What if you didn’t need to lose weight?

The common assumption (or common wisdom) is losing weight will make you healthier, that if your BMI is above 25, you need to lose weight to manage your health. These assumptions are so strong that they prevail despite lack of evidence that pursing weight loss improves long-term health, largely because not enough people have lost weight and kept it off long enough to test this theory.

The strength of this common wisdom may also explain why most people overlook the fact that weight is not a behaviour. Take a moment to let that sink in – WEIGHT IS NOT A BEHAVIOUR. The way in which people can influence their health, is through behaviours. Focusing on weight distracts from the actual behaviour change and the weight loss often takes the credit for health improvements when it was actually the changes to lifestyle, diet, activity, mental health etc that should take the limelight. In short, we really need to stop focusing on weight when it comes to health.

HAES dietitian

You may ask, given this lack of evidence, how has this common assumption become so pervasive? Here are some of the reasons why…

  • Our culture’s strong weight bias – we live in culture that has been deeply conditioned to believe fat is bad and unhealthy, a culture that wrongly equates thinness with worthiness, attractiveness, success, health and happiness.
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  • Our culture’s weight stigma – people in bigger bodies are constantly being judged as doing something wrong, having a body that is wrong, being lazy, incompetent and unhealthy.
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  • The persistent public health (or more accurately, public shaming) messages that fat is bad and being “obese” is deadly
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  • The continual advertising of weight loss solutions, weight loss products, body transformations and surgery
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  • Doctors and other health professionals advising weight loss as necessary for almost any condition. Being weighed at the doctor and told you need to lose weight regardless of your health status.
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  • Being surrounded by people, often family and friends, deeply conditioned to this assumption and talking about the next diet they’re doing or how they’re losing weight

 

Given all these factors, it’s not difficult to understand why so many people are unhappy with their bodies and desperate to lose weight, even people who don’t have any health issues or who may not even be considered fat by societal standards. I’m not saying it’s wrong to want to lose weight, I’m hoping to acknowledge why this desire is understandable. I’m also not saying it’s wrong to lose weight, if through changing various health behaviours, your weight changes, then that is a side-effect your body is happy to have happen.

But what happens when changes in health behaviours, while perhaps improving indicators of health such as blood pressure or blood sugar, don’t result in the desired weight loss? Or what happens when the weight is regained, which it nearly always is. Do you keep up with the positive changes or do you feel it’s not “working”? Do you then give up altogether, or do you try something else, usually something more drastic and rarely maintainable? When this happens, people end up in the (sometimes lifelong) cycle of dieting or falling off the wagon, losing weight, then regaining the weight. 

What if despite taking better care of your health and doing all the “right” things, you still have high cholesterol or develop diabetes? Does this mean you still try to lose weight even when your body doesn’t appear to want to lose weight? Again, do you give up, or do you try something else, usually something more drastic and rarely maintainable?

It’s often after turning to something more drastic (see below), or years or yoyo dieting in an attempt to lose weight, that people hit rock bottom and come to see us (dietitians). Rarely has the drastic approach or long-term pursuit of weight loss improved health, in fact quite the opposite, often it’s worsened both physical and psychological health. If you are someone who has pursued weight loss, has this pursuit lead to an overall improvement in your health, be that mental health, emotional health, social health or physical health?

What do I mean by drastic? Anything that can’t be sustained or that interferes with daily life, including;

  • Completely cutting carbs or any other other food type from your diet
  • A diet with specific rules that interferes with eating out, eating with others, holidays or just enjoying food
  • Any sort of 9-12 week body transformation
  • Any program that promises rapid weight loss
  • Any program that leaves you feeling hungry or thinking about food all the time

Now if you can do any of these with ease and no interference to your enjoyment of life, then I’m not here to say you shouldn’t be doing them. I’m talking to the people who struggle with such restrictions – which, I think is fair to say, is most people.

