Dieting is NOT Self-care

DIETING ISNOTSELF-CAREOne thing that gets my angry inner goat going like nothing else is the constant insistence out there in the world that dieting to lose weight is the equivalent of “eating healthy” or “becoming healthy.”

As a former dieter, and someone who treats long-term chronic dieters and weight-cyclers in my private practice, I can tell you that while this might start out as the intention, it almost never ends that way.

And while some people who do make positive changes in their eating habits may experience some weight loss, there is little evidence that eating “healthier” will absolutely lead to significant long-term weight loss for the majority of people, or turn large people into small people. This is why people tend to resort to diets that involve calorie deprivation to achieve weight loss.

I want to point out, however, that while a nutritionally-dense diet may not lead to weight loss, it can certainly help to improve your health (but is not the whole picture of “health”) and is worth pursuing if that is what you want to do.

But let’s be honest: most diets are not about getting healthier. They are about losing weight, which we are told will automatically make us healthier. Unfortunately, this is not always true.

When I “successfully” dieted for 16 years, at my thinnest and most restrictive point, I ate few fruits and vegetables (“waste of calories”), ignored my hunger for so long I wanted to cry at times, then secretly binged when I couldn’t take it anymore, and ate a mostly monotonous diet of “safe” foods. During this time, I developed crippling back pain from over-exercising and osteoarthritis in my feet, likely hastened by the complete lack of calcium in my diet for so long (though also likely genetically determined). I fought a psychological war with the scale daily that usually resulted in defeat for me, no matter what the number said.

This was not pursuit of health in any way. These are the things I needed to do to maintain weight loss, because simply eating healthfully didn’t.

I was thin, but I was not healthy either physically (witness my body breaking down, and feeling weak, tired, and hungry most of the time) or psychologically (thinking about 24 hours a day about food in a very disordered way, feeling constantly dissatisfied with my body despite its thinness).

I am not an isolated case; many of my clients arrive in my practice with some version of the same story. Their diets may have started as an attempt to eat “healthy” (albeit focused completely on weight as the main measure of health) but they ended up in a never-ending cycle of restriction and binge-eating, feelings of shame around their bodies and failure to follow a diet, and often higher weights than they started at. They are also very confused about how to eat in a way that actually supports health and well-being without feeling deprived (which is why they have come to me).

Let me tell you this: it isn’t that hard to have a balanced, nutritionally adequate diet when you feel relaxed around food. Behavior change can be challenging, but it is much less so when you see body shame for what it is and leave fatphobia behind. That is why dieting isn’t really about health – because diets involve intense shame around your current body and a desire to make it something it isn’t.

When changes feel really hard or unsustainable (and sometimes make you want to cry), consider that you might actually be on a diet. If your diet changes are supposed to produce a tangible change in the appearance of your body, then you are on a diet.

And if you’re worried about health, know that a non-diet approach actually will support making positive changes for health.

In the meantime: This article is a great example of how diseases like diabetes are more likely related to nutritionally inadequate diets than higher weights. It makes so much sense when we look at how long-term yo-yo dieting may be linked to development of diabetes as well as weight gain. Again, “successful” deprivation does not equal health!

Looking for help with Diabetes?

Check out our group series, HAES Care for Diabetes. We will be running this intermittently throughout the year. Stay tuned for new dates soon!

Need help with your relationship to eating?

I have an online course that only takes minutes a day to get all the best tools in my non-diet toolbox to help you get more relaxed around food. Check out Dare to Eat.

HAES Care for Diabetes

imageSomething I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is diabetes.

I’m getting older and I have a family risk, and taking care of myself in the best possible way (where “best” sometimes means “good enough”) is something I’m always working on.

And of course, I don’t diet anymore and never will again. So the standard “lose weight to lower your risk” advice just isn’t going to fly with me (sorry, Doc!). I eat as healthfully as I can (knowing I get to determine what that means for me) and move joyfully, but those things don’t make me thinner, just like they don’t make most people thinner which is why people end up going on whackadoodle diets. But I do know that they can help to make me healthier, and hopefully decrease my risk for diabetes.

