From social media to headlines, the latest non-diet movement is creating both buzz and confusion for consumers and health professionals. Let’s set the story straight by keeping its true intentions in mind.
With traditional dieting beginning to show signs of being challenged by those who advocate for a non-diet approach, the diet industry has started co-oping language that focuses on the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. On the other hand, the non-diet approach has also been accused to represent the pursuit of extreme ‘unhealthy’ behaviors that allows you to eat whatever you want.
This has created a strong divide around the way the non-diet message is communicated.
Here are 3 reasons why you’re confused, and how we can begin to reframe the conversation:
1. Start focusing on the behaviors and intent, not the scale.
The primary focus in the non-diet message is around health promoting behaviors and the intentions behind your food choices, rather than restriction and numbers at the forefront. While many confuse the Health At Every Size movement with “healthy” at every size, it is actually an approach to health that promotes respectful care irrespective of size by supporting people in all bodies to engage in health-promoting behaviors. Practicing with a weight-inclusive approach means respecting size diversity, and that all bodies are capable of improving health independent of their current weight.
2. Be open to learning.
A non-diet approach is radical, and for those who are passionate about this message, it’s because they’ve seen the benefits firsthand. It also likely took a lot of work to internalize the message and understanding the research on weight science to create new patterns of thinking that involve less emphasis around weight.
This can lead to heated conversations with those who have not been educated around the science-backed evidence that supports it. However, what makes difficult conversations more productive is to choose language that is honest and compassionate. We all have the same common goal of wanting to do better and be better promoters of health and wellness. We are all still learning and have the opportunity to do just that.
3. Start remembering the ‘why’, not the ‘what’.
It is human nature to want a tangible solution to a problem. It’s something you can hold or check off the boxes, or provides a clear roadmap of what to do to reach a goal. Our health and wellness culture tends to focus on the tangible, and not the intention or behaviors that lead to it. This is why our current culture misses the mark for health that’s truly sustainable.
What we understand is that there’s no single ‘perfect’ diet plan for everyone, and that people actually have the best internal wisdom within them for taking care of their body. The non-diet message empowers individuals to create trust within, practice mindfulness, and use the wisdom of professionals to fill in the gaps so they can make informed decisions about their health.
It’s not about “eat this, and not that”.
If all we eat is donuts, we put our health at risk. If all we eat is kale, we put our health at risk. We have taste buds because food should taste good, lights up our pleasure centers in the brain, and allows our body to absorb nutrients from the variety of foods we obtain from a balanced diet.
Non-diet does not mean non-health promoting. Rather, it’s shifting the focus from a number to the one aspect of health you actually have the ability to change:
Intentions and behaviors.
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Haley Goodrich, RD, LDN is a private practice Registered Dietitian based in Pittsburgh, PA inspiring others to have a healthy relationship with food. Specializing in disordered eating, and intuitive eating, Haley’s mission is to show that healthy doesn’t have to be restrictive or defined by how you compare to others. To stay inspired to be your healthiest you, visit Haley at INSPIRD Nutrition.