Having aesthetic goals in a HAES society

posted on October 8, 2019

I feel as though the health and fitness industry has become very segmented over the last couple of years. As the world has come to realise that fitness isn’t just achieved by endless burpees to a Mr Motivator DVD, other forms fitness have emerged to cater to different tastes. You’ve got the yoga folk, anti-diet squad, the vegan brigade, the classic bodybuilding tribe, crossfit bods, paleo people, HAES (Health At Every Size) advocates… the list goes on.


This is actually a great thing – it means that people who typically don’t enjoy fitness have found a style that fits their lifestyle and is enjoyable. And when you enjoy looking after your health and fitness, it becomes sustainable.


Over the last couple of years, I also feel as though Instagram has become very political. We still post pretty pictures, but they’re accompanied by a deep and lengthy captions covering political views and evidence based discoveries. Nobody wants to be proven wrong – it’s all become about top trumping others by referencing the latest studies, or breaking down the patriarchy in ways we haven’t considered before. I feel as though all of us (myself included) are now tailoring our content to always deliver new and challenging information which supports what is deemed to be ‘correct’ in todays society (both in relation to health, fitness and more).


In doing this, a little war seems to have broken out. Those who are not vegan, anti-diet, HAES supporters, are deemed to be disordered and embodying an ‘old’ and ‘outdated’ methods of fitness.


For example, those who train mainly for aesthetics, restrict food groups from their diet, always work toward the lowest body fat % and spend all of their Sunday doing meal prep are deemed to be disordered and simply ‘incorrect’. But we must remember this entirely depends on the individual, their experiences, beliefs and views. What works for one may not work for another. We know that health can be achieved in multiple different ways, and that looks different for everybody. We know that completely restricting fat intake isn’t necessary in order to lose weight or be healthy, but this may just be what works best for that person based on their personality, lifestyle and goals. So long as that person isn’t advocating restricting fat from a negative place (i.e. because they hate their body) or spreading false information (i.e. that restricting fat completely will help you to lose weight), or restricting to the point of malnutrition, then their choice is still valid.


It’s important to remember that wanting to lose weight is still a valid goal, restricting food groups is okay, and if someone goes to the gym solely to change how they look then that is fine so long as it’s not stemming from a negative place, is disordered and is then bestowed onto others in the same negative way.


I do, however, completely understand why people think that it’s not. Restricting food groups can mean that somebody has an unhealthy relationship with food, and training solely for aesthetics can mean that somebody has a negative relationship with their body image. This was absolutely me, and A LOT of us have been through the classic journey from cardio obsessed, orthorexic ‘gym bunnies’ into stronger, healthier versions of ourselves both physically and mentally.


Instagram is a tricky environment – everybody in essence is an influencer. Which means that anyone can become somebody’s authority when it comes to fitness and nutrition. Encouraging others to completely restrict fat intake because it makes you ‘healthy’ however, is both irresponsible and incorrect and we need to be working harder to give a voice the nutritionists in this space.


Anyway, to summarise. In a world which is becoming so politically correct and opinions are increasingly difficult to challenge. Just remember, if your lifestyle choices are healthy both physically and mentally, then they are STILL VALID.