It’s the diet that isn’t a diet.
This ‘revolutionary’ way of thinking is more than just counting calories, measuring millimetres and scrutinising yourself on the scales.
Its’ called the ‘non-diet approach‘ and it’s been getting a lot of attention recently. And yes, as much as it sounds like common sense, it’s an actual term.
The foundation of the non-diet approach is built on three things – intuitive eating, no restrictions and allowing you to re-establish a positive relationship with both food and your body.
What’s wrong with diets?
First things first, diets aren’t that great. They’re hard to stick to and take the enjoyment out of food.
The main problem with diets and detoxes is that they tend to have an expiration date. Whether it’s one week or one month, diets or plans which have an end date will ultimately be setting you up for failure and the never-ending destructive cycle of yo-yo dieting.
There’s a growing body of evidence to support the ineffectiveness of restrictive eating. Diets require an unsustainable amount of restraint and willpower, creating increased obsession with food and overwhelming cravings.
Diets also label foods to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – they’re either allowed or they’re not. Anyone who’s tried a low-carb diet can probably testify to the struggle – they’ve had dreams of dinner rolls and fantasies about French fries. When you label foods like this, the ones you ‘aren’t allowed’ suddenly become much more enticing, and this can contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food.
A balanced eating plan (aka where nothing is completely off-limits) is much more sustainable in the long run. Plus, many diets which restrict or eliminate foods may also be missing key nutrients, placing you at a higher risk of illness or deficiency.
Dual, sportswoman Elyse Perry shares her day on a plate on I Don’t Know How She Does It. Post continues after audio.
What is the non-diet approach?
The non-diet approach recognises that more often than not, deprivation will set you up for failure. With that in mind, nothing is off the cards, all food groups are welcomed, but moderation is still key. The non-diet approach relies heavily on intuitive eating, where you trust your body’s own signals to guide what and when you eat.
This means you eat when you are hungry and stop when full, you view all food as neutral and no longer eat for emotional reasons.
The non-diet approach trains you to trust your own judgement, it’s built on the philosophy that you know your body best. This approach allows you to wipe the slate of restriction clean and create your own rules. You simply need to allow yourself the time and space to acknowledge when you’ve had enough.
The ultimate goal of the non-diet approach is health and peace with your body, not just weight loss.
Five steps to start with…
Everyone will have a slightly different experience when they begin the non-diet approach, and this often depends on their past history with food. But these five steps should help with the process:
1. Learn your hunger cues.
One good place to start is determining when you’re hungry and when you’re not. There are a few ways to do this, but keeping a food diary for a week will help you to track your hunger levels and emotions. Write down how you felt and what you ate when, this might help you find a link between the two.
2. Love food again.
Once you’ve increased your hunger awareness, the next focus is rebuilding your love of food. Eat foods which make you feel good, eat a broader variety of all different foods and give yourself permission to have whatever you want.
Don’t be worried – it may sound dangerous but allowing yourself control over your diet is totally liberating. Plus, now that nothings off limits, food begins to lose its power over you. Personally, one of my favourite quotes of all time is “there is no sincerer love, than the love of food” and I totally believe that.
3. Eat to nourish your body.
Look to include foods which make you feel good and give you the energy to do everything you want to. High protein foods have been proven to reduce appetite and increase satiety, a moderate intake of fibre also helps to stabilise blood sugar levels. These two together will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Limiting refined carbs has also shown to be beneficial and in replacement, opting for wholegrains, these take longer to break down and digest, consequently helping appetite control. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and eat a wide array of food, there is so much to enjoy.
You’re no longer living a life in fear of food, so kick up those heels and have a good time. Instead of viewing a rich, birthday chocolate cake as ‘naughty’ or ‘forbidden’ you’re going to think about the flavour, acknowledging that it’s bloody delicious and an occasional celebration you’re going to savour every mouthful of.
5. Don’t be afraid to seek help.
Changing your relationship with food isn’t necessarily easy, it may require a lot of work, but the end goal of genuine happiness and body love is well worth it. It’s an emotional journey and it might be tough, but once you get going, you’ll be able to draw strength from your successes along the way.
Speaking to a dietitian or a psychologist could be a great way to get the support as you learn to love yourself and food all over.