I was not always a non-diet, weight neutral dietitian! After speaking with many other health professionals who have pivoted from a weight based health practice, to a well-being based one, there seem to be many commonalities. I share my journey to help others feel less alone while pivoting and to give hope that it is possible to ditch diet culture talk in a health practice.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you are a health practitioner,

I hope you consider joining my facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/216817322163834/

and liking my business page dedicated to supporting health practitioners: https://www.facebook.com/pivottowellbeing/

If you are looking for support on your own intuitive eating, non diet, body image journey:

I hope you consider joining my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/161977207814083/

and liking my business page: https://www.facebook.com/lisarutledgeRD/

and Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/lisarutledgerdn/

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have to admit that I often prefer the terms wellness coach and food behaviour expert since the registered dietitian and nutritionist titles feel wrapped up in stigma (assumptions that I only teach the food guide or that I am the food police.).

I take a “radical” or outside the box approach to nutrition by focusing on the WHY instead of the WHAT. Most people know what healthy eating means, they require digging deeper to find out why they are overeating (or why they think they are overeating) or why they are not making the changes they desire.

Here is a little insight into my journey away from the traditional "eat this, not that" attitude I graduated with 15 years ago.

I was lucky enough that when I went to school, it was both taught and general public knowledge that fad diets were not the answer to health or weight loss.

So, we (dietetic students) were told to focus on plain old healthy eating. Back then, this meant using the plate model (1/2 plate of veggies, 1/4 protein, 1/4 starch), hands and food guide as guides to portion sizes. We were taught to calculate caloric needs and translate them into portions of the food groups. Of course, with taking client’s likes and diseases into mind! The idea that an RD tells you what to eat was still part of my thinking.

Then I realized that my clients were feeling left out of the process of deciding what to eat. That alienated them and de-responsibilized them from making food choices and practicing making food choices for themselves. It was an approach still very based on external cues to help with decisions on what to eat.

I then fell into the world of mindful eating and intuitive eating. Through my own journey in the fitness world and persuit of weight loss, I discovered the very dark side of dieting, food rules and the pursuit of a specific weight to be a 'good' dietitian. At first mindful eating was a way to cut down on emotional eating and crush cravings. It was essentially a new set of rules, albeit less strict, about what, when and how much to eat. Instead of specific foods to eat, we move to listening more to the body’s hunger and fullness cues while allowing treats. The more I read about mindful eating and then intuitive eating, the more I realized that weight loss and mindful eating just did not meld. Listening to and heeding to hunger signals was hard with weight loss looming overhead. Hunger was still feared.

The body’s signals of hunger and fullness are based on a natural healthy weight – not BMI based. Being able to hear and want to listen to the body’s own cues for hunger and fullness needed the removal of distractions like the scale and imposed portion sizes. Moving towards how food is making me feel (physically and mentally) played a huge part in self-regulating my eating. There was no rebellion against the rules, “what the heck” thinking, or “last chance" thinking.

I figured that if this approach connected with me and my values, perhaps it can help with my clients who just can't seem to follow traditional nutrition advice (food guide servings and portions). Confidence in my client’s ability in making the right decision for them was honed and made them feel empowered and more likely to eat 'normally'. They stopped asking questions they already knew the answer to ("remind me again what good portions are?!".

Moving into the real philosophies of mindful eating (and away from mindful eating as a means to lose weight) naturally brought me to a more body-neutral place of counselling. All the research indicating that how we feel in our bodies and how we perceive them play a role on our eating made it obvious that hating the body and wanting to change it was drawing clients closer to emotional eating, binge eating, disordered eating, frustration and weight cycling. Hating out bodies was pushing us to over eat, feel ashamed and guilty. AND made mindful eating much harder.

Accepting all body sizes felt respectful. It is still a challenge to demystify this to clients. And I remain respectful and understanding of their want to change their weight. But instead of an accomplice in weight loss, I am a guide to happiness, healthiness and being zen with food.

On your journey towards a non-diet, weight neutral approach to health, all you can ask of yourself is to keep an open mind about this different thinking about food and health. As well as to notice your own judgments and stigmas towards food and body size.

If you are feeling particularly icky, uncomfortable or bad about your past weight-based approach, head on over to the Loving Kindness page to offer yourself some compassion in this turbulent time of learning to unlearn our traditional approach to health. 

I would love to hear about your journey! Are you just starting out or have you been practicing in the non-diet approach for a while? What or who inspired you to pivot from weight to wellbeing? Any words of wisdom for colleagues? 

Reviews