Quoting Fat-and-Happy:" The difference with HAES is that you are allowed to eat whatever you deem fit and there are no actual ... [snip!] ... healthier while the HAES group weights had remained constant, they had better blood pressure, cholesterol and such."
Again though, you're assuming that a "diet" restricts calories that a person needs. I find this is rarely the case (except for extreme ones). Case in point, a person may WANT more but that does not mean they are actually hungry. One of the good things in tracking diets (where you right down what you eat) is that you get the chance to distinguish between hunger and boredom. People get the chance to sit back and go "am I actually hungry?"
I think the HAES idea just alienates too many other ideas. I also think it allows more then most people can deal with. Most people think the food they are eating makes them feel good. I think some honest nutritional information is important rather then just "eat it, see what happens." Learning that fiber and protien are good, and that fat and carbs need to be watched allows a person a greater amount of control over what they are eating.
Additionally, guidelines in foods (like eating clean and eliminating much of the processed food) are important, because honestly? Most American's have NO idea whats good for them. Forget weight, they think that McDonalds fish sandwiches are good because it's fish. They are eating out often 5 times a week at greasy and preservative filled fast food places. Ignoring this seems silly. I feel like HAES sometimes pulls back too far. People need guidance, not just a free pass. Lord knows my kids would eat crap 24/7 if I let them eat what they wanted with no guidance, and sadly many American's lack much more knowledge about nutrition then that.
You know I am a big fan of a lot of the HAES ideas (mostly exercise I guess) but I think a 100% hands off approach is horrible honestly. I feel like that is as smart a choice as it would be with anything else. I mean, we don't do hands off for healthy problems. We teach people what is good and what is bad. Striving for health for the sake of health (not weight) is a great idea. However, going "eat what you want, as much as you want, any time you want, and see what happens" seems to be how so many people ended up eating crap food all the time.