evidence to show that being underweight is at higher risk to your health than being overweight. It is also possible for someone to be in a “healthy weight range” but still be below their setpoint weight (see #1). Signs that you are below your setpoint weight & could benefit from weight gain include: always being cold, food obsession, low sex drive, fatigue, depression/mood changes, and lack of menstruation or irregular periods.
Your body is smart! It knows how to guide you back to the weight it wants to be at through many biological factors. So if it seems like you are gaining weight when starting your intuitive eating journey, know that you will not gain weight forever– your body will sort itself out and fall back into its natural setpoint.
Your setpoint may change as you go through different stages of life. Diet culture causes many people to long for the days when they were at a lower body weight, when they could be celebrating everything their body has carried them through since that time! Puberty, recovering from an eating disorder, starting college, retiring from a sport, pregnancy, illness, and menopause are just a few examples of seasons in life where a body will adapt and it’s setpoint weight may shift accordingly.
One of my favorite sayings I’ve come across as a HAES dietitian is simply that “your weight is the least interesting thing about you”–and this is SO true! The number on your scale doesn’t show your caring nature or eagerness to lend a helpful hand. It doesn’t show your sense of humor or smile that can light up a room. It doesn’t show if you are an amazing parent, a talented artist, or a rockstar boss! So while the number on the scale may change when you start working with a HAES dietitian, know that it has no affect over the best parts about you!