What is the Non-Diet Approach to Health?
How many diets have you tried in your lifetime? There’s Keto, Whole-30, Weight Watchers, low-carb, high-fat, counting calories, counting macros…the list goes on.
Now let me ask you this: How long did each of those diets last?
Since you stumbled upon this article, chances are you’ve discovered that dieting is not a long-term solution to health. Research suggests that 95% of diets fail and can lead to weight cycling, lower metabolism, and disordered eating behaviors.
If you’re done with dieting, but don’t know where to turn, let me introduce you to what’s next: the non-diet approach to health.
What is the non-diet approach to health?
The traditional diet paradigm focuses on shrinking the body as a measure of better health status. Measures are taken to eliminate “bad” foods, suppress hunger, and exercise as a means to control body size. The traditional diet approach is restrictive, limited, and rooted in fatphobia.
On the contrary, the non-diet paradigm focuses on total health and well-being, rather than a number on the scale. Measures are taken to reconnect with the body, develop self-trust, re-discover the joy of eating, and embrace movement that feels good. Self-care and mindfulness is at the heart of the non-diet approach. Existing frameworks for the non-diet approach include Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating.
As you work on improving your health with the non-diet approach to health, it might look like:
- Responding to physical cues around hunger and fullness.
- Finding forms of movement that you enjoy and feel good to you.
- Allowing for greater flexibility with meal planning.
- Enjoying all foods without guilt or anxiety.
- Eating in a way that honors your mental health as well as your physical health.
- Becoming friends with your body and improving body image.
- Feeling nourished and energized by food, not undernourished or depleted.
- Discovering satisfaction from food by eating balanced meals and snacks that meet your taste preferences.
- Learning new methods for coping with emotions that don’t involve food.
Diet Versus Non-Diet Approach to Health
I love side by side images for the compare and contrast. For more graphics like this, check out my Instagram page @everglownutrition.
What are guidelines to have around food that isn’t a diet?
First, be sure not to turn a “guideline” into another food rule. To distinguish between a helpful guideline and a rigid food rule, ask yourself: Is this guideline rooted in self-love? Or is the intention to control or shrink my body size? Notice the difference in the intention behind the action.
I help my clients build a healthy relationship with food first, before adding in gentle nutrition guidelines. If you feel ready to proceed with gentle nutrition, here are a few example guidelines:
- Add nutrient-dense foods. Focus on nutrient-dense foods that you can add to your diet versus restrictions/taking foods out of your diet. Are you working in a variety of nutrient-dense foods to your typical dietary intake? Examples include:
- Protein-rich foods: fish, lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts/seeds, beans/lentils, tofu
- Quality fats: fatty fish, avocados, nuts/seeds (flaxseed), olive oil, flaxseed oil
- Whole-grains: brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, farro, millet, buckwheat
- Produce: leafy greens, cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower), root vegetables (potatoes, carrots), fresh or frozen whole fruit, etc.
- Build a balanced plate. Aim for half your plate to be fruits & veggies, ¼ grains, ¼ protein, + healthful fats (see image). Ask yourself: what would it take to bring my plate closer to this breakdown?
- Stay hydrated. Water doubles as a beverage and a nutrient. It’s essential for digestion, absorption, transfer of nutrients, regulating body temperature, and more. Go for the 8 x 8 guideline: drinking 8 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Have fun with it by adding your favorite fruit, citrus, or even herbs (hello watermelon + mint-infused water).
What if I still have the desire to lose weight?
You’re not alone. We all live in diet culture: a society that idealizes thinness, promotes diet, and equates weight to health. Diet messaging is rampant across large-scale media, amongst conversations with friends, and trickles down to our self-talk. Because of this, it’s natural you’ve felt the desire to lose weight. I challenge you to think about what’s beneath that desire. What are the reasons that you want to lose weight? To feel better about yourself? Is it to have more energy? To not have to worry about food anymore? Is it to like your body? What if I told you that you could achieve all of this independent of weight loss?
Another analogy that I like to use is trying on a new pair of pants. Sometimes, we have to try on a few pairs before we find our fit. The same goes for finding a way of eating that works for you. Have you been trying on all the different diets focused on weight loss? Perhaps it’s time to try something new– an approach to health that isn’t focused on weight loss.
In closing, I understand that discussing weight and relationship to food is a vulnerable subject. If you’re looking for individualized support with making peace with food and feeling confident in your skin, schedule a 30-Minute Everglow Discovery Call with me where we can determine how the non-diet approach can assist you.