I’ve been a non-diet nutritionist for the last four years. This is a different approach that traditional nutritionists and dietitians take. Even traditional healthcare in general.
I’ve found that many love the sound of a non-diet approach, but it’s often difficult to articulate fully what it means. It’s not simply just “not dieting” or trying to lose weight. It goes a lot deeper than that.
In this blog, I’ll try to explain exactly what a non-diet approach is and why it’s the way I support my clients.
What is the non-diet approach?
The non-diet approach stems from Health At Every Size (HAES). HAES is a body justice movement created by fat-positive and body-positivity activists. The non-diet approach is the clinical application of this so that we clinicians can support our clients to improve their health without focusing on weight.
The principles of the non-diet approach
Fiona Willer explained the framework for the non-diet approach. She is an Australian dietitian, researcher, and author of The Non-Diet Approach Guidebook for Dietitians. Fiona played a huge role in developing principles from HAES, mindful eating, and therapy modalities to create a simple framework.
The central truth in the non-diet approach is that your body weight isn’t a problem to be solved. The five principles of the approach centre around this and help you create a connection to your body so you can honour your health.
The five principles of the non-diet approach are:
- Listening to body cues: Embracing hunger, fullness awareness, and mindful eating.
- Acceptance of all foods: Challenging diet myths, normalizing eating, and addressing charged food perceptions.
- Embracing body shape: Acknowledging size diversity and moving away from weight-centric goals.
- Embracing movement: Encouraging enjoyable, non-weight-centric ways of physical activity.
- Embracing non-diet nutrition: Promoting food variety, mindful eating, and reframing meal planning as self-care.
Why should you take a non-diet approach?
The secret of the non-diet approach is that it’s simply just a healthy relationship with food and your body. I know, it always comes back to that, doesn’t it?
The non-diet approach and similar terms (you might have heard of Intuitive Eating?) are all ultimately normal and attuned eating.
The benefits of this include (and go so far beyond!) these:
- Eating and enjoying a wide variety of foods
- No restricting, purging, binging, or overeating
- Never feeling any guilt over eating any foods
- Having a connection to your body cues including fullness, hunger, and satiety
- Being connected to your emotions and being able to tend to emotions without using food or other ED behaviours
- Feel comfortable in your body and connected to your body/self
- Moving your body in a way that feels strong, motivated, and joyful
- Decrease your chances of certain health conditions (e.g. type two diabetes, heart disease)
- Manage any conditions you have by improving your health indicators (This is a non-weight approach so think cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and energy levels)
- Have in general a good relationship with your body, food, movement, and your emotions
When I first learnt about the non-diet approach many years ago, I thought it was too good to be true.
But I swear, it’s not. You can eat and be like this with food and your body.
I recommend listening to my podcast as a way to get started with this new approach.
Are there any risks?
There really are no risks to taking a non-diet approach. The only risk I can think of is that the non-diet approach is often misunderstood and co-opted by the weight-loss industry.
Many health coaches, nutritionists, dietitians, and other professionals don’t actually value the non-diet approach and they use it as a means to be “less strict” with their clients.
Let me be very clear: I am a body-liberating, fat-positive, weight-inclusive, non-diet, and body justice-focused nutritionist and therapist. Woah, that’s a lot of words. I haven’t just jumped on the trend of the non-diet approach because I think it sounds good. I truly believe in it, and I believe all bodies need respect and care.
I never use the non-diet approach to bring you weight loss and I’m very direct with my clients/potential clients that I can’t and won’t help them lose weight.
FAQs of the Non-Diet Approach
1. Is intuitive eating a non diet approach?
Yes, Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach. I think of Health At Every Size as the rain, “non-diet approaches” as an umberella, and approaches like Intuitive Eating as little animals under the umberella.
Intuitive Eating is at its core, a non-diet framework. But just like non-diet in general, it gets co-opted and used by people who don’t know a lot about it.
2. Will I lose weight if I eat intuitively?
A non-diet approach is just that: not about dieting. Or weight loss.
I know that we tend to equate health with weight-loss. Because that’s what we’ve been told, right? That being more healthy will eventually change your body.
But the paradox with the non-diet approach is that focusing or hoping that your body will change isn’t truly engaging with this approach. Of course, it’s natural to feel like sometimes you want to change your body. But using a non-diet approach to lose weight just doesn’t work.
3. How to know if the non-diet approach is right for you
Do you want a good relationship with food? Then it’s right for you.
I know that’s really simple, but it’s the truth! The non-diet approah is perfect for anyone who:
- Is done with dieting
- Jumping on and off new weight loss/health regimes
- Binging, overeating, emotional eating
- Engaging in any disordered eating behaviours
- Having disordered eating-related thoughts
And everyone in between.
I know, it sounds like a cop-out answer. But everyone who wants to be more relaxed and connected around food and their body would benefit from the non-diet approach.
The non-diet approach isn’t mainstream. So it can take a while to really get to grips with it. It won’t happen overnight.
I recommend the following resources to learn more:
- My podcast – The Ease With Food Podcast
- The book Intuitive Eating (*) by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
- This TED Talk about why diets and restrictions don’t work
Any questions? Let me me know in the comments below or email me on shannon @ easenutritiontherapy.com