What is the non-diet approach?

what is the non-diet approachIf you’ve been a reader of our blog, you’ll know we’ve been writing about this thing called the non-diet approach for, well, quite awhile.

If you’re new to us, let’s get you up to speed.

Q: So what is the non-diet approach?

A: It’s a way/method health professionals use to assist community members in pursuing health without a focus on diets for weight loss.

Why don’t we promote weight loss?

There are many reasons why we [many health professionals] don’t recommend weight loss as a means for good health anymore. Here are a couple:

1. Weight loss techniques, whether that be advice from a Dietitian, Weight Watchers or even surgery do not work in the long term. Many folks (95%) can lose weight initially but after 2-5 years they return to their original weight and in many instances are heavier than when they started.

2. There is currently minimal scientific evidence that body weight is directly causing poor physical health. Yes, we know our weight goes up and down if we eat more/less and exercise more/less and there has been some “associations between chronic disease and living in a larger body.  However, it’s likely not the actual weight that has relevance to our health. It’s the nutrients we eat and healthy habits we undertake that does. Here’s an article I wrote on this recently with loads more information.

So what’s involved with the non-diet approach?

Now you may be asking, if we aren’t focusing on losing weight, what the heck are we doing?

Easy. Peasy. We get back to basics and focus on what WE DO KNOW HAS AN IMPACT ON HEALTH.

It’s also important to know, the non-diet approach draws from the principles of Health-at-every-size® (HAES) Philosophy. You can read more about Health-at-every-size ® (HAES) here in an interview I did with Dr Linda Bacon and here on the Association for Size, Diversity and Health website


what is the non-diet approach

The main things to know about the non-diet approach

When it comes to any nutrition advice you might get from a Non-Diet Dietitian, here are the main ways they can help you in your health journey:

  • We support you make health-focused nutrition goals (not ones about weight loss)
  • We rarely provide information on suggested portion sizes or meal plans
  • We keep our language neutral when it comes to discussing body weight, appearance and food (and we definitely will not weigh you)
  • Whilst this is especially important for our lovely clients who have struggled with diets for years, it’s equally important for someone who is happy in their own skin but has been advised to lose weight to improve their health.

The table below shows some examples of the differences between how a Traditional Dietitian and a Non-Diet Approach Dietitian might support you during your consultation. I’ve used an example of someone who has been recently diagnosed with high cholesterol:

Traditional Dietetic Approach Non-Diet Approach
  • To get your cholesterol down, let’s help you to lose weight. What about aiming for losing 10% of your current weight over 3 months?
  • It sounds like you are keen to improve your heart health. Shall we make a goal to support you to reduce your cholesterol levels?
  • Let’s help you to exercise more. This will help you to lose weight. 
  • This is great because if you manage to lose some weight your cholesterol levels will then go down.
  • Do you enjoy exercise?
  • What kinds of exercise do you enjoy?
  • This is the suggested amounts of each food group we should be eating.
  • Ideally, we should focus on eating from the five food groups and limit the amounts we eat of the ‘extras’ or treats foods as they are high in fat and sugar.
  • Would you be open to exploring this new mindful eating concept? One really interesting part of mindful eating is looking at our hunger and fullness. 
  • Our long-term aim is to support you to listen to your own internal cues to eat. For example starting to eat a meal or a snack when you are physically hungry and stopping when you are comfortably full.
  • These foods are the bad ones for our cholesterol. That’s things like potato crisps, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, butter and animal fats. They are high in saturated fat and eating too much of them will put our bad (LDL) cholesterol up.
  • It’s best to avoid the foods high in saturated fat and have more of the good fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. That’s things like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds.
  • We do know there are some nutrients in food that affect our cholesterol levels. For instance, foods containing saturated fat may raise our cholesterol levels and foods containing polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat may lower our cholesterol.
  • Whilst this is important information know, often having a diet that’s full of variety will achieve a reduction in cholesterol. Is there anything you would like to add to your current meals and snacks that would be beneficial to your cholesterol levels and heart health?


So where to from here?

Hopefully, you get the gist. The Non-Diet Approach is a kinder way to support you to make healthful changes. It’s not anti-health or anti-nutrition. It’s just supporting you to make changes to your eating for the purpose of health (and not for weight loss)

If you are inquisitive and want to try it out, why not start with our FREE mindful eating challenge. Mindful eating is a fantastic way to get more honed in on the foods you like, don’t like, really tasting them and learning to eat them in the amounts that are right FOR YOU.



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