The Non-Diet Approach

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.

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 multi-billion dollar industry. Over the past twenty years, the diet industry has tripled its 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)

Diet Myths

  • 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 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 Tenets 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 our thinking


Diet Approach Non-Diet Approach
Achieving and maintaining ideal weight as close as possible, used as measure of success 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 Non-Diet Approach
Moralized as good/bad, legal/illegal, should/shouldn't, on/off diet . Variety, quantity, calories, fat grams, etc. determined by external sources such as the diet, health care provider, or a parent. 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 Non-Diet Approach
Reaching and maintaining goal weight is dependent on exercise, which is often
dropped when an individual falls off a diet. It is seen as "have to" or "should,"
which commonly produces exercise resistance.
Physical activity, listening to body, seeking play, and natural movement are all explored. Not connected to weight loss or change of body size or shape.


Diet Approach Non-Diet Approach
Suppress/ignore hunger. Transgressions associated with lack of will power or
"giving in." Physical and emotional hunger confused.
Physical cues to eat are valued and relied upon. Responding to physical hunger and fullness will bring about natural weight.

Self-Esteem & Size Acceptance

Diet Approach Non-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.

An 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 or Distrust of Self & Body

Diet Approach Non-Diet Approach

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

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

Exercise to Joyful Movement

Diet Approach Non-Diet Approach
  • Body-centered
  • Clinical/Diagnostic
  • Fear of disease
  • External expert
  • Competitive
  • Cultural conformity
  • Mind/body approach
  • No clinical/diagnostic
  • Experiential/pleasure
  • Internal expert
  • Cooperative
  • Individual empowerment


Create a Supportive Environment

  • 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

Additional Information