• Talia Cooper

About a Mistake I Made

Hi friends! If you’ve participated in the I Have a Body! cohort, attended a one-off workshop I’ve done for health educators, or watched my 1:1 video series, then you’ve likely heard me talk about the concept of Health At Every Size (HAES)®.


What is Health At Every Size®?

HAES® is a weight-neutral approach to health and to life. It offers an important alternative to our weight-focused health care system. The HAES® copyright is owned by the Association for Size, Diversity, and Health (ASDAH), and as it says on the ASDAH website, “It is also a movement working to promote size-acceptance, to end weight discrimination, and to lessen the cultural obsession with weight loss and thinness.” Yes please!


The principles of HAES® are about inclusivity, respect, care, and holistic well-being. ASDAH is in the process of revising the principles to talk more about the social determinants of health, including racism and fatphobia. From a recent ASDAH email: “Fat people deserve access to compassionate and effective healthcare. Full stop. Regardless of whether fat people are or have the capacity to be ‘healthy,’ … we would still deserve access to healthcare that serves our needs. ASDAH is committed to creating a world where this is possible.” asdah.org


Where I made a mistake:

There is a book called Health At Every Size by Dr Lindo Bacon. Because of the title of the book, I and many others have historically overemphasized Lindo Bacon’s role in the HAES® movement. I made them sound like the primary creator and holder of this work. This is incorrect.


Information has come out over the past month of some of the harm caused by Lindo, which inspired me to do more learning about how HAES® has come to be.


In fact, many researchers over many years developed HAES®, and the activism dates back to fat liberationists in the 60s. Dr. Bacon was simply the first to put the research together in a book with the same title (thereby making them the biggest known name). But they do not deserve the primary credit for this work, and the success of the book is due to many HAES® advocates and fat liberationists.


In short: Lindo Bacon does not own HAES® nor are they the sole, or even primary authority on it.


Dr. Bacon is a thin, white person, and giving them primary credit for work done and held by so many people, especially fat people, and fat people of color, is problematic. It upholds the systems of oppression that always give credit to those with more positional/identity-based power, rather than the whole community doing the labor.


T’shuvah (Repair)

There is a lot that the Health At Every Size® community is figuring out right now. In terms of my own personal plan for repair, here’s where I’m at:


  1. I donated to Marquisele Mercedes’ care page. Mikey is one of the activists who has held a lot of the emotional labor of this challenge over the last month. I would not have realized the mistake I made without her work. I am donating to support her in getting the rest and care she needs, in addition to becoming a sustaining supporter on her Patreon (patreon.com/marquisele/) as well as continuing my Patreon support of Lindley Ashline, who I have also learned a huge amount from this past month (patreon.com/bodyliberation/).

  2. I will continue being a dues paying member to ASDAH and I made an additional donation in acknowledgement of their work https://asdah.org/. I am also setting the intention to attend more ASDAH events in 2022.

  3. I am changing my slides and sources docs to emphasize the role of ASDAH and community activists in developing HAES®.

  4. I will expand my efforts to amplify the work of fat activists and fat activists of color.

  5. I will continue to ask myself questions about what it means for me to do this work as a thin, white person as well. My approach so far has been to be honest and upfront about my identities, to make regular referrals to fat providers, to encourage the following of fat activists and especially fat activists of color, to make financial contributions to fat activists—both individuals and groups—and to stay open to the possibility of changing my business as I/the world evolves.


If you have any thoughts, feelings, or questions, I’m here. Feel free to DM me.


Thanks for listening.