Many people call me looking for weight loss services. I often find myself explaining why I don’t promote a focus on weight loss or use weight as an indicator of progress and why my approach is actually better for your health and wellness. I recently decided to get some of my reasons down on paper. As you might imagine, being a dietitian who does not promote dieting (or a restrictive approach to eating – same as a diet) and weight loss can be a bit challenging at times. Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming upstream in a very thick and sticky river. However, as tough as it can be to go against the grain, it is beyond worth it. I can’t imagine practicing nutrition and health in any other way.
Why I use a non-diet and non-weight focused approach for my clients no matter what their size….
Dieting doesn’t work. The sole purpose of dieting is to lose weight, right? I don’t promote dieting in my practice because I know, on a personal and professional level, the destructive nature of dieting. At this point, in the world of science and research, I believe we can absolutely say that diets DO NOT WORK. Not only that, but they actually can leave you with more weight than when you started. Check out Evelyn Tribole’s video for more on that. Not only does dieting not actually help you lose weight long term, but I can strongly sense the pain of every client I work with who has had a history of dieting. This goes for teens, pregnant women, women with diabetes, women in their 70’s, etc… The pain from dieting exists in people you interact with every single day. I want to be the dietitian that stops that pain.
Dieting and focusing on weight doesn’t allow you to self regulate. When you were born, you had an amazing ability to self-regulate your eating. As we age and get messages from external sources about what we ‘should’ or ‘should not’ eat or how much we ‘should’ be eating, we become less confident in what our internal cues are telling us. Dieting is the fastest way to decrease your confidence and trust in yourself – your needs, your hunger, your preferences. All of that becomes muted overtime. In fact, it can actually cause us to feel negative judgments towards ourselves when we actually do try to meet our needs, listen to our hunger, and honor our food preferences. This is part of the reason why we see a connection between people who diet and higher BMI’s long term. Only your body can tell you exactly what and how much it needs and ignoring that can really change the way you interact with food and how your body uses it.
A weight focus overshadows other healthy behaviors and bio-markers. Many people, including health care professionals, use weight as a strong indicator of health. Unfortunately, weight loss or being at a lower weight does not always mean you are healthier or indicate you are taking care of yourself. There are plenty of people with less fat on their bodies that are NOT healthy and do not take care of themselves and plenty of people with more fat on their bodies that ARE healthy and do take care of themselves. Sometimes clients make some amazing changes to their overall self-care, and begin really nourishing their bodies again, only to feel that it was all for nothing because they didn’t lose weight. Many people who make small, healthy, changes to their lifestyle in pursuit of weight loss stop doing those things if the weight doesn’t seem to be following. I’ve had clients ignore improvements in A1C (blood sugar), quality of sleep, improved mood, and more balanced eating all because they didn’t lose the weight they wanted to lose.
I help my clients see the true meaning of health rather than focusing on some number on a scale that simply tells you how much your tissues weigh. There are many reasons why I choose to take a non-diet and non-weight loss focused approach with my clients but those are just a few. How do you think this approach would benefit you? Have you ever noticed a healthy effort get de-railed by a focus on weight loss? Have you ever made positive life changes towards your health only to find yourself turning to less healthy, and even dangerous, eating and exercise behaviors because the small changes weren’t changing your weight fast enough?