So what can you do? See if you can pop your weight loss the goal on the back burner, this is often easier said than done and you may need help from a non-diet/HAES practitioner who doesn’t focus on weight loss or promise weight loss as an outcome. Instead, could you think about being kind to your body, perhaps moving it more in ways you enjoy and feeding it in ways that feel good both mentally and physically. Being kind to yourself and doing things you enjoy are also vital to health, when you actively dislike and hate on yourself, you are much less likely to treat your body well, be that with food, exercise or social interaction. If you feel you need help with this, please find a non-diet/HAES practitioner, be that a therapist, dietitian or nutritionist. Or you can contact us to make an appointment today.

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Why recommending weight loss, even when a person’s BMI is very high, is often unhelpful and misguided.

A personal trainer tagged me in a post showing the image of a fat person and how this fat/weight was damaging to their body and therefore, why weight loss was necessary.

I am going to to attempt to break this down as simply as possible to explain why such attitudes are misguided and damaging to a person’s health. This is actually a very complex topic and I hope those with much greater understanding of social justice issues will forgive me for only mentioning them as a factor without going into depth.

Let’s say this fat person – described as “obese” in the mainstream culture – does have issues with some organs and joints, let’s say they have diabetes and knee pain. And let’s agree for a moment that their high body weight is exacerbating these conditions.

The mainstream assumption is losing weight will help this person. Now if this personal trainer was to help this individual lose weight, I am going to assume they are not going to suggest liposuction, therefore if the person changes their health behaviours, how do we know if any improvements to health are due to weight loss or the change in diet and exercise? 

We don’t, but either way, if this PT encourages the client into calorie deficit to achieve weight loss, the client will almost certainly regain the weight at some point. If there are PTs reading this who feel strongly that they have helped the majority of their clients lose weight (through diet and exercise) and keep it off  for life, we need your evidence of this please – at present we have none. What we do have though, is evidence that shows many people end up heavier through pursuing weight loss.

This brings us to vital and often overlooked factors that affect a person’s health and which may explain why this person ended up at this weight. While these factors may influence current eating and/or exercise habits, they can affect health independent of diet and exercise.

To assume diet and exercise are the key, or only factors to address when helping someone manage their health is misguided and in most cases highly insufficient. I want to pause for a moment here and acknowledge that this is more or less what I was trained to do and what I did for the first part of my career. I’m not saying that I ignored, or that other practitioners who still work this way ignore a person’s psychology or life circumstances, I certainly didn’t, but I did not address them adequately, particularly with regard to body image and impact of weight stigma, and I did not understand the implications of continuing to place focus on body weight.

 

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Some of the reasons people end up with a higher body weight

  • Concern about weight from a young age, be that underweight or “overweight” as per growth charts. There is evidence that parents who worry about their kids weight, end up with fatter children. 
  • Natural human size diversity – their genetic blueprint for size is a bigger body
  • Medication
  • Hormonal disturbances
  • Mental health issues with or without medication
  • Economic and social circumstances
  • Adverse childhood events, including trauma
    ….
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    and the most common reason I see with my clients…

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  • Through the pursuit of weight loss – a large number of my clients have dieted themselves to a heavier weight, research shows that up to 2/3 of people end up heavier through dieting in an attempt to lose weight.

Regardless of the reasons, placing the focus on weight and encouraging people to pursue weight loss is more likely to lead to the following, than it is to improve a person’s health long-term…

  • Weight loss followed by regain (weight cycling/yoyo dieting), often to a higher weight.
  • Engaging in diet behaviours that are generally not sustainable and may lead to a poor relationship with food over-time, disordered eating behaviours such as restricting and bingeing.
  • Engaging in exercise behaviours that are generally not sustainable and may lead to a poor relationship with exercise over-time, injury or a general dislike of exercise.
  • An increased sense of shame over body size and perceived “failure” to control their weight, eating behaviours and maintain a certain level of exercise. Shame has been identified as an independent risk factor for health.
  • Perpetuating our cultures weight bias (that thinner people are more worthy, healthy, attractive etc) and the social stigma that accompanies this.

