“I started tracking my calories and macros, and I sensed this wasn’t healthy”

“I started tracking my calories and macros, and I noticed becoming overly focused on food, I started feeling more anxious and I sensed this wasn’t healthy” 

Recently I’ve had several new clients who’ve said something along these lines as their reason for seeking help. They started the tracking with the belief that this was necessary to manage their eating and body weight, especially during the Covid lockdowns where there is so much talk around how this is affecting our eating (eg comfort eating) and resulting in weight gain. 

My motivation for writing this, is how quickly these particular clients were able to drop the diet behaviour, food restriction and diet mentality and instead tune back into their bodies and appetites and eat freely without any guilt through understanding intuitive eating concepts. They expressed immense relief at not having to monitor or restrict their food, and they made the point that this way of thinking about food made so much more sense and why isn’t this the mainstream advice?

A key reason is just how pervasive diet culture has become, to the point it is everywhere – it’s hard to watch a TV series that doesn’t make some comment food and weight. A wonderful novel I just read which focused on some of the racial issues in America, still had a dose of diet culture with the numerous references to fat being undesirable and a problem. There are ads on TV, the radio and a trip to the doctors office where your weight may be brought up even if your complaint is a sore throat.

These days, diet culture is very often disguised as improving health. Public health messages suggest the relationship with health and weight is clear. It’s not. Fat bodies can be healthy and thin bodies can be unhealthy. Gaining weight does not mean you will develop health issues and losing weight does not guarantee health. If you would like to understand more about this, read Harriet Brown’s Body of Truth or at least this article.

But because of this oversimplification of the relationship between weight and health, the medical profession and many other health professionals, usually without meaning to be, are complicit with diet culture thinking and perpetuate dieting behaviours. Recommending weight loss will ultimately send most people down the path of food restriction or and into diet culture thinking and behaviours.

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What do I mean by diet culture thinking and behaviours?

  • The good food, bad food dichotomy
  • Food is either healthy or unhealthy
  • Food will either heal you or harm you
  • You need to restrict certain food, especially sugary food, fried food and even some food groups such as carbs, to be eating well and managing your weight
  • Tracking food, calories, macros with apps like my fitness pal
  • Cutting out sugar or carbs
  • Following a pattern of eating that isn’t practical with your lifestyle, that you don’t really enjoy or that leaves you feeling hungry and struggling to concentrate at times

None of this is true or necessary, you can read more about that in these two blogs:

Food is neither good or bad
Donuts do make people fat

It seems the pervasiveness of diet culture has reached a point that people with a previously healthy relationship with food and who’ve never engaged in diet behaviours before, are now starting to engage in them and this is starting to damage their relationship with food.

It’s important to mention that what was a quick turn around for these clients is not usually so straightforward for the majority of my clients. These people hadn’t dieted much (or at all) in the past, so their relationship with food was fairly intact to begin with.  These clients are also in smaller, or not very fat, bodies, and this certainly can make it easier to shift the focus away from worrying about weight and the perceived need to restrict food.

If you feel your relationship with food is suffering and you’d like to escape diet culture, please contact us – we’d be delighted to hear from you!


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

I was tagged in a post showing the image of a fat body and how being this size is damaging to their health (particularly organs and joints) and why weight loss through a change in diet and activity level is 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 a very complex topic going well beyond health science and I hope those with a deeper understanding of social justice matters will forgive me for only mentioning them as a factor without going into depth.

Let’s say this person, I will call her Marie, does have issues with organs and joints, let’s say she has diabetes and knee pain. The mainstream assumption is losing weight will help. If Marie does intentionally lose weight, she will intentionally change something in order for this to happen. If her blood sugar and knee pain reduce, how do we know if these changes are due to the weight loss or whatever it was she changed; perhaps it was due the changes in diet and activity level, perhaps aided with some mindfulness/meditation work which then influenced stress levels and her relationships with others? Unless a person has liposuction, intentional weight loss occurs along side a change in behaviours, the weight loss is a side-effect as opposed to a behaviour change; i.e. weight is not a behaviour. 

Essentially there is no one singular change that we can pin the medal on in terms of reduced blood sugar and knee pain, the human body is very complex and humans rarely ever change just one behaviour without this influencing other health factors.

