Meeting You Where You Are: Health At Every Size Personal Training

I am Abigail Ladd, an anti-diet health coach, and Health at Every Size fitness professional. I have worked in the fitness industry for 15 years training people of all ages in multiple modalities. However, it was only in the last 5 years I walked away from the traditional “health & fitness” model towards the anti-diet and Health at Every Size frameworks driven by my own recovery from an eating disorder. This shift not only improved my relationship with my food and my body, but it has also made me a better trainer and coach to my clients and truly support them wherever they are with their fitness goals. 

While you may have heard of Health at Every Size or HAES, you might not fully understand what it is. So, let’s define it right out of the gates: 

Health at Every Size is a set of principles that was established in 2003 by the Association of Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH). These principles reject the idea that weight, body size and BMI are sole indicators of a healthy body. Instead, they are merely data points in a complex, nuanced system. We cannot determine someone’s health based on the size of their body. HAES also rejects the idea that weight loss is the panacea of the diet industry and some parts of the medical community claim it is, because people of all sizes experience varying levels of health – not just throughout the world, but also throughout their lifetime. Health isn’t a stagnant thing. After all, every time you get a cold or the flu, your health status has changed. 

As a personal trainer, I have had lots of conversations about Health at Every Size with colleagues in the industry because HAES brings out all the feels on either side of the discussion.

Critics of HAES describe it as “endorsing or glorifying obesity” and “giving up on your health.” First, the portrayals of fat or “obese” people in our media are far from “endorsing and glorifying”, in fact they are full of shame, collective disgust and often verbal abuse of fat people. Fat people are treated terribly and we all know it, which is one of the many reasons people are so afraid to become fat. There is not a multi-billion dollar industry promoting being fat, but there is a multi-billion dollar industry glorifying thinness and disordered eating. So, if we as a society want to be worried about glorifying a body type with unhealthy eating behaviors, we should all have our eyes trained on Diet Culture.

Second, health is not synonymous with thinness. We all know people who are thin, who manage health conditions and we all know people who are fat and manage no health conditions…and vice versa. More to the point though, health isn’t a moral imperative or something you “owe” anyone. Your health status is no one’s business but your own. Additionally, weight loss does not automatically correlate with improved health outcomes. But, health behaviors like stress management, eating nutritious food, and exercise, do correlate with improved health regardless of any change in weight. 

So, putting weight at the forefront isn’t “health promoting” because it is the wrong focus. 

Usually the main reason someone wants to hire a personal trainer and health coach is weight loss. Now, this can be coded in many ways: be healthy, have more energy, feel confident, be stronger, play with my kids more. However, when setting goals with my clients I ask: “If I help you be healthy, have more energy, feel confident, be stronger, play with your kids more, but your body size doesn’t change, will you be ok with that?” most of my clients say “no,” because what they really want is weight loss. They want to look the part. Now, there are many reasons people believe a thinner body will give them health, confidence, energy, strength and make them a better partner, parent or family member, but all of that is marketing. Thinness doesn’t mean you’ll get any of that and, more often than not, the behaviors required to make someone thinner than their natural frame – extreme food restriction, exercise routines and/or constant weight fluctuations are incredibly damaging to one’s health. 

We don’t know if a person’s body size will change as a result of adding in health behaviors. If we did, no one would have to try oodles of diets. They’d only need one. Bodies are diverse and nuanced. But we do know how to build a person’s strength, manage and increase their energy, build confidence, and increase your endurance so you can play with your kids for longer periods of time.

So, with Health at Every Sizes personal training, we do not pursue weight loss and  it’s not “on the back burner” because it’s not a reliable data point to set a goal. Your body might change in size and it might not. However, we can improve your strength, endurance, mobility, stability and your relationship with food. A Health at Every Size approach means we’re not trying to “fix” your body we’re working on the best way to support your body sustainably, so you can support it and yourself as your body changes throughout your life. 

When people think their bodies aren’t valuable as they are, regardless of size, they treat them terribly with crash diets and over exercising. But, when we acknowledge that bodies are inherently worthy and valuable, it is a lot easier for people to care for their bodies because they know how precious they are.

