Mindful Eating: The Non-Diet Diet
Losing weight is hard. Eating right is challenging. When you add to the mix the many different trending diets on the market today, things can become quite confusing. Eat low-fat. No, actually, low-carbohydrates are best. Stop eating sugar. Focus on only plant-based meals. Be vegetarian. Eat like a caveman. How is the average person supposed to determine which diet is best for their body and their goals?
Which is why the non-diet diet has become so popular. It’s a diet that isn’t a strict plan but a set of guidelines to help your client pay attention to their body and its needs to achieve their goals.
The Non-Diet Framework
A diet should be a lifestyle. It is a relationship with food and behaviors that align with the way a person wants to live, feel, and look. And, most importantly, provides the appropriate nutrients for healthy body function and quality of life. In many cases, any diet that helps a client eat fewer calories than they are burning is going to help them lose weight. But, doing it in a healthy way and keeping that weight off are usually the two biggest challenges. That is why the non-diet has started to make waves. Here are a few key principles to support a successful non-diet approach to eating.
Includes Real Food
We should try to stay away from processed food as much as possible. It’s not great food. But, also beware of the convenient food posing as health food. Pre-packaged meals and shakes can be helpful to kickstart a diet but they are typically not fresh and include a handful of chemicals. Prepackaged items and frozen meals can help guide individuals that are learning portion control or food combinations. But our bodies need real nutrients, so, humans should be eating real food as fresh as possible.
Is Sustainable Long Term
Many modern-day diets can help an individual lose weight short-term. However, once they are off the plan, most of the weight lost comes right back on. A proper diet should be a lifestyle change that not only helps an individual lose weight but also helps them realistically maintain long-term weight loss.
Is Not Drastic
Any diet plan that cuts an entire food group from the plan is drastic. Some foods are better for us than others. And, there are foods we should intentionally limit. However, for the average person, all foods can be consumed with balance and moderation.
Guidelines for a Non-Diet Approach
There are a few core guidelines when practicing a non-diet diet. Ultimately, the goal is to get clients to listen to their bodies, focus on real nutrients, and be more mindful about foods and their behaviors associated with food.
Practice Mindful Eating
Be present when eating. This helps an individual enjoy the food more and helps them slow down when eating. Many times, we eat faster than our bodies can register whether we are full. Because of this, if we eat fast, we tend to eat more than we need to. Sit down when eating, don’t multi-task, and focus on authentically enjoying the meal. Being mindful is also taking the time to smell, taste, and enjoy each bite of food.
Identify Your Reason for Eating
Clients may find themselves reaching for a snack when they aren’t hungry. So, it is important to tune into the real reasons why they are eating. Is it sadness or boredom? Are they using it as a reward? Once they can identify some of the triggers for food consumption, they can start to alter those behaviors to ensure they are only eating when they are hungry.
Practice Intuitive Eating
Interestingly enough, our body usually tells us what it needs. Thirst, cravings, and exhaustion are all examples of our bodies talking to us. Our bodies are pretty good at telling us when we are hungry and when we are full as well. The challenge is that many of us have lost our ability to listen and understand when our bodies are talking to us. Start to pay attention.
Eat Real Food
Like we mentioned earlier, stick to what the earth has provided as nourishment. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, and grains are all real foods beneficial to the human body. Our busy lives have demanded that the food industry make eating more convenient. So, sadly, most of the food in grocery stores and fast-food restaurants today is not real, healthy food. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t need to be complex but it does need to be real.
Don’t Drink Calories
It’s amazing how quickly calories can add up when consuming fruit juices, sugary coffees, and milk. And, in many cases, the calories from drinks don’t help us feel full. So, we end up consuming them as extra unneeded calories. Consider sticking to water and tea. Focus on getting most calories and nutrients from real food.
Eat the Rainbow
Many times, the different colors in a fruit or vegetable are a representation of the key nutrients within them. Our bodies need many different nutrients for popular function at a cellular level. So, eating the rainbow (eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables of different colors) helps ensure that an individual is getting a variety of essential nutrients to support optimal health.
Increase Water Intake
Many times, thirst can be confused as hunger. It is also a calorie-free way to aid the body in feeling full. Some studies have also shown that drinking water helps the body burn more calories (1). The amount of water someone needs can vary based on their weight, climate, and activity level. However, a good rule of thumb is somewhere around one ounce per pound of body weight.
Be Kind to Yourself
No one eats perfectly all the time. No one feels perfect all the time. Guilt and shame associated with poor food choices may contribute to keeping an individual in a negative relationship with food. So, it is important to remember to allow for the occasional slip-ups and the realization that one meal or one bad day doesn’t create obesity. It is the accumulation of poor food and habits over time.
All the available information about how and what to eat can be challenging to keep up with. A non-diet approach is a healthy way to stay away from the roller coaster of fad diets and make some long terms changes in the body. Ditch the elimination diets and excessive calorie counting and focus on real food, awareness around food behaviors, and mindfulness.
Interested in learning more about nutrition and how to help guide your clients? Check out ISSA’s Nutritionist Course and join a network of experts in nutrition.