To state this person is unhealthy because of their high body weight or to keep this as the focus for their health issues, is at best misguided and very simplistic, and at worst, serves to further damage the individuals health through the continued pursuit of weight loss, weight cycling and weight stigma. Those of us who work in the Health At Every Size paradigm work to take the focus off body weight and instead focus on addressing health behaviours and the various factors that influence these. 

Note: HAES and the non-diet approach are not anti-weight loss, just anti-pursuit of weight loss. Some people may lose weight through changing health behaviours, we just can’t predict for whom this will happen and therefore can’t promise or expect it will happen. For those who have dieted themselves to a higher weight, the chance of significant weight loss will be lower.

 

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Do you have a healthy relationship with food? – take our free quiz to find out
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Want to undertand how to nourish your body without dieting or restricting food?
Get a taste of what’s involved with with our ebook Nourish.

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“From now on I will no longer get sucked in by products or people promising weight loss”

It’s not too late to change your New Years resolution; repeat…

“From now on I will no longer get sucked in by products or people promising weight loss.”

Social media is rife with people, products and advertisements that promise weight loss. Some ads are clearly ads while others ads are disguised by the people who promote them, often popular social media influencers, bloggers and celebrities.

I learned today from a friend and social media influencer, Tara Leong (aka The Nutrition Guru and The Chef), that people can be paid upward of $450 for one post/blog showing them using the product. Tara says to look for these hashtags as a sign someone is being paid #collab, #ad, #ambassador, #spon, #partner or #partnership. If you want to learn more about this, read Tara’s excellent piece on this.

 

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It should come as no surprise that the advertising/marketing industry generally cares more about money than people, I’m sure even the most easily influenced people can recognise this. So why do we continue to get sucked in by marketing?

Trust – As humans we need to trust others, and when our trusted role models or people we respect get on board the marketing train, we want to believe them. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the people promoting products actually don’t realise the harm they are doing, after all, many of these people are in naturally smaller bodies and haven’t experienced a lifetime battle with food, exercise and weight. Some of them may truly believe what they’re promoting will work. But if you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work long-term, then perhaps it’s time to start questioning the products.

Hope – Hope is also a key aspect of being human and it’s human nature to feel that “this time, this one will work”. Most, if not all, weight loss products and people promoting them play on this emotion. 

Desire – We live in a world where being thinner is equated with success, worthiness, attractiveness, health and happiness. It’s completely normal to have a strong desire for these things. Again, weight loss products and people promoting them play on this emotion. 

When your well meaning doctor or health professional also suggests you should lose weight, this reinforces these desires and even provides a medical reason why you should do it – despite the fact that actual evidence that weight loss improves health long term is lacking.

Exposure – products and people that promote weight loss are constantly in our face, making it very difficult to ignore. Even more so as weight loss is such an emotionally charged subject.

Having given you a bunch of reasons why it’s so easy to get sucked in to the latest weight loss (aka healthy lifestyle) trend or product, if you experience an on-going battle with your eating and body, here are a bunch of reasons to reflect on in order to NOT get sucked in…

  • Any results you gained were short-term and you regained the weight.
  • You didn’t get the results you’d hoped for and you felt a deep sense of failure and shame.
  • You were left feeling worse about yourself when it didn’t work, or after you regained any lost weight.
  • In your years of trying to lose weight, you’ve actually become heavier.
  • You wasted your hard earned money on something that didn’t bring about the results you so dearly hoped for.
  • You wasted your precious time and energy on something that didn’t only fail you, but that also probably made you feel worse.
  • The product or program made you feel miserable, you felt hungry, the food was “as boring as bat shit” (as one friend said to me recently) and you missed out on delicious food at parties, dinners or other occasions.
  • The evidence simply doesn’t exist for a product or program that leads to permanent long-term weight loss.

Note: if you feel a particular weight loss product or program has worked for you, then great, but please understand that for most people any results are not maintained long-term and this can lead to a worsening in physical and mental health.

So what can you do?

