Tips to Weight Loss Without Dieting

While my work with clients with eating issues usually focuses on conscious eating and managing our emotions without using food (with weight loss as a side effect, not the goal), I am also a believer in behavioral strategies that minimize physical and psychological cravings and make it easier to lose weight without the restrictive, calorie-based approaches of most diets. I have been reading some interesting ideas that I think you will find helpful that I share with you at the end of this newsletter.

But first, I’d like to talk a little about why I believe a non-diet approach is healthier and more sustainable than a diet approach.

  • Most diets focus on calories rather than nutrition, a strategy that may help you lose weight initially but can be unhealthy for your body and your energy (and unsustainable for most people without becoming obsessed)
  • Diets tend to be outer-directed instead of inner-directed. Yes, it is necessary and helpful to plan and create structure for our eating plan, so we have healthy food available to us when we need it and don’t have to make food decisions all day long (which suppresses our willpower – more about that later). And it is helpful to know what a “portion” is. But if those are directives rather than guidelines, we will eat the “correct size portion” regardless whether it leaves us hungry or whether we would have been satisfied with less. This is why, in the ‘conscious eating’ track of my CD, I guide listeners to take a pause to check in with their bodies to note their level of hunger and fullness. I suggest they give themselves permission to go for 2nds if their plate is empty but they are still hungry and to stop if there is still food on their plates but their physical hunger is satisfied.  I call that “eating from the inside-out.”
  • Diets tell us that certain foods are bad and to be avoided, setting us up to feel guilty if we’ve eaten them. And while some foods can have negative effects like causing bloating or creating cravings, it feels very different when we avoid  those foods out of self-love rather than self-hatred and fear. For example, if I tell myself I can’t have red wine with my meal because it creates congestion, I may feel deprived. But if I give myself permission to have it if I really want it, I feel freedom. I may choose not to drink it because I don’t want it enough to experience stuffiness. Or I may order it and if I savor every sip, I will probably be satisfied with half a glass.
  • The biggest reason I don’t like diets is that they can create a cycle of “good me/bad me”.
    • I’m good when I :eat what the diet dictated and bad when I don’t, fostering shame and guilt and a love/hate relationship with food
    • Since diets are focused exclusively on weight loss, we feel good about ourselves when we lose weight and guilty or ashamed when we gain, reinforcing the belief that we have to be a certain weight or size to be loveable and acceptable. This is a prescription for self-hatred and obsession.  And it doesn’t work. Because, what do we do when we’re feeling badly about ourselves?  We eat!  Either to soothe ourselves or punish ourselves.
  • Generally, when people begin a diet, they change their eating and exercise habits until they lose weight. But if those habits are not the way we want to live for the rest of our lives, of course we will regain the weight. So, I’m a believer in deciding how you want to live and then allowing your body to respond. How many hours do you really want to spend exercising?  If you exercise for 2 hours 5 days a week to burn calories but hate doing it, how could you possibly maintain that level, especially if your weight plateaus? But if you find a way to move that makes you feel healthy and energetic, it will be much easier to maintain.  I advocate an approach to food and exercise that gives you pleasure, nourishment and energy.

If you’d more information about this “Making Peace with Food & Your Body” approach, here’s a link to my website (

And here is a link to my upcoming “Making Peace with Food & Your Body” workshop on Tuesday March 19 in Wakefield RI

What I do appreciate about some diet approaches, particularly Weight Watchers, are some of the behavioral strategies for minimizing overeating and eating healthier, tools that can help us lose weight without feeling deprived. I am always on the lookout for ideas that can help me and my clients. Below are some nuggets I have been reading about recently that I think you may find interesting, informative and helpful.

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