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

dietitian melbourne

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.

 

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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.

 

Melbourne dietitian

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

Diet culture sucks!

Do you want to fight back against diet culture? You can. Try out any of these responses next time you hear someone talk about food in the context of weight or “being good”.

Diet culture: “you’re so disciplined”

You: “not particularly, I genuinely look forward to eating this… look how colourful it is!”

Diet culture: “I wish I could eat that”

You: “you can! Here have some, just pop in your mouth and chew”

Diet culture: “that looks so naughty”

You: “really, I don’t think it’s done anything bad… and it’s so yummy, it’s divine!”

Diet culture: “you’re so good, I wish I could be like you”

You: “you can, it’s easy*, just eat whatever you’re hungry for”

Diet culture: “I’d get fat if I ate that…”

You: “You’re telling me if you ate this, you’d wake up fat tomorrow?”

Diet culture: “is this your cheat day?”

You: “nope, I don’t need those to enjoy my food”

 

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In summary…

No, it’s not OK to comment on someone else’s food – unless of course you’re saying how yummy it looks!

Eating a salad doesn’t have to mean you’re on a diet, watching your weight or being good. Ideally it means you enjoy and want to eat a salad.

Choosing to eat a toasted cheese sandwich or burger doesn’t have to mean you’re being indulgent, naughty or having a cheat day. Ideally you’re eating that food because it’s what you really feel like and it’s satisfying.

If you’re eyeing someone else’s lunch and thinking “ooh that looks good, I wish I could eat that…” my advice (if you asked me), would be to eat the goddamn food, you may just be pleasantly surprised!

This is just a small taste (pardon then pun), of what intuitive eating is all about… often learning how to eat intuitively again is complex, if you struggle with your eating or body image, please seek help from a professional who is experienced with intuitive eating and is aligned with HAES principles.

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

Cake is healthy

Context is everything, but social media grabs and headlines are generally not interested in the detail, it’s all about what gets the most clicks and likes.

The Context:

Having some sugar in your diet in the context of a nutritionally adequate diet is unlikely to be an issue. If health issues do arise, genetics, stress, activity levels and a myriad of other factors need to be considered, not just a person’s sugar intake or even their overall diet for that matter. In fact, even if a person was eating copious amounts of sugary foods at the expense of nutrition, you still need to consider the many of other factors. Quitting sugar is unlikely to address all the aspects of self-care one might need to manage their health and almost certainly will not address the underlying reasons a person is having excess sugar, if indeed they are.

 

Melbourne dietitian


With regard to advice to lose weight, aside from the fact we don’t know how to help people do this and keep the weight of long-term, the reasons people gain weight are nearly always much more complex than just dietary. Just focusing on diet (or exercise) is completely inadequate with regard to addressing factors that affect weight, some of which are out of a person’s control and some of which can be attributed to behaviour. Even with those that may be attributed to behaviour, the things that drive human behaviour are complex and we over-simplify behaviour change with black and white, generic, dietary advice such as cut out sugar, reduce portions, eat less etc.  While there are some people for whom such changes appear straight forward and maintainable, this is not true for most people and can lead to disordered eating behaviours, a messed up relationship with food, psychological and physical stress along with increased shame, anxiety and depression, all of which adversely impact health independent of diet or body weight. In fact, many of the things people do in an attempt to lose weight do not qualify as self-care. For example; crash diets, detox diets, going too long without food or not eating enough food (and putting the body into starvation mode), no longer taking pleasure from food and eating, not socialising as much for fear of eating the “wrong” food, exercising too intensely or too often and the list goes on.

So how can you manage your health (practise self-care) without quitting sugar, restricting food you enjoy or focusing on weight loss? It is very possible with a non-diet/HAES approach.

Health is complex and involves much more than a person’s diet or fitness level.

Please note: Saying cake is healthy, is not the same as saying just eat as much cake as you want without any regard to nutrition and the myriad of other factors that contribute to health.

I actually prefer to say that cake is neither healthy nor unhealthy, it is just cake. I stated “cake is healthy” to do exactly what media tries to do, get people’s attention. Absolutely cake can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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

 

It’s ok to choose not to include certain food in your diet

As a non-diet dietitian, I don’t often post about the choice not to eat certain food, or to follow particular style of eating.

When it comes to nutrition and how we eat, nothing is black and white. There is no one right way of eating and no one wrong way of eating.

Unless you have a food allergy or intolerance, no one food type will cause you ill health and no one food type will give you health.

Just as it’s ok to eat whatever you feel like, it’s also ok to choose not to eat a certain food or type of food if that’s what feels right for you.

Having a highly nutritious diet does not make you immune from health issues and having a less nutritious diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll suffer from a diet related disease.

Because we can’t be black and white, we can’t say that following a particular style of eating is wrong, even if we don’t agree with it.

