Here at Sex Positive St. Louis, from Clothing Optional Meetups to the World Naked Bike Ride, we’re all about body acceptance. So, when I heard that a friend from my undergrad days, personal trainer and mixed martial artist, Tracy Herold, was leading a discussion for TrailNet’s “TrailNet on Tap” series on Active Transportation for Health at Every Size, needless to say I was interested. I asked Tracey about the Healthy at Every Size movement and how it can help people embrace a positive body image. Check back tomorrow for part two of our interview and check out TrailNet on Tap: Active Transportation for Health at Every Size, Wednesday, August 28th at 7pm at Urban Eats Cafe & Bakery, 3301 Meramec, St. Louis, MO 63118.
SEX+STL: What is the Healthy at Every Size movement?
Tracy Herold: At its core, Healthy at Every Size is about supporting people in adopting healthier habits for the sake of wellness, rather than a size or number on the scale.
Health at Every Size encourages embracing the body that you have, respecting the diversity of bodies around us, and promoting all aspects of health. It sounds simple, but it involves a lot of suspension of ingrained judgments from a lifetime of living in a society that sees extra fat tissue as a moral failing. HAES is about understanding that people can be psychologically healthy, physically active, and nutritionally sound, even if they are a double digit size.
The goal of those who have taken the pledge as set out by Dr. Linda Bacon is to fully acknowledge and live the philosophy that the best way to improve the health of yourself and your clients and patients is to honor your body. Examine your nutrition, examine your activity, examine yourself. Trust yourself. Listen to your body, understand what it is actually telling you and act accordingly.
When you drop the notion of taking actions for weight loss and replace it with the notion of doing things for your health, it is funny how things fall into place.
I see it as three levels of awareness: What your body needs to do, what you want your body to do, what your body looks like.
There is a reason I list them in this order, that is because we are browbeaten about these topics in the inverse order and it kills our self-esteem and our bodies.
Why did you want to get involved with the movement?
To be honest? At first, I did not want to get involved with HAES. I was very overweight at one point and I turned it around. I believed that all overweight people could do the same thing, in the same manner, and were just lazy, or unmotivated, or had simply “let themselves go.” I was grappling, highland dancing, belly dancing, hitting the weights, and turning the act of looking down on people into a form of cardio.
Then, I met a lady who was easily 350 pounds. I made so many snap judgments in the moment I saw her that I was surprised that my skull didn’t unhinge and fall off. We began hanging out, slowly becoming friends and I began to see something: she could keep up with me. Sure, her knees were a little worn, but she lifted, jogged, worked out like a demon. She ate incredibly healthy aside from the occasional mango margarita.
Years before we met – she was 220 pounds, she was an aerobics instructor, and she was constantly under the pressure to be skinny to be healthy. She ate next to nothing, over-trained, had the stomach stapling procedure, diet pills. You name it, she did it. Come to find out years later, she had Crohn’s Disease and never knew. She did everything “right” according to everyone else but herself. All of the actions she took to lose weight ended up wreaking her health, making her body rebel further. Her body fat was not the sickness, it was a symptom.
She knew that these things weren’t right for her and began to embrace cleaner eating, trusting her instincts on what to eat, how to move, finding enjoyment in health, even though she weighed twice as much as I did. She was radiant.
I met her three years before the cumulative effects of weight-loss took her from this world.
She changed how I viewed people. She taught me how to examine words and actions and see what is really there, and to act honestly. Watching her struggles were an eye-opener not just to my own prejudices but those of our peers, our media, and even our healthcare system.
Now, I openly reject them. And I found a movement that melds beautifully with what she taught me.