What if you didn’t need to lose weight?

And why focusing on weight loss usually backfires…

The common assumption is losing weight will make you healthier and if your BMI is above 25, you need to lose weight to manage your health. But weight is not a behaviour and believe it or not, there is no evidence that pursing weight loss improves long-term health. This is because not enough people have lost weight and kept it off long enough to test this theory. We really need to stop focusing on weight when it comes to health.

Given the lack of evidence, how has this assumption become so pervasive? Here are some of the reasons why…

  • Our culture’s strong weight bias – we live in culture that has been conditioned to believe fat is bad and that wrongly equates thinness with worthiness, attractiveness, success 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 (actually 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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  • Health professionals advising weight loss as necessary for almost any condition
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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

Melbourne dietitian HAES

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. 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 a change in diet and exercise, while perhaps improving indicators of health such as blood pressure or blood sugar, doesn’t result in the desired weight loss? Do you keep up with the positive changes or do feel it’s not “working”? Do you give up altogether, or do you try something else, usually something more drastic and rarely maintainable?

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, that people come to see us and rarely has the drastic approach improved their health and usually it’s worsened their psychological 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 is most of us.

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.

dietitian melbourne

 

 

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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”

 

Melbourne dietitian


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

 

 

 

 

Just eat more celery and less meat pies!

Want to lose weight?

Just eat more celery and less meat pies!

While most people should recognise this as ridiculous advice, is it really any different to the message of just eat more veggies and less “junk”? As in, if losing weight were that simple, surely the millions of people who have tried to lose weight would have been successful by now. In addition, the current common wisdom around what is required to control body weight is mistaken (weight loss is not a simple equation of eat less and move more), which helps explain why no one is able to do it.

If we were machines and could just program our food for the day, then just doing what is suggested by this “common wisdom”, might actually be possible – but we are not machines, we are complex organisms with complex emotional and physiological needs and desires. You can’t simply instruct someone on how to eat to meaningfully* lose weight – oh wait, that’s what most weight loss programs try to do – it’s no wonder they don’t work!

*meaningfully, meaning in a way that benefits the individual mentally and physically over their life-time

non diet dietitian

So why isn’t it as simple as just eat more veggies and less “junk”?

Factors that influence food choices:

  • How hungry you are
  • Awareness of how hungry you are
  • How long since you last ate
  • The type of food you late ate
  • The type of food that appeals to your taste buds
  • The type of food available
  • History of dieting
  • Past or current food restriction
  • Emotional state
  • How tired you are
  • How much sleep you’re getting
  • How much stress you’re under
  • Your hormones and metabolic factors
  • Any medications you may be on
  • Where you’re next meal is coming from
  • A sense of when and what you’re going to be eating next
  • How active you’ve been
  • What you’ve got on for the rest of your day
  • What the other people you’re eating with will eat
  • What other people are telling you you should or should not be eating

I’m sure there’s many more, so feel free to add more in the facebook comments.

Eating celery over meat pies, or less extreme, advice to eat more veggies and less highly processed food does not take into account or address any of these factors, in fact, placing the emphasis on the food could exacerbate a number of them. Now, I am not for a second staying eating more veggies is not a worthwhile pursuit, or would not benefit health. Instead, I am wanting to highlight that very often, well meaning dietary advice falls way short of the mark and only serves to perpetuate our culture’s unhelpful and often very damaging diet and weight loss industries.

 

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

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

Click the banner to grab your copy today!

non-diet dietitians Melbourne