The non-diet approach is a flexible, gentle way of choosing what to eat and when – no guilt, no body shaming, no restrictions, ever. It goes against the traditional view of achieving weight loss via dieting – something that society has labelled as the norm. The primary aim is to banish the practices of dieting and instead promote a more holistic approach that encompasses emotional and physical health.
But in a world of food trends, celebrity shakes and detoxes, is the non-diet approach just another fad diet?
Firstly, what exactly is a diet?
Although searching Google is usually not the most accurate way to obtain a definition, it is interesting to see what the World Wide Web explains as a diet. Thus a search using the key word ‘diets’ identified a whole host of eating methods that limit, restrict, increase or decrease a particular type of food or food group. For example, the top hit on Google is the Body+Soul website. One click in and I was immediately linked to their page. Two words stood out – ‘WEIGHT LOSS’ plus the following headlines below:
- ’20 reasons you can’t lose weight’
- ‘The Sirtfood diet: lose weight by turning on your skinny gene’ …WAIT, WHAT?!
- ‘What’s trending: the DASH diet’
- ‘Paleo, sugar free, Mediterranean, alkaline: best and worst diets of 2016’
… and the list goes on.
From this it is clear what society denotes a diet to typically be, thus without seeking out an exact definition of what a diet is, I think we can all agree that the above statements are pretty self explanatory and show that diet = restriction = weight loss (however the latter is not always true).
Although, is is important to note that certain diets can have positive effects in the short term and can be used to help reduce sodium intake, control hypertension and other conditions such as epilepsy. Long-term weight stabilisation is typically a fallacy due to restrictive dieting practices not reflective of reality and the everyday temptations. Although the evidence suggests that very low carbohydrate diets and energy restriction diets are effective in the short term, after the 6 month period the data becomes limited and results are mixed. Typically, when individuals follow their new health behaviours in the future, they are more likely to keep the weight off but in reality the environment is saturated with temptation. This makes long-term change and weight maintenance difficult and many will often regain the weight within five year after dieting.
In 95% of the population, a focus on weight as a measure of health does not always work and studies show that more people have low self-esteem and a depressed mood from these actions. Plus young women who dieted at a moderate level were 5 times more likely to develop an eating disorder compared to those that did not diet.Bacon L, Aphramor L. 2011.Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift Nutrition Journal, 10:9 As a consequence, body image can become distorted.
Does the non-diet approach differ?
The Non-Diet Approach removes the strong, but invisible connection (and stigma) society has created between weight, health, and happiness.Kausman R, Murphy M, O’Connor T, Schattner P. 2003. Audit of a behaviour modification program for weight management. Australian Family Physician. 31(1)
A positive approach to food with a sustainable health goal can’t be a bad thing. Research shows a focus on weight to improve health has adverse effects on the physical and psychological wellbeing of an individual.Bacon L, Aphramor L. 2011.Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift Nutrition Journal, 10:9
Essentially The Non-Diet Approach gives people the power to believe in their own ability to have a choice, be it right or wrong. Food is no longer restricted or labelled as ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘evil’. All foods are neutral and encouraged to be enjoyed. Either way, there is no judgement just freedom, love, flexibility, satisfaction, trust, nourishment, variety and intuition. The non-diet approach encapsulates the following parameters, something that traditionally diets – whether it be therapeutic or a fad, do not always consider.
Health, Not Diets
Whether it be weight loss, reduced blood pressure, or as a means to decrease cholesterol, diets are typically followed for one goal. But health is now so much more than the mere absence of disease but involves the ‘connected-ness’ between the psycho-social, behavioural and physical domains of an individual. Where these are at the core of the ‘non-diet approach’ and somewhat absent from traditionally dieting, the non-diet approach tackles not only one goal but a number of them, all at the same time, without a focus on weight as the primary objective.
