The HAES Files

HAES and Naturopathic Medicine: Using HAES Principles to Facilitate Healing

by Caitlin O’Connor, ND

Practicing medicine, especially naturopathic medicine, in a weight-obsessed culture can be tricky. Food and movement are two of the most powerful tools I have to help my patients feel better, but how do I apply those tools in a culture so obsessed with diet and exercise as a means to an end (get skinnier) rather than a foundation for health? Oftentimes, my patients come to me having been traumatized by not only the weight loss industry, but also by medical professionals who have blown off their medical needs and/or focused solely on weight loss as a singular approach to anything that ails them. Figuring out how to work with women of all sizes – in a society that desperately sells the idea of small and slender as the only markers for health – has been a huge challenge in my practice.

First things first, when I work with patients, I ask them to define their goals. I would guess that at least 50%, if not more, of the women in my practice list weight loss as one of their primary concerns. This opens the door for conversation. Why is weight loss important? What has their relationship with weight been over the life span? Is there any history of disordered eating?

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