Featuring Clinical Dietitian Tessa Komine!
As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), I often get a bit of a funny look when I tell people that I take a NON-diet approach to my counseling. Why? One major reason is that diets are unkind and ignore the notion that health is not black & white. Health encompasses not just physical, but mental, emotional, economic, and spiritual aspects as well. When you’re stuck in the “diet mentality,” foods are labeled as “good” and “bad,” and eating is often accompanied by feelings of guilt or shame if “forbidden foods” are consumed. Diets are driven by external rules that dictate how or what one should be eating, rather than focusing on internal cues that vary for all individuals.
I remember when I first identified the difference between being “in control” and being “in charge.” When someone is on a diet, they often become very controlling with their food, but the strict diet rules are calling the shots. With a non-diet mentality, YOU are in charge and your eating patterns are formed by considering how food might affect a variety of factors that only YOU can feel, such as hunger, fullness, satisfaction, and energy levels. Rather than focusing on numbers and determining your success or failure based on body weight or calories consumed, a non-diet, Health at Every Size (HAES®) approach is driven by principles that promote weight inclusivity, eating for well-being, and enjoyable movement.
Breaking free from the diet mentality allows for greater flexibility, variety, and satisfaction with eating, while still considering gentle nutrition. While in treatment for an eating disorder, the meal plan is an important tool that supports this non-diet mentality by offering structured eating times and inclusion of ALL foods (unless someone has a food allergy, of course). When an individual has engaged in disordered eating for an extended period of time, it can often be difficult to recognize hunger and fullness cues. The meal plan can help provide consistency of meals and snacks to ensure the individual is getting adequate nourishment, while establishing balance and flexibility of food groups. At program, our meal plans are based on the exchange system, and include starches, proteins, fats, fruits, vegetables, and dairy, which will vary depending on the person. Working with a dietitian is an important part of treatment, and allows meal plans to be customized to fit each individual’s needs.
Want to learn more about non-diet approaches? Here are some helpful resources to get you started:
- The Health At Every Size® Principles: https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=76 (read more in the book “Health at Every Size” by Linda Bacon)
- The Principles of Intuitive Eating: http://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/ (read more in the book “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch)
- More about weight-neutrality: https://www.ksl.com/index.php?sid=44271482&nid=1010&title=a-weight-neutral-approach-to-health
-Tessa Komine, MS, RDN