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EYE OPENER – just because Marie’e blood glucose and knee pain is reduced doesn’t mean she is experiencing better health. Many people would assume this, but chances are Marie has put herself into calorie deficit to achieve the weight loss, which results in a range of physiological and psychological disturbances. These disturbances are key drivers in the weight regain that happens to almost everyone, and why so many people find themselves obsessed with food and thoughts about food to the point of distress and anxiety – you can read more about this here. Not to mention the shame people feel around their body, their health issues and their perceived “failure” to manage things – shame is a powerful emotion experienced by most, if not all, who try to lose weight and a powerful factor that has been shown to directly impact metabolic health

This brings us to vital and often overlooked factors that affect a person’s health and which may explain why Marie is in a bigger body. 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 factors to address when helping someone manage their health is misguided and in most cases, plain 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, weight stigma, weight bias and shame, and I did not understand the implications of continuing to place focus on body weight.


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 bigger 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
    and the most common reason I see with my clients…

  • 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 Marie is unhealthy because of a high body weight or to keep this as the focus for her health issues, is at best misguided and very simplistic, and at worst, serves to further damage Marie’s 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 many factors that influence these), body image, weight stigma and the shame that usually comes in bucketloads. 

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. 


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Intuitive eating – where does nutrition fit in and 6 questions to ask yourself to see if you’re ready

One misconception with intuitive eating is that the idea is to eat whatever you want without a thought for nutrition or health. That said, you will most likely find that when you start the process, allowing yourself to eat freely without worrying about nutrition is actually a key step in healing your relationship with food. This includes the ability to rewire your brain and change your thinking around food to soften (and eventually rid) any anxiety, emotional distress or shame you have with food.

Once you’ve reached a point* where you feel much calmer around food, the food battle in your head has ceased and you think about food and/or nutrition a hell of a lot less, you may be ready to start paying more attention to nutrition. A key point here though, is how much attention do you actually need to pay to your nutrition? If you have a medical or health condition that is affected by food choices, then yes you may benefit from some gentle focus on nutrition.  If you’re free a specific medical or health condition and generally you feel well and energised with your current pattern of eating, perhaps more focus is unnecessary. Either way, a non-diet dietitian can guide you with how much focus you may or may not need.

While nutrition is important to all humans, it has been massively overplayed. We are inundated with nutrition knowledge, self help books, recipe books, online recipes, the internet in general, ready to eat meals, food packaging, menu boards, social media, TV, gyms, a variety of health professionals,  health coaches, fitness trainers and more – but where has all this knowledge taken us?


anti diet dietitian

If we consider that calories as we know them today didn’t come into common thinking until the 20th century, nor did we know what a vitamin was until last century and macronutrients were only discovered in the 1800s, how did humans manage prior to this? That is to say, humans have managed to feed themselves well enough for 1000s of years without this nutrition knowledge.

Rather than helping the majority of people have a better understanding of how to nourish themselves well, it would appear that we humans are more confused than ever! Rates of disordered eating and eating disorders are on the rise globally, especially in Asian countries. An over-focus on nutrition, especially tracking calories and/or macronutrients is commonly part of what leads people into disordered eating or an eating disorder.

Even if tracking calories and macronutrients doesn’t mess with a person’s psychology around food or result in mental health issues, it takes us away from listening our own internal cues of hunger, fullness and satisfaction, it takes us away from trusting our own bodies with what, when or how much to eat, something humans would have done naturally before we were introduced to the science of nutrition. A key part of the intuitive eating process is to redirect our thinking away from external cues (largely driven by nutrition science) on how to eat and instead reconnect to our bodies natural wisdom with eating.

Of course there are some circumstances where it may be useful to focus more on nutrition and even to monitor or track calories and/or macros. Some athletes, some pregnancies and some medical conditions may benefit from the nutrition knowledge we know have, but this isn’t always necessary. If you happen to have a medical or health condition that could benefit from modern nutrition knowledge, then by no means am I against using this knowledge, but we need to really careful with how we balance this against a person’s life circumstances and current relationship with food and body.

If you’ve had a complicated relationship with food but are on the mend, or fully healed and you’d like to focus on an aspect of nutrition, ask yourself these 6 question to see if you’re ready…

  1. If for whatever reason it does’t happen, you’re completely ok with that and you don’t get mad at yourself
  2. You enjoy eating that way, perhaps finding it even more pleasurable
  3. The dietary change doesn’t increase how much you think about food when you don’t need to be
  4. If you’re out of usual routine, ie on holidays and it’s not practical or is more difficult to follow the dietary change, it doesn’t phase you at all and you’re happy to go with the flow and wait until you’re back in usual routine
  5. There is no guilt, shame or mental distress attached to whether or not you do what you intended
  6. You don’t feel compelled to tell others what you’re doing, or advise that they would benefit from doing it too

Gentle nutrition is one the 10 principles of the intuitive eating process developed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. You can read about the 10 principles here 

* This can take anywhere from a few months to a few years

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How on earth did eating well, get so complicated?

