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What To Expect Working With A HAES Dietitian

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What is a HAES Approach in Nutrition?

HAES, or health at every size, celebrates the idea of choosing healthy behaviors not focused on body weight, shape, or size. 

HAES celebrates the diversity of all bodies.  Thus, nutritional intervention by a HAES aligned dietitian will focus on nourishing the body outside of the need to physically alter its appearance. 

A HAES dietitian will still utilize science based research to address medical concerns, facilitate daily behavior changes to support adequate nourishment, and facility a healthy relationship with the body and plate. 

Can You Really Be Healthy At Every Size?

Yes.  There are many studies that indicate that  parameters such as socioeconomic status, racism, food access, education status, and gender orientation are much greater influencers of overall health status than body weight, shape or size. 

It’s important to note that many of the research studies that indicate larger sized bodies are correlated with greater health risks do not take into account the multitude of other health variables that may influence health status.  They also do not take into account the prevalence of eating disorders in most cases. 

Measures such as stress, sleep, access to healthcare, laboratory values and blood pressure are much better measures of health than body size. 

Can You Lose Weight With HAES?

Yes, you can lose weight when working with a dietitian that is HAES aligned. 

However, the primary difference in HAES aligned healthcare and mainstream healthcare is that changing the body weight shape or size will not be a focus. 

A HAES dietitian is focused on helping you make lifestyle choices to fuel the body and mind.  As we nourish the idea of intuitive eating, the body will reach what is intended as its genetic blueprint.  This could mean weight loss, weight gain, or the weight staying the same. 

What Are The 5 HAES Principles?

HAES is based on the foundation of 5 main principles: 

  1. Weight inclusivity
  2. Health enhancement (support policies that enhance access to services)
  3. Eating for well-being
  4. Respectful care (care providers should be aware of biases and provide care with respect to diversity and socio-economic status)
  5. life-enhancing movement

Check out the 5 principles of HAES to learn more

How Will A HAES Dietitian Use These Principles? 

As a dietitian, we have a responsibility not only to provide evidence based research to our patients, but also understand the ability of the patient access the resources in the information we provide. 

By ignoring diversity factors including race, gender, socioeconomic status, disease state or disabilities in our nutrition interventions, we are practicing discrimination in our care. 

HAES dietitians will examine factors to help each individual patient nourish which will include: 

  • Ethnic food choices
  • Access to food
  • Cultural traditions surrounding food 
  • Relationship with food across the lifespan 
  • Disease presence and management 
  • Access to safe spaces for movement 
  • Food environment

Is A HAES Dietitian The Same As An Eating Disorder Dietitian?

It is very common that a eating disorder dietitian is also a HAES dietitian.  However, a HAES dietitian does not always work with eating disorders. 

To work with eating disorders, a dietitian should have a unique skillset and training. 

Eating disorder dietitians are often providing medical nutrition therapy which includes: 

An eating disorder dietitian often receives clinical supervision. Many eating disorder dietitians are also certified with the international association of eating disorder professionals to receive the credential CEDRD. Not all credible eating disorder dietitians will have this credential, but it is a good mark that there is additional training in this field. 

A HAES dietitian may or may not engage in any form of medical nutrition therapy including that of eating disorders.  It really just depends on the RDs specialty. 

However, if seeking an eating disorder dietitian it is important to inquire about whether or not they are also a HAES aligned dietitian. A HAES aligned ED dietitian can be important for the long term recovery process from an eating disorder. 

How Can A Weight Inclusive Dietitian Help Me Make Peace With Food?

When you work with a HAES dietitian, it will likely feel different then when you work with other providers. 

It is important to note that the primary goal is still to improve your overall health an wellbeing. A dietitian does this by nurturing a healthy relationship with the physical and emotional components involved in choosing food. 

A HAES dietitian will help you to: 

  • Explore food neutrality (the idea that no one food is superior to another)
  • Identify any fear foods you may have (foods that cause guilt, shame or anxiety)
  • Explore any body checking that is occurring and help you nurture body trust
  • Work through eating disorders or disordered eating behavior (where appropriate)
  • Manage a medical condition without a weight focus
  • Practice and nourish for  joyful movement without the goal of shrinking the body size
Forks tied with measuring tape
Make Peace With Food

How does HAES Support Diversity In Healthcare?

For starters, HAES honors all bodies as valuable.  

This changes the dynamic significantly in the healthcare sector. 

Through HAES we are honoring that bodies will naturally exist across a spectrum.  We honor that there will naturally be differences across various ethnic groups, genders and cultures. 

Markers of health that were structured on studies of white European male subjects,  such as BMI, are not used as a health marker and are not used to prescribe care.  

When we exclude body weight, shape and size from the dictation or our healthcare, we are making an ethical decision. We are honoring bodies that are naturally diverse, as well as their customs and traditions.

Many feel more comfortable and confident seeking out healthcare that is HAES aligned as they are able to have their medical issues addressed without them being dismissed as merely a weight related issue. 

When someone feels comfortable seeking out healthcare, they are likely to do so more frequently and thus improve overall health outcomes.  This is the power of HAES healthcare. 


What To Know About Working With A HAES Dietitian

Where Can I find a HAES Dietitian?

It’s important to consider the philosophy and training of the provider you choose to work with. While many may claim to be HAES aligned, they may still be promoting weight loss, food restriction, or exercise resulting in body changes. 

A good place to start would be on the academy’s find a nutrition expert tool. 

You can also do a simple google search for dietitians in your area. 

Look for practitioners in your area that identify a HAES focus. It’s also a great idea to peruse their website and check for any diet-y related language (e.g. calories, weight loss, getting fit, restricting certain food groups). 

You can also often go to a practitioners about me page and determine any special trainings they may have in intuitive eating or HAES aligned healthcare.  Many providers will also allow a discovery call where you can check in to make sure you are a good fit.  

© 2022 Peace and Nutrition

Shena Jaramillo. Registered Dietitian

Hi I'm Shena. I'm an eating disorders dietitian in Washington state. I hold bachelors degrees nutrition & dietetics, cultural anthropology & psychology. I believe in honoring your hunger, having your cake whenever you want it, and that critically analyzing diet culture can change the world!