I often surprise my patients. A typical patient comes in and will say, “I want to lose 10 to 20 pounds. How long will that take me?” I look at them and answer, with great sincerity, I don’t know. Then they will ask for a diet plan and there’s more disappointment when I confess I don’t believe, nor do I make up, diet plans.
Confusion sets in and I can see them thinking “What am I doing here?” But, in my defense, most everyone leaves satisfied.
The approach I follow, as do many other dietitians, has many names. The “non-diet approach,” “nonrestrictive eating” and “intuitive eating” are just a few. In a nutshell, this approach encourages recognizing hunger and fullness, not seeing foods as good or bad, reducing stress and moving your body in enjoyable ways.
A study conducted at University of Massachusetts Amherst and published last month in Nutrition described positive outcomes from this type of approach. It wasn’t 100 percent non-diet but it was close. This was a small study of only 15 obese adults. Subjects were instructed on increasing fiber and protein into their usual intake. They were not told to eat less or to reduce sugar or fat. Fiber has a role in reducing risk for diabetes and heart disease, and increases satiety. Protein also increases satiety as well as positively influencing energy efficiency and body composition.
At the end of 12 weeks, subjects significantly increased fiber and protein intake. And although it was not part of the instruction they significantly decreased calories, sugar intake, and weight. Also 93 percent of participants liked the approach. Focusing on addition — not restrictions — and as the authors state, empowering but not demoralizing, is an effective approach for increasing intake of nutritious foods. I have seen this work with my patients.