Author: Associate RD – Kennedy Johnston, RD, RDN, LDN

If you’re a dietitian in the Intuitive Eating space or someone who is active on any form of social media, it’s more than likely that you’ve come across a post, article or blog using a phrase like “intuitive eating”, “Health at Every Size (HAES)”, or “body positivity”. With access to all of the information you could want on the internet it can be overwhelming to tease-apart the different terminology and how they are intertwined in the anti-diet and recovery spaces. While some of these phrases or terms share the similar space or are built upon each other, it can be helpful to understand their origins and differences as some of the revolutionary movements and frameworks that have paved the way for dietitian’s work with people who struggle with disordered eating and eating disorders

Intuitive Eating (IE)

Per the website for Intuitive Eating (IE), IE is a “self-care eating framework” created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Reisch, in the 90’s after working with countless patients in their own practices who perpetually struggled with their relationship with food, body and movement. The IE framework is composed of 10 principles meant to be implemented in-order to help achieve a sense of peace with food and body through tuning into internal cues (your own internal hunger and fullness cues) instead of external cues (diets, bad nutrition advice) as well as preventing the continued cycle of dieting which we know is harmful in a multitude of ways: promoting a disordered relationship with food and body image through chronic restriction, bingeing and purging, perfectionism and shame. The end goal is to remove social, psychological and physical barriers preventing the intuitive eater from tuning into their internal food/activity needs and wants and stop the seemingly never-ending cycle of dieting and restriction in exchange for a lifetime of enjoying the food you enjoy that helps you feel your best. 

Health at Every Size® (HAES)

Health at Every Size® (HAES) is another framework and set of principles trademarked by ASDAH, or the Association for Size Diversity And Health. These principles include weight inclusivity, health enhancement, eating for well-being, respectful care, and life-enhancing movement. These principles and the framework that come with them seek to provide an alternative to the weight-centric model of care that most people are used to or trained in within healthcare settings. HAES® centers the pursuit of health equity (defined by the CDC as the opportunity to attain one’s own full health potential regardless of social position or other circumstances) and access to quality healthcare for all people regardless of weight/size as well as ending weight bias/discrimination. Health At Every Size® has been criticized as meaning that anyone is healthy when it’s actual meaning is that healthy people come in different shapes and sizes and being thin does not inherently mean a person is healthy and being fat does not make a person inherently unhealthy. 

Fat/Body Liberation/Acceptance

Body Liberation and Fat Acceptance are terms often used interchangeably, though they can have different meanings for different people or groups. These terms can most simply be defined as “the freedom from social and political systems of oppression that designate certain bodies as more worthy, healthy, and desirable than others” (uvm.edu). It is a more radical approach to changing how bodies are viewed by individuals and the world at-large. The start of Fat Activism and the Body Liberation movement is often traced back to the 1960’s when different groups emerged and began challenging the ob***ty narrative and advocating for an end to the bias and discrimination that fat and larger-bodied people endure. Members of organizations like NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) and the more radical The Fat Underground wrote letters, held conferences and published articles, manifestos, zines, poems and books to promote social, political and cultural equality for fat people (center for discovery). Lindley Ashline wrote this piece on what fat liberation means to her and has her own short list of definitions for important terminology in the fat liberation space that are incredibly helpful. 

Body Positivity/Neutrality

Both of these movements stemmed from the larger movement that originated from fat activism and liberationists in the mid-1900’s but are more contemporary and less political. Body positivity focuses on accepting your body as it is regardless of its proximity to what society deems “normal/beautiful”. Body positivity hinges on the idea of beauty being a social construct that has nothing to do with a person’s self-worth/value. Body neutrality, on the other hand, is the belief that all bodies deserve respect and acceptance for their many essential functions and what they can do that allows us to live our lives instead of solely for their appearance.The body positivity movement has been criticized for centering white, cisgender, heteronormative, thin or even mid-size women who fall much closer to what is considered “normal” than larger-bodied people who face more  discrimination and oppression for their bodies, race or gender expression. This blog by Marquisele Merceses is an honest and direct statement  on how a movement that was intended to create a safe space for fat people has been co opted to almost resemble the very thing it was meant to stand against.

Of course these are just a few of the many terms, movements, and frameworks that have changed the way we view “health” and our relationship with our bodies. If you are looking to learn more about body liberation, fat activism, intuitive eating, HAES and the intersectionality of race and class within it all, you can start with supporting and reading media by fat activists and liberationists. There are many scholars, dietitians and educators working to destigmatize bodies and improve health equity but to name just a few to start: Sonya Renee Taylor (author of The Body is Not an Apology), Lauren (@antidietfatty on instagram), Da’Shaun Harrison (author of Belly of the Beast), Aaron Flores, RDN (non-diet RD and host of the “Men Unscripted” podcast), and Sabrina Strings (author of Fearing the Black Body). 

woman smiling in front of an orange tree with a magenta shirt on.

Kennedy Johnston, is a registered dietitian at Nutrition Instincts who focuses on bringing awareness to the individual, systematic, environmental, cultural and social factors that effect how we feed ourselves and view our bodies.

Interested in working with Kennedy? Apply today!