Men and women of all weights, shapes and sizes go on diets to try to improve their health or change their appearance, often to feel better about themselves. This doesn’t always mean trying to lose weight, it might be to increase muscle mass and reduce body fat.

While there’s a seemingly endless list of diets with different rules to follow they generally fit into one of these categories:

  • The weight loss diet – these diets are usually heavy on deprivation focusing on reducing calorie/kJ intake, weighing or measuring portion sizes, lists of approved/banned foods, and might require supplements or meal replacement products. They are sometimes called cleanses or detoxes.
  • The lifestyle change – these diets like to pretend that they aren’t a diet. They often don’t talk openly about reducing calorie/kJ intake and try to disguise restriction by getting you to ‘quit’ something or avoid a food group that’s wrongly made out to be the cause of all ill-health.
  • The fitness plan – these diets can be about weight loss or building muscle. They are paired with an exercise plan and often involve energy and macronutrient targets, a meal plan and might require use of supplements. They may also have periods of restricting foods followed by more liberal ‘cheat’ meals.

Is there a problem with dieting?

Diets can be tough to follow as they’re often a one size fits all approach which doesn’t take into account all of the things that make you unique. If you’re one of the few that has found a diet you can easily follow long-term without it impacting on your enjoyment of life, then by all means stick with it. For the majority of people who diet this isn’t the case. Eventually the rules become too hard to live by and the diet fails. When diets fail:

  • foods that were banned are often overeaten
  • weight or body fat that was lost can be regained and may end up being higher than before the diet started
  • body dissatisfaction increases
  • People blame themselves for not trying hard enough when they should blame the diet for not being right for them.

Dieting is the number one risk factor for developing an eating disorder.

Guilt (B)

The Non-Diet Approach

The Non-Diet Approach isn’t a diet. It’s a more flexible way of eating and exercising that helps you to improve your health by finding what works best for you. The Non-Diet Approach isn’t another way of trying to change your body to how you think it should look, but it can help you to:

  • Reduce the amount of time you spend worrying about food and your appearance
  • Enjoy a wide variety of foods without guilt or anxiety
  • Reduce non-hungry or binge eating
  • Feel more comfortable with your body
  • Focus on exercising and moving your body in ways that you enjoy rather than feel you should

What’s involved?

This will vary depending on your needs. The Non-Diet Approach uses mindful eating to help you to eat intuitively. This means learning how to recognise when you’re hungry, choose what would satisfy you most and stop when you’ve had enough to eat. There is no counting, weighting or measuring of foods. The same approach is taken with exercise, focusing on moving your body for how it makes you feel rather than to ‘burn off’ what you’ve eaten or punish yourself. The Non-Diet Approach also encourages acceptance of a greater diversity of weights and body shapes.