Here’s a radical idea… have you ever tried to focus on improving your health without weight loss at a goal? The Health At Every Size HAES paradigm allows you to do this through explore these avenues…

  • Learning to eat in a way that is both nourishing and pleasurable – this can be done through intuitive eating
  • If you really feel unhappy in your body, looking at ways to start feeling better in your body that don’t depend on weight loss (the HAES approach is not anti-weight loss, if weight loss occurs as a by product of changing health behaviours then this can be welcomed)
  • For many people, addressing body image concerns is a key part of learning how to truly take care of your body
  • Finding ways to move more that feel good,  that fit in with your lifestyle and that have you wanting to participate for the joy of being active rather than to lose weight 

Need help?

We strongly recommend you seek help from a HAES practitioner in Australia or overseas

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

Do you have a healthy relationship with food? – take our free quiz to find out
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Want to undertand how to nourish your body without dieting or restricting food?
Get a taste of what’s involved with with our ebook Nourish.

Click the banner to grab your copy today!

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Are you struggling with Intuitive Eating or feeling it doesn’t work for you?

Intuitive Eating is becoming more and more popular with more health and fitness professionals using the concepts of intuitive eating with their clients.
 
While this should be a wonderful thing, unfortunately it is not always being used effectively. This happens when there is a promise of weight loss or changing how your body looks. If you are unhappy with your body and you try intuitive eating as a way to change your body, you will likely end up thinking – “Intuitive eating didn’t work for me.”
 

As one of my clients expressed beautifully, when you focus on weight loss or changing your body, your eating will continue to be driven by body worries rather than instincts.

intuitive eating


Intuitive eating is about learning to trust your body’s cues (instincts) around appetite and food, it is about giving your body the fuel, nourishment and pleasure we all require from food to take care of our mental and physical health. Intuitive eating is also about letting go of food rules and all the “shoulds” and Shouldn’ts” our culture imposes on how we should eat, it requires softening black and white thinking around food and recognising there are no inherently bad foods and that all food can be included in a healthy way of eating.

If you’re thinking such freedom with eating would result in you making all the “wrong” food choices and not eating enough of what you “should” be eating, you’re not alone. Many, if not most, people have this belief when they first encounter intuitive eating and that’s because we all live in a diet culture which leads us to believe this. When you always restrict certain food, or think you shouldn’t eat it, it’s very normal when you have the chance, to go overboard and eat too much of the food. This reinforces your belief that you can’t be trusted around that food. What the intuitive eating process teaches you, is that when you start to allow that food in a non-judgemental way and listening to your body’s cues, you can trust your body and not go overboard. It can take some time to reach this point and may even require a period of relearning what your body’s appetite cues feel like, but even if it takes a year or two, this is much less time than spending the rest of your life in the restrict cycle that occurs with dieting or food restriction.

Given the culture we live in, it is completely understandable and ok to want your body to change. The trick is being able to pop these desires on hold while you move through the intuitive eating process. This is one of the toughest aspects of the process and something an experienced dietitian/nutritionist will need to help you with. This is a key part of the work we do, click here if you would like help from one of our dietitians.

If your weight of body shape changes through the intuitive eating process, this is purely a side-effect. If you make weight/fat loss the goal, you will struggle to ever trust your body’s natural cues and you will most likely feel intuitive eating didn’t work. It’s not that it didn’t work, you just didn’t give the process the freedom it needs to help you take better care of your health.

 

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

Do you have a healthy relationship with food? – take our free quiz to find out
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Want to undertand how to nourish your body without dieting or restricting food?
Get a taste of what’s involved with with our ebook Nourish.

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5 steps to eating well – plus what you don’t actually need to do…

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Just as it seems dieting is becoming uncool, more and more people seem to be getting caught up in the dieting world. Rather than diets, people now talk about wellness plans, macros, sugar free, keto and in some cases, choosing veganism – all of which can end up being just another diet with only short-term results (if any) and long-term problematic eating behaviours (such as the restrict-binge-restrict cycle) and weight cycling.

