Whilst the non-diet journey is not linear, I find that once clients have started to bring an awareness to the impact of diet culture (Pillar 1), a natural next step is to understand what eating means for you and your body.
In this series of blogs, I explain how I have come to understand non-diet and why a compassionate, whole-person approach is so important for nutrition and wellbeing.
Sometimes it is difficult to know when we are hungry and when we are full. That is ok! Disruption to our body cues and signals is really common and can come from various sources; well-meaning family members telling you to finish your plate, a history of dieting and the trend for food tracking apps all encourage external food control. Many of us feel that we cannot be trusted around food. Not forgetting that we are invariably congratulated and praised for having ‘will power’ when we restrict.
In addition, experiencing food insecurity can understandably affect internal food regulation – after all, it is a privilege to be able to eat what you want, when you want.
Non-diet practice invites you to connect with what hunger and appetite is for you. Some people may easily recognise all their hunger cues – and not just the tummy rumbling sensations – hunger can include brain fog, irritability and changes in body temperature. Appetite too can be likened to taste hunger – those times when you need a little pick me up even when you are not physically hungry. All these scenarios are reasons to eat.
Non-diet also embraces fullness and satisfaction from food and recognises that eating can be a source of joy and pleasure. This is not realistic all the time of course but re-connecting with pleasure from food can be a radical act of self-care.
It is important to acknowledge that people experience hunger and fullness in various ways – there is no pre-requisite on what this should look like; eating according to a schedule or routine can be helpful too.
For these reasons, I do not ask clients to track what they eat and I do not write prescriptive diet plans. Instead, we talk about your general eating patterns, your likes and dislikes, your preferences and needs. This may involve talking about nourishing foods and meals that you can add in to your repertoire; it is never about taking away or restricting foods that you love.
In this way, non-diet allows us to recognise our individual needs and responses to hunger and appetite, it honours them with food and then leans in to feeling full and satisfied.
What can you do? Start by asking what does hunger and fullness look like for you. Do you delay eating until you are utterly ravenous? Do you feel guilty if you need something sweet in the afternoon? Do you give yourself unconditional permission to eat?
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 third pillar – weight inclusive health.