Food provides us with so much more than just energy and nutrients. Food is a big factor in our lives; while socialising with friends there will be food and talk of food, when we are happy, sad, lonely and celebrating there will be food. When we want to show our love and support we will often provide food.
Food and our relationship with it plays a huge role in our lives. It is possible, and preferable, to live in harmony with your food choices and your body. To enjoy food and health in a way that is right for you.
The Non-Diet Approach
The Non-Diet approach is a way of eating that helps you to tune into your body; to feel comfortable with your food choices and to feel comfortable with yourself. It helps you to free yourself from the dieting thoughts and rules that you may have followed for years without success. It allows you to trust yourself to make the food decisions that are right for you.
Most importantly the Non-Diet approach is about feeling positive about yourself. This is achieved by working with the body that you have and building your nutrition and health to support your lifestyle in a body positive way. When we feel good about ourselves we are much more likely to look after ourselves.
The Non-Diet approach is about feeling control over your own food choices. It is about taking the word and sentiment ‘should’ out of your eating choices. The following statements may be familiar to you: ‘I shouldn’t eat so much’, ‘I should eat more vegetables’, ‘I should eat healthier’.
Should and shouldn’t is all about will power and every one of us has a limited amount of will power. Will power takes way too much brain power to maintain.
The Non-Diet approach is about making food choices because it feels right and you want to rather than because you feel you should. Making choices that help you to feel good are the ones that will last a lifetime.
Mindful eating is an important part of the Non-Diet approach. Mindful eating is being aware of what you are eating and how you are feeling about it. It is eating with enjoyment and nourishing your mind and body through eating and food. Being aware of how you are feeling before, during and after eating helps you to recognise patterns and habits that may help or hinder your food choices.
I first learned of the Non-Diet approach from Rick Kausman, author of If Not Dieting Then What. I was in my first year of my post graduate studies to be a dietitian. Rick was the key note speaker at a dietitians conference. I knew as soon as he handed out the chocolates that I liked this man but I responded with disbelief when he told me I would be satisfied after eating a little snack size chocolate bar. Who was he kidding? I could demolish a king size block no worries. That is when I learnt about mindful eating. To say I was surprised was an understatement. After about 5 bites of chocolate I didn’t want anymore. How could that be? I listened with renewed interest to what he had to say. I didn’t know how this new knowledge would fit into my future but I knew it would have a place.
I don’t restrict
Another big reason I don’t tell people what to eat and what not to eat is that I don’t restrict my own eating. As I said before I eat chocolate, no problems. Chips? You betcha. Dessert? Don’t mind if I do. When I feel like them. So if I eat all of those things how do I, in all good conscious, tell others to limit them?
After graduating and with my Army chef experience, I became the food service dietitian and later food service manager at Hutt Hospital. While there I developed the inpatient menu as well as overseeing the cafeteria. Here I struggled with my belief in free food choice. I wanted to provide a variety of food as I recognised food requirements are different depending on your circumstances. Again I didn’t want to take that choice away from anyone. It’s a difficult stance to take when everyone is calling for healthier food options and to restrict the amount of high fat, high sugar foods available.
Starting Food Habits
Fast forward 5 years and 2 children later I decided it was time to use my knowledge and experience of the Non-Diet approach to help others. Clients come to me because they are looking for a different solution. They want to get off the dieting treadmill, or want to avoid getting on it in the first place.
The feedback I now get from clients is how much more relaxed they feel about their food choices, how they find themselves eating better without feeling like they have to. That weight is not such an issue for them anymore, it isn’t their focus and main concern – feeling good about themselves is.
How do I help you to achieve a healthier relationship with food? The first appointment is all about getting to know you: what has influenced your food decisions up to this point, what role does food play in your life and we discuss your current health and lifestyle. Just as importantly we discuss what you want to achieve by coming to see me.
The following appointments focus on moving you towards feeling comfortable with your food choices, being able to respond to your body signals and to interpret these in the best way for your body. Working with me means that your food choices are able to adapt to whatever is happening in your life at any particular time; you are not bound by a food plan. You will instead learn how to plan and consider your meals in a way that is right for you.
Food and eating don’t have to be a constant struggle.