The Non-Diet Approach

This post was inspired after a conversation on Wednesday with a friend. We are catching up this week to discuss business and she made a comment along the lines of “no doubt you’ll encourage me to go on a diet”. This comment shocked me as I haven’t discussed food or health with her before. Subsequently, it got me wondering, is that what people really think I do if they choose to work with me through my nutrition coaching service?

Subsequently, this post is to share with you, that putting you on a diet is definitely NOT how I work with nutrition coaching clients – I actually prefer the opposite a non-diet approach.

However, before we discuss a non-diet approach, let’s look at what a diet is…


What does “Diet” Mean?

There are many definitions of diet, including –

  • “a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.” ~ Google
  • “The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats” and “A special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.” ~ Oxford Dictionaries
  • “food and drink regularly provided or consumed” and “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight” ~ Merriam-Webster
  • “a particular selection of food, especially as designed or prescribed to improve a person’s physical condition or to prevent or treat a disease” ~

What I am referring to in this post are the diet definitions related to restricting food to reduce weight or improve health.


What Are Some Diet Behaviours?

Diet behaviours can be conscious or un-conscious. Some of these behaviours include –

  • Strictly following a diet (i.e. a points system, low carbohydrates or no-sugar),
  • Counting carbohydrate grams
  • Limiting carbohydrates
  • Eating “proper” food in public and then eating anything when no-one is watching
  • Competing with someone else who is dieting
  • Eating only perceived “safe” or “good” foods (i.e. fat-free or low-calorie foods)
  • Eating only at certain times of the day (i.e. not eating after 8pm)
  • Cutting back on food
  • Paying a price for eating a “bad” food (i.e. skipping the next meal or doing extra exercise)
  • Manipulating hunger by drinking coffee of diet drinks
  • Second-guessing or judging what you deserve to eat
  • Become vegetarian or gluten-free for the sole purpose of losing weight.


The Dieter’s Dilemma

The Dieter’s Dilemma was created by John P. Foreyt and G. Ken Goodrick and was shared in their book Living Without Dieting. The dieter’s dilemma begins with the desire to be thin and/or lose weight which leads to dieting. Dieting leads to feeling deprived, which causes cravings, reduced self-control and the overwhelming urge to eat. This leads to overeating or binging. Afterwards, the dieter feels out of control, guilty and starts dieting again to regain control. And the cycle continues.

How do you break the cycle? The first step to breaking the dieter’s dilemma is to reject the diet mentality and start learning how to eat mindfully and intuitively. Commit to a non-diet approach.

However, just in case you need some research on diets and the fact they don’t work over the long-term, a review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “A Review of Interventions that Promote Eating by Internal Cues,” summarizes the research so well that it is worth quoting directly:

“…traditional diets that restrict energy [calories], or particular nutrients, to induce weight loss have achieved little long term success. These programs have high attrition rates; participants rarely maintain weight loss and sometimes gain back even more weight than they lost during the program. In fact, there is evidence that frequency of dieting is directly associated with weight gain. In addition to being an ineffective means to weight loss, dieting is a well-established risk factor for unhealthy weight control behaviors, binge eating and bulimic pathology, and eating disorders. Frequency of dieting is also associated with negative psychological attributes such as body dissatisfaction, depression, lower self-esteem and negative effect.”


What is a Non-Diet Approach?

A non-diet approach is as it suggests – not dieting. The non-diet approach embraces the Health At Every Size® paradigm, mindful and intuitive eating.

The foundation of the non-diet approach is built on three things – intuitive eating, no restrictions (yes you read that correctly) and allowing you to re-establish a compassionate and accepting relationship with both food and your body.

The non-diet approach respects the fact that the body knows best when it comes to eating, food, self-care, movement, rest and weight. Professionals who are committed to the non-diet approach, work with people to help them reconnect with their internal wisdom, so they can identify which individual health-related behaviours will best help them to optimise their own health and wellbeing.


What’s the Difference Between a Diet and Non-Diet Approach?

Following is a graphic that compares a diet and non-diet approach.


Over to You…

I hope this post has given you some insight in to the diet approach and why I choose to focus on a non-diet approach in my nutritional coaching programs. If you would like more information on how to change your relationship with food, so you can truly nourish your health and wellbeing, please comment below or contact us 🙂



Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive Eating – A Revolutionary Program that Works. New York, USA: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Foreyt, J., & Goodrick, K, (1994). Living Without Dieting – A Revolutionary Guide to Everyone Who Wants to Lose Weight. New York, USA: Grand Central Publishing.

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