My Grandmother was diagnosed later in life and ended up living quite a long time despite some seriously flawed self-care over the years, in part due to becoming my Grandfather’s full-time caregiver after a stroke. She had been a life-long dieter who ended up at a much higher weight by the time she was in her 60s. She really did eat like a bird from what I could see, which doesn’t actually surprise me given what I know about how dieting affects metabolism. (Fun fact: this would drive my Mother crazy when she would cook a massive Christmas dinner once a year and Gram would then pick deliberately at it and leave most of it on her plate. Ah, families) All this backstory to say, she had diabetes and she still managed to have a life. I think it’s important to remember that a diagnosis of diabetes does not mean the end of one’s life.

At one of my day jobs, I have done a lot of diabetes education. Not once did I recommend weight loss. Why? Because we know that route, even if it did help with blood sugar control, is temporary at best and usually results in massive disinhibition with food later on which is definitely not good for blood sugar control.

Yet there persists this idea that while Health at Every Size (HAES) and intuitive eating are fine for the perfectly healthy person, it’s simply not doable for those with medical conditions.

I disagree, and so does much of the science. People who have a good relationship to food have been shown to be healthier physically, socially and psychologically. Once a good relationship to food and eating has been established, from there it’s easy to work to improve diet quality (if that’s what’s needed) or add in joyful movement and compassionate self-care.

Back when I ran my Facebook group, time and again, people would post about how they were struggling to manage their diabetes diagnosis or risk (or other metabolic-type condition) without it feeling like they were going on a diet.

I’ll admit, there is an art to this. Nobody knows this better than a HAES RD.

That’s why my friend and mentor Rebecca Scritchfield, author of the non-diet self-care book Body Kindness, and I came up with something we think is much needed in the HAES world. We’ve developed a new VIRTUAL support and education group called HAES Care for Diabetes Concerns.

This 4-week group (done via video conference) is open to anyone with a diabetes diagnosis or risk, or any other metabolic-type condition (hypertension, high cholesterol) and members will get direct support from the two of us.

Group size is intentionally small so that people get the attention they need. We have a few spots left in both tracks (Mondays 9 am and Thursdays 5:30 pm Pacific Time) so we hope you’ll join us.

Check out all the details here: HAES Care for Diabetes Concerns.

Don’t struggle alone! Help is just a click away.

Podcast: Dressing the Plus Size Dude at Chubstr

DU + BruceWhen I first began my body acceptance journey back in 2010, I started out looking at fat fashion blogs. One of those blogs I found was Since then, founder Bruce Sturgell has turned Chubstr into a comprehensive lifestyle site and invaluable resource for large men. Because fat guys should have great clothing too!

In this episode of Dietitians Uplugged, we chat with Bruce about why he founded Chubstr, two things everyone should do when they’re starting to figure out their own style, and some of the best places to find big men’s clothing right now.

Listen now:


Do you struggle with PCOS and your weight…but don’t want to diet ever again?

If you’ve been given the standard advice when it comes to Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome — which has traditionally been to lose weight — but never want to diet again and aren’t sure the best way to eat for your health and fertility, I have exciting news for you. My friend, registered dietitian Julie Duffy Dillon, has created a course that is 100% diet-free to help those suffering with PCOS, called Your Step-By-Step Guide to PCOS and Food Peace. Registration is open until January 31, so check it out now!




13 Dietitians on Why They Don’t Promote Weight Loss

scale - no signLast month BuzzFeed asked me to contribute to an article called, 13 Experts Explain Why Diets Don’t Work And What To Do Instead and I was all, “Well, okay, yeah, I guess…” Who am I kidding? I nearly climbed through the internet to Sally Tamarkin’s desk to say HELL YES I’LL CONTRIBUTE!

Anyhoo, it’s the new year and I thought this was a great affirmation of why I don’t promote diets and a focus on weight loss. And neither do all the other cool RDs quoted in the article, many of whom I am proud to know personally. They are all doing amazing work, fighting the status quo of the harmful weight loss paradigm.

I hope you’re starting out the new year with resolutions to treat yourself with kindness and compassion, and prioritizing self-care. I wish you a year of relaxed eating and peace with your body.

Quit dieting but still not sure how to eat normally?

My online program, Dare to Eat, can help.

Plus-Size Dating

DU + Krista NilesLet’s face it: finding love is not easy, and it can feel even harder – maybe even impossible – when you’re dating while plus-size in a fat-phobic world.

That’s why Aaron and I asked psychotherapist and dating expert Krista Niles to talk with us about the challenges of plus-size dating in this episode of Dietitians Unplugged. Krista gave us the goods on everything: dating profile photos, body image issues, dealing with fat fetishists, weight stigma and fat acceptance stats in dating, first dates, the differences in straight and queer dating, and where and how to get help if you’re struggling in the online dating world. If you’re single and looking, we think this will soon become one of your favorite episodes!