However you choose to eat and whatever label you might put on it, such as low carb, paleo, vegan, sugar free, as long as you are making this choice because it’s what feels right for you, and it doesn’t cause any distress, then this is not going against non-diet or intuitive eating.

dietitian healthy eating

Recently I had dinner with a friend who has chosen a low carb way of eating. We were able to share a delicious meal and she simply chose not to eat a couple of things. This caused her no distress and she didn’t feel she was missing out in any way. However, the difference between my friend’s experience with eating and most of my clients, is my clients have often had a life-time of struggling with their eating and body image, without the dietary changes yielding the results they had hoped for.

As nutrition professionals, we need to respect other people’s decision with how to eat, if that’s what they’re comfortable with and especially if they haven’t asked for our opinion. As nutrition professionals, if people look to us for guidance, then we have the right to advise as we see fit and in a fashion that holds up to our clinical experience and to current evidence. As individuals, we all need to consider that what works for us, may not be what’s best for someone else, and we also need to respect other people’s decision with how to eat, if that’s what they’re comfortable with and if they haven’t asked for our opinion. Discussing nutrition with people you know well and perhaps giving some tips is most likely fine – however – unless you are a nutrition professional, you probably shouldn’t be giving specific nutrition advice to the general population, or people you don’t know well.

As a non-diet dietitian, I encourage my clients to lift any food restrictions or food rules and to start enjoying all foods. For people who have experienced distress with their eating and body weight/size for many years, this is an important first step. It is important because the restrictions or food rules have not brought about the desired changes, at least not long-term, and very often the person is trapped in a cycle of disordered eating and damaged psychological health. Breaking this cycle, requires healing one’s relationship with food and body and this requires lifting restrictions around food. However, once a person has healed their relationship with food and body, they may then find themselves in a place where they can manipulate their diet in a way that feels right for them. 

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

Chocolate is not unhealthy.

dietitian melbourne

This is something I often say to my clients. It’s very common for people to feel they “have a problem” with chocolate (insert other sweet food). When I ask my clients what they feel the problem is, the answer is often along the lines of “it’s bad for you” or “I eat too much of it” or “I need to lose weight”.

Let’s start with “It’s bad for you”…

No one food on its own is bad for your health. Eating 50g (or even 200g) of chocolate is not going to adversely affect your health, eating 10kg of chocolate in one sitting – if it were possible – would likely put you in hospital and quite possibly kill you! But so would eating 10kg of broccoli or drinking 10L of water in one sitting. The point being, it’s “the dose the that makes the poison”. 

This is when my clients might tell me “but I can’t just stop at 50g of chocolate, once I start, I can’t stop”. While there may be a number of reasons for this, one of the key reasons is labelling chocolate “bad” and trying to restrain yourself from eating it. At some point, restricting your eating nearly always leads to over-eating or binging, this has been well documented and if you have ever tried to control food intake through restriction, you’ll know what I am talking about.

Emotional hunger is another reason and this can be complex and often needs to be addressed with a skilled practitioner such a dietitian or psychologist who works in a weight neutral and non-diet space.

One of the biggest paradoxes with our dieting world, is that restricting food often leads to over-eating whereas allowing yourself to eat what you want when you feel like it, actually makes it easier to decide you’ve had enough. After all, when something is available all the time, we cease to be as excited by it and after a while, we may even lose interest. There are many biological, physiological and psychological reasons for this, which are explained in the books listed here.

In addition, when something tastes good and brings pleasure, why on earth do we insist this is bad for us? I think we can blame diet culture for this.

With respect to “I eat too much of it”…

When I ask my clients “what makes you think you eat too much?” The answer is usually to do with the sugar or fat content (or calories) and the idea that you can’t possibly lose weight eating chocolate. This is where it’s important to separate health from weight loss. There is clear evidence that shows people do not need to lose weight to see improvements in their health and in fact, focusing on weight loss often leads to poorer health. Click here for research. These facts aside, it is possible to eat chocolate and be a weight that is right your body.

If you can learn to separate your eating habits from weight loss, you can learn to enjoy chocolate, really enjoy chocolate, no guilt attached and still improve your health. The Non-Diet or Intuitive Eating approaches can help you with this. Separating your eating habits from weight loss can be difficult and you may need help from a skilled practitioner.

Lastly, I would like to argue that enjoying chocolate (insert other sweet food) is actually healthy. The ability to enjoy eating without fear, guilt or anxiety is pivotal to having a healthy relationship with food and your body. Having a healthy relationship with food and your body is vital for your overall health. Research shows time and time again, that the better your feel about yourself, the more likely you are to engage in healthy behaviours be they related to eating, being active, social or your mental health.

Thanks for reading and as always, I’s love to hear your thoughts on Facebook! The Moderation Movement.

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!

dietitian melbourne