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It probably seems a little weird that a DIETitian would be talking about something called a NON-diet approach?

Well, it’s probably helpful to clarify which definition of the word DIET I am talking about here.

When referring to a non-diet approach, I mean ‘diet’ in terms of the foods and ways of eating that a person may engage in for ‘health’ or weight-management reasons. Oh, and I put health in inverted commas there, because for most people going on a diet for ‘health reasons’ usually means to generate weight loss (because in our culture weight loss = health improvement).

 

Purple background with text The Non-Diet Approach

 

Based on this definition of a diet, the non-diet approach is a way of working which removes that emphasis and pressure to eat for weight loss. Instead, it embraces the Health At Every Size® paradigm, intuitive eating and mindfulness.

The non-diet approach respects the fact that the body knows best when it comes to food, eating, nutrition, movement, rest, weight and self-care. Non-diet approach clinicians work with people to help them reconnect with that internal wisdom, so they can identify which individual health-related behaviours will best help them to optimise their health and wellbeing.

It is a gentle approach that focuses on reconnection, the individual experience and skill building. It places importance on both physical and emotional health. The non-diet approach is not prescriptive and aims to help move people away from feeling like they need to hold weight and health in tight control, to feeling calm and equipped to make choices from a place of self-care and respect for the body they live in now.

 

Why take a non-diet approach to health?

Because it can help you:

  • reconnect with your body’s internal signals of hunger, fullness and satiety;
  • enjoy eating all food without feeling guilty or anxious;
  • find the type of movement you find enjoyable and sustainable;
  • feel more comfortable living in your body;
  • decrease the risk of chronic diseases or manage existing ones with kindness;
  • ditch dieting and the weight cycling that tends to come with it, and as a result improving markers of health (things like blood pressure, blood glucose levels, cholesterol etc);
  • respect the body you have now and want to take steps to care for it

 

Hand putting blueberry on top of banana cake

 

What’s the problem with wanting to diet for weight loss?

Nothing. Part of the Health At Every Size® philosophy is body autonomy. So, it is entirely up to you if you wish to pursue weight loss.

However, it has been well established that diets and dieting behaviours such as food restriction, energy restriction and excessive exercise don’t achieve the desired outcome of losing weight and keeping it off long term.1

In fact, most people who go on a diet regain the weight they have lost (and then some) within five years.2 In addition to this, people engaging in dieting behaviours are more likely to have poorer mental and physical health, experience more body dissatisfaction and are at risk of experiencing disordered eating.

 

A Comparison of the Non-Diet Approach and Weight-Loss Dieting

 

Table comparing the non-diet approach and weight loss dieting (traditional approach). The non-diet approach is Curious, compassionate and flexible All foods welcome Food is pleasure, connection, nurturing Focus on holistic health and well-being Body neutrality and acceptance – a thing to care for now Nourishing, satisfaction, forgiving, variety. Weight loss dieting is Restrictive, perfectionistic and prescriptive Food is classified as good or bad Food is ‘fuel’ only Focus on scales, weighing, weight loss and physical health only Body hatred and dissatisfaction – a thing that needs to be fixed Hunger, shame, guilt, judgment, dissatisfied, rigid

So, what say you? Non-diet approach or weight loss dieting?

 


References

  1. https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines-publications/n57 (specifically the evidence answering the question How effective are lifestyle interventions in maintaining weight loss in adults? on page 160)
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17469900

 

 

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