beyond health at every sizeI posted that I attended the Association for Size Diversity and Health conference a few weekends ago. I’ve been processing ever since. You may have heard of “safe spaces,” where generally people end up being careful not to say anything that might offend someone else. At ASDAH, and other workshops I’ve attended recently on similar topics, safe spaces have given way to “brave spaces.” In a brave space, respect is still key, but participants open themselves to feeling challenged in a way that facilitates growth, but may be a little uncomfortable in the interim.

My thinking about sizeism and how it intersects with racism, sexism, classism and a whole lot of other -isms certainly evolved in this weekend, due to the perspectives of both participants and speakers. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I kept tissues in my bag. One of the many profound experiences I had was listening to Linda Bacon, PhD, author of the books “Health At Every Size” and “Body Respect,” speak.

Towards a new model of HAES

I had been vaguely aware for about a year that Dr. Bacon had pulled back somewhat from Health At Every Size—the book, NOT the concept—but wasn’t sure why.

In her talk, she said that while she appreciates that the book has been transformative or many people, she feels that it may have led some people astray. Why? Largely because of it’s focus on “personal behavior change as a route to liberation.” She called this model “outdated and neoliberal,” and said it was borne in part out of her failure (at the time) to examine her own privilege. She also said:

To be clear, behavior change is valuable. But what it can’t do is remove the stressors you face. No matter how you change your eating or activity habits, the factors that make up your lifeworld—things like stigma, insecure work, poverty and caring responsibilities—remain unchanged. These factors play a much larger role in health and well-being, and they also affect your ability to make those lifestyle changes. Moreover, it is well-established that lifestyle changes result in greater health improvement for people with more privilege.

Developing a body manifesto

Dr. Bacon said she supports the views expressed in “Body Respect,” which she co-authored with Lucy Aphramor.* She also shared that she is working on a new book, “The Body Manifesto.” To my delight, I discovered yesterday that she has already created four short videos about this concept. I’ve posted them below, and she also has a downloadable PDF handout.

*When I ran into Dr. Bacon the first morning of the conference, I re-introduced myself and reminded her that I had interviewed her and Dr. Aphramor four years ago for The Seattle Times. She said she remembered that interview well(!), because it was the first time she had done a joint interview with Dr. Aphramor, and it was an interesting dynamic to play off each other as they answered questions.