Weight Loss: The non-diet approach

Joyce White Weighty IssuesI first met Joyce White in the late 90s, when I interviewed her about her new business Weighty Issues. She’s a licensed professional counselor who helps people struggling with issues related to … weight.

In addition to her private practice, for many years Joyce  ran the Weighty Matters Support Group at Martin’s Point Health Care and also taught classes throughout the greater Portland community.

Seventeen years have passed since we met, but Joyce’s philosophy regarding weight loss and other issues has remained steadfast: “It’s hard for people to make changes unless they accept who they are,” she says. “It’s really through self acceptance and self love that we can go forward and make the changes we need to make.”

She settled on that way of thinking after 14 years of teaching behavior education classes at a local dieting business. “What I saw while I worked there is that people would come in, they would lose weight, and come back a year later having gained all the weight back. They would feel horrible about themselves. I saw that dieting could actually trigger what’s known as disordered eating and I realized there had to be another way.”

Woman who is frustrated holding scale

Why diets not only fail, but are also hazardous to your health

1. They can make you fatter.
2. Repeated weight loss and regain may lead to health problems.
3. A dieter is 8 times more likely to develop an eating disorder.
4. A dieter is more susceptible to depression.

If failed diets have made you feel like a failure, Joyce recommends a change of attitude. Think of yourself as a diet survivor instead.

Diet survivor

If you have been on more than one diet, lost and regained the weight, and are becoming aware that the failure is not your fault, you are a diet survivor.

A non-dieting approach

Here’s Joyce’s dieting advice: DON’T DIET.

This non-diet approach won’t be a quick fix, she warns. “It’s about learning to listen to your body and looking at what’s going on in your life. It’s a very individualized approach and it can take a long time to feel better about yourself and who you are and the choices you make. In a lot of ways I’m helping people accept themselves as they are. That’s sort of a foreign concept for many of my clients.”

Why people have weighty issues

There are lots of reasons why people struggle with their weight — reasons that often go all the way back to childhood.

  • Trauma, especially sexual abuse
  • Things people have said about the way you eat
  • Negative comments about your weight
  • Family belief systems about meals and eating
  • Our “lookism” or appearance-focused culture

In some respects, Joyce helps people rewrite their personal histories. “We rewrite how we feel about ourselves,” she explains, “so that we can then love ourselves enough to go forward and make healthier choices.”

You might lose weight, you might not. It really doesn’t matter, says Joyce. Keeping track of pounds lost is not the best or the only measure of success.

Don’t weigh yourself, do this instead

  1. Learn to listen to your hunger; eat when hungry and stop when full.
  2. Look in the mirror and say, “I am beautiful inside and out.”
  3. Give your body restful, rejuvenating sleep.
  4. Move your body simply because you enjoy it, not just to lose pounds.
  5. Notice when hunger is emotional and find a nurturing coping strategy.
  6. Feed your body a variety of nutritious and satisfying foods.

Try an experiment today

If you eat something you wish you hadn’t, Joyce says, “See you if can stop the self-criticism and self-judgement. Instead try to be compassionate with yourself.”

Here’s why:

  • Judgement keeps us stuck.
  • Compassion helps us develop awareness and understanding and can lead to different choices in the future.

Try showing yourself a little compassion and make sure to let us know how you’re doing.

catching-health-calendar-300x125

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane Atwood was the health reporter on News Center 6. She's now a regular guest on the Morning Report. Before she became a health reporter, Diane was a radiation therapist/dosimetrist at Maine Medical Center. In 2000, she left the world of reporting to manage marketing and public relations for Mercy Hospital. In 2011, she decided to pursue a longtime dream of being a freelance writer and launched her award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.