I’ll pause here to stay choosing to eat vegan for reasons of animal welfare is a perfectly valid choice. However, as a dietitian, I am seeing and hearing about many people turning to veganism for their health, because it’s “cleaner” and although people may not say so explicitly – for weight loss or to enhance how their body looks.

While for some people, even this reason may be a valid choice, for many it is not and the result is getting caught up in the same diet cycle and pattern of disordered eating and body image mess that dieting creates.

If you are fed up struggling with your eating and feeling awful about your body, you have to get yourself out of the the dieting and body image mess our culture has created. You need to take a step back from much of the “wellness” industry and anyone who claims they have the answers you’re looking for through eating certain foods or through the right way to eat for your body. There is no one right or magic way to eat that is going to be your golden ticket. There are a gazillion different ways of eating well, just look at various cultures around the world and how variable their diets are.

In fact, loosening your grip on the food focus, and even on nutrition, may be exactly what you need to start feeling calmer around food and start being able to tune into what your body truly needs. Your body is amazing organism and can guide you with how look after yourself. But with so much external noise about how to eat, how to exercise and how your body should look and feel – it’s easy to lose touch with what your body is telling you. I urge to experiment with taking a step back from all the “health” messages and instead, turn your focus inwards and see what your body tells you.

Some people will be able to do this without too much difficultly, but some people will really struggle, especially if you’ve been caught in the diet cycle for some time or if you feel really bad about your body. If this is you, you might like to seek help from a health professional who works under the Health At Every Size and Non-Diet paradigm.

 

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

Do you have a healthy relationship with food? – take our free quiz to find out
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Want to undertand how to nourish your body without dieting or restricting food?
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So how do you know if you’re doing intuitive eating right?

Beware of podcasts, books or programs that talk about intuitive eating (or mindful eating), but also claim to help you lose weight.

The point of intuitive eating is to relearn how to eat based on your bodies appetite cues, something you were born with, but may have lost through dieting, food restriction, weight loss pursuits or just living in a world where many people eat for reasons other than hunger.

Intuitive eating is about reconnecting with the pleasure of eating and fostering a calm relationship with food and body. Intuitive eating also involves learning to eat in a way which nourishes your body adequately.

 

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If a person loses weight through eating more intuitively, this is a SIDE EFFECT and not everyone’s weight will change. Weight loss is not, and should not, be a goal of intuitive eating.

Why?

Eating to appetite is about meeting your bodies energy and nutrients needs, not a marker for body size. Not everybody is meant to be thin (or thinner than they are) and some people when they have consistent access to adequate food will be in larger bodies. In addition, if you have lost and gained weight a number of times, you may have changed your bodies set point to a higher weight. If you feel this is you and you struggle with your current body and feel losing weight is the only way you’ll ever feel better, or be healthier, then I urge to seek help from a Health At Every Size/Non-Diet practitioner.

As the intuitive eating approach becomes more and more popular, I am hearing more people express that intuitive eating “didn’t work” for them. In most cases, this is because they have used intuitive eating as a means to lose weight and they didn’t lose weight, or “enough” weight. 

If you’re practising intuitive eating for weight loss, you are doing the “intuitive eating diet” or “hunger-fullness diet” and not actually practising intuitive eating; and as we all know – DIETS DON’T WORK!!

So how do you know if you’re doing intuitive eating right?

  • You feel calmer around food
  • You spend a lot less time thinking about food
  • You are learning to enjoy all food without guilt
  • You are starting to notice appetite cues and are learning to trust them
  • You sometimes eat less as you realise you’re not that as hungry, or you’re full
  • You sometimes eat more as you realise you need more food
  • You are starting to get more pleasure from food and may even find yourself craving things you never thought you would

For most people, it can time for these changes to start happening and many, if not most, people will need to address how they feel about their body as a key part of learning to eat intuitively. If you are focused on weight loss, you will continue to see your body as a problem and this will prevent you from truly learning to trust your body with food again.

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

Do you have a healthy relationship with food? – take our free quiz to find out
.

Want to learn how to nourish your body without dieting or restricting food?
Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

Click the banner to grab your copy today!

non-diet dietitians Melbourne