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  • Writer's pictureKelly Neilson, MDA RD LD

What is an Anti-diet Dietitian?


What is an anti-diet dietitian?

Sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not! The anti-diet movement has been increasing in its following, but what is it all about? And how can a dietitian be anti-diet?

It seems as though dietitians must be in favor of diets because it is in their very title. But if you strip away society’s definition of diets as an-eating-program-that-promises-weight-loss, and remember that “diet” can also generally mean any way a person eats, you can see how the dietitian title was born.

In short, an anti-diet dietitian is a dietitian who rejects diets, the dieting mentality, and the active pursuit of weight loss. Dietitians who work with an anti-diet approach are going to know about the dangers of dieting, teach Intuitive Eating, and work in a weight-inclusive space.

But what’s wrong with diets?

While diets are widely accepted in our society, they actually do a lot of harm. So much harm, in fact, that the growing body of evidence against diets are causing so many dietitians to jump ship from their traditional training and join the anti-diet force.

Here are just a FEW examples of the damage caused by diets:

Diets destroy your relationship with food and your body.

Diets fail, but make you think you are the one who failed.

Diets lure you in to keep you coming back when they fail, causing the damaging effects of weight cycling.

Diets consume your thoughts and create social withdrawal and anxiety.

Diets take your money.

Diets and the diet mentality steal your confidence and make you question yourself.

(Coming soon—a blog post in which I dive deeper into each of these points!)

These are the facts that dieting has stacked against it and the reasons dietitians are ditching the diet mentality for an anti-diet approach. It is important to say that anti-diet dietitians are anti-diet, not anti-dieter. We understand the pressures that exist in our society to be thin and we don't blame people for turning to diets, without knowing where else to turn. We can empathize with dieters and are eager to show them that there is a better way!

How Intuitive Eating helps

Intuitive Eating is key in the anti-diet approach because it is the complete opposite of a diet. Literally---the first principle of Intuitive Eating is ‘Reject the Diet Mentality’. This is because dieting is so much more than a singular diet. It is actually the mentality of trying to change your body, that certain foods are “bad” and can’t be trusted, and therefore must be eliminated or eaten in very small amounts. Intuitive Eating is the antidote for dieting. Instead of cutting out certain foods, Intuitive Eating encourages making a place in your life for ALL foods. Instead of changing or shrinking your body, Intuitive Eating encourages body respect and appreciation. Diets teach you to ignore your hunger and Intuitive Eating teaches you to listen to your hunger and honor it. Anti-diet dietitians understand Intuitive Eating and promote its principles because it is the way to sustainable well-being.

The Weight-Inclusive Approach

Anti-diet dietitians do not promote weight loss because they understand that weight is not a good indicator of a person’s health status (despite popular and medical belief!). There are FAR better indicators of a person’s health, such as heart rate, blood pressure, lab values, mental status, activity level, eating behaviors, stress levels, etc; ALL of which can be independent of a person’s body size. The weight-inclusive approach is to make ALL people feel welcome, without the client feeling pressure to lose weight. Instead of the focus being on weight loss or changing a person’s body (because we know this is harmful), the focus is on improving eating behaviors and activity levels in a healthful and respectful way. The weight-inclusive approach also encourages body appreciation and learning to love the body that a person has, instead of hanging onto some impossible ideal.

Life can be hard as an anti-diet dietitian because most of popular society is stacked against us. But this is a movement we are not giving up on because we can see the positive changes we are making in the world in our small but valiant efforts. Anti-diet dietitians will NOT STOP understanding the damage of dieting, promoting and encouraging intuitive eating, and working in a weight-inclusive approach. Once you see it, you can't UNSEE it!

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