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What Does 'Non-Diet' Really Mean? - Part 4

Here's our final post it this 4-part series including two VERY important principles of the 'Non-Diet' approach.

 

Non-diet principle #4: Weight loss is not synonymous with health

Dietitians practicing within a non-diet framework 100% acknowledge that nutrition is important to your health. Eating a balanced diet with a variety of food groups and all of the major macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) is important. We also know that there are certain medical conditions that require specific nutrition guidelines (i.e celiac disease or diabetes). Eating gluten when you can’t digest it isn’t good for your health, and neither is eating too many cookies or too much broccoli. The non-diet approach balances nutrition knowledge with the body’s innate wisdom. You can be an intuitive eater and still choose to eat vegetables because you know that they’re good for you. With the non-diet approach, the intention behind your food choice is far more important than what you eat or don’t eat. Are you eliminating dairy from your diet because it truly doesn’t make you feel good, or are you doing it because you’re trying to lose weight? The former is a decision rooted in self-care, while the latter is rooted in self-control. There is a difference.

Non-diet principle #5: Non-diet does not mean anti-weight loss

The non-diet approach separates health from weight loss. For some, adopting healthier eating habits and developing a better relationship with food will result in weight loss. It’s also possible that someone’s weight could increase or stay the same. Since a large percentage of body size and shape is genetically predetermined, it’s hard to know exactly what will happen when someone stops dieting. The non-diet approach emphasizes that health (defined as physical, emotional and mental) comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It’s not saying that everyone can be healthy at any size, but it is saying that people can be healthy at a wide variety of weights and sizes. Yes, there are associations between certain body weights and specific diseases, but there is zero evidence that weight causes disease. Since sustained weight loss is largely out of our control and has no predictable influence on our health, does it really make sense to focus on it? Wouldn’t it be more empowering to focus on specific behaviors that we know have a positive impact on health, like getting more sleep, eating with more balance and variety, and engaging in regular movement, regardless of whether or not weight loss occurs?

This can be hard, especially if you’ve been told by a doctor that you need to lose weight, or have experienced the weight stigma associated with living in a larger body that is rampant in our culture. So it’s OK to have a desire to lose weight. You can be sick of dieting, yet still have a hard time letting go of the pursuit of weight loss. Sometimes it can be helpful to reflect on how keeping weight loss as a focus aligns with your values. Does counting calories and maintaining hyper-vigilance around food add to your life or subtract from it? How might shifting your focus away from weight loss toward healthy behaviors, and allowing your weight to settle wherever it’s naturally meant to be, bring more peace or meaning to your life? These aren’t questions that can be answered overnight, but starting to explore them in a curious and non-judgmental way is often the first step.

 


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