Are you curious what it’s really like to work with a non-diet dietitian?
As the Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size (HAES) movements grow in popularity, you might be curious about what it’s like to work with a non-diet dietitian.
To start – it’s not an experience that should feel threatening!
When you think about working with a dietitian, are you immediately anxious and fearful? Perhaps your past experience with a dietitian was unpleasant, rigid, or shaming which leads you to avoid putting yourself in that position again.
I get it! Why would you want to pay good money to be bullied and shamed and given a way of eating that isn’t sustainable or enjoyable?! I wouldn’t want to do that either!
The good news is that the world of nutrition is changing and we now have ways to work on improving our health without rigidity and shame. And I’m proud to provide whole-person care to my clients as a non-diet dietitian. Whole person care means taking your physical health, psychological health, lifestyle, culture, and values into account. You are more than a health diagnosis!
Here are the top things I want you to know about what it’s like to work with a non-diet dietitian:
1. I don’t weigh you or focus on your weight.
What do we know about focusing on weight and stigmatizing people because of their BMI?
That it actually makes health outcomes worse!
2. I won’t shame you if you tell me you really want to lose weight.
As a non-diet dietitian, I live in the same weight-centric, fat-phobic world that you do. So I understand why, despite the harms dieting has caused you, you still really, really might want to lose weight. In fact, 56% of women are on a diet on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Instead of promoting weight loss, I will meet you where you are today. Together, we can non-judgmentally examine what your past experience has taught you about dieting. Many women are shocked to realize that they might have engaged in many unhealthy behaviors in the pursuit of a lower weight.
3. I won’t hand you a meal plan.
Does this make you happy or worried?
I know that sometimes a meal plan can be comforting. It gives you an easy roadmap. Or at least that’s what it feels like at first. But a meal plan can also prevent you from enjoying meals with loved ones or from doing the work of tuning in to your body. And meal plans tend to elevate some foods to ‘superfood’ status while leaving other foods out. I’m looking at you kale! You’re no different than collard greens or mustard greens.
We are lucky to have such a diverse offering of foods to choose from, and your culture, taste preferences, and budget should all be taken into account rather than some arbitrary meal plan that I (or another dietitian or nutritionist) made up!
Does that mean I’m going to leave you without any guidance? Not at all!
I love helping my clients brainstorm potential meal and snack ideas that fit into their lifestyle, whether you’re a gourmet cook or someone who doesn’t know how to light the stove! This kind of “meal planning” better serves you because you learn how to eat on your own. I don’t want my clients relying on me for the rest of their lives!
I help you to tune in to your body so you can develop a great relationship with food and your body, using the Intuitive Eating framework as a guide. Read my article for a more in-depth explanation of Intuitive Eating here: What is Intuitive Eating?
4. I believe that you are the expert of your body.
Have you ever been to a medical appointment where you feel like you’re being scolded, shamed, and not listened to? Ugh!
Most of us don’t like to visit a healthcare provider and be talked AT. In fact, science shows that we learn more when we have our stake in our care. That’s why a non-diet dietitian will help YOU turn into your body.
I will take your background and life experiences into account and help you gain valuable information that you can use to heal your relationship with food and your body.
While I may be an expert in food and nutrition, you’re the expert in you and your body. With this approach, we collaborate on solutions that actually work for you, rather than having you feel like a student who got in trouble. And the best part is that these results will last you for a lifetime!
5. I help you work on goals that are important to you (not just me)!
The science of behavior change demonstrates that we are likely to work on goals that are important to us individually. So when you come to work with a non-diet dietitian like me, I don’t have an agenda.
I meet you where you are today and help you get to where you want to be in the future.
You might be wondering: If you really want to lose weight, and I have no agenda, why can’t I help you with that?
For me, this comes down to ethics and how I have evolved into a non-diet dietitian (hint: I wasn’t always non-diet).
Currently, there is no scientific way to help people lose weight long-term, which I define as more than 18 months.
I know that statement might hit you like a ton of bricks.
