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Speak Up! Finding Your Fit in HAES Advocacy

by Dawn Clifford

Ugh. Dieting season. A tiring time in the life of a HAES advocate. Coming off the holidays, we may have very few sanity points saved up. With every New Year’s Resolution proclaimed in the name of weight loss, we have two options: 1) plug our ears and pretend like it isn’t happening or 2) speak up and let the world know there’s another way.

As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We each play an important role in sharing the HAES message. This blog post is a call to action to invite you to consider how you might join this small group of committed citizens and make a difference.

Like most grassroots movements, the Health At Every Size® (HAES®) paradigm requires a united front of enthusiastic and persistent advocates. If it wasn’t for these committed HAES cheerleaders, you probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now reading this blog post. Somewhere along the way, your HAES journey began. Maybe it started with an individual interaction, attending a conference session or reading a blog, magazine article or book. No matter the format, you were likely influenced by someone who was using his or her innate gift to share the HAES message.

With each advocacy effort comes the need for overcoming fear, uncertainty and doubt to share a message that is neither simple nor mainstream.  It’s easy to lose confidence in your abilities when you see amazing people doing amazing work. There are so many HAES champions out there doing incredible things. It’s tempting to sit paralyzed in awe and amazement as you compare yourself to others with talents and gifts and long to possess those same skills yourself. Perhaps you feel that only certain gifts and talents are required to share the HAES message, and they happen to be the ones that you don’t have.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

We all have gifts and talents and each one is needed in our efforts to help others develop a healthier relationship with food and fitness and a positive body image. You don’t need a megaphone or even a whole lot of time to be part of planting that tiny seed in someone else. You may have already experienced just how gratifying it can be to share a small piece of the HAES message with someone else, and watch it grow into a strong healthy tree with branches that reach out into the lives of others.

Perhaps you’ve wanted to get involved with promoting the HAES message, but the thought is overwhelming and you don’t even know where to begin. First, you may or may not be aware of your unique gifts and talents. If this is something you’d like to explore, consider taking a test like the Strength Finder 2.0 test or if you’re looking for the “free” option, perhaps one like this might help guide you towards discovering your skills.

Next, within your personality strengths and skills, consider what small actions might be feasible and feel safe to start with. It’s easy to burn out quickly with advocacy efforts, and the chance for burnout may be higher if you aren’t serving in a way that aligns with your individual talents, strengths and interests.

Here are some tasks, big and small, that might interest you, organized by skill type. This list is far from exhaustive, but may get you thinking about your role in supporting the HAES movement:


Ways you can apply that skill to advance the HAES movement


· Create and share a blog  

· Write a book

· Propose stories to magazines and newspapers

· Volunteer to contribute a blog posting to the Health At Every Size Blog (contact the ASDAH Education Committee)

· Volunteer to serve as an editor for the Health At Every Size Blog (contact the ASDAH Education Committee)

· Comment on blogs, social media posts, magazine articles and newspaper articles that support or fail to support the HAES paradigm

· Write letters to medical offices, clinics, dietitians and therapists in your area informing them of the HAES approach

· Write encouraging responses to those sharing their HAES journeys on social media, such as members of this Facebook group


· Expose others to the HAES message during individual interactions, if the topic arises organically

· Re-share inspiring blogs and messages posted on social media with your networks

· Offer to volunteer for the ASDAH media and public relations committee

· Host a HAES think-tank in your community to coordinate efforts to share the HAES message in your community

· Start a book club that reads and discusses books that support the HAES message

Artistic / Creative

· Create artwork that supports the HAES message

· Create t-shirts, hats, mugs, stickers or buttons that support the HAES message

· Create memes that support the HAES message and post them on social media

· Create infographics, or team up with the ASDAH Education Committee to develop one for ASDAH members to use and share

· Create informative and artistic client education materials

Public Speaking

· Submit proposals to speak at conferences

· Offer to guest-lecture in a college course

· Offer to give an ASDAH Webinar by contacting the ASDAH Education Committee

· Create a short video or series of videos related to an important piece of the HAES message and post them on social media


· Re-share inspiring blogs and messages posted on social media with your networks  

· ‘Like’ and share things posted on the ASDAH Facebook page

· Tweet, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook your opinions left and right

· Offer to volunteer on the ASDAH website committee

· Offer to serve on the ASDAH media and public relations committee

Public Policy

· Volunteer to serve on the ASDAH public policy committee

· Write letters to legislators as it relates to issues surrounding the HAES movement


· Consider getting involved with an ASDAH committee and then serving as chair of that committee or jump straight into running for an officer position

As with all changes, it’s easy to adopt an all-or-nothing mentality. “I don’t have time to join a committee, so I may as well not do anything.” There are so many ways to contribute to the HAES movement that require very little time and energy. For example, just responding to a comment on the HAES Facebook group could really support an individual on his or her HAES journey, which requires very little effort on your part.

We are all unique tiny pieces of the giant HAES puzzle. Without a single piece, the image is missing something. When we each use our gifts and talents, the puzzle is whole and the image is beautiful and powerful. Again, the key is aligning your advocacy efforts with your skills and interests. There’s a place for everyone at this table and you’re invited!

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Dawn Clifford, PhD, RD is an Associate Professor and Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at California State University, Chico. In addition, she co-founded and is the current director of FitU, which is a peer mentoring nutrition and exercise counseling program on campus. Dr. Clifford conducts research and is an accomplished speaker in the areas of motivational interviewing and Health At Every Size®. She is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers and recently authored Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness. In addition, she is a co-chair of the ASDAH Education Committee.

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