To find out more about my fitness services check out:

To the Woman at the Swimming Pool with the “Perfect Body”: A Poem

An ode to summer…


To the Woman at the Swimming Pool with the “Perfect Body”


The water glistens and ripples

Pool blue and inviting

I see your body and immediately feel shame

On a deep level I know it is nothing about you

But about me and my body-mind game


That it will never be good enough

That I will never be good enough

I sit and dwell

And stew


The way I perceive my body

If you only knew

Do I need to change me

To be more like you?


Losing focus on why I am there

The love I have of swimming and treading and kicking

That I feel free when I do so

My muscles tensing and retracting

My legs pushing me from one end to the other


For the moments that I focus on you

And what I project

I lose sight of all of that

Of what really matters


You have no idea the power you hold

Or that we have placed on you

All of us with bodies that we deem “flawed”

(and maybe that’s you…too?

I really have no idea what you’re going through)

Or that society says are askew


The pain of countless souls

A communal weeping

I place all of this onto you


You don’t deserve that

I don’t deserve that

No one, No body deserves that

The messages that we receive are the villains

And try to be the thief of joy


Comparison is the thief of joy


And yet all of us can relate

To that thought that says

I must change

There’s something wrong with me

Lose weight

But only in the “right” areas

Then you will truly love yourself


Thin is “in”

Fat is “out”

Where do you fall?

Try to catch the moving needle

Of body image ideals

It will never stop

You will never win


Now I look at you

I look at all of us at the pool

Men women kids babies




And I feel anger

Anger at the power of body shame

And judgmental standards



Rises up in my throat

Like a ravenous flame

A fight to change the dialogue

All bodies are good bodies

We all deserve the same


And I dive into the cool refreshing pool

Holding my breath



-name withheld


#healthateverysize #bodyacceptance #selfacceptance

#bodyimage  #recovery #advocacy




What Does “Bikini Body” Even Mean? Three Ways to Embrace Your Beautiful, Bold Body!

It’s that time of year again.  The media pressure to work out and have the ‘ideal’ body has waned a bit since the New Year’s Resolutions campaign, but now it’s coming back in force as the weather warms up and we are all eager to get outside and enjoy the sunshine: “get your best bikini body yet!”, “are you ready to hit the beach?”, “three tips to lose weight FAST to fit into that tiny bikini!”.  Then there’s the comparisons to celebrities who have the “perfect bikini body” and whose pictures are spread throughout the internet and in magazines as the “ideal role models” for how your body ‘should’ look this summer. Whoa.  I’m exhausted even thinking about it.  I can feel my chest start to tighten as I almost fall into that trap: “how will I EVER get my body to look like THAT??”.

Deep breath.

Who said that anyone had to have a certain body appearance or type in order to wear a bikini?  Where is the logic in that?  It doesn’t make sense to me and it feels very shaming, judgmental, and narrow-minded.  For those of us who embrace and love our bodies no matter what they look like (or are desiring to do so!), these messages can be very harming.  Bikinis come in all shapes and sizes, just like our bodies do.   And we all have a right to enjoy our bodies, whether in a bathing suit, a dress, a towel, a jumpsuit, a clown’s suit, or whatever we may choose!  I’m of the belief that if we are able to physically put on a bathing suit, we are ‘bikini-ready’.

I found this great article on the Huffington Post that inspired this blog post which asked readers to submit photos of their own fabulous, REAL, bikini bodies!  What I loved about it was the energy radiating from these women (no men included in this exercise, though I think that would be a GREAT idea, as men are subjected to media and slide_289059_2281071_freesocial pressures as well).

These beautiful bikini babes were jumping around, swimming with fish, enjoying the sun, and even in one case, running through snow, all embracing their REAL, healthy bodies.  I could just feel how happy they were, and even if some of them have had body image issues come up (which can happen no matter WHAT your body looks like), they were not allowing those to bulldoze their fun in the sun and water (or snow).

An important point: your body might naturally look a certain way — thin, heavier, whatever.  It’s not what your body looks like that matters as much as how you feel in your body and the amount of joy, acceptance and satisfaction you are able to experience in your body.  Exercising and eating foods that feel great to your body are certainly healthy practices, but we must remain present and balanced in these pursuits so as to not damage our self esteem and body image.

I wanted to offer some food for thought on this topic as we head into summer and are bombarded with messages that (mostly) tell us that our bodies are not good enough and that we need to change.

