Dieting versus Non-Dieting

A Comparison between Dieting and Non-dieting


We live in a diet obsessed culture, where most Americans are on some sort of a diet, whereby they are trying to limit what and how much they eat to lose weight. Dieting by definition is restrictive and follows a set of arbitrary rules outside of ones body. Dieting is a set up to judge foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and this creates feelings of guilt when one inevitably goes off their diet and eats those foods forbidden and avoided foods. 

 We know that in the long term, diets do not work, and in fact cause weight gain. As a response to the failure of dieting to produce long term weight loss, the non-diet approach was born. The non-diet approach is a way of eating that is non-restrictive, and uses internal systems of control rather than external systems of control. Internal systems are, listening to hunger and fullness cues to determine portion ‘control.’ It also takes into account satisfaction and pleasure with eating. It is flexible, and allows for all foods to be enjoyed in moderation without guilt of feeling deprived. This approach also views exercise as a way to feel good and take care of the body- not just as a means to control weight. It encourages acceptance of ones genetic set point weight and lets go of any need to attain an arbitrary number on the weight or BMI chart.

The paradigm is shifting now as a result of diets not working to a more sustainable way of eating that focuses on health instead of weight loss.

The graph below shows how the diet mentality differs from the non-diet mentality. It was borrowed from the book,  Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch

The Diet vs. Non-Diet Approach


Issue                                Diet Mentality                                                             Non-Diet Mentality


Diet Mentality with Eating/food choices asks:    

  • Do I deserve it? If I eat a heavy food, I try to find a way to make up for it.
  • I feel guilty when I eat heavy foods.
  • I usually describe a day of eating as either good or bad.
  • I view food as the enemy.

Non-Diet Mentality asks: 

  • Am I hungry? 
  • Do I want it?
  • Will I be deprived if I don’t eat it?
  • Will it be satisfying?
  • Does it taste good?
  • I deserve to enjoy eating without guilt.


Exercise benefits with the Diet Mentality

  • I focus primarily on calories burned.
  • I feel guilty if I miss a designated exercise day.

Exercise with Non-diet Mentality

  • I focus primarily on how exercise makes me feel, especially the energizing and stress-relieving factors.


View of Progress with Diet Mentality

  • How many pounds did I lose?
  • How do I look?
  • What do other people think of my weight?
  • I have good willpower.
  • How many pounds did I lose?
  • How do I look?
  • What do other people think of my weight?
  • I have good willpower.

View of Progress with Non-diet Mentality

  • Rather than being concerned with my weight, I trust that my weight will normalize when I am attuned to my internal eating signals.
  •  My weight is not my primary goal or an indicator of my progress.
  •  I have increased trust with food and myself.
  •  I am able to let go of “eating indiscretions.”
  • I recognize inner body cues.