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Why I Don’t Use The “O” Words Anymore
by Meredith Noble
Until about two years ago, I identified as “overweight” and “obese”. I never thought twice about using these terms to describe myself. They were how doctors referred to me, so I took them on without question.
Then I discovered the Health At Every Size (HAES, pronounced “hays”) paradigm. HAES suggests that we should all pursue our own health and well-being in a completely weight-neutral way. HAES followers believe people should take care of their bodies in ways that make them feel good, rather than chasing certain weight goals.
The reasons for not chasing weight goals are myriad, but boil down to the ideas that:
- Diets don’t work! We don’t have any reliable way to help people lose significant amounts of weight long-term. (Most people regain weight they’ve lost on a diet within 2-5 years—and many end up weighing more than what they started with.)
- Science actually shows that being in a larger body isn’t inherently unhealthy. Nor is being in a smaller body inherently healthy.
(I know it may be hard to believe this is true because our culture has taught you the opposite! For evidence, I recommend picking up a copy of the book Body Respect by Lucy Aphramor and Linda Bacon to dig deep into the science.)
Once you buy into HAES principles, you realize that there is no such thing as being “overweight”. If I can find wellbeing at any size, then there’s no weight I’m “over”. I no longer am willing to name my body a term that judges it the way “overweight” and “obese” do.
Instead, I choose to identify as “plus-size” or “fat”. Many plus-size people are reclaiming the word “fat” as a neutral descriptor. There is nothing wrong with being plus-size or fat. We don’t need to change our bodies. We are awesome as we are and can seek health and well-being without chasing weight loss.