For an anti-diet dietitian like myself, the word “dietitian” is a bit of a misnomer as it contains the word “diet”. This often leads people to assume that dietitians put people on diets with the goal to lose weight or become some uber health conscious person. Though this type of dietitian does exist, for the anti-diet dietitian, this is far from the case. This is why it often surprises people when I tell them that I don’t prescribe diets and instead help people worry less about what they eat.
The truth is that dieting actually causes a lot of harm. A prime example, is that dieting is one of the greatest risk factors for the development of eating disorders. The National Eating Disorders Association reports that 35% of “normal dieters” develop pathological dieting and that 20-25% of those individuals develop eating disorders. Additionally, dieting results in what’s known as “weight cycling”; the pattern of losing weight and regaining weight repeated over and over again. These repeated fluctuations in weight create stress on the body which has been shown to be an independent risk factor for the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as increasing risk of mortality.
You may wonder why dieting is still encouraged and prescribed to this day despite current research indicating the tremendous amounts of negative health outcomes. The answer to this is that dieting is ultimately a symptom of our societal fat phobia. We are so afraid of weight gain and fatness that we will literally harm ourselves and others instead. The medical community is not immune to fat phobia, resulting in implicit weight bias among medical personal. This leads medical providers to encourage weight loss, believing it will benefit patients, when this is actually not an evidenced-based practice. In actuality, research shows that the number one outcome of dieting is regaining weight lost; in fact 95% of people who lose weight from dieting will regain it within 5 years.
So now to answer your question as to what an anti-diet dietitian is.
- An anti-diet dietitian acknowledges the harm caused by the diet industry and will never prescribe or recommend weight loss.
- An anti-diet dietitian will never recommend restricting or depriving yourself of nourishment and foods you enjoy.
- An anti-diet dietitian must be fully aligned with the fat liberation and Health At Every Size (HAES)® movements, meaning they recognize the systems of oppression imposed on individuals with larger bodies that result in discrimination and unequal treatment in society. Furthermore, this means that they acknowledge and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes as outlined within the HAES® framework and act to protect body diversity by dismantling systems of oppression.
- An anti-diet dietitian must be fiercely passionate to undo any of their own implicit weight bias and acknowledge thin privilege where it exists so as not to cause harm within their personal lives and professional practices.
- An anti-diet dietitian must know their own professional limits as to what they can and cannot support individuals with and know when to refer out to other providers with different lived and professional experience to support the many intersecting identities within each unique client.
What is it like to work with an Anti-Diet Dietitian?
There is so much that can be gained from working with an anti-diet dietitian and often, the benefit can be most impactful when working in conjunction with an anti-diet team which may also include a therapist, psychiatrist, and primary care provider depending on your medical and psychiatric needs.
A dietitian is a nutrition expert that paired with an anti-diet perspective can offer education to debunk diet-culture myths about food and bodies. One such myth is that calories in equals calories out, amongst many, many others. Additionally, an anti-diet dietitian can help you recognize your food judgments (ie labeling food as “good” or “bad”; “healthy” or “unhealthy”) and practice reframing these judgments. A large part of the work of untangling food judgments is practicing food exposures, such as consuming foods a person has judgments about with the goal to reduce feelings of shame and guilt. An anti-diet dietitian can also help you become an intuitive eater by increasing attunement and trust with your body while working to give yourself permission to eat a variety of foods you enjoy. They can also evaluate whether you are eating enough and answer nutrition-related health concerns for a variety of medical conditions and diseases, such as diabetes, digestive issues, PCOS, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, an anti-diet dietitian can compassionately help you understand where your set-point weight range is and support you in normalizing this range wherever it may be.
All and all, if you’re looking for a different approach to wellness that doesn’t include dieting, an anti-diet dietitian is likely just what you’re looking for.