By Thrive Wellness Waco Registered Dietitian Sheridan Faye Glaske, M.S., RDN, LD
Though often implemented with the best of intentions, dieting can be harmful to both physical and mental health. Typically, diets such as Whole30, ketogenic, Paleo, and low FODMAP as well as behaviors like intermittent fasting, calorie counting, calorie restriction, and macro counting allure individuals with promises of healthy lifestyles. Instead of promoting wellness, however, these eating strategies can actually confuse a person’s natural instincts on how to best nourish their body while also starving them of essential nutrients. So how can people free themselves from restrictive food rules while embracing healthy nourishment? By taking an anti-diet approach to nutrition.
THE DANGERS OF DIET-ENDORSED NUTRIENT RESTRICTION
Nutrients, which are derived from food and include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins, play vital roles in bodily processes that keep living beings functioning. Many diets involve the restriction of certain foods which can result in the elimination of essential nutrients.
Reducing one’s food choices can be detrimental because some nutrients are only found in certain foods and the inadequate intake of essential nutrients can lead to health concerns. For instance, vitamin B12 is found in animal products and foods that have been fortified with the vitamin, but not in plants. As such, not eating any animal products usually means cutting out the main source of complete protein, along with reducing vitamin B12, zinc, and iron intake. Similarly, avoiding the intake of dairy potentially means removing a main source of calcium, which can lead to diminished bone density, increased risk of fractures, and even osteoporosis, a condition that about 55% of U.S. adults over the age of 50 experience.
The nutrients the body needs to function are found in a variety of different foods. By eating across food groups, individuals can obtain the necessary nutrients and avoid health concerns caused by nutrient deficiency. However, those who engage in dieting are possibly swayed by misleading claims that diets can help one achieve an ideal weight and promote better health. In reality, dieters typically put their bodies through extreme, unhealthy, and unsustainable nutrient deficits.
For instance, many on the ketogenic diet, which encourages the elimination of carbohydrates, notice desired changes in their bodies such as weight loss. Yet, the body needs a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates per day to produce enough glucose for the brain to properly operate, not including all of the other organs that also rely on carbohydrates for energy.
WHAT IS AN ANTI-DIET APPROACH TO NUTRITION?
Instead of vilifying certain foods and prioritizing thinness as many diets do, an anti-diet approach glorifies nutrients and encourages individuals to tune into their bodies’ natural hunger and fullness cues for optimal nourishment.
The practice of Intuitive Eating is one of the best ways to take an anti-diet approach to eating. By encouraging gentle nutrition and listening to the body’s signals about hunger and satiety, Intuitive Eating empowers individuals to disregard food rules, make peace with eating, and embrace a more personalized way to nourish the body.
Because misinformation around nutrition can confuse intuition and food rules can become ingrained, consulting with a registered dietitian as one sets out to develop a healthier relationship with food can be an enlightening experience.
In some cases, dietary restrictions may be suggested by a medical doctor, possibly in an attempt to mitigate risks of heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, food sensitivities, or food allergies. These individuals should consider learning what nutrients they’re eliminating from their diets and explore ways to include these missing nutrients through other food sources or supplements. In some circumstances, diets may exacerbate their issues, but a registered dietitian can help implement evidence-based nutrition solutions that don’t involve dieting and are tailored to their body.
WHO IS AN ANTI-DIET APPROACH FOR?
All bodies have the innate ability to communicate with the mind about hunger, fullness, and food preferences. Because no body is the same, each individual’s cues will differ and the ways they fuel their bodies will also vary. A prescribed set of eating behaviors that coincides with diets disconnects a person from their natural nourishment signals. As such, anyone can benefit from an anti-diet, intuitive approach to eating. Those easily enticed by diet culture are especially encouraged to renew their relationship with their eating instincts through an anti-diet, intuitive approach.
THE BENEFITS OF AN ANTI-DIET APPROACH
An anti-diet approach to nutrition empowers individuals to embrace freedom in the ways they nourish their bodies.
Though harmful cultural narratives may suggest otherwise, spending most of one’s day thinking about food, analyzing each meal, and questioning whether or not they made “good” or “bad” eating choices isn’t healthy, effective, or necessary.
When a person can break away from these judgments about food, they’re more likely to perceive eating as an enjoyable and enriching experience that sustains and satisfies their body. They can also be more present and intentional in their everyday life. Without the continuous thoughts about food running through their mind, they can also fully engage with those around them, whether they’re at the dinner table or elsewhere. By making eating choices based on intuition rather than misleading food rules, a person can ensure they’re nourishing their body in the most appropriate way while promoting their well-being and longevity.
ANTI-DIET NUTRITION AT THRIVE
At Thrive, we reject diets and wholeheartedly endorse the truths that we can trust our bodies, that all foods fit, and that all bodies are deserving of respect and compassionate care. Further, we understand that invasive societal standards surrounding food can compromise individuals’ natural abilities to tune into their bodies. Our team of registered dietitians works to empower clients to adopt a gentle nutrition approach by incorporating the ABCs of nutrition — adequacy, balance, and choice — into their eating habits. If you’re struggling with your relationship to food or your body, reach out to learn more about our nutrition counseling services.
About the Author
Thrive Wellness Waco Registered Dietitian Sheridan Faye Glaske, M.S., RDN, LD
With both a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and a master’s degree in nutrition sciences from Baylor University, Sheridan Glaske wears her Baylor Bear pride proudly. Throughout her career in health and wellness, she has served as an exercise physiologist, a lifetime fitness adjunct lecturer at Baylor University, and a certified yoga and barre instructor. She recently completed the 1200-hour Wellness Workdays Dietetic Internship program and has joined Thrive Wellness Waco as a registered dietitian. At Thrive, she offers her experience, expertise, and passion for complete well-being to individuals recovering from eating disorders, disordered eating behaviors, and perinatal mental health concerns.
As a former fad-dieter who valued being thin over being healthy and happy, Sheridan struggled with an undiagnosed eating disorder. Her education and experience have taught her that as a society, disordered eating and exercise habits are normalized while the emotional, psychological, and social aspects of health are neglected.
In a world where diet culture is deceiving and dangerous, it can be difficult to determine who to turn to and which resources to trust. Sheridan finds great fulfillment in supporting others through sharing sound advice and evidence-based practices that challenge the unrealistic ideals of diet culture. She advocates for the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement and promotes that one does not need to be a specific size or weight to be healthy. Sheridan wants her clients to know that they are not alone and to believe deep down that they are worthy of receiving support.