What does it mean to be a non-diet dietitian?
In the health and wellness world, we often see phrases like ‘non-diet’ and ‘anti-diet’ being thrown around quite often, but what do these terms actually mean? To start, I think it’s really important to note that anti-diet does not mean anti-health, and more importantly, it does not mean anti-people who are on a diet or wish to pursue weight loss. Instead, this term is about working to address the oppressive nature of diet culture to help individuals live a life without fear and deprivation around food and create a society that respects all bodies.
The Non-Diet Approach to dietetics
This is a way of practice that removes the emphasis and pressure to eat for weight loss. It sits within the Health At Every Size (HAES) aradigm which similarly focuses on the following guiding principles:
- Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes.
- Recognising that health and well-being are multi-disciplinary and that they include physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional and intellectual aspects.
- Promoting all aspects of health and wellbeing for people of all sizes.
- Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger, satiety, appetite, and pleasure.
- Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss.
How can this help you?
I apply the principles of HAES to help my clients treat their bodies with respect and kindness. Practising in a weight-inclusive manner means I can assist my clients to work towards their goals and improve their well being regardless of their body weight, shape or size. Being a non-diet dietitian is about celebrating body acceptance, but also about providing a safe and empowering space for all individuals and giving more people the skills and confidence to ditch diet culture, find food freedom and nurture their relationship with their mind and body.
As stated by Fiona Willer, Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian (AdvAPD) and author of ‘The Non-Diet Approach Guidebook for Dietitians’, “In a non-diet approach, the typical dietary behaviours of weighing and measuring food and body, extensive forward planning and timing of meals, concrete energy intake and specific weight loss goals are firmly discouraged. It is instead a much more gentle approach, allowing clients to build skills and confidence in their own innate ability to select appropriate amounts of food for their body.”
What to expect at a consultation
The initial consultation is all about getting to know you! This will involve some questions from myself and some from you. We will chat about your medical history, lifestyle, physical and psychological symptoms, history with diets, motivations and current eating patterns. We will also give you the chance to share your experiences with food, movement and your body. This information will help determine an appropriate treatment plan, including areas of interest that you may like more information on.
We recognise how difficult it can be to share such experiences, and will help you do so in a safe, non-judgemental and respectful space. During this initial consultation, we will chat about your goals and concerns, to best clarify what you want out of your relationship with me. I will usually plan to see you at least twice, but follow up support is an individual thing, and will be discussed with you at the time. Some clients will only need a few appointments, while others may benefit from long-term treatment.
Who will benefit from seeing a Dietitian?
- Individuals who wish to improve their relationship with food (eg those who have been stuck in constant diet-cycles).
- Individuals experiencing a range of health conditions (eg high cholesterol, diabetes, IBS, heart disease, fatty liver, PCOS)
- Individuals wanting to learn more about specific nutrition topics (eg veganism/vegetarianism, food intolerances, nutrient deficiencies, sports nutrition)
- Individuals who require support with maintaining dietary changes over the long term.
The Non-Diet Approach Guidebook for Dietitians, Fiona Willer, AdvAPD, AN. 2013
Health At Every Size Australia; https://www.haesaustralia.org.au/What-is-HAES
Pro Nutrition SA, Amanda Maiorano, Dietitian