Guest blog: Moving towards wellbeing – how intuitive and non-diet nutrition can help

I am very pleased that Rhea Bergmann, dietician at our St Peters rooms, has written a guest blog on wellbeing and nutrition:

Wellbeing – What does it mean to you?

If you like the sound of wellbeing including social, emotional, physical, and mental health then there is a fair chance that the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement is the right fit for you. HAES, as it is known, helps and encourages people to adopt health habits for the sake of their own personal health and wellbeing. Applied in practice, HAES goes by a number of names; intuitive, mindful or attuned eating or the non-diet approach.

The following is a list of descriptors and attitudes that are central to HAES and non-diet practice:

Flexible, accepting, welcomes all foods, intuitive, qualitative, supportive, enjoyable, life balance, appreciating, comfort, confidence, variety, freedom, natural, calm, pleasurable, kindness, nurturing, grateful, nourishing, forgiving, satisfaction, trust building, experiential learning

You can notice a stark contrast to restrictive or restrained eating approaches:

Inflexible, quantitative, prescriptive, rigid, perfection-seeking, good or bad foods, obsession, deprivation, time-based, fear driven, guilt-inducing, shaming, body hatred, hunger, struggle, rationalising, temptation, thought consuming, punishing, external rules.

This is because non-diet rejects a focus on weight or weight change, in favour of honoring the body’s functionality and engagement in health behaviours. The goal for individuals is to find their own version of self-care with food, movement, rest, social connection and emotional expression. Intuitive eating offers us a sense of connection, tuning into the body’s natural signals of hunger, fullness and satisfaction in order to guide what, when and how much we eat.

Unfortunately, restrictive or restrained eating practices are widespread and normalized in our society. Ever been encouraged to monitor your portion sizes, eat smaller amounts and lower energy versions of certain foods or stay within a predetermined daily energy range? These are all control based strategies intended for one purpose – weight control or manipulation. The problem with this approach is that a) it doesn’t help individuals achieve and maintain a healthy weight for them and b) it worsens our overall health and wellbeing c) it sets up an anxious and chaotic relationship with food and eating.

For non-dieters or intuitive eaters – control is unnecessary. Instead, individuals are in charge of their eating choices and have built and developed skills to notice, acknowledge, pay attention and trust their body signals to guide their eating. We know that individuals that eat intuitively are less pre-occupied, stressed and obsessed with food and are more likely to choose food for the purpose of satisfaction, taste, energy, stamina and performance. All leading to better health outcomes and a calm and caring relationship with food.

The following list is a great starting point to learn more about HAES, the non-diet approach and intuitive eating:

Intuitive eating – Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch

If not dieting, then what – Dr Rick Kausman

Health at Every Size – Dr Linda Bacon

Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat – Dr Michelle May

If you feel you need further support and guidance with eating or weight related concerns, seek out a HAES specific practitioner.


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