Weight-Neutral Practice: Beliefs and Attitudes of Aussie Dietitians

jessica-to-oto-o-pL-W0OYKolA-unsplashToday’s journal article in the spotlight is from non other than Aussie Dietitian, Fiona Willer.

I believe Fiona has (almost) completed her PhD!  and the first publication from her PhD was released just this year.  It was a study investigating Australian Dietitians’ beliefs and attitudes towards weight loss and Health at Every Size ® (HAES) counselling when working with larger bodied clients.

I was really interested to read this paper as in my role as Internships Coordinator in the Dietetic Program at Bond University, I am looking to support our clinical supervisors to learn more about HAES ® .  In fact, I commenced a research project on this in 2019 (stay tuned for more!)

Weight-Neutral Practice and Dietitians in Australia

So we know more and more Dietitians and other health professionals are using a weight-neutral approach in their work. A quick look on instagram will see many Dietitians identify themselves as being “Non-Diet”  or “Anti-Diet”.

And. If they are not using it, they are certainly more aware of the concept. There are variety of ways Dietitians may be weight-neutral in their client counselling. For example, simply not weighing someone in consultations, mindful eating and intuitive eating strategies and those that encompass a more weight-inclusive approach underpinned by the principles of HAES ® (hint  - check out the Association for Size Diversity and Health to learn more about those).

Fiona’s study involved a survey with about 300 Australian Dietitians. One of the items she explored was the differences between attitudes and knowledge about weight-neutral practice of those Dietitians that prefer to use a HAES ® approach with clients and those that prefer a traditional weight-centric approach.

You can read the paper here.

One of the things I found fascinating about this study was that only about 1/3 (36.9%) of those dietitians surveyed, had an accurate understanding of HAES ® counselling.

“Specifically, it appears that 2/3 of the Dietitians surveyed may not be aware HAES is not intended or compatible with weight loss goals/counselling.”

It’s OK, we’re all learning, but Fiona’s study highlights the need for additional education and professional development for Australian Dietitians in understanding the nuances in HAES ® and the Non-Diet Approach. ⠀

 

If you’re new to this, here is a quick overview on some of the relevant terms to get you started:

Term

Definition*

Weight-Normative/Weight-Centric*

  • Associated with traditional health models of care
  • A focus on weight and/or weight loss when describing or pursuing health and well-being

Weight-Neutral

  • An intervention or therapy not intended to have an effect on body weight

Weight-Inclusive/Size-Inclusive*

  • People of all body sizes are welcomed
  • A focus on viewing health as multifactorial, improving access to health care and reducing weight stigma

 

Would you like further information?

If you would like to learn more about this area, here are a few options to get you started:

  1. The Association for Size Diversity and Health
  2. Health at Every Size Australia
  3. Weight Neutral 4 Diabetes Care
  4. Health Not Diets (includes a variety of training programs by Fiona)
  5. Well Now (by Lucy Aphramor who co-wrote a fab book called Body Respect with Lindo Bacon)

 

Reference for the paper:

Willer, F., Hannan-Jones, M., & Strodl, E. (2019). Australian dietitians’ beliefs and attitudes towards weight loss counselling and health at every size counselling for larger-bodied clients. Nutrition and Dietetics76(4). https://doi.org/10.1111/1747-0080.12519

* These definitions have been adapted from:
Tracy L. Tylka, Rachel A. Annunziato, Deb Burgard, et al., “The Weight-Inclusive versus Weight-Normative Approach to Health: Evaluating the Evidence for Prioritizing Well-Being over Weight Loss,” Journal of Obesity, vol. 2014, Article ID 983495, 18 pages, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/983495.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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