  • Instead of giving energy to “what’s not right” or “what I need to change”, try to reframe and notice what you already, splendidly love about your body.  We can lose awareness of our body and become disconnected, this giving way to letting the negative messages sway us.  What does your body do every day that you admire?  Which body part can you try to focus on and send love to for an entire day?
  • Take a step back and notice the underlying forces in media messages.  Most advertising has some subliminal message or force working for it — that may not have anything to do with what it’s showing you.  The diet industry (as well as the junk food industry) makes BILLIONS OF DOLLARS off of telling us that we need to be perfect and offering us “solutions” that may damage us more than help us.  Try to notice these marketing measures with a critical eye before you deem them true.  Do they really have your best interest at heart?  What will you sacrifice by doing what they tell you to do to “get that bikini body”?
  • Team up! Chances are, you are not alone in feeling these pressures.  Reach out to a friend who also might have some body image struggles and commit to embracing your bodies together.  Harming social messages can influence us sneakily, silently, and powerfully – so our response must be proactive, loud, and communal!  If you show others that you can enjoy and empower your real, beautiful bikini body, you will also empower them to do the same.

What else? I’d love to hear other ideas, thoughts, impressions, or questions about this topic.  It’s something we images-13can all relate to.

If you are looking for support in embracing your beautiful, awesome, real bikini body or in accepting yourself in any other way, please feel free to contact me for a complimentary consultation.  You can reach me at or 720-340-1443.

Forward on to enjoying the sun, the beach, food, friends, and OURSELVES!

Divorcing the fat stigma and embracing health, wellness, beauty at ANY size

Everywhere you look, there’s an advertisement to help you lose weight — especially this time of year! Celebrities talk about fasting for days before an awards show and commenting on how “AMAZING their body looks after losing all of that baby weight!!”.  As if that is the most important thing in the world.  Why is everyone so afraid of fat?  We are conditioned to believe that the thinner we are, the happier, the more successful, the richer, and the more popular we will be.  We will have it all.  But what about already having “it all” — no matter how we look?  This perspective is revolutionary in mainstream Westernized culture, and quite controversial at times, pushing against such rigidity about what we “should” look like and “should” do.  Tell me this: does thinness REALLY cause happiness?

I was curious about this question so I asked a few of my acquaintances who are affected by this social pressure.  After thinking for a moment, my subject said: “well, yes, it will make me happier because it will give me more self-confidence.”  I asked another colleague the same question and she said: “no, thinness will not make me happier because my body is balanced at its natural set point; no matter how much I could starve myself or workout, my body will always look this way.  If I decided that I needed to be thin to be happy, and my body was not where I wanted it to be, I would be choosing to make myself miserable.”  In both of these perspectives, I gleamed a similar theme:  confidence in our selves could influence happiness.  Many of us look for happiness by changing the way we look, feeling as if that is something we can control.  And we can, to a certain degree.  But if we are choosing to control how we look and doing so in a way that is not focusing on health and wellness of our bodies as well as our minds, this can lead down a dangerous path to eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.

I am a huge fan of the philosophy of the Health at Every Size organization (HAES), whose mission “is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages:

  • Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
  • Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
  • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.”

Already over 3600 people have signed the HAES pledge to honor and respect their bodies.  Imagine what our world could be like if we chose to love and accept our bodies instead of abuse and control them?

We cannot talk about the fat stigma in the US without discussing the growing problem of obesity in our country.  Statistics show that nearly one third of adults in the US (33.8%) are obese.  The same HAES principles can be applied to those who are obese as can be applied to any other person:  if we choose health and wellness, meaning giving our bodies nutritious and delicious foods and eating in a manner that is mindful and pleasurable, exercising so that our muscles can be strong and active, and finding joy in the beauty of our bodies, then we might have healthier connections to our bodies.  What about embracing terms like health and wellness instead of fat or skinny?

post from the “Dances with Fat” blog written in response to Paula Deen’s recent admission that she has type two Diabetes and those who are criticizing her states:

Public health does not mean public thinness.  It also doesn’t mean being a judgmental busybody who shames or stigmatizes people who don’t look or act like you think they should.  Being for public health means that you are for people having access to the foods that they choose to eat, safe movement options that they enjoy,  and affordable evidence-based medical care.”

There is a movement that has formed to push against the our society’s fear of fat.  We each have our own experiences and opinions about this topic, as it is very close to our hearts and our daily lives.  I invite you to leave a comment, raise your voice, as we need more dialogue to shut out the noise of unhealthy eating and mindsets about food!