A Sociological Critique of HAES
Lots of good points in this one. I have put up what I think of HAES multiple times on this blog
"Bacon notes that ‘We all have internal systems designed to keep us healthy – and at a healthy weight. Support your body in naturally finding its appropriate weight by honouring its signals of hunger, fullness and appetite’. In a YouTube video she claims that as long as ‘you stop fighting yourself, achieving and maintaining the weight that is right for you is effortless – your body does the job for you’."
This is simply not true. My body doesn't do the job for me, nor does it for many fat people. I read the above and it seems to be a magical mystery land of make-believe. So I am relieved that the author brings up these points with I agree with. I share her same suspicion when it comes to words like "natural, instinctive or internal cues" as well.
" Yet I would argue that there are elements of the HAES discourse that should be held up to critical examination. It is time to challenge its assumptions and to identify the inconsistencies and the brand of rigid thinking that underpin HAES, just as critics have done in relation to scientific anti-obesity discourse. In her writings on HAES, Bacon constantly refers to the body’s natural ‘set-point’ which ensures that too much weight is not gained if one makes sure to follow one’s body’s cues. References to ‘turning over control to your body’ assumes that the body is a natural entity that has its own wisdom independent of where it is sited or what experiences it has gone through. While I agree with and support the major principles of accepting a range of body sizes and shapes and that everyone, regardless of their size and shape should seek a lifestyle that is both pleasurable and healthy, as a sociologist, I tend to approach the words ‘natural’, ‘instinctive’ or ‘internal cues’ with suspicion."
The sociologist even notes what I have pointed out about the size acceptance movement too as a whole, where the body is focused as the end all and be all. This goes against the reality that most fat people to survive mentally, emotionally and intellectual often have to concentrate more then an average person on the life of the mind and other things that will bring joy.
"This discourse reproduces the classic Cartesian duality of the mind/self as separate from the body/flesh and turns it on its head. Instead of the rational mind positioned as superior to the fleshly body, here the body is represented as ‘wise’ and all-knowing, to which the mind/self should relinquish control. Yet as theorists such as Merleau-Ponty have argued, we cannot separate ‘self’ from ‘body’: we always and inevitably experience the world as embodied selves. Take the concept of ‘internal cues’ for example. The HAES literature suggests that such cues are natural, instinctive, biologically determined and therefore appropriate to follow. But if nothing else, the sociology of the body and indeed, the sociology of food and eating (Lupton, 1996) have shown us motivations can never be fully or purely ‘internal’. They are experienced via social and cultural lens, including our own life experiences and our siting within the particular cultural context into which we were born and grew up. "
And here she hits some of the nails, right on the head, where hyper-personal responsibility rules and where the demands to love yourself hold a sway that can be shame inducing as well. I've spoken of it as the sort of healthism that tells a fat person especially in my category, to somehow suspend reality when it comes to my own physical problems. She is right if the external remains unchanged, we can hear "love yourself" til the cows come home, and how going back to the previous point is one to do that if everything is based on the body that has betrayed you in the FIRST PLACE? HAES tells us our own bodies will fix "themselves" if we listen, but it's a false construct.
"Another important aspect of HAES that requires more critical examination is the concept that we should accept our bodies whatever our size and the assumption that this will lead to better self-esteem, a goal in itself. But such attempts to improve self-esteem from within fail to recognise the continuing fat prejudice and loathing that continues to exist within our society. Bacon argues that HAES will ‘give you the tools … to live in a body you love’ (2010: 5). But this is similar to asserting that prejudice, discrimination and stigma based on such features as a person’s ethnicity or race, or their age, can be dealt with by ‘loving yourself’. Such an approach attempts to change individuals’ behaviours rather than wider societal attitudes, and the problem therefore remains personal (Murray, 2008). Whatever one’s own attitude about one’s body, the external societal meanings will remain unchanged, and prejudice, discrimination and stigmatisation will continue to exist. Fat people themselves, however, hard they try, may struggle to accept their body size in such a punitive social environment. Their inability to ‘love themselves’ may well become yet another source of shame and guilt."
See: Health At Every Size? And Healthism in the Size Acceptance Movement