What We Mean by “Thin Privilege”

thin woman
An example of thin privilege: only images of thin women appeared when I searched “attractive woman”

I rarely bring up the concept of thin privilege with thin people unless the situation warrants it (like when they are tsk tsking about fat people). My goal is always to try to bring people into the HAES fold with kindness and compassion, and I find bringing up something like thin privilege gets them on the defensive fast and shuts everything down and my seed planting goes to waste. Some might disagree with this philosophy and that’s okay.

I do talk about this quite a bit, however, with my clients in larger bodies because it provides a framework and understanding for why they experience weight stigma, and for why they long to be in thinner bodies. Who doesn’t want privilege?? We all want that.

At the same time, I strongly feel that dietitians and dietitians-to-be —  thin or not –absolutely must understand this concept if they want to practice compassionate care. At some point, dietitians will treat people in fat bodies, and it is imperative that they understand how people suffer so under such an unfair system of privilege. (It’s also important to understand that we need to change the unfair system and not the body size)

So when Aaron and I gave an introductory talk on Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating to a large group of dietetic interns, we were a little surprised at the “feedback” (more like vitriolic criticism) we got from several attendees for mentioning thin privilege (an example of the aforementioned shutting down). They felt they had been attacked personally by even the mention of thin privilege, even though no person in the room had actually been identified by us as having it — we were simply bring it up as a concept to consider when treating people in larger bodies.

Since we consider all life experiences fodder for a podcast,  this was our effort to process the whole experience and talk about why acknowledging thin privilege exists is so important (I had it once and can tell you it exists). If you are in a smaller body, I hope you’ll listen to this podcast with an open heart and mind, because no matter what, all bodies are good bodies, and we always appreciate our thin allies.


Cover2Episode 54 – What We Mean By “Thin Privilege”

Binge Eating Disorder Relapse

I work with many clients who have binge eating disorder or, if not an official diagnosis, definite binge eating behaviors. All are in different stages of recovery, and many make great progress with learning to eat in an unrestricted, nourishing way that they feel good about while also ceasing binge behaviors.

My clients also come in a range of body sizes, but most typically are in larger bodies. Given our culture’s view of fat bodies, it doesn’t surprise me at all when they eventually ask, “When can I start trying to lose weight again?”

The reality is, my clients are not strangers to dieting and weight loss. They have “succeeded” at weight loss many times, always with the inevitable weight regain that we know comes with weight loss attempts. They have developed extremely disordered eating, if not an eating disorder, and struggle to know the best way to feed themselves. So of course, I know that attempting to lose weight again is a disaster waiting to happen for their health, their eating, their mental health.

But sometimes we need to hear the stories of others to fully grasp the potential impact of certain behaviors (like dieting and restriction). That’s why I was thrilled to talk to Sunny Sea Gold, author of the book Food: The Good Girl’s Drug, about her recovery from and subsequent relapse back into binge eating disorder. We are all susceptible to diet culture, even in recovery, and we need to be reminded regularly that diets aren’t the answer and that they were often the likely cause of a lot of our problems with food and weight.


Episode 53 – What BED Relapse Looks like with Sunny Sea Gold




HAES-Focused Diabetes Care

Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, of the Body Kindness book, and I have cooked up something wonderful for those with diabetes who don’t want to diet. Our HAES Care for Diabetes Concerns has been getting rave reviews from participants, and we are working hard to expand access to this program this year. Get on our priority email list to find out when this group is happening next!





Is there a size limit for HAES?

Cover2People often send us questions for our Dietitians Unplugged podcast. We love getting questions and once in a while we’ll pick one to answer in our show. This one in particular was one we felt was probably on the minds of many people for whom HAES was a completely new concept.

Our listener wrote:

I just listened to Dietitians Unplugged episode about Tess Holiday. Can you explain to me your feelings around obesity in a little more context. I am confused with what you actually promote around being very overweight. I do understand intuitive eating.  And let me note, I’m not commenting on Tess Holiday specifically or her being on a cover of a magazine. I’m talking about obesity in general. In your opinion obesity is not bad? How can you support that opinion if obesity is linked to an endless number of medical conditions? I see how one can be overweight but still healthy. Just as someone can be skinny and unhealthy. But at a certain point in time, if you are so over weight that you are declared obese then you have fat crushing your major organisms, you are shortening your life, and setting yourself up for a difficult aging processes. How can someone with that amount of excess weight still “healthy.”  Thank you for reading, your inquisitive listener.

To be very honest, I wasn’t sure if at first we were being trolled. But I sometimes forget what a wonderful little HAES bubble I live in much of the time, both in my mind, and online (and even IRL with most of my local friends and acquaintances), and I realize that in fact, most people haven’t even heard of HAES and might have questions (and I’m pretty sure that early on, this was one of the skeptical questions I had very early on when being introduced to HAES). 

For those of you who aren’t podcast listeners, I’ll give you the very quick and short answer to the question of, “Is there a size limit to HAES?”: No. Slightly longer answer: I feel that anyone of any size can benefit from Health at Every Size principles, and furthermore, dieting to lose weight is probably doing actual harm. My clients in large bodies have tried dieting more times than you can count, and aside from usually gaining even more weight than they lost in the first place, they come to be with extremely disordered eating and total confusion and frustration around the best way to take care of themselves with food and movement. And finally: I never promote a particular body size. To me, all bodies are good bodies. I am more interested in promoting the best, most sustainable and life-affirming ways to take care of the body a person has right now. 

If you want the longer, much more nuanced answer to our listener’s question, give this episode a listen!

Episode 52 – Is there a size limit to HAES?


HAES Focused Diabetes Care

Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, of the Body Kindness book, and I have cooked up something wonderful for those with diabetes who don’t want to diet. Our HAES Care for Diabetes Concerns has been getting rave reviews from participants, and we are working hard to expand access to this program this year. Get on our priority email list to find out when this group is happening next!