When using the non-diet approach, it is not unusual to leave the actual food chat to the end of sessions with clients – and for good reason. It is important to navigate the first three pillars of rejecting diet culture, understanding eating and body cues and weight inclusive health before even thinking about nutrition. That is because there may be a lot of baggage and mixed messages to navigate first.
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.
So-called ‘weight management’ is never the focus of non-diet and until that is really understood and internalised, any talk about food, nutrition and eating can feel, well, too diet-y. That could be a sign to go back round to the other pillars and explore any lingering doubts or concerns about giving up diets for good.
And now for the good news – there are health benefits linked to food and movement that have nothing to do with weight!
Non-diet is not about throwing all nutrition science out of the window, quite the opposite. It enables us to look at generalised advice for what it is and asks us to take a more personalised approach. It requires us to understand the nuances deeply and critically in nutrition and the wider forces at play, rather than the blinkered standard responses of weight loss and body control.
I have found there are two guiding principles to working with gentle nutrition.
The first is the ‘food feels factor’ or food neutrality – seeing all foods as morally equal. Food is not the enemy – it is the feelings and judgements that we attach to food that becomes problematic. This involves not labelling food as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. Of course, if you have a nut allergy it is never going to be a good idea to dip into a jar of peanut butter and some conditions categorically require medical nutrition therapy (a Registered Dietitian is best placed to help here) but overall, we can rid ourselves of food shame and the tug of war of what we think we should and shouldn’t eat.
The second is understanding what ‘eating for self-care’ is for you. We can absolutely get our needs met with food. As you can imagine, the scope for this is wide (although you can totally do this by yourself, working with a non-diet Registered Nutritionist can be a valuable resource and guide). My role in the process is to share with you the evidence base (or lack of) behind the foods and guidelines that nutrition has to offer. This involves adding foods in to your eating pattern – never taking away. Gentle nutrition never feels like a diet; it can be difficult at first and then it absolutely gets easier (unlike dieting where the opposite is true). Eating for self-care (instead of being a restrained eater) avoids the pendulum swing of feast and famine that can make us feel out of control around food.
In practical terms, gentle nutrition is ensuring you have regular meals and snacks (and snack is not a dirty word). It is about trusting food and your body. It is about finding balance and variety (you’ve heard that before!). We start by unlearning food rules and messages that do not serve us and then celebrate all foods in accordance with your likes and dislikes, preferences and needs.
So as you can guess, I adore sharing the non-diet approach with clients and hearing about their experiences. And there is still so much more to learn! What would you like to explore about non-diet nutrition? What intrigues you the most?
Here are some takeaway ideas that may help:
✨Non-diet nutrition rejects diet culture’s body ideals.
✨Non-Diet nutrition honours working with your body.
✨Non-diet nutrition embraces diversity across the weight spectrum.
✨Non-diet nutrition holds a wide view of health.
✨Non-diet nutrition understands that food is more than a nutrition label.
✨Non-diet nutrition does not require you to be a certain size to be healthy.
✨Non-diet nutrition is not a way to control food and body.
✨Non-diet nutrition is not something you can get wrong.
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