As a Registered Nutritionist, I often find myself explaining what I don’t do, as much as what I do – and the concept of ‘non-diet nutrition’ is not always easy to grasp.
In this series of blogs, I will explain how I have come to understand non-diet and why a compassionate, whole-person approach is so important for nutrition and wellbeing.
When clients come to work with me, I often get a sense that their relationship with food, their thoughts about nutrition and eating are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle all jumbled up together.
Nutrition counselling enables clients to tip the pieces out and take some time to put it back together in the way that makes sense for them. So just like a jigsaw puzzle, together, we use the four pillars of non-diet nutrition as the four corners to put in place first before then building up the unique picture of nutrition and health for that person.
Importantly, I draw on several non-diet modalities such as mindful eating, intuitive eating, Health at Every Size™, Well Now and critical dietetics. As well as the latest nutrition evidence (as much as we can tell) and the values and experiences of the person in front of me.
In order to help clients with a practical understanding of non-diet practice, I have integrated non-diet into Four Pillars. When I work with clients, I ensure that I credit and refer to the origins of any support that we use. Non-diet practice is rooted in fat activism and social justice.
So, what are the four pillars of non-diet nutrition and how can you start to lean on them for your nutrition support?
Pillar 1 – Rejecting Diet Culture
Western diet culture is a belief system that equates food (what and how we eat), movement (exercise and physical activity) and body size (weight and shape) to health, morality and beauty.
We might see this in action when we say, “I’m being good today”, as if what you have eaten affects your ability to be a good person! Or well-meaning comments about someone’s appearance, “You look well”, when can you really tell someone’s health status by looking at them? Wellness culture has us feeling that going for a run is superior to walking or resting.
Obvious diet culture activities are skipping meals, diet foods, food trackers and counting steps. As well as the less obvious wellness behaviours – cauliflower rice anyone? Society values thinness above all else so it is understandable to have adopted diet culture as we are told this is health.
However, diet culture leads us to a harmful preoccupation with food and exercise to try to match up to a narrow version of health, beauty and what it means to be a good person. This leaves us with food fears and appearance anxiety and disconnection from ourselves and from others.
Non-diet provides an alternative perspective and asks us to reject diet culture.
This is often the first place to start as many of our thoughts and feelings about our bodies and how we eat can be tracked back to diet culture’s conditioning. It is a chance to ‘wipe the slate clean’, a process of unlearning and relearning a more nourishing, gentle approach to food.
What can you do? Start by just noticing where the external pressures about how to look, what to eat and how to move show up for you with non-judgemental awareness.
You can absolutely do non-diet by yourself, but with a non-diet professional walking by your side it might just be a little easier and fun too! 🙂
Next time, I will share the second pillar – understanding eating and body cues.