Show notes:

Krista Niles Oakland Therapy

The Plus-Size Dating Starter Course

Curvy Cupid Course

 Body Image Programs and Blogs recommended by Krista

Virgie Tovar: Babecamp

Vivienne McMaster: Be Your Own Beloved

Summer Innanen: You on Fire and Body Image Remix

Victoria Welsby: Bam Pow Life

 Help with Eating

Dare to Eat Online Program with Glenys 

Isabel Foxen Duke: Stop Fighting Food  

 Fat Positive Conferences

The Curvy Con

The Curvy Fashionista Style Expo

Ready to make a change in the way you relate to food and your body?

My online course is available now. Check it out.

From Eating Disorder to Intuitive Eating

DU + RobynOne of the best things about having a podcast is that it’s a great excuse to hang out with your friends and also get to learn from them. That’s why Aaron and I were excited to have our dear friend, registered dietitian and eating disorder expert Robyn Goldberg, on the show recently to talk about  progression people take in their recovery from eating disorder to intuitive eating.

Robyn talked about learning to connect with body signals, finding satisfaction with food, the challenges of being in a larger body with an ED, the resistance of health care practitioners to Health at Every Size® and more in this informative episode. 

If you are in eating disorder recovery, or know someone who is, we think you’ll find this episode invaluable.

Listen now:


Get help with eating now!

Last call for my online course at a very low price — the discount ends this Sunday, December 31 and class starts January 8! Get all the details to see if this is what you have been looking for.
Dare to Eat…as much as you want, without guilt, in total freedom.

Dare to EAT Logo with Text HALF size

Podcast: Diet culture, yoga and self-empowerment gurus

DU + DanaBrene Brown, Geneen Roth, Glennon Doyle, Oprah — women who want to empower us, all of them. That’s the message we’ve gotten, certainly, and many of us have felt the empowering effects of these women’s words on our lives.

But some of them haven’t gotten the message lately that worrying about weight loss or going on restrictive diets aren’t exactly empowering — or effective for that matter.

So when our friend Dana Sturtevant, MS, RD from Portland, OR’s Be Nourished sent a  wonderful video rant to their Body Trust Network members about this very topic (among others), we knew we had to get her on the podcast and talk more about this and, like, everything else. Yoga, self-empowerment gurus  promoting diet culture, social justice, true self-care, and how Dana found her way into the HAES® way of practicing are all here.

Listen here:


Tired of chasing your weight?

Let’s face it. Diets suck, and they don’t even work. If your weight has gone down and then up, up, up, and you’re not sure of what to do next, take my FREE 3-day mini course to take your first steps to getting free of the weight-loss-diet treadmill. Go here now to start.

Enrollment open!

My online program, Dare to Eat, which teaches intuitive eating skills, is open for enrollment from now till the end of December at a special price. Check out the details.


*Results Not Typical

They should make this disclaimer a little bigger, don’t you think?

Have you ever wondered about that little fine-print disclaimer you see on literally every ad for a diet or weight loss program? “*Results not typical.”

I remember seeing that when I first became interested in, then joined, Weight Watchers. They would put it at the bottom of all those enticing before-and-after photos that I would later become so addicted to. At the time, I didn’t really understand that that meant: *Results not typical.

I thought maybe it meant that some people would lose varying degrees of weight but it was impossible to know how much weight someone would lose. It never occurred to me that it might mean that some people would not lose very much weight at all, or that most people would gain most of their weight back (or more) within a few years.

No, I absolutely did not think it meant that.

And because I lost the weight I wanted to, I conveniently forgot that little disclaimer and went around thinking, “If I can do it, anyone can!” And that’s what the diet companies really want you to think, and why they show those before-and-after photos as proof* of their effectiveness.

Why do weight loss companies have to display that little fine-print disclaimer on all their ads? Because more than 30 years ago, the FTC figured out that their diet shit doesn’t work for most people. But rather than stopping the sales of snake oil (which, admittedly, might be difficult to do), they forced the snake oil companies to put this little disclaimer on all their ads selling their outrageously ineffective products.


But at least they did that, and they keep trying to crack down. They could do a better job, like demand much more rigorous, long-term evidence that any diet product or service works long-term for more than a tiny fraction of people. If they did that, we’d never see another diet company ad again.