Although losing 5% of a person body weight can result in reductions in cholesterol, HbA1c and many other biochemical parameters – physical health is not the only component of a happy and healthy human. Thus what many diets both therapeutic and of a fad nature continually fail to address is, the emotions attached to eating, behaviours and a persons lifestyle. Therefore, although diets can be great, those that fail to address behaviour typically fail. This results in many people re-entering the vicious dieting-cycle.
The non-diet approach does differ, as it teaches individuals to respect food, enjoy food and eat at a pace that is both pleasurable and satisfying. These are all skills that are learnt and can then be used in the future. Further, several studies have identified that the use of intuitive eating (or rather mindful eating) is associated with a lower BMI.Bacon L, Aphramor L. 2011.Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift Nutrition Journal, 10:9
Interestingly and in-line with the result of 5% body weight reduction, a brief 6-week intervention to provide mindfulness training to obese individuals showed a significant decrease in weight and C-reactive protein (inflammatory marker). These results were consistent at a 3-month follow-up.Dalen J, Smith BW, Shelley BM, Sloan AL, Leahgh L, Begay D. 2010. Pilot study: Mindful eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, eating behaviour, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2010.09.008Complementary therapies in Medicine
So health instead of weight is the focus and the use of behavioural change and intuitive eating helps achieve similar results to other diets but there is one more component and is never ever considered as part of a diet, emotional health.
When individuals are happier and able to accept and regulate their emotions are less likely to binge eat. Leahey TM, Crowther JH. 2008. A Cognitive-Behavioural Mindfulness Group Therapy Intervention for the Treatment of Binge Eating in Bariatric Surgery Patients. Cognitive and behavioural Practise 15:365-375 Back in 2008, a 10-week mindfulness-based group intervention designed to assist in the reduction of binge eating resulted in individuals showing an increase in motivation to alter the behaviour. Considering that behaviour is an underlying cause of food choice and consequentially obesity, an approach that addresses behaviour and increases motivation differs from other diets where these are not present. To me it just makes sense – where emotional health is positive and respected, behaviour can be altered and changed for the better and as a result overall health and the physicality of a person improves. The good news is that mindful eating is a skill and a practice that can be learned,Bacon L, Aphramor L. 2011.Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift Nutrition Journal, 10:9 something that is apart of the Non-Diet Approach.
“Patients often feel less guilt about eating, increase their enjoyment for food, became more aware of the physical signal of hunger and satiety and became less dissatisfied with their body shape and weight, plus negative feelings associated with overall appearance decreased.” Kausman R, Murphy M, O’Connor T, Schattner P. 2003. Audit of a behaviour modification program for weight management. Australian Family Physician. 31(1)
Lastly, it’s up to you.
Whether or not, or by how much the non-diet approach does differ to fad and therapeutic diets is unknown, and potentially up to you and your clients discretion. As discussed above there are many elements to this approach that help individuals tackle three domains head-on to make long, sustainable change with realistic goals. It is by no means a blanket approach but rather individualised thus making it different to many other diets.
Whether or not the Non-Diet Approach is suited towards you or your clients, consider an individualised approach and tailoring knowledge to each and every person. To get more up-to-date with how the Non-Diet Approach there is the Guidebook and self-paced online course for Dietitians to up-skill.
References [ + ]
|1.||⇪abcd||Bacon L, Aphramor L. 2011.Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift Nutrition Journal, 10:9|
|2.||⇪ab||Kausman R, Murphy M, O’Connor T, Schattner P. 2003. Audit of a behaviour modification program for weight management. Australian Family Physician. 31(1)|
|3.||⇪||Dalen J, Smith BW, Shelley BM, Sloan AL, Leahgh L, Begay D. 2010. Pilot study: Mindful eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, eating behaviour, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2010.09.008Complementary therapies in Medicine|
|4.||⇪||Leahey TM, Crowther JH. 2008. A Cognitive-Behavioural Mindfulness Group Therapy Intervention for the Treatment of Binge Eating in Bariatric Surgery Patients. Cognitive and behavioural Practise 15:365-375|