How a non-diet approach could help you live healthier

Jennifer Gilliland,

ProMedica HealthConnect
        “Maybe I should try keto – my friend Susie lost 25 pounds and she made it look so easy!”
        “I’ve heard that Paleo is the way to go!”
        “My sister, Lynn, dropped 10 pounds in a week and all she did was do that intermittent fasting thing!”
        How many times have we been dazzled with claims/testimonials like this? Our desire for losing weight and improving our health gets quickly tied up with words like “easy,” “fast” and “low-commitment,” and phrases like “the pounds just melted off.” Unfortunately, time has proven over and over again that “quick and easy” typically mean “short-term and not sustainable.”
        So, what’s a person to do? We know excess weight is a precursor to things like diabetes, hip and knee issues, heart disease, sleep apnea and many other chronic issues. But who has time to “diet” by counting calories, weighing food, logging food, etc.?
        There is a “new way of thinking” that is getting a lot of attention in the nutrition and healthy lifestyle world. It’s called by many different names, including non-diet dieting, health at any size, intuitive eating and mindful eating.” The bottom line is that it doesn’t promise quick fixes or easy plans, but it does take into consideration your whole body, not just how many calories you are eating.
        So, what are the basic principles of this “new way of thinking”? Here are some key points:
        1. This is not a diet. Dieting typically equals restriction in our minds. And if you think about what happens when someone tells you you can’t have something or you can’t do something, most of us dig in harder and find a way.
        So, no food is off limits but there is more thought put into why you are choosing the food you are choosing and whether or not that particular food will help you feel your best.
        2. Getting in tune with your body is key. When we are young, we intuitively know when we are hungry or full. As we get older there are several factors that influence how much we eat. How much food we are offered, servings at restaurants, seeing other people eat, social media and having to finish our plate before we can go outside and play are just a few of the “messages” we get about our hunger levels.
        It’s vital to our non-diet approach that we get in tune with what our bodies are asking for. You might be surprised just how simple portion sizes can be when you pay closer attention to how much food your body is requesting.
        3. Challenge the “moral labels” we put on food. Words like good, bad, empty and junk have all of us equating that to our own value as a person, on some level. Craving a cookie or enjoying a piece of birthday cake does not make you a bad person, but on some level if we are “dieting” we feel shame and guilt for enjoying these foods.
        4. Find new ways to cope with life’s ups and downs. Food equals comfort for a lot of people. A pretty universal example is getting a sucker or a cookie if you are hurt emotionally or physically as a child. We learn as a young child that we can “self soothe” by eating something sweet.
        There are a lot of other ways to improve our coping skills, such as meditation, talking with someone, listening to music or doing some sort of physical exercise.
        5. Reframe our thinking about physical movement. Many people see exercise as torture or something that takes up too much time. If we re-shift our thinking to think about physical movement as something beneficial for our body; not just for consideration with weight, but for circulation, flexibility, balance, clearer thinking and increased energy, then we take the focus off of the difficulty or discomfort.
        Movement is much more enjoyable to think about than the mental images sweating on the treadmill for an hour conjures up. Exploring the local park, playing with your kids/grandkids or enjoying the sunshine while paddling in a canoe sounds much more like fun than exercise.
        Like anything in life worth doing, shifting your thinking to a more non-diet approach takes practice and effort. Our bodies are wonderful, intuitive beings if we give ourselves the opportunity to listen and appreciate all that our bodies can do.
        If this non-diet approach sounds like something you would like to learn more about, ProMedica offers nutrition counseling at the Diabetes and Nutrition Center for those with a provider referral. Call 419-291-6767 to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian.
        Jennifer Gilliland has been an outpatient dietitian with ProMedica for over 17 years. She is also a Professional Clinical Counselor and enjoys talking with people about the behavioral side of “why we eat what we eat” as well as educating people on the healthiest food choices. She sees clients with various nutrition-related issues including food allergies, weight management, diabetes, eating disorders, and GI issues. For more information and other health tips, visit


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