What does it mean to be a “Non-Diet” Dietitian?
“I’m not a regular dietitian, I’m a cool dietitian” is what I say to make light of a conversation that entails explaining my nutrition philosophy. It can get a little tricky to try and explain when there so many layers and nuances.
I am fairly new in my career as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, but there is one thing I know to be positive: I identify 100% as a non-diet dietitian. In light of RD/N day yesterday, I wanted to delve into what it means to be a non-diet dietitian because it’s pretty…radical.
As a non-diet dietitian:
I promise to never talk diets with you. And I will never label foods “good” or “bad”. All foods fit into a healthful diet. What I find to be more helpful is discussing your relationship with food and body. Some questions I like to discuss include What has your history been with food and/or dieting? What are your food preferences? Do you listen to your hunger and fullness? Do you like the food you are eating? What do you think of your body? What would help you feel nourished? This is just the tip of the iceberg.
I want you to feel nourished, not punished. True nourishment is giving your body and mind what they want and need to thrive. I make sure you are eating meals and snacks. I encourage protein, fats, carbohydrates, fiber and satisfaction at every meal. An important part of nourishment is making sure to eat foods you enjoy. I don’t write meal plans, but rather sit down with you and explore what foods you would like to eat while keeping gentle nutrition in mind. I help people learn how to intuitively eat.
I encourage joyful movement. I’m all about encouraging healthful behaviors and we know movement is good for mental and physical health. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be structured exercise to “count”. Joyful movement can be your favorite group fitness class. It can be a peaceful walk in the sunshine. Gentle yoga and/or light stretching is fabulous. It can be drawing, painting, moving your arms if movement is limited for you. If a sweaty HIIT session feels good to you, do it.
I understand food is complicated. I know that food isn’t just fuel for the body. Food creates community. It brings us joy and satisfaction and memories. Food provides comfort when it’s our best coping skill. Food can also be really hard. When food is scarce due to socioeconomic status or situations, this is challenging. Lack of food from restriction is complicated. Eating disorders are about food (and are also not about food). Sometimes our relationship with food is a messy piece of a deeper struggle within ourselves.
I take weight out of the picture of health. A bit radical with the tone of our country, right? But let me put this in perspective for you. Weight is an outcome, not a behavior meaning it cannot be controlled. When people try to control weight, it usually is done by restriction or dieting. We know from research that 95-97% of diets (restriction) do not work, and the weight is regained and some. And we know about set point theory: the idea that our body has a certain weight range it likes to be between and will do anything to stay there-some people’s weights being higher which is completely healthy! What’s actually more harmful than being at a higher weight is weight stigma. Weight stigma is the negative attitude towards someone living in a larger body. When people feel stigmatized about their weight, they begin to internalize this message often leading to stress, poor mental health, and not practicing self care. And we know not caring for ourselves leads to negative health outcomes. More on the blog about weight stigma in the future. What’s helpful is being weight inclusive and not creating shame around people’s body sizes.
As a non-diet dietitian, what I want you to know the most is this:
Food and exercise are small pieces of the health puzzle. They are important, but they aren’t everything. As a non-diet dietitian, I’m looking at the whole picture. We might talk sleep, stress management, mental health, self care, socioeconomic struggles, life, etc.
I am so grateful for the community of non-diet dietitians that are being brave everyday and going against the norm. Here’s to molding the future of dietetics and pushing for a weight inclusive, intuitive eating, body positive paradigm.
Do you have questions about the non diet approach or working with a non-diet RD? Or are you an RD that feels confused?