What about all those studies that the diet companies, doctors, and other dietitians promote? I’m glad you asked! Those studies (and many are not rigorous) may show initial weight loss, but the longest weight loss study we have is 18 months in duration. Most studies are far shorter, like 6 weeks to 6 months.
Unfortunately, most people revert to their starting weight or higher by the 3-5 year mark, so these “success” studies are only telling half the story. And along with weight regain, there are the added risks of disordered eating, over-exercise, shame, and metabolic and cardiac effects of weight cycling (aka yo-yo dieting).
So, with the information we have today, I do not believe that promoting intentional weight loss is ethical care.
What if we discover a way to help the majority of people lose weight long-term? Because I have no agenda, I would not hide this from you. However, as I write this article, this information doesn’t exist.
6. I won’t tell you to cut out foods or food groups, even if you have a chronic condition like diabetes or PCOS.
I know how frustrating it can be to get advice from your doctor after your diagnosis to “Just lose weight” or “Cut out carbs to lose weight.”
Here’s what is so maddening: There are some studies that show short-term benefits to these strategies, but the reality is that we have no well-researched way to help people maintain weight loss long term. Then there’s the added difficulty of losing weight with a metabolic condition like PCOS.
So how do I help my clients with these conditions? Read on.
7. I practice using evidence-based medicine.
In a world full of influencers whose message is “I did x and now I can tell you what to do to be healthy”, non-diet dietitians use strategies that have been scientifically studied and rigorously reviewed by other researchers.
One interesting thing that research shows us is that behaviors like moderate exercise and fruit and vegetable consumption can result in increased lifespan and better lab values. But weight centric research often concludes that weight loss is the reason for these improvements, rather than the behaviors.
8. I believe that your body will find its appropriate weight range when you are nourishing your body regularly and moving in a way that brings you joy.
But please don’t ask your non-diet dietitian to tell you your set point weight range! There are so many different variables that affect your body’s range.
What we do know is that when we try to maintain a weight below our set point, our body will fight like hell to get to its genetic weight.
I believe that you can pursue healthy behaviors and live a fulfilling life without relying on the scale.
All that sounds great, but what benefits can I expect from working with a non-diet dietitian? I’m glad you asked because we know that you can pursue health at any size!
Here are some results from working with a non-diet dietitian:
While every one of these goals might not meet every one of my clients, here are some of the top outcomes you can expect.
- Real freedom around food. No more obsessing.
- No more binges
- Reduction of symptoms of chronic conditions
- Improvement of labs and biological markers of health
- A plan to pursue a life that you love that is consistent with your values.
What is a typical appointment like with a non-diet dietitian?
First and foremost, I won’t give you a meal plan and send you off to struggle on your own! You need high-touch support when you begin transforming your relationship with food and your body. One thing is certain: no one’s journey will look exactly like someone else’s.
Your initial appointment (or two) will be spent developing a relationship and helping us get to really know one another. I really love to learn about my clients so I can tailor learning and between-appointment experiments to best serve each client.
I’ll often provide some homework in the form of reading, a podcast, or a journal reflection (based on your likes). We will also likely discuss something to work on around your relationship with food or your body. You might experiment with eating a new food, rating your hunger and fullness at mealtime, or journaling about your relationship with your body and weight.
During subsequent appointments (most of my clients work with me for 3 to 9 months), we’ll continue to build on what you’ve discovered in prior weeks to help you reach your goals.
What I’ve found over my years of work as a non-diet dietitian is that those women who put in the time and effort see big results and find peace with food and their bodies once and for all!
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what it’s like to work with a non-diet dietitian to improve your life and your health and that this can be a very different experience than you may have had working with dietitians in the past.
Do you want to know more? I love to speak with potential clients about the nuts and bolts of working with me.
That’s why I offer a complimentary, no-pressure call to help you decide if I’m the right fit for you.
Kelly Abramson MS, RD is a dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who works with clients in Alexandria, VA and virtually via telehealth. She guides women as they break free from dieting to find joy in food and their bodies. Kelly blogs regularly at NpowerYou.com and has created a free e-book for download, “7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating.”