So when you see *Results not typical anywhere, just remember what it really means. It means someone wants to sell you some high protein/low fat/low carb/low taste snake oil that most likely won’t make you thin in the long run simply because it’s not the typical result.

*This is not good proof

Tired of chasing weight loss?

Let’s face it. Diets suck, and they don’t even work. If your weight has gone down and then up, up, up, and you’re not sure of what to do next, take my FREE 3-day mini course to take your first steps to getting free of the weight-loss-diet treadmill. Go here now to start.

If you’re contemplating another diet for the upcoming new year, go here first!

The Weight Loss Industry Loves Your Shame

Tiffany Haug
Tiffany giving her awesome talk to a curious audience.

I keep trying to write a blog post about how I ended up going to the Obesity Help National Conference to watch my new friend Tiffany Haug’s presentation on sugar addiction (and how that’s not really a thing)…

And I can’t get it to come out right, because it was such a strange experience of many mixed emotions.

So here’s the raw stuff:

It was weird being there. I thought it would be mostly doctors and other health professionals trying to figure out how to make people lose weight. That seemed bad enough.

I didn’t know that, instead, it would be a lot of lay people – non-health professionals who just wanted information on how to lose weight forever, and especially a lot of higher weight people who were interested in bariatric surgery information (because this was, at its essence, a bariatric surgery conference. Many of the sponsors were bariatric surgery companies).

And it was such a strange experience to be there, because most of the time, both in person and online, I am with people who don’t talk about weight loss, who have rejected dieting as a way of life, or who have never dieted and never will diet. I hear the other voices at a distance, and can tune them out easily.

But that world is a bubble.

When I stepped out of my bubble and into the belly of the beast, as Tiffany so adroitly termed it, I saw how I and all the other attendees were viewed as prey. Prey for the protein drink and air-food sellers, prey for weight loss surgery companies. There was a palpable sadness in the air, like everyone there looking for the latest news in sustainable weight loss knew that, in fact, no such thing exists for most people. But they were going to keep tyring anyway.

It was reminiscent of my years in Weight Watchers meetings, all filled with hope and despair in equal measure.

I wanted to reach out to every person there and say, “You’re fine just the way you are. You don’t need these companies. They only want to profit from the shame they hope you never lose. Let’s run away from this place now.

But they weren’t there to hear me say that, and I wasn’t there to “save” everyone (something I have to remind myself of regularly). Most of these people would probably be shocked and horrified of my blithe use of the word “fat” as a non-judgmental body size descriptor. Fat, in this space, was something bad…something to be cured, no matter what the cost.

Instead I listened to Tiffany’s excellent talk, very excited to hear a HAES dietitian present anti-diet ideas to this group that were probably quite novel for them. One person even thanked her for not giving the usual food-fear talk.

This is how seeds get planted – one stealth anti-diet talk at a time. I left with more hope than despair for the future.

PS – Thank you to Tiffany for getting me a complimentary ticket to her talk – I could not, in good conscience, have paid any money to this diet industry debacle. (and she didn’t get paid by them, either)

Screw the diet industry. Take my Free 3 Day Course: Kick Diet-Mind to the Curb instead!

Sayonara, The Biggest Loser

DU + TBLLast year, Aaron and I did a podcast on how much we hated the terrible, exploitative show The Biggest Loser. Some data had just come out about how participants metabolisms had all but flat-lined and stayed that way for years after their time on the show. For us, it was no surprise, but it was good to finally see some data supporting what we already knew (and what data from other studies also showed).

Imagine, then, how delighted we were when we heard that The Biggest Loser would NOT be returning this year for another round of fat-people abuse. We REALLY needed to celebrate this – and who better to celebrate with than a former contestant of the show?

Kai Hibbard was a season 3 contestant who came in second that year. Since then, she’s become an outspoken critic of the show and its tactics, a proponent for body positivity, and an all ’round riots-not-diets kind of sHero. When we contacted her to see if she’d like to come on our podcast and toast the end of this shit-show of shame, she was all in.

What followed was an honest exposé of her time on the show, how she developed extremely disordered eating during and after the show, her eventual recovery and transformation into a body positive warrior. Yes, there is lots and lots of swearing, too.

And while we have no doubt this is not truly the end of the exploitation of fat people for the profit of network TV, we think it was a nice little nail in the coffin. We need to celebrate every win against diet culture.

Listen on:


Find Kai at her website or on Facebook