HAES history and thinness: A thread

So this is a combo of assumptions, guesswork and actual oral history I have heard from people who were there.

(Also Barbara Bruno's HAES history pieces, which you've likely seen but just in case are here: https://asdah.org/history-of-the-health-at-every-size-movement-part-1/)

Despite Bruno's inclusion of fat activism in her HAES history, I don't believe that HAES was ever meant to be part of or to move fat liberation forward.

That doesn't mean that fat activists and healthcare providers have never worked together, of course.

Part 3 of the Bruno history talks about a 1991 collaboration.

Speaking of hidden spaces, the phrase "Health at Every Size" was first coined by folks on a specific listserv, though that did include fat folks (I've talked to a fat woman who was there and know of a couple more).

But it seems that as soon as HAES was named, it immediately began to drift from fat folks toward thin providers and researchers.

And my understanding is that it was simply never meant to be part of fat activism — if fat activists wanted to come along for the ride, cool, but it was meant for providers.

The original HAES book seems pretty clearly meant for providers, too. I don't think non-clinicians were ever the intended audience. Once again, if we fatties wanted to come along for the ride we could individual responsibility it up all we wanted, but we weren't the target.

So I don't know exactly where this "HAES is fat activism" trope came from other than a) the occasional inclusion of fat folks in supporting roles and b) the conflation of HAES with fat acceptance in order to discredit the former.

The more I consider this, the more Bruno's conflation of fat acceptance/ASDAH/HAES does fat acceptance a disservice by giving "evidence" that they're the same thing.

Speaking of disservice, the ED treatment world discovering HAES was one of the most toxic possible events. Hundreds of thin RDs and nutritionists etc. etc., many with EDs themselves, suddenly started interpreting HAES as "healthy at a slightly larger size than extremely thin."

So while fat folks were at the heart of the creation of the term, I'm not sure how much influence they've had since, and it's no wonder it was promptly appropriated and used by thin folks who, as you said, give not one single shit about the fat folks it was created to protect.

My own knowledge of the inner workings of HAES was unintentional. Because I was hanging out with so many HAES providers, I got invited into provider-only groups by people who thought I *was* one.

(I immediately made it clear that I wasn't, so I consider myself a guest in those spaces. A very annoying guest who never shuts up about the fats. If you don't like it, boot me.)

I do agree that healthcare providers should have professional spaces for referrals and discussions, out of the public eye.

But I think it's telling that in all the spaces where I have access, I am the *only* non-provider. There are currently no non-public discussion spaces that are open to both fat activists and providers.

It's also telling that 100% of the actual discussion — as opposed to statements of support — that I'm seeing re. Lindo Bacon/HAES is by marginalized people. There are no discussions whatsoever going on in provider groups I'm in.

Thin HAES providers consider their responsibilities to be to themselves/their brand, and their clients/patients. That's it. At most.

To be clear, providers *should* care about their patients. But you can’t tap into a larger movement and take and take and take without giving anything back to it.

Originally tweeted by Lindley Ashline (she/her) ๐ŸŒป๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ (@lindleyashline) on March 17, 2022.

I have been begging HAES providers to care about fat people for years. I have been so loud that I can hear people groaning when they see me coming.

When the panini started and #NoBodyisDisposable got going, I shared it, assuming thin providers would pick that right up.


I begged and pleaded, and got some condescending responses that I couldn't expect providers to share or take action when they already had their hands full with clients and COVID.

Funny how they never circled back around to it.

I've begged and pleaded for thin HAES providers to care about fat people and maybe not to share their open fatphobia out loud for so long that I have quite a reputation as a mean fatty.

I once went to a local HAES provider and, for full disclosure, mentioned that I'm in a lot of HAES circles/groups, incl. the local HAES FB group.

"Oh, I don't go into those groups any more, there are too many mean people," she said.

Reader, I'm 95% sure she was talking about me and didn't realize I was the same person.

Originally tweeted by Lindley Ashline (she/her) ๐ŸŒป๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ (@lindleyashline) on March 17, 2022.

Hi there! I'm Lindley. I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work here at bodyliberationphotos.com.