The Non-Diet Approach for Health at Every Size (HAES)

The non-diet approach to managing weight is an attuned and mindful-based eating  approach that supports self-esteem and body acceptance.  It replicates a normalized style of eating which prevents the development of disordered and eating disorders. 

The Health at Every Size (HAES) concept supports the non-diet approach and its focus on self-acceptance. HAES is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being, rather than weight control.

Non-Diet Approach

 The Cold Truth About the Diet Industry in America¹

  • Americans are dieting at the highest rate in history
  • 20-24% of American men and 33-40% of American women are actively dieting to lose weight
  • 57% of US women are now dieting according to a national telephone survey
  • The diet industry is a multibillion dollar industry. Over the past twenty years, the diet industry has tripled it's gross annual income to approximately $60 billion
  • Girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who don’t diet
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors (skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives)

Current Diet Mentality of Americans…That is False

  • It is impossible to be fit AND fat at the same time
  • All large people MUST lose weight in order to improve their health and fitness level
  • All large people are in poor health
  • Everyone can lose weight IF they just follow the proper diet and regular exercise program
  • The main reason people regain lost weight is THEIR failure to comply with prescribed diets or make long-term commitments to weight loss

Stopping the War on our Bodies: The Non-Diet Approach

The Non-Diet Approach shifts one from thinking about how much weight they need to lose to instead thinking more about how they can learn to love the body they have.

The Non-Diet Approach Believes In

  • Total health enhancement and well-being, rather than weight loss or achieving a specific ideal weight
  • Self-acceptance and respect for the diversity of healthy, beautiful bodies rather than the pursuit of an idealized weight at all costs
  • The pleasure of eating well based on internal cues of hunger and satiety rather than on external food plans or diets
  • The joy of movement, encouraging all physical activities rather than prescribing a specific exercise routine

Six Tenents of Health At Every Size

  1. Good health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being.
  2. Human beings come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  3. There is no ideal body size, shape, BMI or body composition.
  4. Self-esteem and body image are strongly linked.
  5. Each person is responsible for taking care of his/her own body.
  6. Appearance stereotyping is wrong.

Shifting the Way We Think and Feel About our Bodies and Food



Diet Approach

Achieving and maintaining ideal weight as close as possible, used as measure of success

Non-Diet Approach

Body will seek its natural weight as individual eats in response to physical cues of hunger and fullness as well as sense of well-being and pleasure


Diet Approach

Moralized as good/bad, legal/illegal, should/shouldn't, on/off diet. Variety, quantity, calories, fat grams, etc. determined by external source such as the diet, health care provider, or a parent...

Non-Diet Approach

Neutralized. All food is acceptable. Quantity, quality, and frequency are determined by an individual exploring and responding to physical cues, sense of well-being, taste and medical values (glucose). It is self-regulated, internally cued and non-restrained.


Diet Approach

Reaching and maintaining goal weight is dependent on exercise, which is often
dropped when an individual falls off diet. It is seen as "have to" or "should,"
which commonly produces exercise resistance.

Non-Diet Approach

Physical activity, listening to body, seeking play, and natural movement are explored. Not connected to weight loss or change of body size or shape.


Diet Approach

Suppress or ignore hunger. Transgressions associated with lack of will power or
"giving in." Physical and emotional hunger confused.

Non-Diet Approach

Physical cues to eat are valued and relied upon. Responding to physical hunger and fullness will bring about natural weight.

Self-esteem and Size Acceptance

Diet Approach

Individual typically gains a false sense of power and control with weight loss, adherence to diet, and exercise plan. Self-esteem and body acceptance rarely
improve. This goal is elusive as one can get thinner, more toned, or both.

Non-Diet Approach

Increase in self-esteem and personal power from self-determined eating style and movement. Bodies come in all sizes and are naturally beautiful. Cultural norms are recognized as hazardous; pursuit of these standards can interfere with quality of life.

Trust/Distrust of Self and Body

Diet Approach

An individual may come to distrust body and sense of judgment, especially with history of failure. Trust is placed primarily in diet or provider.

Non-Diet Approach

Trust develops in self and body by discerning physical cues and freely responding to them without judgment or criticism.

Shift from Exercise to Joyful Movement

Diet Approach

  • Body centered
  • Clinical/diagnostic
  • Fear of disease
  • External expert
  • Competitive
  • Cultural conformity

Non-Diet Approach

  • Mind/body approach
  • No clinical/diagnostic
  • Experiential/pleasure
  • Internal expert
  • Cooperative
  • Individual empowerment

Create an Environment that Supports the Non-Diet Approach

  • Be aware of media messages and actively support positive media campaigns
  • Encourage good self-care in yourself and others (sleep well, eat well, etc.)
  • Believe in the 6 tenants of health at every size
  • Focus on healthy lifestyles vs. weight/obesity

Non-Diet Approach Resources

YUMEE - Your Ultimate Mindful Eating Experience

YUMEE is a mindful eating group for UNH students that is offered each semester. Learn More...


Many of these books are available in our Resource Library

  • The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos
  • Health at Ever Size by Linda Bacon 
  • Big Fat Lies by Glenn Gaesser and Fawcett Columbine
  • Moving Away From Diets by Karin Katrina, Nancy King, Dayle Hayes
  • The Skinny on Fat by Shawna Vogel, W. H. Freeman and company
  • Losing It, False Hopes and Fat Profits in the Diet Industry by Laura Fraser
  • Beyond Dieting, Psychoeducational Interventions For Chronically Obese Women: A Non-Dieting Approach by Donna Ciliska, Brunner-Mazel
  • Underage and Overweight: Our Childhood Obesity Crisis – What Every Family Needs to Know by Frances M. Berg
  • Self-Esteem Comes in All Sizes: How to be Happy and Healthy at Your Natural Weight by Carol A. Johnson
  • Live Large!: Affirmations for Living the Life You Want in the Body You Already Have by Cheri Erdman
  • The Invisible Woman: Confronting Weight Prejudice in America by W. Charisse Goodman
  • The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self Care by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel
  • Am I Hungry?: What to Do When Diets Don’t Work by Michelle May with Lisa Galper and Janet Carr
  • If Not Dieting, Then What? by Rick Kausman
  • Journey Toward Freedom: Rediscovering the Pleasure of Normal Eating by Kate Butitta and Marna M. Canterbury
  • The Slow Down Diet by By Marc David
  • The Feeding Ourselves Method by Alice Rosen
  • The Self Compassion Diet by Jean Fain
  • When Food is Food and Love is Love by Geneen Roth (includes 6-cd audio set)