I was fortunate enough to recently attend a workshop with Dr Rick Kausman, focusing on his non diet approach to weight management. The entire experience was extremely refreshing and left me feeling invigorated, thinking of wellness, optimal physical functioning and the pure enjoyment of food!
Dr Kausman is a medical doctor who initially began working in a weight loss practice favouring dietary restriction, injections and diuretics (just to name a few). Through this exposure to the psychological and physical stress seen as a ‘normal’ part of weight loss, Dr Kausman developed the well known “non dieting approach”, authored “if not Dieting, then what?” and continues to be an inspirational and highly sought speaker in the corporate, community and education sector.
The diet centers around mindful eating, removing restrictive behaviours and reintroducing all foods as neutral. The emphasis is on wellness, not weight and creating a positive attitude towards food. Dr Kausman talks of several more puzzle pieces – you can read his book for the finer details – but as a student and a future health professional these following key messages resonated with me.
“Diets” are restrictive, and this is not healthful. Least of all psychologically.
No matter which dietary approach is taken, they all share the common characteristics of restrictive portions, designated eating times/patterns and a specific focus on a particular macronutrient or food group. As food is an imperative part of human functioning and interactions, every single individual who undertakes a diet will inevitably fall off the bandwagon. This often results in self-blame, embarrassment, feelings of a failure and a likelihood of bingeing on the foods recently restricted. Weight regain (often with interest) will often occur and we may follow by ‘starting again’. So goes the vicious dieting cycle. If we look at the literature, several long-term studies confirm this. A randomised control trial assessing the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watcher’s and Zone diets for weight loss in overweight adults showed only modest reductions in weight after one year with no significant differences between dietary approaches. Overall, adherence was extremely poor.Dansinger ML, Gleason JA, Griffith JL, Selker HP, Schaefer EJ. Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets for weight loss and heart disease risk reduction: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2005;293(1):43-53.
Food is Neutral, not “good”, “bad”, “clean” or “naughty”.
Neutralising food and promoting the enjoyment of all foods is a significant part of Dr Kausman’s wellness approach. We inadvertently associate guilt with foods labelled “bad”, resulting in an overall decreased enjoyment, self-punishment and further restriction. Referring to foods as “Everyday” and “sometimes” seems to remove these emotional connotations, allowing us to enjoy food for its flavour, texture and social occasion. This neutralisation also highlights non-restrictive practices, as there is no common definition of “sometimes” foods – Dr Kausman points out and is adamant that each person is an individual with their very own lifestyle and needs.
Remove the Fat Stigma
Dr Kausman talks passionately about the serious implications that language used to discuss body image, diet and food has on the human psyche. Common diagnostic words, such as BMI, overweight and obese may instead act as a personal insult and reconfirm negative feelings of self worth around body image. Although BMI is a useful tool for diagnosis, treatment plans and monitoring; Dr Kausman suggests it does not necessarily need to be discussed with the patient. This is precisely the same as the alarming number on the scale that illicits fear, dread and horror at the mere thought of a weigh in. It’s true – the majority of people will not only know they are overweight, but have an overwhelming self awareness of the fact that does not need to be highlighted by a well meaning health professional. Instead of “overweight, obese and higher BMI” Rick suggests talking of a “comfortable weight”, a term that doesn’t illicit such a negative response.
The non-diet approach is holistic, encouraging a mindful attitude to food. Eat slowly, enjoy all foods and be grateful for the textures, tastes and experiences enjoyed through each and every dining experience. This reminds me of my favourite quote of the day: “just because a path is well worn – does not mean it is the correct one”. Just because a ‘diet’ works for a celebrity, a neighbour or colleague, does not mean it is the appropriate lifestyle for every individual. Dr Kausman truly highlights that an approach that works for one person is not the approach for all.
References [ + ]
|1.||⇪||Dansinger ML, Gleason JA, Griffith JL, Selker HP, Schaefer EJ. Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets for weight loss and heart disease risk reduction: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2005;293(1):43-53.|