Do you remember a time when it was just cereal and milk for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and meat and 3 veg for dinner, with fruit, yoghurt and toast for snacks? This was pretty much how my family ate growing up in the 70s, 80s and 90s and we were healthy, energetic kids.

The good news is that eating well does not need to be complicated or involve special ingredients or expensive “superfoods”. The following relatively simple concepts are one brilliant way to avoid getting confused about what or how to eat, and you can apply them to just about any style of eating.

1. Eat food because you’re hungry
2. Eat food your body needs
3. Eat food that you enjoy the taste of

You don’t need to make food choices based on calories, carbs or the latest food trend – and no you don’t need to completely avoid sugar, eat “clean” or go “Keto”. That said, if you really enjoy any of these eating trends and you feel they serve you well both mentally and physically, then of course that’s fine too. 

dietitian healthy eating


So let’s unpack this…

1. Eat because you’re hungry:
While this may seem like a no brainer, many people are out of touch, or have lost connection, with their appetite cues and eat because it’s a meal time, other people are eating, just in case, out of boredom or to help manage emotions. You may also decide to eat something simply because “it’s good for you”. If you’re unsure what your hunger cues are telling you, then you may need to look at getting back in tune with them – you can read more about this here.

2. Eat food your body needs:
Choose from a variety of whole foods (or core food group foods) such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, eggs, meat, fish, nuts & seeds and grains and dairy foods. While you don’t necessarily need to include all these food types in your diet, when you do eat a variety of these foods, chances are you’ll get all the nutrients your body needs without needing to over-think it, or track macros. It is possible to achieve adequate nutrition without consuming all these types of food (e.g. if you’re vegetarian or have a food intolerance), if this is you and you’re worried you might be missing out on something, perhaps chat to one of our dietitians

The fascinating thing with being in tune with your appetite and responding to true physical hunger, your body instinctively knows what it needs and craves a variety of nutritious food. Yes you will still want to eat “fun” foods such as chocolate and ice-cream, but these don’t prevent you from getting adequate nutrition from all the other foods. I like to think of “fun” foods as food you eat more for taste than hunger, or food you enjoy them in the company of others or eat simply to relax and give yourself some pleasure.

If you feel out of control around certain foods or feel unable to trust your appetite, you may benefit from talking with one of our dietitians or one near you who can help you with this.

3. Eat food that you enjoy the taste of:
Eating should be pleasurable and there is a huge variety of food that is capable of providing both nourishment and pleasure. By eating food you enjoy, you can nurture a healthy relationship with food and your body, and you never need feel like you’re on a diet or missing out. Eating food you enjoy is also a maintainable way of managing your eating well for life. Whoever said “If it tastes good, it must be bad for you” was wrong – this is simply a diet culture message designed to confuse you and make you reliant on following a diet rather than trusting your own body.

Why not calories?

If you choose a food based on calorie content, are you considering your appetite, how the food will taste and whether or not it will satisfy you? If you are, then the food is likely a suitable choice. If you’re choosing a food purely because it’s low calorie, you may not find it as satisfying and you’ll end up craving and eating something else. 

Why not nutrients?

Similar to calories, if you’re choosing a food because it’s low fat, low carb or sugar free, you may not find it as satisfying and still be craving something else. If you eat a food because it’s full of vitamins and you’re not hungry, you may be giving your body nourishment it doesn’t actually need. Routinely eating when you’re not hungry can make it harder to work out when you’re actually hungry. 

Note: Non-hungry eating is a very real battle many people face and you may benefit from talking with our dietitians or one near you who can help you with this.

Why not the latest trend?

Most diets, or dietary advice, rely on external rules or cues to help you manage your eating. By this I mean they suggest you eat certain types of food and restrict others, they may also ask you to weigh and measure food portions and/or track your calories. For most people, a more powerful and sustainable way to manage your eating is to learn how to listen to, and act on, your internal cues of hunger and fullness. This way you don’t need to rely on an external source to guide you with what, when and how much to eat. Trusting your internal cues also gives you the freedom to manage your eating when you’re out of your usual routine, travelling for work or on holidays – the times that pretty much everybody finds they are unable to stick to their diet or meal plan.

I am not saying that various diets or food trends are wrong or don’t help anyone, I am just describing an alternative way to manage your eating. Although, listening and trusting our appetite cues is our default way of eating – babies and kids do this until they are taught otherwise.

If you’ve spent years, or a life-time, looking externally for the solution to your health through various diets or diet programs, perhaps it’s time to start look internally. Just some food for thought.

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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

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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.


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