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The Non-Diet Approach for Dietitians

The non-diet approach turns traditional dietary prescription on its head by shunning external eating drivers and panic-driven behaviours, and turning the focus inwards, towards internal body cues, self-acceptance and more multidimensional concepts of self-care. This method is showing promising clinical and psychological results as one of the most helpful, least harmful ways to assist those with weight concern. We as dietitians are well-placed to counsel within this paradigm. After all, our professional reason for being is to assist individuals to make helpful food and eating choices which allow them to live as full and healthy a life as possible.  

Many health professionals and health advocates have used non-diet concepts but their development has been led by their discipline. Non-diet approach concepts have been used by psychologists, psychotherapists, doctors, dietitian/nutritionists, health coaches, counsellors, nurses, exercise physiologists and lay people. As a result, the following terms are all used to refer to techniques which use a weight neutral approach to weight concern and/or health: 

- Intuitive eating

- Health At Every Size (HAES)(R) paradigm

- Innate eating

- Eating Competence

- Anti-dieting movement

- Non-diet or non-dieting approach

- Weight-neutral dietetics

I prefer to call it weight-neutral dietetics and the non-diet approach because, as dietitians, we are in the business of dietary prescription and it is a more helpful description of the broad counselling approach we would use. Mindful and intuitive eating describe techniques within the non-diet approach; innate eating refers to learning to respond ‘biologically’ to normal body cues, another non-diet technique.  The incorporation of the Health at Every Size principles compels a weight-neutral approach to also be highly stigma and trauma informed.

Non-diet approach intervention studies to date have focused on exploring the use of this paradigm in group settings but the vast majority of dietetic consultations worldwide still take place one-on–one. Many dietitians have already begun to incorporate mindful eating techniques into their dietary counselling and practising within a size diversity framework as it becomes clearer that an approach that encourages internal eating autonomy is more psychologically and clinically helpful for people who have a history of failed weight loss diets, even if their weight remains unchanged.  

Changes to diet quality and variety are, of course, of particular interest to dietitians. Diet quality and variety have been positively associated with intuitive eating in a cross-sectional study and positive dietary change (increase in fruit and vegetables, dairy foods and healthy fats) was noted by Cutler et al in their nurse-led intervention. What has not yet been shown in the literature is changes to diet quality as a result of using the non-diet approach with individuals in private practice; a major aim of my own PhD research. I am optimistic that future research will help to alleviate concerns about the nutritional outcomes of the non-diet approach.

You can read my whole PhD thesis here:

A Good Fit: Health-Oriented Size Acceptance and Australian Dietetic Practice (2021)

Do you already use the Non-Diet Approach?

If you practice the non-diet approach in your work and would like your contact details listed on the HAES Australia website please see

Read why you should adopt the Non-Diet Approach in your practice: 

Health at Every Size (R): Implications for dietetic practice

(presentation transcript)

Which Health, Not Diets resources are specifically for dietitians?

Want a guide to how to apply the non-diet approach in your practice?  

The non-diet approach is relatively new to dietetics and many dietitians express concerns about the specifics of how to administer this approach in practice. Given that many techniques used in non-diet therapy were developed in the discipline of psychology, it is important that the techniques used in dietetic counselling sit within our scope of practice.  

Up until now there has not been a practical guidebook or training specifically for dietitians to bring together the non-diet approach elements.  

My book, The Non-Diet Approach Guidebook for Dietitians, takes the common threads from current non-diet approach research and practice and looks at them through a dietetic lens. In other words, this guidebook includes the techniques within the scope of practice of dietitians, and excludes some elements of other protocols which lie outside of the typical dietitians practice skills. Please see the precis in the Resources section of this website for more details about the guidebook. If you would like to purchase a copy, you can do so here.

This book is included in the foundational face-to-face workshop for dietitians as well as the full online course for dietitians.