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By Dale Cooke Accredited Practicing Dietician
I’m sure you have heard he term weight neutral mentioned in relation to healthy lifestyle. Other common terms include a non-diet approach, eating mindfully or intuitively and Health At Every Size or HAES. Some health professionals are very passionate and committed to these approaches while others a little mystified and are wondering what it all means and how to implement it?
What does it all mean?
While these all have slightly different meanings they are all trying to:
Because weight loss is not a behaviour. It is an outcome of many behaviours.
We know that intentional weight loss doesn’t last, generally most people will regain their lost weight after 2-5 years.
Most people can go on an intentional weight loss “diet” for a short time but due to the nature of most of these diets it’s really difficult to maintain them long term and so they will stop at some stage. There is an emotional consequence associated with this decision that can cause feelings of inadequacy, body shame, and a sense of failure. The general belief of health professionals and in the community is that people only fail to lose weight because they lack will power and discipline. And that makes people who stop their weight loss diets to have feelings of blame and shame.
This weight cycling – also called yoyo dieting – also has negative outcomes for the body – our clients lose muscle and fat when they lose weight. When they regain weight they only gain fat, unless they are doing lots of resistance exercise. So, a person who yoyo diets can end up having a body composition higher in fat than before they lost weight. And that will increase their insulin resistance, making blood glucose management more difficult.
So how do we measure our client’s lifestyle?
How do you measure if your client’s lifestyle is healthy? Look at whether they are undertaking healthy behaviours. “What behaviours and why?”, I hear you ask – keep reading.
Note that when clients do undertake healthy behaviours they might lose weight as a side effect. That’s good, but we still don’t want you or them to focus on the weight loss. Keep focussing on and encouraging them to do the healthy behaviours. So get your clients to totally separate the behaviours with the weight loss in their minds!
Those healthy behaviours will have benefits for their blood glucose management, blood fats and cholesterol levels, blood pressure, mood, balance and strength, and quality of life – the benefits can’t be counted.
Okay, what are these healthy behaviours and how will they improve health? They include:
Remember, we should be trying to provide person centred care. I would encourage you to try this weight neutral approach with your clients and see if it resonates with them. Encourage your clients to return to you and feedback on whether the approach is working. If it isn’t then discuss alternative management philosophies.
Where to go for more information
There’s lots of information out there, you just have to take some time to consider how you might implement it with your clients. If you are new to these concepts it may take a while to feel comfortable with them.
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